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Lord Lamont of Lerwick: My Lords, will the noble Lord allow me to intervene? When he says that there is no case for jettisoning the acquis communautaire, can he think of any parliament, anywhere, at any time, that has taken the attitude that what is legislated for can never be repealed? Is all European legislation to be with us in perpetuity?

Lord Maclennan of Rogart: My Lords, to jettison the acquis communautaire would be the equivalent of seeking by Act of this Parliament to dispose of the entire statute book. It would be a patent nonsense.

Today the new tasks which lie close to the heart of the reason why states exist include provision for the internal and external security of the Union. The Union also aspires to augment its influence on the world stage, to tackle poverty, disease, threats of war and the denial of human rights. In these tasks it would bring to bear its own commitments to democracy and the rule of law. In the delivery of these ends it has been said that the Union should not become a superstate but rather a superpower. Such attempted distinctions cannot disguise the fact that the Union is already a polity. It is more than an alliance, more than the concert of Europe periodically meeting to resolve its members' differences. The Union is a living, constitutional polity, with executive, legislative and judicial arms. It is a polity unlike a state only in the limitation of its powers.

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For the convention then, its task is a practical one: to propose institutional reforms which subserve the effective advancement of the agreed purposes of the Union. The task is practical but it is sometimes unwisely presented as ideological and even adversarial. The convention is not, however, engaged in a zero-sum game in which the strengthening of one institution must be achieved at the expense of the loss of authority by another. Each of the Union's institutions brings to the decision-making process characteristics and capabilities which are essential to the success of the whole. Leaving aside the special role of the European Court of Justice in ensuring conformity with Union law, the trinity of Union institutions, the Council, the Commission and the Parliament, exemplify the sixth century theological concept of the Holy Trinity characterised by the Greek term perichoresis. This allowed the individuality of the three persons to be maintained while insisting that each person shares in the life of the other two. To stray into theology, however, is to risk my reputation for practicality.

To put the issue bluntly, the Council must remain, particularly in the sphere of external affairs, the body which brings credibility to the Union's actions by the commitment of the member states individually and collectively, including their commitment of the necessary resources. Its strategic role in agreeing the purposes and direction of the Union is paramount.

The Commission is the Union's principal executive with the twin role of acting as the agent to implement the Union's policies and to propose policies which may fulfil the Union's aims. It is self-deluding to see these roles, particularly the latter, as subservient, technocratic functions. They are eminently political. The Commission's president, in particular, while versed in the art of the possible, must reach out with foresight and imagination to lead the Union towards its goals. In that context, we may recall how Roy Jenkins, speaking as Commission president in Florence in October 1977, spelled out a new objective for the Union—the creation in Europe of a zone of currency stability to tackle inflation and unemployment. We may also recall how he recognised the necessity of bringing the member states onside to achieve that goal, and how he himself secured the consent of Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and President Valery Giscard d'Estaing. If in the world of the new 25-nation Europe such a practical role is to be exercised effectively, it must also be exercised democratically.

The Prime Minister is surely right in acknowledging the need for continued, sustained leadership responsibility within the Union. Without it, the Union will be reduced to ad hoc cobbling together of responses to events. The required leadership cannot stem from the merry-go-round of the Council presidency. It requires a statesman of calibre and commitment to preside over the Union's executive, who is acceptable to and will work with the Council to fulfil its strategic aims. That statesman should also enjoy the authority that flows from democratic election.

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That thought must lead to the consideration of the function of the European Parliament. It, too, has an indispensable role in directly voicing the views of the citizens in legislation and in holding the Union's executive to account. When the public elects a Parliament, it expects much more than the European Parliament is able to offer. It expects that the outcome of the election will have some effect on the policy priorities of that polity of which Parliament is part. It also expects that the election will have direct consequences in confirming or changing the leadership of that polity. The citizens of Europe have been denied those outcomes, and it is not to be marvelled at that interest in European elections is declining when the outcomes are so limited.

These are among the issues that the convention must address, and soon. If the Union is to cohere, to tackle effectively the tasks that its citizens want it to discharge, the convention must not—and, I believe, will not—funk the issue of democracy. That, as I see it, is the heart of the matter before us.

5.12 p.m.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, as several noble Lords have said, it is high time to consider progress in the Convention on the Future of Europe. The convention is entering the last six months of its activity. By the middle of the year, it will pass over to an intergovernmental conference of member states the building blocks that will make up the next stage of the European Union's construction. The shaping of that latter negotiation—of the greatest importance to Britain as a leading member of the Union—will take place in the first half year of 2003.

It is also high time for the holding of this debate, given the tell-tale signals, already visible, of a familiar but dispiriting cycle, evident at many previous critical stages in the Union's development, in terms of Britain's approach. During the first phase, we largely ignore the debate raging in Brussels, treating it as one of those funny, esoteric games that continental politicians love to play but which need not greatly trouble the minds of practical, pragmatic and down-to-earth Britons, who have managed so well down the centuries without having to worry about such things as constitutions. The second phase is dominated by "shock-horror" stories in the assiduously Eurosceptic press, as each idea washed up on the wilder shores of European federalism is lovingly dissected and treated as if it were about to become holy writ throughout Europe. The third phase is one of trench warfare, in which British negotiators devote the largest part of their time and energy to blocking ideas put forward by others, the conclusion of which is a new treaty whose British battle honours largely consist of what does not appear in it, thanks to our doughty resistance. It may be said that I exaggerate—but not much, I fear.

If we are to avoid a repetition of that caricature, we must, as the Government and their representative in the convention have from the outset tried to do, propose our own ideas and suggestions for the future shaping of the Union. Both Houses of Parliament, which in the end will be the arbiters through the

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process of ratification of what may become binding treaty obligations in this country, must be an integral part of the process. Otherwise, we shall simply be a rubber stamp.

The convention's scope is extremely wide, as the debate has shown. I shall concentrate on the management and direction of the Union's external affairs. I do so not arbitrarily but because it is likely to be the greatest challenge to the Union's viability and credibility in the period ahead. Up to now, that policy area has lagged behind most others, such as the single market and the single currency. Some argue that a common foreign and security policy is neither attainable or desirable, but they risk playing the role of King Canute's courtiers. In fact, such a policy is taking shape before our eyes.

In the Balkans, European policy is already a key factor. In a short time, now that the final difficulties over the modalities of co-operation between the Union and NATO have been ironed out, the Union is likely to be involved in military and police activities in Macedonia and Bosnia. In the Middle East, the European Union is one of the quartet of external players struggling to move away from the violence and back to a viable peace process. At Copenhagen, momentous decisions were taken on the Union's enlargement, including Turkey's candidature, which will have a fundamental and far-reaching impact on a whole range of Europe's external relationships. So the choice that we face is not whether to have a European foreign and security policy but what its contents should be and how it should be run.

On that last point, I should say straightaway that I do not believe that the Commission's proposal to apply what is known as the community method to those external areas of policy is either practical politics or the best way in which to proceed. One will not find the right way forward by applying the well-tried methods for handling single-market legislation or trade policy—the Commission's right of initiative, the application of majority voting pretty well across the board, responsibility to a European Parliament that lacks a governmental majority or a direct voice for the national governments that have to make the ultimate life or death choices in this field. Here, as elsewhere, it is important to avoid an outright juxtaposition of a federalist with a purely intergovernmental approach. The European Union has from the outset been a hybrid animal, somewhere between the two extremes, and I believe that it will remain so for the foreseeable future.

I make six suggestions for the way ahead on external policy. First, whatever the advantages of the presidency system for the handling of strictly Community business—and the recent Danish presidency was an example of how well that can be done—the presidency system in a Union of 25 or more member states cannot possibly provide the required focus, professionalism or leadership for a common foreign and security policy. The sooner that the presidency's role in CFSP can begin to be phased out,

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the better. Ideally, a new balance in the management of CFSP needs to be up and running before the new member states join in May 2004.

Secondly, there are simply too many cooks in Europe's foreign policy kitchen. That makes for much confusion and duplication and enables our external partners to divide us and rule. The primacy of Javier Solana as the High Representative needs to be more firmly established, marked by his chairing the External Affairs Council. He needs a stronger staff back-up with a considerable degree of cross-posting between member states, diplomatic services and these integrated functions. He needs more financial resources. The interface with the Commission requires a solution that avoids subordinating Solana or his successor to its institutional characteristics but encourages much closer co-operation, joint departments where necessary and a unity of control and policy making in times of crisis.

Thirdly, while qualified majority voting in this field bristles with difficulties, there must be a way of avoiding the Union's foreign policy becoming the lowest common denominator of 25 or more member states. A system closer to that of the UN Security Council, under which majority voting could be tempered by a right of veto for the larger member states—perhaps requiring two such states to act together, thus avoiding the arbitrariness of the UN system—might provide a fair balance.

Fourthly, better and more systematic use needs to be made of Europe's biggest diplomatic asset: the network of its member states' diplomatic missions across the world. One way of proceeding would be to set up a panel composed of politicians and diplomatic practitioners to report on the best medium and long-term approach to operating a system that will promote the interests of the Union as a whole and at the same time enable the member states to continue to fulfil their own foreign policy responsibilities.

Fifthly, the parliamentary dimension cannot and must not be neglected. Why not establish a foreign affairs committee of the Union which would bring together representatives of the national parliaments and those of the European Parliament and act as a sounding board and a source of democratic legitimacy for the Union's foreign and security policy?

Sixthly, thought needs to be given to the management of the single most important external relationship that Europe has—that with the United States. The hard fact is that if Europe and the United States get at cross purposes, they tend to frustrate the achievement of their frequently shared overall objectives. We saw that in Bosnia. However, their interests and their approach to foreign policy crises are not always and will not always be identical. So a way surely needs to be found to create an organic link between the two sides of the Atlantic that enables information—often sensitive information—to be exchanged and policy options to be discussed without all of that having to be carried out under the glare of publicity and being subjected to the pressures of public controversy.

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It would be interesting to hear the Minister's reaction to at least some of those ideas and how the Government themselves intend to contribute to the convention's future work on Europe's common foreign and security policy.

I shall conclude with a wider look at the place of the convention and the coming intergovernmental conference in the overall development of the European Union. In recent years, there have been far too many of these conclaves and too much institutional tinkering. The successes of the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty, which laid the foundations for the single market, the single currency and a common foreign and security policy, gave way to the muddle and confusion of Amsterdam and Nice. Digging the plant up and examining its roots every five years or so is not a prescription for steady, healthy growth. The present convention, with the near certain outcome of a constitutional document that will distinguish the basic elements of the Union from the necessarily continuing evolution of its main policies, offers a way out of this seemingly unending series of negotiations. The challenge that governments face this year is to seize that opportunity, to find a series of compromises with which federalisers and intergovernmentalists can live and to address, with undistracted vigour, the main policy choices that will determine how well the European Union succeeds in achieving its settled objectives. That is surely the only way of making the European Union seem truly relevant to the daily lives of the mass of its citizens.

5.24 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, on behalf of my colleagues on these Benches, I warmly welcome the debate. I am enormously grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, and the Select Committee for all their work. However, we still need to address two other issues: first, the values that are implicit in the work of the convention and in the European institutions; and, secondly, that deathly silence about things European within British society, which the Minister described as the growing sense of disengagement and disillusion across Europe.

One of the great privileges of being a Bishop in this House is in saying daily prayers. I recognise that for some the saying of those prayers here will seem a quaint and irrelevant anachronism. Some will be glad that prayers happen, though they themselves will not necessarily take part. For others, the prayers are fundamental, not only because of what they say about God, but because of what they imply about the role of us all in this Chamber. Whatever views any of us takes about those prayers, they are a reminder at the very least of the possibility of God. They are predicated on a belief that we are not solely answerable to one another and to society, but that we may also be answerable to Almighty God.

Whether you actually believe that or not is not exactly the point. Even if personally you have drawn the conclusion that there is no God, allowing for the

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possibility of God ensures that debate in this House has a dimension that it logically could not have without it.

It does not follow from what I have said that I am in favour of theocracy as a form of government. I believe that wherever it rears its head theocracy should be resisted, tooth and nail. What I argue for is that the concept—it is a very mild one at one level—of the possibility of God should not be kicked into the margins in our debate about European institutions and the European future. However, my experience of the European institutions as they are emerging is that God is simply discounted and denied—"Laicity rules okay" and that secularist ideologies of governance are becoming stridently and assertively exclusive.

With the greatest respect to the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan—I am sure that he is not at all surprised that I have risen to the theological fly that he cast across the water—the theological concept of perichoresis is not primarily about individualism, but the communal relationships of the person within the godhead. "Europe" can and does cope with private expressions of religious belief, but it is not coping, cannot cope and wilfully will not cope with institutional or communal forms of religious belief, of whatever faith that belief may be.

That is a serious moral weakness in the underlying philosophy of the institutions. It is proving to be a serious weakness in what the Minister referred to as the European political architecture, because it wilfully denies the possibility of God. Therefore, it wilfully denies serious and long-held beliefs about human dignity and worth and purpose that have helped to shape Europe for the best part of 2,000 years. It limits the vision of what it means to be a human being, and of what it means to be a "human being in community". To set up a Europe based on that kind of narrowness of philosophy is to design potential failure into the system.

Will the Minister assure this House that, for the sake of richness and diversity in Europe, the role of the Churches and other religious communities in relation to the European institutions and their political architecture will be given serious attention? Might she also be willing to be generous enough to suggest that the good practices which have grown up in this nation over the centuries in this regard might be worthy of further study, not only by Her Majesty's Government but by governments across Europe? To want to be at the heart of Europe and yet, at the same time, to ignore the soul of Europe would be to make a profound mistake.

My second point relates to the serious lack of high-quality public debate about things European in this nation. It hardly happens at all and, if it does, it is simply based around sound-bites about the five economic tests and when a referendum might be held.

I was very fortunate to be present in Parliament when the BBC World Service organised a seminar on the threat of war in Afghanistan. Some of your Lordships may also have been present. The seminar was brilliant. It was the BBC at its very, very best. Is it

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not possible for a public-service broadcaster to see that it has a duty not only to entertain but also to inform and educate? Endless make-overs of homes and gardens and endless narcissistic reality television mean that the brilliance that exists in the BBC is being completely wasted.

In our country a serious contribution to the debate about Europe is long overdue. The talent is there. Can someone please allow it to be released so that the citizens of our country can help to shape the European future and not simply be pawns in a future being shaped by others?

I conclude by joining everyone else in the House in urging that this subject be brought back to this place with the frequency which its profound importance to the life of our nation and to Europe so richly deserves.

5.32 p.m.

Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, together with the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, it has been my privilege to represent your Lordships' House as one of the alternate members of the convention. As one of your Lordships' representatives, I am perhaps entitled to say that I am somewhat disappointed with the dynamic flow of information coming from my constituency and giving me the benefit of noble Lords' views. But I appreciate the one letter that I have received and the number of conversations that I have had with Members, particularly in the Bishops' Bar.

It is important that we understand a little more deeply than we do at present some of the processes of the convention. It does not meet only in a plenary format. Every time there is a two-day plenary session, the political groups across the institutions meet on the morning of the first day. After they have met, the national parliamentarians of various countries and political groups meet so that they can gain a sense of common view of what is important to national parliamentarians.

At the same time as the national parliamentarians meet, governments also meet to seek to defend their interests. Then, in order to deny us lunch on the first day of the convention, the Brits meet at 2.15 p.m., be they from national parliaments, national government or the European Parliament, so that we have a sense of common understanding of the views that are important to those who come from the United Kingdom.

Against that background, we have seen a change in the convention itself. Over recent weeks, a number of governments have decided to have a very high level of representation, as the British Government did right from the start. For example, originally the German Government were represented by a civil servant; they are now represented by their Foreign Minister. Mr de Villepin has just become a member of the convention. Ireland was represented by a former Commissioner but is now represented by its Foreign Secretary.

We have seen that change come about as more and more governments are represented at a more serious level, such as has been the case for this country with my right honourable friend Peter Hain and my noble

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friend Lady Scotland representing government. Governments are taking the matter seriously because ultimately the convention will not decide the final outcome. Members of the convention will decide their deliberations but heads of government meeting in an IGC will decide the final outcome of the convention. If the convention produces ideas which are anathema to heads of government, then those ideas will be dispatched to the dustbin. Therefore, the convention must take into account the views of governments, who will clearly have final responsibility at the IGC.

We heard the description of the work of the working groups and I do not propose to go through that again. Suffice it to say that, even though there has been some sort of debate, those working groups in their totality will not be binding on the convention because there can be no sense in which they were structured to be representative of the convention. Therefore, I believe that at this stage, when we are debating the convention, almost every single issue is still to play for.

During that period, the dynamics within the convention have changed. I could see how quickly things have changed when I looked at the report introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell. Paragraph 57 states:

    "Lord Tomlinson told us that the MEPs were the most coherent group".

That was certainly the case at the beginning of the convention. The MEPs were in their home territory with their offices and staff and with easy access to communications. The visiting national parliamentarians were the political gypsies of the convention—they had nowhere even to hang a coat.

The dynamics of the convention have changed dramatically. I believe that today it is true to say that, as the national parliamentarians have come to understand each other's points of view and have come to know each other better, their representation has strengthened significantly and is certainly far greater than pessimists such as myself saw it earlier as having the potential to be.

Many ideas have been put forward. They have all been published on the convention website and are in the public arena. Many of them are mutually contradictory. Some are gathering support and some are clearly failing to do so. I do not want to deal with the big issues of the convention; my role today is to listen to your Lordships' points of view. But one issue that has been circulating in the framework of the convention is the idea of a congress.

When that idea was put forward, it was widely rubbished in the early stages and it seemed that it would disappear. However, it has been put forward by a number of people, including the French Government. The idea lives on and I hope that noble Lords will give some attention to it. I hope that they will not necessarily reject it but will regard it as depending on what it finally turns out to be. If the idea of a congress is something similar to the Rome assizes tried a decade ago, then I agree that it should be killed off quickly. However, if it is to be on a much smaller scale, gives the opportunity to involve national

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parliamentarians on a real basis, and, for example, has the capacity to replace COSAC, which gives national parliamentarians, if this is the outcome of the convention, the opportunity perhaps to endorse the Commission's work programme and to have a say on the appointment or election of a Commission president—certainly if there are the changes envisaged by Her Majesty's Government it would have a say over the appointment or election of a council president—I believe it is an idea which still has some utility. There are real possibilities.

However, all those issues beg the question of the institutional changes, which are now the big issues to be faced in the convention. I am slightly concerned that too many people are approaching institutional changes from the point of view of an almost triangular battle for competencies between the institutions. Certainly, the last paper produced by the European Commission did no good whatever for the reputation of that institution. I regret that because I believe that the Commission has an important role in this future institutional structure.

The whole idea of institutional balance, referred to by my noble friend Lady Scotland, is extremely important. The idea of giving the European Parliament power to elect a European Commission President is one which should be rejected because it changes significantly institutional balance. On the other hand, the idea of a second Chamber made up of national parliamentarians was rejected by this House and has been widely rejected in the convention because it would change the balance against the European Parliament in a different direction.

The role proposed by the convention in relation to subsidiarity has wide support. The role proposed for a national parliament by the working group of Gisela Stuart has had wide support and I believe deserves the support of Members of this House. My noble friend Lady Scotland stated that those institutional reforms need balance, and she is right. What must be avoided is the attempt to turn the institutional questions into an inter-institutional triangular battle.

Reference was made by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, to five words from the speech of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister given in Cardiff; namely,

    "a proper Constitution for Europe".

That was all he chose to quote. In order to understand the balance of what was being said it is important that we see those five words in the context of the sentence:

    "First, we do need a proper Constitution for Europe, one which makes it clear that the driving ideology is indeed a union of nations not a superstate subsuming national sovereignty and national identity. This should be spelt out in simple language. A new Constitution for Europe can bring a new stability to the shape of Europe—not a finality which would prevent any future evolution, but a settlement to last a generation or more".

That is certainly, in a very short paragraph, the view that I have of the role of the convention and a role in which I look forward to participating over the next three to four months.

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5.44 p.m.

Lord Howe of Aberavon: My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, who succeeded throughout his speech and at the end in presenting his view with great clarity. Before going on to analyse it, I should like to make a personal statement. My noble friend Lord Crickhowell told me that the Procedure Committee discussed the habit of some Members of this House who apologise for being absent towards the end of a debate and disappear rather than remain to hear the closing speeches. In the light of my noble friend's warning, I checked and found that in two of the four debates we have had on this subject in the past three years I have done just that. I promise to be a good boy in future. I do that because I hope others will do the same.

Beyond that, I take much comfort from the fact that this debate is taking place, and from the way in which it is developing. We are grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, for her presentation and insight, and also to the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, and the two rapporteurs, if that is the right description: the noble Lords, Lord Maclennan and Lord Tomlinson, for their insight.

The debate is a signal of much greater vitality and parliamentary engagement in the institutional changes of the European Union. The fact that the convention is taking place is a similar development. We should be grateful to former President Giscard D'Estaing for the way in which he is running it. I cannot resist a word of thanks to the Foreign Office official who, to the surprise of some people, I appointed as my principal private secretary when I was Chancellor of the Exchequer. He benefits from being trained not only in the Foreign Office but also by my noble friend Lord Lawson and myself in the Treasury. I refer to Sir John Kerr, who is helping Giscard D'Estaing. I am very glad that he is in that position.

A point of great seriousness is the openness and flow of views passing between those considering the institutional changes and these parliaments. I take my mind back to the IGC which led to the Single European Act. It was preceded by a rather solemn sounding body called the Dooge Committee, named after Senator Dooge of the Republic of Ireland, on which my learned friend, as he was in another place, Malcolm Rifkind, was our representative. It proceeded almost unobserved and it was left to the governments to come together in the IGC, building upon the work of faceless civil servants who worked with diligence, I hasten to add. Today there is a much greater flow of ideas taking place. The Dooge Committee has been completely surpassed by the present engagement of parliamentarians throughout the European Union and in this place.

As leader of the other place I recollect establishing a new procedure for the handling of EU legislation—to enable us more carefully to scrutinise it, ran the argument. Instead of sitting after 10 o'clock at night, special committees were convened at 10.30 in the morning to carry out this ruthless procedure. The main reason for making that change was so that people did not have to stay late at night. The quality and degree of

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intensity of scrutiny did not significantly improve or increase as a result of the change. In other words, it was being driven by our own parliamentary convenience rather than our wish to engage in the work of the European Union. That is the big difference now. It has been well described by the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson.

As I anticipated, the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, spoke of the way in which we should handle foreign relations within the European Union, and our common foreign security policy. Broadly speaking, I endorse his approach. It has to be founded upon intergovernmental activity. At different times over the years we have both commended the idea of something approaching a veto for the large powers in CFSP determination. As the noble Lord knows from his other life in New York, that proposition imposes an obligation upon the permanent members to secure agreement and achieve a unity in trying to drive forward a common foreign policy. But it respects the anxieties which no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Owen, will express and which are at the heart of reality here.

It is also true that what we achieve in the European Union depends in the end much more upon our actions than upon the texts that we spend so much time scrutinising. However, the texts are not unimportant. We are considering what will be a constitution. That arouses cries of, "Shock horror: constitution of the European Union". The European Union has always had a constitution. The Treaty of Rome and the various treaties that have been written on top of it have been the constitutional framework within which we work. It has become a mammoth of Pelion upon Ossa upon Pelion upon Ossa, of mounting unintelligibility. That is why I have much sympathy with my noble friend Lord Lamont when he was rather dismissive about the affection of the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, for the acquis communautaire.

I remember in the course of the national debate before the Thatcher government were elected, committing ourselves to the proposition that we should make fewer laws and make the laws fewer. We failed probably in both respects. Successive governments have continued to do so. But we should certainly adopt that approach towards the acquis rather than regarding it as a sacred, layer upon layer, geological text, to be built upon indefinitely.

It is therefore a legitimate purpose to have a constitution which looks more like a constitution. That would avoid the misleading perpetuity of "ever closer union" as an objective. That phrase has always conjured up for me a horrible picture of an eternally restless polygamous matrimonial bed in which people were struggling to achieve "ever closer union" on many fronts at the same time. That is not a picture that I relish. If we can have a constitution that is simpler than that, and one that has a degree of finality attached to it, I think that would be a great example.

The noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, was right to emphasise the degree to which, as pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, Britain is making progress in this argument by being engaged actively in that process. The only qualification that I would make to that claim is that it is not without precedent. The

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most active period of engagement was under the leadership of my noble friend Lady Thatcher when we were promoting the achievement of the single market. We could not have been more effectively engaged than we were at that time and actively involved. That is, I think, the key to the success of the European Union when it is at its best. Where people effectively become engaged with each other and the purpose. M Delors, having learned some important lessons during his time as France's Finance Minister, became an active and effective market-driven president of the Commission. He worked in partnership with my noble friend, the market-driven Lady Thatcher, and others, including incidentally my noble friend Lord Cockfield who made a huge contribution to that achievement, and who is not, alas, in his place today.

The question is: what propositions should we be supporting against that background of activity? I refer to the document produced last August under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Brittan, supported by six or seven Members of this House who are former Ministers and six or seven former Conservative Ministers in the other House, setting out an agenda not unlike that which has been pursued by the Government.

The first point was stressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland. She said that we need to have clarity about where power lies. That is very important. It was also supported by my noble friend Lord Howell. We need something like a states rights clause, setting out clearly what is already implicit—that the European Union has competence only where it has been specifically given such competence by the treaty. If that does not exist, then it does not have power.

The second point in line with that is the machinery for the surveillance of subsidiarity. The noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, among other noble Lords has referred to that. That subsidiarity should be policed—this is also a great innovation—by representatives of the national parliaments coming together. My noble friend Lord Howell raised a doubt about the effectiveness of that. I have some sympathy with his anxiety. In the proposal we put forward, we say that when the whistle has been blown by the national parliamentarians the matter should go within a short period of time to the European Court of Justice for it to decide. In order for that to be an effective change, it needs that kind of back-up.

The other point on which there is general agreement is the need for a radical reform of the presidency of the council. I apologise for using the word "presidency". It is confusing. I mean rather the chairmanship of the council, which suffers currently from a lack of continuity, short-termism and the absence of a public face. We need to have a chairman of the Council of Ministers elected and appointed for a period of years and supported by a troika of other member state representatives. The interesting point is that that heretical proposition, recognising the importance of the Council of Ministers, has secured the support of former President Delors, which is important.

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As to the Commission, a year or two ago I was attracted by the idea that its president should be elected by the European Parliament. I make a confession even more curious—I thought at one time that it was rather a good idea if one could have a Europe-wide political party, fighting Europe-wide European elections. One party could be led by myself, for example, and another by the noble Lord, Lord Owen. The European Parliament would be treated as an electoral college. When his party or my party won, it would be its job to elect the president of the Commission. It is an attractive thought although we are both a little past it now, if I may say so.

I have resiled from that proposition now. It seems to me to put the Commission in a false position. The Commission is not the source of authority. The bridge of this vessel is the Council of Ministers, the European council. The Commission has to be a well-run part of the engine room. It needs to have leadership. It needs to have a very good chief engineer. That is the right relationship, which I hope will emerge from the discussion that is taking place.

The last point I want to make is a also a simple one. We need to have some method of securing a more effective and rigorous enforcement of European law. People are always apprehensive if one is talking vigorously about the importance of Community law. I take some pride in the fact that when I was editing Crossbow in 1962, we published almost the first authoritative text entitled The Rome Treaty and the Law, written by Denis Thompson. That 1962 text set out that under the jurisdiction of the European Community the Community would have powers to make laws which were forthwith directly binding upon and enforceable against citizens of member states.

There is no mystery. Without that formal Community law, most of our obligations could not be enforced. We would not have been able even to try to get the French to accept British beef, for example. We have had to wait a long time to see that happen.

So the proposal I make is that where an obligation is not being enforced, it would be possible for the aggrieved party, the aggrieved member state, to go back within a short space of time to the European Court of Justice to get a ruling within three months; and the sanctions which would be available to the court would be not only the imposition of financial sanctions but the withdrawal of the right to participate in Community programmes, the withdrawal if necessary of voting rights and participation in decision taking—a robust, effective means of enforcing Community law to the benefit of us all.

I have spoken for too long. But I welcome the debate. I welcome the way that our colleagues are taking part in this exciting but not unimportant process of changing the world in which we live. I close, perhaps surprisingly, by quoting a sentence from the speech made by my right honourable friend Michael Ancram, the shadow Foreign Secretary, in the debate in the other place on

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11th December. This is the robust and practical view. He said that,

    "the EU can be made to work better. In the 21st century, it still has a vital role to play".—[Official Report, Commons, 11/12/02; col. 313.]

So long as my party remains committed to that proposition, which is the proposition that the late Lord Jenkins made possible for us as we said earlier today, I shall be content about the future of the European Union.

5.57 p.m.

Lord Watson of Richmond: My Lords, the House should be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, and his committee for the opportunity for this debate. It is to be hoped—I am sure expected—that the House will have other occasions to debate the development of this convention. Quite apart from anything else, if we had not had this debate, we would not have been attracted by the prospect, perhaps now passed, of the noble Lords, Lord Howe and Lord Owen, leading great battalions of cross-European confederations in political battle.

Early in the Minister's detailed and excellent speech she admitted that the homes and pubs of the United Kingdom are not abuzz with constitutional debate; that the niceties of the balance between the institutions does not to this moment grip the imagination of the population. That is true. Perhaps one should also say to the right reverend Prelate that despite that important exchange between himself and the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, on the theological import of what is happening, theological debate does not appear to have gripped them either.

However, I should like to comment on a particular aspect which the right reverend Prelate brought to our attention. If we are seriously talking about a constitution for Europe, a constitution without an awareness of the values on which the Union is based would indeed be seriously flawed. It is curious that we find it so hard to think about the values of the European Union. The right reverend Prelate drew the House's attention to the responsibility of public broadcasters to ensure that not just the immediate but the underlying arguments—and the values behind them—about the future of the European Union are discussed.

One reason why it is so difficult to get a wider debate in the United Kingdom—and it is—is because there is an underlying feeling in our country that the past is almost without argument, better than the present and infinitely better than the future can ever be. Over Christmas and the New Year I did a little sum, and I noticed that during that period the main terrestrial television networks aired more than 30 feature films dealing with the Second World War. It is of course right that we remember the Second World War, draw lessons from it and take pride in it, but it is most unfortunate if people are obsessive to the point of not allowing us to look forward to the future and foresee a Europe in which we play a powerful, formative and principled role.

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Several noble Lords said that it is interesting that a convention that in its earliest weeks and months was dismissed as peripheral and doomed to failure is now taken more seriously and appears more substantial. However, I suspect that the convention retains a Cinderella quality. There is a feeling that while Europe discusses the intricacies of its constitutional balance, the real world—namely, the situation in Iraq or the Middle East—may break through and make it all rather irrelevant. One reason why the convention is becoming substantial and its considerations important is that basic drivers—new realities—are pressing in on us that make it imperative to have greater clarity about Europe's constitutional arrangements.

We have the fact of enlargement. The way in which enlargement was discussed—in particular, the opening of dialogue with Turkey in a new way, which will certainly involve the values of the European Union in future—has in itself unlocked a large barrier to the development of common defence and security policies within the European Union. It has had a knock-on effect. Enlargement is a fact and it is clear to everyone that the constitutional arrangements that only just work for 15 members cannot possibly work for 25 or more.

The second driver is a growing sense that we must have more of a voice in foreign and security issues. There must be more coherence and greater co-ordination. While in part we sit back as spectators to that achievement—I notice that the Prime Minister referred in his Cardiff speech to the fact that the High Representative and Mr Patten have succeeded in projecting greater coherence and impact—there is a strong sense, widely shared in the House, that there must be still greater coherence and co-ordination.

Thirdly—although there are other factors, and this is not the real subject of our debate—there is the fact that the euro has arrived, has lasted and did not tumble into failure, as many predicted in its first few weeks. Indeed, its value against the dollar is rising. It is clearly here to stay and the problem for us will not go away. That is another driver.

However, we must recognise that those drivers are not sufficient really to engage popular imagination or debate. At the heart of what the convention must now face is not the fleshing out of detail but coming to some landing on where power sits within the European Union. It is significant that within two weeks France and Germany will lay on the table their proposals for where that landing may be. It will be a great challenge for them to arrive at any common landing. The truth is that those two countries represent highly distinct positions on the future of the European Union.

Not to caricature the position, but perhaps getting to its essentials, the instinct of the Federal Republic of Germany—in which it would have the support of many smaller countries of the European Union and, I suspect, the enlarged Union—is still that the Union should not be dominated by institutions that, in their turn, are dominated by the larger states, and that in the balance of institutional power, the European Commission should be strengthened and its political

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legitimacy enhanced. France, on the other hand, has an instinct, which is surely nearer to ours, that this is a Europe of nations—a phrase that the French like to use—in which the key institution is the Council of Ministers, and that the top priority is to gain greater coherence in the Council of Ministers, including altering the arrangements for its presidency.

Earlier, we remembered the role of the late Lord Jenkins. It was my good fortune to work for him in Brussels for four years. I recall that the most interesting aspect of that time was twice having with others sat in on what were in effect telephone conferences—although they were not called that then—between Roy Jenkins sitting in the Berlaymont in Brussels, Giscard d'Estaing in Paris and Helmut Schmidt, the then German Chancellor, in Bonn.

Lord Jenkins used to chair those telephone conferences. Although we did not have video links in those days, so that the inimical rotund gestures of Roy Jenkins could not be seen, he nevertheless used all his persuasive powers—incidentally, all the conversations took place in English—to bring those very different men, one perpetually gloomy, the other erratically buoyant, to some form of agreement. Why did he do that? Because he understood, as we must, that we cannot progress in Europe unless there is a fundamental agreement between Germany and France.

Thinking back, it is interesting that that agreement was made possible, or certainly enormously enabled, by a very British skill in pushing for practical advance—pragmatic advance, if you like—concentrating on concrete matters, such as Roy Jenkins' ideas for again kick-starting the lapsed process of European economic and monetary union, informed, although the issue at stake was not democracy, by a democratic instinct about the nature of debate and disagreement and how to put together agreement in its place.

I urge the Minister and the Government, in considering this country's role in the final stages of the European convention, to see it as being quite the equal of that of France and Germany, although their membership much predates ours, but a creative one, informed by an instinct for democracy and practicality. We must at least begin to solve the disconnection between the powers and capabilities of the European Union, the involvement of people in the process and their understanding of what is being discussed and decided.

There is one factor that we can identify and which we must address, whatever the ultimate solution. We cannot go on saying to electors in Europe, who have all sorts of votes—local votes, regional votes, city votes and national votes—that their European Union vote, with which they vote for the European Parliament, can have no measurable impact on the agenda of Europe or the governance of Europe. We must address that disconnection, and we should have a British instinct for addressing it.

None of us has a neat solution. Lots of ideas have been propounded, and one that I heard for the first time this evening was that put forward by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, who spoke about transnational parties. Unless people are persuaded that voting for the European Parliament

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makes a difference, we can write as many constitutions as we like and summarise them on little plastic cards that people can carry around, saying, "This is Europe", but people will not feel it, will not understand it and will see it as being remote.

I hope that, in the Minister's response tonight and, more importantly, in what happens over the next few months, there will be a sense of optimism on the part of Her Majesty's Government that the British view can and will make a real and marked difference.

6.11 p.m.

Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, I follow the general sweep of the approach taken by the noble Lord, Lord Watson of Richmond. The Government have been more active in presenting Europe, as the noble Lord suggested, but there is the major question of the nervous breakdown in some parts of the national consciousness when it comes to the idea of a constitution. In handling that matter, the convention is one of the most useful EU innovations in recent years. When debating the question a few months ago of whether there should be a second Chamber in the EU, one or two of us said, "Well, we have one". The relationship between the different parts of the European jigsaw in the convention will prove its worth.

It seems inevitable that the Official Opposition will portray the outcome of the convention as being akin to the conclusions of the convention in Philadelphia in 1787. The noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, will correct me if I am wrong, but I think that that was, in a sense, the thrust of his point about the convention. It is certainly in many people's minds; we cannot say that it is not there. M Giscard d'Estaing himself alluded to it. It will be unfortunate if what comes out of the convention is portrayed as being the same as what came out of the convention of Philadelphia in 1787, following the declaration of independence in 1776—that was the time that it took before they got there—just because it looks a bit like it. We must educate the British people to understand that that is not the case. As the noble Lord, Lord Hannay of Chiswick, said, Europe is sui generis and is not like anything that has ever existed. It is counter-productive simply to look for convenient slogans, such as "the United States of Europe", with all the connotations of Philadelphia.

That ties in with the fact that the people who wanted a settlement in Europe included many on the Benches opposite who had said that there was too much drift and incrementalism and that we should define the animal. I do not know what happened to that school of thought, but the question must, logically, be addressed in that spirit.

I welcome many of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay of Chiswick, about the presidency of the Council of Ministers, although the noble Lord does not need my support. In half a dozen minutes, he made half a dozen valuable points, ranging from the role of Mr Solana to his most interesting comment that

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Europe needed a security council akin to the Security Council of the United Nations, with x permanent members—I think that that was the implication—and some rotating members. That is one solution to the question of how we allow the big and small countries to have some ownership of Europe and how we can get away from the caravanserai of presidencies. One minute, we are in Corfu and, next minute, we are in Parvoo. In the future, it will be Tallinn one minute and Szeged the next. Although the plus side of that system is the ownership by those countries, it is not a sensible way to run a bigger Europe.

I must add a few words in defence of the Commission, although it is an unfashionable thing to do. I have not heard anybody say much in favour of the Commission, but it has been the greatest success story in politics since the war. The distinguished people on the Commission—Roy Jenkins has been mentioned, but Neil Kinnock and Chris Patten are also, in their way, distinguished politicians—provide a balance of political weight. The Commission's power of initiative has driven things forward time and again. Again, it is different from any other political structure—in history or at present.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, was right to say that there needed to be a continued balance between the Commission and the Council of Ministers. If we simply had a secretariat for the Council of Ministers, the necessary homework on the proposed legislation would not have been done. I can give some examples from the social field, which is coming again into focus. From the start, the founders of Europe—Monnet and Schuman through to Jacques Delors—thought that the social dimension was important not only because there was a social market economy but because that was how the people could identify with the project. There is nothing wrong with that; we have been discussing it for most of the past couple of hours. Initiatives were agreed then about which no one sees anything wrong now, even though, at the time, in this country, we were collectively at the Eurosceptic end of the market. What about equal pay? That originated in Brussels 30 years ago. What about the transfer of employment protection? That originated in Brussels 20 years ago. We can bring the story up to date with the rights of part-time workers and so on.

We must present some of the changes in national labour markets as things that European countries are doing together. In Europe, there is a close connection between the economic and the social dimension. The Amsterdam arrangements were a big step forward and were quite different from the characterisation of the commissioners as being interested only in producing directives.

There were four pillars concerned with the labour market—adaptability, employability, equal opportunity and vocational training. That has been the main emphasis of the Commission in the social field since that time. It is nonsense to say that the Commission is showing a dinosaur approach to structural change in a market economy. Is it not a paradox that people now say the Germans are the dinosaurs and that we should find means

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to help them change? The European Commission becomes more involved in setting new benchmarks for structural change and that is then turned on its head and portrayed as the famous super state.

I turn now to the role of this House. I was pleased to hear the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, mention not only the report today, but the report on the review of scrutiny of European legislation. On page 38 there is a question which we must think carefully about. I am not sure that the ambition to have everything considered in four weeks, when it is the subject of co-decision, is workable. We in this House have too much genuflection to the theory of scrutiny when our actual appetite for considering more than a selective number of issues is simply not there. The moral is that we must forego the luxury of standing on our dignity, which is not in short supply, and having acrimonious correspondence with Ministers about who has not cleared a document. We need to consider some new criteria of selectivity in that regard.

All of this has to be presented to the British people in the next few months. It will be mixed with the question of the euro. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, suggested another referendum. Maybe it is all the same referendum. Perhaps the referendum will be about Europe. I believe that young people see what Europe is about. If there is to be the idea of a wider referendum, let us recognise that the euro is part of it. It should be part of our civics teaching in schools because, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans said, we must ensure that this is part of the wider vision that we present to the British people.

6.22 p.m.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick: My Lords, perhaps I may follow on from one point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, and apologise to the Minister and to my noble friend on the Front Bench for the fact that I shall not be here at the end of the debate. That is very regrettable, but I had undertaken to visit a friend going into hospital and I had not appreciated the lateness at which the debate would end. For that I apologise.

At the outset, I should like to make it clear that I have no fundamental quarrel with the idea of a convention. However, it has seemed to me at times that the purpose of the convention has been somewhat confused. At times, the main purpose has been to bring Europe closer to the people; at times, the purpose has been to make it more comprehensible; at other times, the purpose has been to make Europe ready for enlargement; and at other times, the purpose has been to define the competencies of the different institutions of the European Union. I believe that the latter is particularly important and something that I would welcome.

The matters being debated in the convention are complex. We are fortunate in this debate to have heard speakers who have been very closely involved with the affairs of the European Union. I refer to the noble Lords, Lord Grenfell, Lord Maclennan and Lord Tomlinson, and the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, who have been

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directly involved in the convention. We shall hear later from the noble Lords, Lord Hannay and Lord Williamson.

However, with great respect to all those who are familiar with so many of the terms, on so many of the institutions and so many of the mechanisms—talk of pillars, subsidiarity, proportionality, qualified majority voting as distinct from majority voting, the high representative as distinct from the Commissioner for External Affairs and even the President of the Council as opposed to the President of the Commission—I would suggest that not one person in 10,000 understands those terms. The idea that the convention will make the institutions of Europe comprehensible to the people of this country is a delusion. It will not do that.

It seems that in many ways the convention is in danger of going off the rails. We have the proposals on subsidiarity. The hills have certainly been in labour but they have produced a very small brown mouse indeed. The recommendations of the subsidiarity group, Group 4, are that legislative proposals should be submitted to national parliaments for a view—"for a view". There is no guarantee, nor could there be, that national parliaments will be allowed a vote or that governments will pay any attention or that the Commission will pay any attention or that the Council of Ministers will pay any attention to what national parliaments recommend.

That was conceded by the conclusions of Group 4 which stated:

    "Such a mechanism"

—a mechanism for considering subsidiarity—

    "should not hinder or delay the legislative process".

Perish the thought!

The House of Commons Select Committee on European legislation quite rightly made the comment:

    "A real watchdog not just conveys views, it barks and occasionally bites".

The proposals for subsidiarity need to be put in the overall context of more majority voting. It appears that these modest—modest—proposals are being traded in exchange for more majority voting.

Subsidarity, as it operates at present, seems to be conceived back to front, if I may use such an inelegant phrase. Subsidiarity seems to be seen as something delegated from the national to the supranational, whereas one could equally argue that it could be the other way around. Instead of all the national parliamentarians being summoned by "Prince Giscard" to his cloth of gold, perhaps it would be more appropriate if the MEPs and representatives of European institutions had gone to national parliaments and national governments to ask them about the improvements that could be made to the machinery for decision making.

There is one way only to demonstrate that subsidiarity has been taken seriously. That is to put forward proposals for the transfer of competencies back from European Union institutions to nation states. I do not see why that cannot be considered. The noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, kindly gave way when I

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asked him about the acquis communautaire. I was not suggesting for one minute that the whole acquis communautaire should be dismantled. I was merely suggesting that somewhere, some time, a law passed by the European Union might have out-lived its usefulness. But no, in the European Union, democracy is a one-way street.

Subsidiarity is a small bone that has been thrown into the conference. As the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, said, what is actually happening is a fight between the triangle of the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament. They are all fighting for their own turf and not for considerations of good governance. Good governance seems to come a long way down the list of priorities.

Against the proposal for subsidiarity we need to place the proposals that the EU Commission itself is demanding, which are quite extraordinarily far reaching. As put forward by Mr Prodi's speech of 5th December, they are suggesting that foreign affairs should be the prerogative of the Commission alone. The post of the high representative and the Commissioner for External Affairs should be merged into that of a secretary who would eventually have total responsibility for foreign and defence policies. Considerations of policy on taxation and justice matters are to have no veto under the proposals of the Commission. The EU's external frontiers are to be policed by EU frontier guards. "Why?", one might ask. What is the real pragmatic reason for that? Any country that is capable of being a state is surely capable of policing its own frontiers and it is hardly likely to be strengthened or improved by a so far non-existent, yet-to-be-tried, EU frontier force.

"But never mind", we are told, "all these are only proposals". They are put forward only by the Commission and they should not be, in the phrase of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, "lovingly dissected". They should not be examined at all. But, from what one reads in the press, the ideas have some backing within the convention from the smaller countries and from Germany. Germany is developing an idea different from that of the Government; that is, instead of a President of the Council, a President of the Commission with greatly strengthened powers. It would be "a new kind of European Kaiser". These are not my words but those of the Minister of State, Mr MacShane, at the Foreign Office.

Then we have the issue of the single legal personality. The significance of that has been disputed. I have read what the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, said about it: that the EU already has legal personality and that it is not a great step. I have also read what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson: that this does not lead to a collapse of the pillars and that a collapse of the pillars is not synonymous with the abolition of inter-governmentalism. I do not feel qualified to judge those arguments, but the real concern on which I hope the Minister will comment at the end of the debate is the extent to which the pillared approach will be compromised as a result of the convention. There are those areas in which inter-governmentalism has been

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the rule and the ECJ has competence only where there is joint decision-making. We have the impression that inter-governmentalism, in justice, in home affairs and internal security, is being transferred to the old Pillar One; to the EU itself.

The real reverse in the convention seems to me to come with the charter of fundamental rights. Previously, the Government were proud of the fact that the charter would not be legally binding and therefore it was a success. I referred earlier to the remarks of Mr Vaz and to the Beano. The Minister said that of course the Beano could be referred to in court—but not, I believe, as a source of authority or a source for judicial decisions. But we will examine carefully what the noble Baroness said about horizontal articles. It seems likely that the incorporation of the charter into the treaties will mean that more areas will be as justiciable.

The EU will have a constitution. The Foreign Secretary has said that that is not significant and that a golf club has a constitution. St Andrew's may have a constitution, but it does not have a rapid reaction force, a currency, a budget or a passport. And a constitution implies that the parts derive their authority from the centre rather than the other way round. When a charter is incorporated into the treaties, it will free the Commission to secure fundamental rights by proposing legislation particularly now that the EU has a legal identity and can be brought to court.

The British Government have been pushing forward the idea of a longer term presidency for the Council. Increasingly, I would have thought, that idea looks somewhat irrelevant and is likely to be bypassed. It seems to have one flaw in it; that is, can we really believe that Mr Berlusconi, the Prime Minister, Mr Blair, or President Chirac, will cut off all their contact with the outside world or with the United States and submit only to the authority of the one spokesman as a long-term president of the Council? I find it a rather unreal idea.

I submit that much of what is coming out of the convention is somewhat alarming. We have the usual soothing words, the implication that much of what has been said can be added to the mound of unread paper in Brussels. But much more likely is that ground will be yielded to the integrationists again and that will not enhance the good governance of this country. That is really what should never be lost sight of and what this debate is all about.

6.35 p.m.

Lord Williamson of Horton: My Lords, I greatly welcome the opportunity to debate the Convention on the Future of Europe. The Select Committee on the European Union, of which I am a member, in its 30th report of 25th July recommended that a debate on a government Motion be held no later than the end of the year. By submitting the debate now, a few days later, the Government have given us an extra Christmas present; that is, the opportunity to read or re-read the myriad documents submitted to the convention. I did that and I

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assure the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, who looks a little put out, that I also had some nice presents from my wife and others.

The 30th report of the Select Committee is useful because it brings together the facts about the launch of the convention and its organisation and describes in a summary form some of the key issues in indicating how this House should be kept informed and should have a role to play. Time has moved on since then, but the Select Committee has been fulfilling its function in a timely manner.

Today I do not want to concentrate on the organisation of the convention or, indeed, of the European institutions. I want to concentrate on what I consider to be the substantive issues where the convention is already well advanced and in particular on a treaty establishing a constitution for Europe. That is the crux of the matter and it is difficult to under-estimate its importance, although it has not been fully registered either in the other member states or, more particularly, with the British public.

With the draft treaty go the other substantive issues which have been discussed in the working groups of the convention and reports have come forward. I base my remarks mainly on the helpful fourth and fifth reports from the parliamentary representatives. They contain not only the draft constitutional treaty but the full text, the final reports or conclusions of the working groups on five subjects which, in my opinion, are critical to the conclusion of the convention—and its saleability or not—to the public in the European Union, in particular in the United Kingdom.

The first is the role of national parliaments. The second is the possible incorporation of the charter of fundamental rights into the treaties and the possible accession of the Community or Union to the European Convention on Human Rights. The third are the complementary competencies which the working group sensibly describes as "supporting measures". In my view, the draft treaty will need to restate specifically the exclusive and shared competencies of the Union and also the areas where the Union can assist or supplement national policies where that is in the common interest of the Union and member states.

The treaty must also specifically include the long-established principle which has not always convinced Eurosceptics in the UK: that all powers not conferred by the treaty remain with the member states. I believe that when a full draft constitutional treaty comes forward the British public will be surprised to see how few are the exclusive competencies of the Union and that supporting measures will be a much greater focus for attention at that time.

The fourth is the question of the possible conferral on the Union of a legal personality, by which the Union would have the right to conclude treaties and to become a member of international organisations. Many noble Lords have referred to that. The fifth is subsidiarity, but if the definition of "exclusive and shared competencies" and areas where supporting measures could be taken by the Union were definitively settled in a new treaty, and the monitoring

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role of national parliaments were clearly established, the issue of subsidiarity would become much less important.

Sixthly, there is the issue of the simplification of legislative procedures, the report on which came forward from the working group rather later. I make my traditional point of asking the Government to keep their mind not only on primary legislation but also on secondary legislation. As we know, a vast amount of the acquis communautaire is secondary legislation and a vast amount of the problems quoted in the British media—some of which are not problems but are still quoted there—arise from secondary legislation which is subject to a different control—or, one might say, to an absence of control.

I know that there are other working groups—on economic governance, internal and external security and external relations—but others have spoken to those issues and I shall not go into them today. I want to concentrate on the constitutional treaty and the six issues I have highlighted because, ultimately, they are likely to coalesce into one enormous issue. The changes in the role of national parliaments, the status of the charter of fundamental rights, the definition of Union competencies, the legal personality of the Union, the application of subsidiarity and the simplification of legislative procedures will, I emphasise, all be provided for in the new treaty. So all these issues will go eventually to governments, to parliaments and, we hope, to peoples, and that is where we need to concentrate.

Almost 50 years ago, when I was a fairly well-informed young man, the Treaty of Rome was signed. Apart from the rise and fall of the Iron Curtain, it was perhaps the most important political event in Western Europe in that period. However, I do not recall that I ever knew that it had happened at the time. That is perhaps not surprising because on 26th March 1957 The Times devoted five inches of narrow column to it and the Daily Telegraph had 16 separate news items on its front page, none of which referred to the Treaty of Rome and its signing.

I do not want to make too much of the sins of the past. I make the point only to stress the importance of a new constitutional treaty which will considerably replace the Treaty of Rome, as amended, inter alia, by the Treaties of Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice, which we have debated ad nauseam. It will require not only intensive scrutiny but will need to command the support of the British people. It is a major venture. It is a strategy of calculated risk. If the British people accept the new constitutional treaty, including those elements which derive from existing treaties and the main conclusions on the six key points I have mentioned, then generalised opposition to the European Union will have little purpose or force.

I, for one, do not agree with the oft repeated point that no one ever provides enough information on the European Union for the British public. My very old house contains so many books on the European Union, which are printed in Britain and published

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every week, that there is a serious risk of the room in which I keep them on the first floor collapsing. There are masses of documents.

However, despite the excellent efforts of our national representatives and the widespread availability of documents, the British public, as we all know, are more interested in the future of Terry Venables as manager of Leeds United than in a new constitutional treaty for Europe. That is the current situation. In due course, this will be an important point. It does not give me vast cause for concern at the moment because we are still only at the beginning. The convention itself has yet to take a position or establish options—perhaps by the middle of this year—but that will be a new, important step. Thereafter the governments of the member states will have to decide what they can or cannot support. Unanimity applies. It is the governments and peoples of the member states, including the United Kingdom, who have the sole power of decision. The Government have given assurances about consulting Parliament at the penultimate stage, as the Select Committee indicates in paragraph 51 of its report.

I turn now, very briefly, to a small selection of important points in the working groups' reports. As to the parliamentary role, there is a proposal for a mechanism allowing national parliaments to convey early in the legislative process their view on the compliance or not of a legislative proposal with the principle of subsidiarity. That is good as far as it goes but, on this issue, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lamont of Lerwick—I do sometimes agree with him—that this is not a block, or even a temporary block, on the progress of a draft law. It is a step but it is not what was originally anticipated.

Other recommendations are useful. For example, the open door procedure in the Council when it legislates and a new look at COSAC or a replacement.

As to competencies, if we are to have a new treaty we need to define the kinds of competencies and the policies or activities to which they apply. Looking at the text, I believe that that is the intention set out in the draft summary constitutional treaty. It is a very important point for us because, in my view, it is the only way in which the UK public can be reassured in relation to a new treaty.

Finally, we must not lose sight of the fact that for our fellow citizens the key issue is whether the actions of the EU are or are not good for them. The details of the institutions are matters of profound indifference to most of our citizens. For them, it is not whether the Commission has 15 or 25 members that matters, but what it proposes; it is not whether the Council meets in five or eight configurations that matters, but what it decides. The future must surely be to look towards a new constitutional treaty, with some of the changes that I have highlighted, and to concentrate our attention on the value or not of the proposals which come forward from the Commission and the decisions made in the Council and the Parliament.

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6.46 p.m.

Lord Brennan: My Lords, the convention and governmental decisions to be made upon it represent a critical stage in the journey of the European Union. It is critical because the very existence of the convention is an acknowledgement that the present framework is inadequate. Clearly so, when in the past 50 years it has sought to deal with a divided Europe and, in the next 50 or more, it will seek to deal with the enlarged Europe of at least 25 nations and more than 300 million peoples. The question which the convention debates, and on which governments must decide, is how will that Europe best be governed.

There are two alternatives. The first, if the noble Lord, Lord Howell, will permit me to use his words, is the route of a minimum of legislation coupled with flexibility and national manoeuvrability. I hope that I have his words correct. For me, that is such a challenging combination of the nebulous and the unpredictable as to defy any reasoned democratic analysis. I regret that I have to disagree with the noble Lord and to adopt the more realistic route—that is, a system of legislation which governments and peoples will acknowledge to be the basis upon which they are governed.

Whether such a new framework is in a treaty or in a constitution matters not. It is not what we call the piece of legislation that counts but what it says and does. In any new framework, any new legislation, there will be technical routes—institutional, political and so on—which must be followed. However, in the words of President Havel of the Czech Republic, such technical efforts,

    "are doomed to failure if they do not grow out of something deeper, out of generally held values".

The democratic strength of any new Europe will depend not so much on its institutions but more on the values they practise.

I shall refer to two such values. First, fundamental rights. A recent commentator described the present European system as a combination of an unaccountable Commission, an undemocratic Council, a weak European Parliament and a Court of Justice with restricted powers. Pungent, but nevertheless having some accuracy. Yet the European Convention on Human Rights declares that such rights are

    "best maintained by an effective political democracy".

In this new Europe, with its new government, how would its citizens be protected as to their rights, as between themselves and its institutions—whether they be citizens acting as individuals, through a trade union or through corporate enterprise? How would the balance be struck between them and the European government?

The present treaty offers no solution. Article 230 is extremely restricted as to the protection that it seeks to give to individuals. Alternatively, if the European convention were to be incorporated into new European legislation, it would have the same effect as in our country. Rights would be identifiable, and remedies would be available and enforceable. We should know where we stood. What of the alternative

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put forward by the working group on the charter, which recommends that it should be incorporated into any new legislation? If it is so incorporated in its present form, it will merely prolong and exacerbate the democratic deficit of which all complain.

Why? The first part of the charter basically sets out convention rights. It adds nothing. The second part deals with economic and social rights which most European countries either do not recognise in the legislation or, if they do, give it limited enforceability. So what does this second part do for our citizens in Europe? It sets out new rights against any discrimination; an unqualified right to strike; the right to social security and pensions; and the right to environmental protection. Are they rights, or, as some politicians describe them, the contents of a political document?

In recent debates politicians have described the charter as a combination not only of rights but of freedoms and principles. As a citizen, I ask myself which are rights, which are freedoms and which are principles. What protects me? There is no answer.

If a citizen is to be told to look at the terms of the charter within the treaty, to study the convention commentary and then to bear in mind the horizontal provisions, he or she will say these are my rights, through this tortuous route, and will reject such a system as not being in his interests.

The charter provides no remedies. Any decent governmental relationship with the people provides for remedies as between the people and government itself. The charter is silent. There is no declaration, no judicial review, no protective measures and no compensation. Is that democracy in this new Europe? I think not. My noble friend the Minister talks of disillusion. It will surely set in if we enact rights without remedies—because that means rights with no value. So, whether in the convention or the charter, a decision should be made to protect the citizen.

My second fundamental theme as regards rights relates to justice and home affairs. In the new convention thinking, this is called freedom, security and justice. Article 21(3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

    "The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government".

It is in the field of justice and home affairs that the people most expect that will to be reflected. They may not understand the institutions of Europe, but they do understand concepts of justice, criminal law and home affairs. Since the Tampere Council, we have developed European legislation on terrorism, cross-border crime, racism and immigration.

It is being debated whether this sector should become the first pillar—in other words, whether it should be exempt from parliamentary scrutiny and be proposed by the Commission, determined by the Council of Ministers, often, I am sure, by political compromise, and under the new system by qualified majority voting. Is that the way our citizens would

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expect justice and home affairs legislation to be enacted? I think not. Surely there must be something more.

I make some limited suggestions in this field of freedom, security and justice. Legislation from Europe at all stages should be drafted in the framework of the fundamental rights of the convention, or whatever—the values of democracy that we recognise. Any legislation should be compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights or the charter, and should be certified to be so, as is done in our Parliament, by those who seek to enact it.

There should be a defender of the people—a much more expressive description than "ombudsman"—whose job in Europe would be to check that legislation was so compliant and that it was properly drafted, comprehensible and likely to be efficient.

There should be a citizens' audit each year in Europe as to the implementation of new legislation and its effectiveness in the field of justice and home affairs. Action on this front must be discrete and determined, not scattered. It should deal with terrorism, drugs and the trafficking of human beings. Any new system in this area must be transparent, accountable and understandable.

It is clear that debates on the convention of Europe introduce a sense of timelessness in the minds of contributors to this debate, and I shall come to a conclusion. The values of which I have spoken should be acceptable to Europhile or Europhobe. They merely represent the basic democratic concepts which any citizen would expect to operate between himself and those who govern him. Our representatives in the convention, our government Ministers before and at the IGC, would enjoy enormous influence, and deservedly so. I invite them all to remember that disengagement by citizens should be avoided. They should always remember the words of Thomas Jefferson:

    "That government is the strongest of which every man feels himself a part".

6.59 p.m.

Lord Blaker: My Lords, I shall be critical of the European Union, so I shall first establish my record as a long-time supporter of a united Europe. I first became a supporter of a united Europe in the 1940s. I was inspired by Schuman and Monnet, who promoted the unification of Europe as a means of preventing another war in western Europe, especially between France and Germany. At the end of the Second World War, on mentioning which I would no doubt draw comment from the noble Lord, Lord Watson of Richmond, if he were present, I spent six months in hospital recovering from a war wound. That gave me time to think. It seemed to me that the most important thing one could do in life was to work towards the prevention of further wars. That is why I went into the Foreign Office and politics.

I rejoiced when the European Coal and Steel Community was set up. My first job in the Foreign Office was on the European defence community desk

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concerned with the creation of a proposed European army. I regretted very much that Anthony Eden, the then Foreign Secretary, would make no move to support the project. If it had been created, it would have transformed positively the life of Europe thereafter. I deplored Anthony Eden's failure to take part in the Messina conference. We had a golden opportunity. We were so much in demand by the six nations who set up the first communities that we could have written our own treaty more or less as we wanted it. That was a tremendous mistake.

I am no longer an expert on the European Union. Regrettably, I have not spent much time on it for quite a while. But I do believe that the objective of making impossible a major war in Europe has been successfully achieved. There have been little wars in the Balkans, which will not recur. We should no longer be concerned about a major war in Europe. We do not seem to be concerned about it; except that Helmut Kohl, unfortunately, proposed the euro with the justification that it would help to prevent a major war in Europe.

But there is still a strong drive towards centralisation and standardisation, even though the membership of the European Union is becoming more diverse. At the same time, Europe is becoming less popular. The noble Baroness who introduced the debate referred to "disillusionment and disengagement among citizens". That is also my impression.

It is said that the average person is unenthusiastic about Europe because it does not have a democratic structure. I do not think that people talk about that in the pubs, or that they know whether there is in Europe a democratic or non-democratic structure. It is said that hostility to Europe exists because it is too remote. I do not think that that either is talked about in the pubs. The main cause of lack of enthusiasm for the European Union is, I believe, that it is felt to be too close, because—to use the useful expression of my noble friend Lord Hurd of Westwell—it meddles in the nooks and crannies of the citizen's life. In the citizen's view, it meddles in an ill-informed and clumsy way. Noble Lords will have encountered many examples of that.

I shall mention an example that affects me. I declare an interest as a farmer. The Physical Agents (Vibrations) Directive was adopted to safeguard the health of people who drill the roads using vibrating machines. I would hate to have to operate them. But the directive also affects farm tractor drivers, which is why I have an interest. It seems to ignore the fact that farm tractor drivers now drive in air-conditioned cabs with good springing and radios. Although there is very little risk to farmers' backs if they drive tractors for fairly long spells, the directive limits their driving time to seven hours in 24.

That is crazy in this country. If the weather is suitable at harvest time, farmers must harvest for 24 hours a day because they never know whether from the next day until the next month the weather will make it impossible to harvest. The directive may be all right for countries with a stable summer climate, but not for this country. It originated in the Health and

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Consumer Protection Directorate of the Commission. Did they discuss it with the farming sector of the Community? It is impossible to imagine that they did; otherwise they would never have introduced it.

How do we get these directives, which are regarded as meddling in the nooks and crannies? One factor is that for a long time there have been too many commissioners. With expansion, we now face the possibility of even more commissioners. We need a radical reduction in the number of commissioners to fewer than, or perhaps half, the number of member countries. If we have too many commissioners, they will busy themselves thinking up ideas. They are not busy enough working on worthwhile ideas. I put forward that serious suggestion. I would view with alarm any proposal to make the President of the Commission the President of Europe. I am not enthusiastic about the proposal mentioned by the Minister to strengthen the commissioners' powers of initiative. That seems to be the source of the trouble.

When we achieve expansion, there will be 25 different democracies with different traditions, histories, cultures, languages, religions and legal codes. It is strange that, despite the prospect of increased diversity and variety among members, we are talking about an even tighter system of standardisation. That is the opposite of what we should be doing. We should be looking for something looser. I have grave doubts about the success of the European Union if, with so many diverse members, it tightens regulation.

The Union will stretch for incredible distances in each direction—east and west, north and south, from the Baltic to Malta, from Poland to Portugal. It defies common sense to have across that area standardisation of almost everything, which seems to be the objective of many involved in the European Union. The problem of meddling in the nooks and crannies of citizens' lives is increasingly likely to affect the popularity of Europe. I want to see the European venture survive and prosper, but the Union should fundamentally rethink this problem. I doubt whether the work of the convention will lift the feeling of "disillusionment and disengagement" unless it deals with it.

7.8 p.m.

Lord Owen: My Lords, the Government have a monumental task. I think they understand how difficult it will be. There is obviously a wish in the Government to go along with the single treaty. I would like it confirmed that they have not yet formally accepted it. As someone who wants to have much greater simplification and clarity, if a single treaty is possible, I would like to see it.

But there are formidable differences to it. It was not an accident that, after all the negotiations, we came up with the pillared structure in the Maastricht Treaty, which was extremely well negotiated, and that that has stayed through both the Amsterdam and Nice negotiations. All these issues are extremely closely linked.

I am not a lawyer, but I agree with every word that the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, said about the problems of the new European Charter of

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Fundamental Rights. I am immensely pleased that this Government made the European Court of Human Rights justiciable in this country, and I have long wanted it to happen. I have always wanted to find a way in which the European Community could also be a party to the treaty. But I refer to the European Community and Community treaties. There are real problems in the European Union treaty being associated with the European Convention on Human Rights, because we have agreed that the European Court of Justice will not be involved in the inter-governmental pillars, pillars II and III. We have done so for good reason. Again, I hope that the Government have not yet accepted that they will change their long-standing position. The Prime Minister has said time after time that the European Court of Justice will not be involved in pillars II and III. It is slightly involved in some aspects of pillar III, but it is not at all involved in pillar II. That becomes even more important now that defence is coming into pillar II through ESDP.

If we accept that we should not cross that line and bring the European Court of Justice in, the European Union in its totality cannot go into the European Convention on Human Rights. The European Court of Justice would have to go into pillar II, because it would be immediately appealed against on the grounds of incompatibility. We have to find a way of keeping the pillared structure within a single treaty.

That brings us to the complex issue of the legal personality. Explaining their negotiations in Amsterdam, this Government proudly claimed that they had not conceded legal personality when they had made the purely practical and, I think, welcome decision to allow the European Union to undertake negotiations under Article 24. This was not a full legal personality, but it has allowed the European Union to make two agreements, both in the Balkans. Some people have said that it is partly a legal personality. The British Government's position is as clear as daylight: it is not legal personality and it has not changed the competencies.

If we were to go to legal personality in a single treaty we would certainly have to differentiate between full legal personality and partial legal personality. That is very difficult to do in a single treaty. Some people have said that that is the key to being able to go to a single treaty. With the best will in the world, having looked at the issues, we may be driven back to believing that, although we need simplification, we cannot have a single treaty. We can incorporate a constitutional declaration in the Treaty of the European Union—I have no objection to the basic structure of the Giscard proposals as they evolve—but we still keep that as an addition to a separate European Union Treaty and we keep the European Community Treaty, which we know and understand and which has been built on for many decades, and thus keep the intergovernmental separation from the supranational.

If we go for a single treaty, this House will have to look very carefully at it. The implications will be considerable. It is not just a form of decision-making that we separate out in the pillars; it is a structure—an intergovernmental structure on the one hand, where

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decisions are taken where the member states are in the last analysis responsible, and a supranational structure, where we have ceded power from this House to the Commission and rightly given considerable powers to the European Parliament to control that supranational power. The treaties explain that and makes those things clear. I believe that we will end up rationally having to defend a continuation of the two treaties, but with an overarching wording and constitutional treaty that is understandable, concise and clear and gives better understanding for the general public in all these issues.

We then come to the question of the High Representative—Javier Solana at present. I have always wanted the position to be filled and he has done it extremely well. It is necessary to clarify his position. I cannot see any real case for a commissioner for external affairs when we have a High Representative. It is impossible to double-hat him. We should not countenance that for one moment. These are separate responsibilities. He should be given a power of initiative. I can see a case for him to be chairman of the Foreign Ministers, but that comes back to how we want the Council to be organised overall.

I have heard people speak in favour of the proposition that the 25 or 27 heads of government should elect a person—not one of their own number—to act as Mr Europe, as President of the Council. We know that the smaller countries are utterly opposed to that. The Benelux countries have made it clear that under no circumstances will they allow that to happen. Given their integrationist position, I am surprised that they take that view. If I were a long-term integrationist, I would welcome the proposition. It has, however, grave dangers for my wish for a unique European Union with a supranational element and an intergovernmental element. I do not think this proposal will fly, but we all know that we have to grapple with the problem of the chairing or leadership of the European Council and agree on a solution to it when we go to 25 members and even beyond that. There are some serious problems. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, and the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, mentioned the veto principle. I would love it to be possible, but I find it hard to believe that it will ever be negotiated. It has worked in the UN, but there is a lot of hostility to it there and there would be a lot more hostility to bringing it into the European Union. We will have to go on with the present structure with intergovernmental unanimity.

There is an understanding among colleagues that small countries do not exercise their powers on this issue. For a long time when there were still 15 members in the Council we lived with Greece having a very different view of many aspects of policy in the Balkans. I watched it day by day. The Greeks never pressed their luck too much, apart from on the one issue of the name of Macedonia. They lost a Foreign Secretary on the issue and had 250,000 people on the streets of Thessalonica. That issue was of vital interest to them, but on other aspects relating to the Balkans they rallied to the majority. There are mechanisms in the CFSP for

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rallying to the majority and being able to declare your position. We have a lot of useful working procedures that deal with that.

I also value the idea that the presidency of the Council rotates. Member states can identify with it. If there is a strong feeling that they need a leader, it would be much better to choose one from among their members. Current Prime Ministers or Presidents would know when somebody was in a secure position and had three or four years before an election. They would know whether that colleague's political situation meant that they could afford to give 18 months or two years to the job. That is a perfectly acceptable period. I think a year is sufficient, but six months is not. Most people agree that we must go to year-long presidencies.

The alternative is to group countries into numbers of people and have one big country leading. There is something unique and valuable in the idea of rotating presidencies. In a group situation there is value in the six or so big countries being able to provide the leadership of the Council, and maybe the leadership of the Foreign Affairs Council would also be held by the big country in the group. With Poland coming in we now have to think of six groupings. There are four large countries. Spain is the next one, but it is the same size as Poland, so we are talking about six. We have to think imaginatively about how a group would share out chairmanship of the Councils, each having a portfolio. That is possible in a grouping. The big countries would not have them all. The presidency would be held perhaps for a year. If people were happy for longer periods of rotation, it might be 18 months or two years.

If we decide to let the Council choose an individual as president, it will not be long before there is a great objection among the people of Europe to the post being filled by election only among the heads of government. People will then demand that it is directly elected, leading to all the problems of direct election.

These are immensely difficult issues. Although there is an appearance of agreement, reading between the lines and seeing the way the different elements are structured, it will be difficult to pull the whole thing together, particularly in the agreed timescale. Although there has been some value in putting some people on the convention from Cabinets, there is a danger of blurring the distinction. The final response and deal must be between heads of government. However, they cannot go through a Nice procedure on this issue. We cannot have this cobbled up in the middle of the night with no redress available, and such compromises never returning to this House. This is about a constitution; in other words, something that will last. This time we must say in this House, "In no way are we having this".

We are talking about a legislative process that we must go through painfully and slowly watching it and concentrating on the detail, such as the commas and the small print. This House must assert itself, not just along party lines; we must simply say that we are not

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putting up with this. Everyone agrees that Nice was a disaster in terms of procedure. We must take our time over this process.

There is now pressure building up for the idea that the IGC should take place during the Italian presidency. I understand that the latter would like to have the second Treaty of Rome, but I do not believe that that is possible to take the proposals from the convention at the end of June and put forward a completely agreed procedure—one that is satisfactory to legislators—by the end of December in a country that is conceding a very big concession. We have never before had a written constitution, but now we are to have one.

I have two final points to make. We need to consider whether we ought to have a constitutional court along the lines of the one in Germany. France, too, has such a court to some extent with its Conseil constitutionel, as is the case with other countries. If we are going for a written constitution, I should like us to consider the concept of a constitutional court.

Everyone has put forward frightfully sensible proposals for discussions, and so on, on the subject of subsidiarity. But we all know that that is no use: the concept has to have power and a political mechanism. It is my suggestion when we have been consulted on the issue and do not like it, the Commission should have to take it back and reconsider the proposal because a "national parliament" has objected to it. We must have some mechanism after that. I suggest that one-third of the national parliaments should be involved. If one third of the national parliaments object to a proposal on grounds of subsidiarity and because they do not believe that this area of policy should be taken on by the Commission, the latter can still put it to the Council, but if a third of national parliaments still object they should then be able to demand that such a proposition goes through the Council by unanimity. That would give some real power to national parliaments. It would also link us into the process.

It is no use relying on the European Court of Justice because it has not ruled on any issue of subsidiarity. It considers this to be political. It is an interesting aspect for such a body, which some of us believe to be a highly political court, to be deciding that such a concept is political. But it will not be the arbiters on this subject. But if one-third of the national parliaments object to the proposal on the grounds of subsidiarity, I suggest that the decision should then be unanimous in the Council and not dealt with by way of a qualified majority vote.

I have outlined just some of my ideas, and I do not wish to proceed any further. The Government face a most difficult issue. Although I believe that they are approaching it in the right way, we need to have more detailed debates on some of the complex questions involved.

7.22 p.m.

Lord Willoughby de Broke: My Lords, to make any worthwhile comment on the proposals put forward by the Convention on the Future of Europe, I believe that

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we need to look at the history—to see how the people of this country have been misled over the past 30 years. I could say "lied to", but I shall instead use the word "misled" because, after all, a rose,

    "By any other name would smell as sweet".

The people of this country have been misled, and gradually, inexorably, drawn step by step into the quicksand of a European super state, without ever being asked whether this is the road down which they wish to travel.

The misleading began in 1973 when Mr Heath assured Parliament and the people of this country that ratifying the Treaty of Accession would mean no loss of essential sovereignty. Mr. Wilson manfully carried on the misleading in 1975 when he called the referendum on our membership of the Common Market. Again, were told that there would be no loss of sovereignty, no danger of losing the pound sterling, and that the Common Market was just that—a trading area with no political ramifications.

Since then a succession of treaties—the Single European Act, Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice—have led us down the integrationist track, while our politicians have continued to pretend that what was happening was not really happening at all and while the British public were passengers on the train without ever being asked whether or not they wanted a ticket.

So where has this deliberately insidious process, this salami-slicing of our liberty, left us? Where are we now? I remind your Lordships again that the European Union, which we only agreed to join as a common market, already has its own parliament, its own executive, its own supreme court, its own currency, its own flag, and its own anthem. EU law is supreme: Parliament must enact any laws that have been agreed by the Council of Ministers even if the British Government voted against that law in the Council; in other words, it must enact that law on pain of unlimited fine in the Luxembourg court.

Our fishing industry all but disappeared on the first day of this year—the shameful result of Mr Heath and the Foreign Office agreeing that British fishing and fishermen were expendable in the greater interests of joining the Common Market. Our farming industry is in danger of going the same way after 25 years in the CAP. All this, after British taxpayers have contributed hundreds of billions of pounds to the unaccountable and unelected Brussels bureaucracy to squander, mostly on helping prop up our competitors.

Meanwhile, our industrial and intellectual competitiveness has been eroded by the stream of directives and regulations emanating from Brussels in the name of Euro- harmonisation. Under this Government and their love affair with the EU, Britain has slipped from fourth in the international competitive league to 12th now.

So far, so bad—but worse, much worse, is to come. If the proposals of the convention are to be taken at face value, the future of this country is nothing more than European federalism. The paperwork that I was sent by our excellent research department in the House of Lords weighed eight pounds 10 ounces, which is

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about the weight of a good healthy baby. How wonderfully typical it is of the way that the EU operates that this Euro-baby should have as midwives a triumvirate of federalists led by a president with a reputation tarnished by his association with the unsavoury President Bokassa.

Unsurprisingly, under such a triumvirate, the proposals that are emerging are unequivocally integrationist and federalist, even if less extravagant than the naked power-grab put forward by the European Commission, which demands that Brussels should have the power to intervene with force in the domestic affairs of member states. Have we really come to this? It gives me no comfort that the Foreign Office has rubbished this proposal. This Government and the Foreign Office have a track record that inspires little confidence. We were repeatedly told that the Government were not in favour of a written constitution, but apparently they are now in favour of it. We were told that they were not in favour of formalising the European charter of fundamental rights—the very document that, as we have heard, a government Minister, Mr Keith Vaz, said had no more value than a comic. Yet it seems that the charter is now to be stuffed down our throats. Government denials are clearly to be taken with truckloads of salt.

The way power is shifting in the European Union can clearly be seen from the outline constitution. Article 1 of the draft requires the European states,

    "while retaining their national identities"—

presumably that means being allowed to play the national anthem at football matches—

    "to closely co-ordinate their policies at the European level and administer certain common competencies on a federal basis".

Article 4 requires explicit recognition of the legal personality of the Union.

Article 5 proposes to embed the European charter of fundamental rights into the constitution. Article 8 establishes the primacy of EU law over laws of nation states, and in the glib Eurospeak with which we have become all to familiar it sets out the obligation of "loyal co-operation" of member states vis-a-vis the Union. And so on—a litany of centralising measures, with the sole aim of creating a United States of Europe, which, after all, is Mr Giscard's favoured term for his federal love child.

There is a passing reference to "subsidiarity"—a concept which, as has been made clear today, no one understands. Lip-service is also paid to an enhanced role for national parliaments, but, as one of my noble friends pointed out, that is a mere fig leaf. We should not be too grateful for that, any more than someone who has been mugged should be grateful to a mugger for giving him the Tube fare home.

I would expect a British Prime Minister, who has Britain's interests at heart, to resist this federalist nonsense. But, no. In a revealing speech at Cardiff, to which reference has been made by many speakers, Mr Blair amazingly said that,

    "we need more Europe, not less".

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He must be the only person in the country who really believes that. He wants a written constitution. He wants more power given to EU institutions—the Council, the Court, the Parliament, and even that sunset home for political failures, the Commission. That power has to come from somewhere. I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, that this is not a zero-sum game. The power that is given to the centre has to come from the nation states.

The noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, asks for some suggestions for his committees in Brussels. I ask him the following questions. Where are the proposals to reduce the powers of the unelected centre? Where are the proposals to return power and competencies to the nation states where they belong? There are no such proposals. Where is it proposed to cut the Commission down to size, to remove its right to initiate legislation? Why should the Commission have this power when it has no democratic mandate whatever? As my noble friend Lord Lamont pointed out, the Commission wants more power, not less.

Where are the proposals to reduce the EU budget to a manageable size by returning agricultural and environmental policy to the nation states? Where are the proposals to reverse the devastation caused to our fisheries and marine environment by repatriating the common fisheries policy? Above all, where are the proposals for a referendum on this federalist agenda, which is anti-democratic, anti-parliamentary and anti-British? Scotland was given a referendum on devolution, as was Wales. Even London was allowed a referendum on electing the disastrous Mayor whom it saw fit to elect.

This so-called debate on "the future of Europe" is a sham: it is merely the Euro-elites talking to each other. They ritually complain about the "democratic deficit" but show absolutely no appetite for making the fundamental changes that are necessary. Voters will have no more influence over the Council or the Commission than they have now, as the noble Lord, Lord Watson, pointed out. The influence which they have at the moment is absolutely zero, and it is not going to improve.

I remind Mr Blair of Winston Churchill's words in 1953 when he said:

    "We are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked but not comprised. We are associated but not absorbed".

Who is right, Mr Blair or Mr Churchill? We will very soon have to choose.

7.32 p.m.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I am not one of those who believed that the convention was going to be a weak-joke sort of organisation. Indeed, it has become, as some of us predicted, a cover for ceding more power to the institutions of the European Union and for taking further giant steps towards a united states of Europe. That is what it has become under the leadership of Mr Giscard d'Estaing.

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It is 30 years since we joined the Common Market. I and many others were opposed to joining because we knew even then that it was not about a free trade area, but about the creation of a European superstate. Because we warned that it was not about a free trade area but about building a united states of Europe, we have for a very long time been vilified, insulted, and labelled as extremists and lunatics. Nevertheless, that was my view then, and it is my view now.

Now, however, we have been vindicated, have we not? Mr Giscard d'Estaing has blown the gaffe. His preliminary draft constitutional treaty lays down a scheme for administering the European Union on a federal basis. That is what he said—on a federal basis. One of the names that he suggests for this federal state is the united states of Europe. So we have been right all along to warn that we were headed for a united states of Europe. Now, Mr d'Estaing confirms that we were right all the way along.

What does this scheme involve? It involves a written constitution based on a charter of fundamental rights—which, as has been mentioned, was derided in 2001 by Keith Vaz as having no more significance than the Beano. This charter of fundamental rights, which is to become the written constitution, purports to grant rights which we already have without any charter. However, the charter may well put those rights at risk and lead to their withdrawal. If something can be included in a charter, it can be excluded from the charter. Furthermore, it undermines our own flexible constitution. I do not know what on earth will happen to our own constitution. It would be interesting to have the Minister's views on that.

The scheme is also to give us dual citizenship. Does that mean that we have two loyalties—one to the Queen and one to his presidency? Just exactly what does "dual citizenship" mean, and which loyalty will take precedence? We ought to have answers to these questions. Article 8 refers to the loyal co-operation of member states vis-a-vis the Union. Is that to override loyalty to their nation and those in their nation who elected them? There are some very serious questions to be answered.

This united states of Europe is to be given a legal personality and the right to sign treaties without ratification. Currently, Parliament has to ratify all treaties. Under the proposals, however, it will not be necessary to ratify treaties made on our behalf by the European Union or whatever it is going to be called. The Union will also represent nations internationally by having its own diplomatic representatives and claiming seats on international bodies. If it has its own legal personality, then the European Union will have the status of a state and will be internationally recognised as one. That is bound to diminish the status and role of the nation states within it. Coupled with that, and to facilitate the creation of a single European state, the second and third pillars are to be collapsed into a single entity. Make no mistake about it: that is what it says in Giscard d'Estaing's scheme.

The Prime Minister is suggesting the reduction of veto power, which is bound to lead eventually to decisions on foreign and defence policy being made by

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QMV, as is currently happening in the case of justice and home affairs and policing. A further proposal is to end the system of the rotating presidency of the European Council and to replace it with a president elected every five years by the Council itself. This president would speak and act for the Union and—in the words of at least one British Minister—would be a strong and authoritative voice speaking for the Union. That sounds good. However, it can only diminish the voice and the role of national leaders. I believe that that is exactly what is intended by the superstate builders.

The Union's finance is also under review. According to the Giscard draft, the Union budget is to be fully financed by its own resources. That might not be considered to be anything other than the present position, except, of course, that our dear friend the President of the Commission, Signor Prodi, and others, are calling for the European Union to have power to levy taxes, direct and indirect.

Now, of course, as we have already heard, there is the sop of subsidiarity. How I distrust that word. I remember the Maastricht Treaty when John Major said, "We have subsidiarity. We have won it, game, set and match". What has happened since? Far from there being any subsidiarity and far from any competences being returned to the nation states, the competences ceded to the centre have grown and grown and grown every single year. So when I hear the word "subsidiarity" I become very suspicious indeed. Make no mistake, there will not be any subsidiarity and no ceding of powers back to the nation states.

At the time of the Nice Treaty signing our own government pooh-poohed the idea that any of these proposals were serious, yet they have now embraced them all. Blair's speech in Cardiff on 28th November, which has been referred to on several occasions this afternoon, was about Europe and support for continued and increased integration. I was struck by a sentence in that speech which I quote,

    "And with each new direction taken, Britain has tended to say this far and no further. Then on the next development we say the same. And so on".

That is what worries many of us. There seems to be no end to integration. And if that is so, Britain will be integrated out of existence. That must be so, if there is no end to it. So, we are entitled to ask Mr Blair, who says that he is "a British patriot", if he has a sticking point to integration and, if he has, where and what it is.

In that Cardiff speech Mr Blair also repeated his Warsaw dictum that he wants Europe to be a superpower and not a superstate. But you cannot be a superpower without being a superstate. Mr Blair must know that you cannot be a superpower without the means, and the means can only be through a superstate. The Giscard draft and other proposals before the convention are further steps towards the creation of that superstate. I believe that the people of this country simply do not want that.

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Finally, what we really need in this country is not a convention on the future of Europe. We need a convention in which all the people are involved. We need a convention on the future of Britain. That is what the people of this country want.

7.43 p.m.

Baroness Hooper: My Lords, I welcome this opportunity to peer into the future of Europe. I believe that the issues we are discussing today affect not only those of us who live and work in Europe but the rest of the world as well. I think in particular of those parts of the world where there is a strong European heritage, such as the Americas. But any developments in, and evolution of, the European Union are of interest in all those regions where countries are attempting to link their needs, economies and destinies and follow the model of the European Union in doing so.

It has been said that this is really the first time in our history when the whole scope, purpose and direction of the European Union are subject to debate not just in your Lordships' House but also in the many communities, organisations and groups who recognise that the drawing up of a convention or treaty on the future of Europe presents an opportunity for change, improvement, simplification and clarification.

As many of your Lordships know, I served as a member of the European Parliament after the first direct elections in 1979. Subsequently as a Minister I represented my department at the appropriate Council of Ministers meetings. Those meetings took place behind closed doors. I confess that the opportunity for full and frank discussion that that system allowed enabled business to be dispatched more effectively and speedily than might otherwise have been the case if the meetings had been conducted under the public gaze. I hope that the greater openness in Council, to which the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, referred, will not make procedures more cumbersome and debate more restricted. To complete my declaration of interests, I am currently a member of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe.

I wish to concentrate my remarks on cultural heritage issues and in particular on the role of religion. But I cannot resist picking up briefly some other issues which have been raised in the course of the debate. First and foremost, the role of the European Union in trade is incontrovertible. But if it is to play a leading role in the development of a global trade policy, it must get its own house in order. I refer, of course, to the common agricultural policy but there are other examples.

Secondly, I refer to social policy. In my view any treaty which will have a long-term impact on the people of Europe should include broad social objectives. The danger lies in attempting to go into too much policy detail. I hope that that will be resisted. The principle of subsidiarity has been developed by various speakers and is, I believe, in great need of better application. I was interested in the novel suggestion to use the principle of subsidiarity in the way suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Owen. But I

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believe that it should be applied not only as between national authorities and the European Union but also as between the European Union and other international organisations. I refer particularly to the conflict that sometimes arises between the work of the European Union and the Council of Europe. But, for example, the OECD, the WTO and, indeed, the United Nations are all institutions with which there is a risk of overlap and duplication.

In the application of the rule of subsidiarity—that is, that power should be devolved to the level closest to the citizen—the example of the relationship between the European Union and the Council of Europe is an important one. The Council of Europe now has some 44 member states from Portugal to Azerbaijan and from Iceland in the north to Turkey in the south. All European Union members and, indeed, the current applicants for membership, are also members of the Council of Europe. Historically, the Council of Europe has been the champion and the guardian of human rights, cultural heritage and educational issues. There is no need, therefore, for the European Union to take over that role. I trust that any underlining of the importance of those matters in the convention will not impinge on the work already being carried out by the Council of Europe.

That leads me to my main theme: the importance of culture and heritage; the recognition of its diversity and the need for us all to respect and understand not only our own national inheritance but also the inheritance of others, even and perhaps especially if that leads to a different approach or way of doing things.

I know that the European Union has committed itself to working towards the development of an open and diverse cultural area shared by the peoples of Europe in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity and the promotion of a legal framework favouring cultural activities and guaranteeing respect for cultural diversity. That is excellent, provided that this commitment operates, in effect, as a cross-curricular theme.

It has been suggested, according to the most recent progress reports from our national Parliament representative, that all budgets devoted to the promotion of European culture and heritage should be transferred to the Council of Europe. I agree with that.

One particular aspect of our cultural heritage is of great concern to many people, and has already been introduced as a theme in this debate by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St. Albans. I refer to the place and role of the Churches in religious communities. If a future constitutional treaty, designed to guide the European Union through the next decades, made no reference to religion, Churches or religious communities, it would create a vacuum, given their real significance to society as a whole, to the values and identities on which society is based and to the Union's relationship to its citizens.

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It is true that there is reference to religion in some treaty provisions, annex protocols and declarations and in secondary legislation, in areas such as non-discrimination, labour law, co-operation and development, to name but a few. I would hope to see those references reinforced in the future convention on the basis of a cross-curricular theme. We might go even further—and again, I rely on the excellent exposition made by the right reverend Prelate. Perhaps it would be possible to introduce into the preamble to the convention an explicit reference to God and to the religious heritage of Europe as essential elements of European identity and a reference point for many citizens of the European Union.

In order to avoid such a reference being exclusive, I suggest that the example of the Polish constitution could be followed. As I understand it, that document refers:

    "both to those who believe in God as the source of truth, justice, goodness and beauty as well as to those not sharing such faith but respecting those universal values".

That is a very neat solution to the proposition that I am making.

I hope that what I have said gives the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, some food for thought, although I am one of those who was able to have a word with him on the subject—in the corridor, I hasten to add, not in the Bishops' room. I hope that it will also serve to put some meat on the bones of the skeleton draft treaty to which the Minister referred.

7.53 p.m.

Lord Judd: My Lords, at the outset I echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan of Rogart. In my time in the Foreign Office as a Minister, I had responsibilities for the European Community. I remember vividly the role played by the late Lord Jenkins of Hillhead and the imagination, drive and spirit that he brought to it. Not to have him participate in a debate on Europe leaves a huge gap in our deliberations.

I should also like to pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Tomlinson, with whom I work closely in the Council of Europe, to the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan of Rogart, and to my noble friend Lord Grenfell for all that they have done to make this debate necessary and important. We should not take for granted the amount of work that people such as my noble friend Lord Tomlinson are putting into this matter. As a close friend, I know how many hours, days and weeks he is giving of his own time, on our behalf, to ensure that the outcome of the convention is along the right lines.

I sometimes wonder whether people are imaginative and brave enough in these exercises. One big issue that I should have liked to see faced is the composition of the European Parliament. I believe that what we have learned by looking at it objectively over the years is that we have ended up with a mess. We have a European Parliament that is, inevitably, remote from the people. When elections take place, they are seldom about European issues. They serve as a litmus test for

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the popularity of the government of the day. The number of people voting is disturbingly small. Our national parliaments have almost a vested interest in demonstrating their identity and separateness from all that is happening in Europe. I wish that we could revisit the issue of whether it would have been better to have an indirectly elected European Parliament in which there was an automatic and integrated link between politicians nearer to their communities in nation states and politicians working at the issues at the European level.

We live in a time of managerialism. There is always a danger that in our managerial preoccupations we forget what we are managing for. History would judge us harshly if it appeared that we, as politicians, became caught up in constitutional preoccupations before we spelt out clearly enough to the people of our country why the constitution was necessary and why the developments were essential. What are the challenges that face us that make Europe and European institutions so vital?

I wish to dwell on one aspect. It seems to me that the starting point in relevant politics is the recognition of total global interdependence. That is where I profoundly differ from my very good personal friend, the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart. To use the language that he used is to mislead the public about the reality of the world in which we live. Let me spell it out: the economy, the environment, health, trade—not one of those issues can any longer be satisfactorily solved on behalf of our people in the national context alone. They all demand international co-operation and an interdependent approach. That is where the institutions of Europe become important.

There is a paradox here, however. If one accepts that argument, the European Union itself is not sufficient. My noble friend Lady Scotland of Asthal, in her interesting introduction, dwelt on migration and immigration. There is no way that we will solve those problems within the European Union itself; we have to get it right with the countries around the European Union.

What worries me in that context is that in expanding the Union, which I favour, there is a danger that the dividing line between those who are part of the European Community and those who are outside it becomes more, not less, significant. I hope that the convention's work will deal with how we can ensure that the wider Europe has an opportunity, all the time, to relate and become involved in relevant European policies when they make sense and are essential. I am not sure that that is a priority, from what I see of our immediate preoccupations.

I refer only to one country in that regard, because it would be remiss of me to make this observation without mentioning it. The role of Russia is central to the European Union. If we are to have a sound and stable world, we must enable Russia to become a full, positive and responsible part of the management of world affairs. If we take the developments in the European Union seriously, we must consider how we can make it more possible for Russia to co-operate, rather than introducing greater structural difficulties.

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It is not only to Europe that one must refer in the context of interdependency. The noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, with whom I work closely in the Council of Europe, has made that point well. We must consider not only the wider Europe but the wider international community. On that issue, we come to how the convention's work examines how the strengthened European Union will relate to, as one example, the international financial institutions and, as another, the UN system as a whole.

One of the most crucial areas of interdependence is security. As we have now all come to terms with the appalling threat of international terrorism with which we live, security is more powerfully important than ever. We have recognised that we cannot talk about a common foreign policy in the European Union if we are not also talking about a common security policy, because they are two sides of the same coin. My noble friend Lady Scotland said in her introduction that the matter had to be handled with an intergovernmental approach. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, made the same points.

If the development of policy on the subject were to become intergovernmental within the European Union, I would be concerned as to where effective parliamentary scrutiny took place. We would not simply be scrutinising an aggregate of several individual parliaments' approaches to a particular challenge, threat or problem that might be confronting us, but the policy evolving between the governments. Who would scrutinise that development in a common foreign and security policy, and where?

Most of us would agree that the story of the Western European Union parliamentary assembly does not grip noble Lords immediately with a sense of irresistible excitement and relevance, and that may sadly be true. On the other hand, theoretically it was a body of people with the job of scrutinising a common approach to defence on a European basis. Where will such scrutiny take place?

That brings us back to my earlier point on a wider Europe. One thing very much to the credit of the Western European Union and its parliamentary assembly was that it put great emphasis on ensuring that European states from outside the WEU were present at and participated in its debate. Therefore, there was recognition of a need for a wider base for integration on international security. If one were to have that wider approach, one could not simply limit discussions and evaluations to the members of the WEU, as there would have to be a wider forum of concern. Where is that subject examined and taken seriously in the convention as it goes about its work?

The subject quickly takes us again to the United Nations and the Security Council. We need some clear indications fairly rapidly about the thinking of our Government on the issue. Is there to be a permanent seat for the European Union? What does that mean for the permanent seats of the United Kingdom and France? We cannot just leave that matter to resolve itself. We need clear analysis about it, and we need to face up to the issues involved.

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I make two points in conclusion. In this age of interdependence and in view of the threat of global terrorism and the rest—I referred to those issues—we are all preoccupied with debates about the importance of the international rule of law. We must take seriously a point that has emerged in the context of the Council of Europe about the European conventions. If we tried to introduce new commitments and conventions that were limited to the European Union, that would be a retrograde step if it undermined the battle to win hearts and minds, in terms of commitment to the conventions, in the global community and the wider European community as a whole. We must consider that seriously. Building the European Union and its culture must not be done at the expense of weakening the global and wider European commitment to the same principles.

I am absolutely certain that the way in which history and public opinion judge the interesting work being done by the convention will involve not simply the quality of the design for the constitution, which is immensely important, but also how far what is being done meets the challenges that everyone knows are there. How relevant will the institution be to the real issues facing humanity? In that regard, we need more leadership rather than simply discussing who will chair this, who will be president of that, and how we should elect the leader for this or that task. For what purpose are we doing all of that? Unless we can capture the public imagination in that regard, we will not have much public identification with what we are trying to do constitutionally.

8.6 p.m.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, having heard the opening remarks in the stirring speech of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, I feel that I must now declare an interest: I am one of his representatives in the European Parliament. While I am not allowed to refer to him as a noble friend here, in a better part of England I can refer to him as my Cumbrian friend.

I very much welcome this debate because it is important. It is important because the convention will have a significant impact on the future of Europe and hence on the future of Britain. It will set the political terms of the agenda for the next IGC. At the outset of the process, I was not at all sure about that, but I am now. I say that not least because it is chaired by M Giscard. I do not believe that M Giscard wants his political career to end in bathos. He is, I believe, fully aware that he is one of the successors of Louis XIV.

In my very small political experience, one of the greatest problems about European Union politics is that there is a general unwillingness to differentiate between policy and how policy is made. That does not really cut across the domestic political agenda in the same way. After all, few people argue for the abolition of Westminster because from time to time it produces conclusions with which they are unhappy; nor do they rubbish its decisions because of the way that it is put together or the way that it works. In the case of

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Europe, that distinction appears to get lost. I believe that when we debate the convention we should keep that in mind. After all, while much of what the convention does concerns policy, most of my remarks will not concentrate on that; most of them will relate to process. That, of course, is not to say that I in any way undermine or wish to denigrate the importance of the policy aspect of what is involved.

Equally in this context, words are a problem. For example, as everyone involved in this field knows, the word "federalism" means one thing to an audience of German Lander and something different to readers of the Daily Mail, and difficulties arise if both groups happen to be in the same audience at the same time. But it is absolutely clear that Europe needs a constitutional framework, which could be described as a "constitution" if that is how one wished to express it. It may come as a slight surprise to noble Lords to hear a hereditary Conservative Peer claim as an authority a leader of the Chinese communist party. However, I believe that Chairman Deng Xiaoping got it right when he said:

    "It doesn't matter whether the cat is black or white as long as it catches mice".

In my view, basically the present structure of the treaties, which, after all, are the constitutional framework of the European Union, are disgraceful. One needs to have a law degree or something equivalent to be able to find one's way around. If one wishes to bring Europe to the people—whatever exactly that might mean—one can do no better than to start there. In addition, I strongly believe that we need to come to some kind of settlement of the state of permanent constitutional revolution that seems to exist at present in European politics.

While the report is excellent, there is one respect in which I do not believe that it is quite right—that is, in paragraph 4, which states:

    "The establishment of the Convention is a deliberate move to win back public confidence, and reflects the realisation that the European public must be brought onboard for further widening and deepening of the Union to be successful".

I consider the convention to be something different. I believe that it has been a successful manoeuvre by two parts of the political elite, who have been excluded from the process of determining political change in Europe—that is, the national parliaments and the European Parliament.

I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, that the problem in relation to Europe is not a lack of information. In my experience as an elected politician, which, for obvious reasons—at least, up until now—has been outside Westminster, I have found that there are plenty of calls for information to be provided about Europe. But when, for example, one organises a seminar about it, absolutely no one turns up. I believe that there is an important paradox at the heart of that. The British people do not much like the European Union and they do not much like the way that it takes decisions. However, they do like the kind of world that the Union and such decisions have helped to create.

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It seems to me that if one considers the matter from a slightly different perspective, the convention is a concept which is far less alien to politicians in other member states than it is to those in this country. In fact, it is an evolutionary political development which has come into being to deal with the various parliaments' wish for greater involvement in the process of political change. It has now become part of the political system of Europe, even if it is not now part of its constitutional order.

I believe that the reason that it has acquired that position is partly because of pressure from parliamentarians and partly because of the personality and achievements of those who lead it. After all, I am an admirer of M Giscard, and even if one is not, one has to concede that he is a considerable figure. I do not know Signor Amato, but Mr Dehaene is clearly a substantial, heavyweight personality, as is Sir John Kerr, although perhaps less so in the physical sense.

Against such a background, it behoves us to take seriously what is going on. That is true whether one looks at the issue from a party, a parliamentary or a national perspective. If we engage effectively, we can do things; if we fail to do that, we shall simply not have any impact.

In turn, for anyone who is involved and working in a European context, it seems that it must follow that one must work within the networks and the systems that surround the European political process. For as long as we are part of Europe, we must work those systems in order to maximise our own effectiveness.

Contrary to what is sometimes supposed, I do not believe that the evolution of European political parties, which are far looser coalitions than the national counterparts of which they are made, is in itself a conspiracy to drive forward a centralised European political agenda. It is an entirely logical and rational response to the way that decisions are now being taken, and governments, parliaments and political parties must position themselves advantageously. Doing so is no guarantee of achieving what one wants, but I believe that splendid isolation is a near certain guarantor of failing to obtain it.

As far as my own party is concerned, it seems to me that we can either line up with other centre-Right parties of government and handle the differences between us, which on occasions can be significant—if we do that we are put in the loop as a party of government—or stand alone defiant and patriotic, shrilly proclaiming intellectual and ideological purity, which gets one nowhere.

In a world where for better or worse—I happen to think it is for worse—something like 50 per cent of our legislation owes its origin to Europe, it hardly seems to me to be a real or effective way of furthering our national interests to stand aside from what is going on. In the kind of world in which we now live it is simply not a credible approach to effective government, which is the ambition of mainstream political parties. What is more, I believe that that would be recognised by the public as not being a credible approach.

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Equally, those of us in the British Parliament must engage with other national parliamentarians in securing what we seek and, indeed, I believe that we should aim to take a lead. Certainly, the idea of parliamentary involvement in scrutinising the application of the principle of subsidiarity is now fashionable in a way it was not when my noble friend Lord Kingsland led the United Kingdom Conservatives in the European Parliament and I was his Chief Whip and legal spokesman some 10 years ago and we tried unsuccessfully to promote variations on that idea.

Certainly, it seems to me that there is no doubt that greater parliamentary involvement in European Union affairs is called for. There is a good case for a greater inter-parliamentary component to the EU's modus operandi aligned with its intergovernmental and Community working methods.

I feel strongly that we must ensure that each parliament be allowed to find its own best way of doing much of the work, not least because to do so accords with the principle of subsidiarity, and not to do so would be in breach of it.

8.15 p.m.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, what I shall say could be regarded as the words of a Eurosceptic. However, I would claim that they are the words of a Europhiliac. I think I know quite a lot about Europe. I think I can tell your Lordships about the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which established the Ukraine Catholic church; and a little about the war of the Spanish succession. I think I can tell my noble friend Lord Inglewood what happened to Louis XIV at the battles of Ramilles, Oudenarde, Blenheim and Malplaquet. I think I can say to your Lordships that I love European history and European civilisation. After all, it is the fountain of all present world civilisations and methods of trading and justice, which is not a bad record.

I would also suggest that at the same time the United Kingdom in its various ways as a small offshore island has done quite well in that process. Interestingly, I was lucky enough and privileged enough to arrive in your Lordships' House just in time to vote for the accession treaties in 1971, which I did with enthusiasm. I have become disillusioned not with Europe but with the way that Europe functions. Funnily enough, I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Judd, summed it up brilliantly at the end of his speech. He started talking about Russia and saying, "Where do the borders of Europe end?" Russia is a European country. Therefore, surely if it fulfils the rules, it should be allowed to join the European Union. But that European Union then becomes something completely, utterly and totally different from what was originally perceived in Rome in 1959.

We have to deal with Europe as it should be. We cannot continue having 80 per cent of our laws turned out by Europe with no democratic overview. Equally, if we have a democratic overview which stretches from Riga to Faro and from Salonika to Scunthorpe, there will be chunks of that continent who say, "We do not

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like that democratic decision because it has been taken by a lot of people over there with whom we have nothing in common". Surely, for the peace of Europe we have to start taking away from the central institutions in Europe the powers they have. We cannot go on legislating in detail.

It was said by the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, that this arose because of the desire for France and Germany never again to go to war. I suggest that it arose not to stop France and Germany from again going to war but because they had already decided that playing soldiers on the continent was extraordinarily silly. Too many people got hurt.

It was not the idea of the European Union that stopped the concept of Louvois sacking the Palatinate or Von Witzleben's cuirassiers charging uphill at the guns at Mar-La-Tours or Frederick the Great's Brandenburg cavalry beating up the Austrian general at Leuthen. The European Union was a consequence of France and Germany not wanting to go to war. They had had enough.

I suggest to your Lordships that there are some things that the European Union does extremely well. I think that what the European Union did over trade when the noble Lord, Lord Brittan, was the Trade Commissioner was good. Its treaty negotiating at the World Trade Organisation was in the interests of free trade. After all, no one is going to get anything other than by the buying and selling of widgets and increasing wealth. That is the only way to do it. So that is a good thing.

However, there are things that the European Union does quite appallingly badly. The fisheries policy is nothing short of a disgrace. The Namibians and the Norwegians can run a fisheries policy. The Icelanders have got increasing cod stocks. There have been two debates in your Lordships' House showing that the European Union is totally incapable of running a fisheries policy. There is no hope of changing it. Everyone accepts the CAP is a complete disaster but no one can do anything about it. We must try to make sure that the European Union does what it does well much better and that it does much less. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, made the important point that the borders start merging into the distance. We do not want something tight and overregulated. We want something loose.

I suggest that the greatest example of foreign policy and co-operation in Europe was in about 1815 with Talleyrand, Metternich and Castlereagh. They produced between them the system which kept Europe more or less at peace until 1870 in a time of terrific change in the 19th century. That was a very great achievement.

However, if all this process is locked into detailed treaty-ridden pockets it will end in tears because there is no give in it. It will break. If there is no give in it, it will end in someone saying, "We are not going to do it". That will end in people being beastly and bloodshed. So, unless the European Union starts to

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withdraw from people's lives and to give back to Parliament and the people the things they hold dear, it will end in tears.

I notice that the new treaty says that it is going to be very naughty to try and secede from the European Union. But I am infinitely pleased to know that if this Parliament were in its wisdom at one stage to say, "We will secede from the European Union", this Parliament has the power to do it, which no government can take away from it, because no government and no Parliament can bind its successor.

So my warnings about the treaty process founded by Louis XIV, Giscard d'Estaing—whatever the man's name is—is that it is going to go too close, to lock everyone in and it has the possibility to end in tears.

My argument is a philo-European argument, not an anti-European argument because I want people to be able to live in peace and concord, to buy and sell widgets to each other, to pass without let or hindrance, to be friends with each other and to be able to co-operate in the Councils of Europe in that way. That is the way forward for Europe, not this detailed continental idea of things all locked up into separate compartments.

8.24 p.m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, the Green Party, of which I am a member and the views of which I regard it as my duty to represent in this House, supports the original aim of European integration, as do I. As has been mentioned several times, that original aim was to ensure that there was never again an intra-European war. Whether that would have happened anyway, without the formation of the European Union, as I think that the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, just suggested, I do not know. He may well be right about that, but nevertheless that was the objective of Schumann and Monnet, the founders of the European Union.

My party is pro-European in its hope that European nations will continue to be culturally interactive and co-operate with each other. That must happen. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, was a little unfair to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, when he suggested that what the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, said meant that he was unaware that countries must co-operate. Of course they must, but they do so rather better if they retain their individuality and base from which to start.

Those are the good things about the European Union that we have supported, but we are also a devolutionary and democratic party. We do not think that the way in which the European Union is operated at present, and still less the way in which it appears to be planned to operate in future, is either democratic or seriously devolutionary. We are clear that that is the way in which this country must develop: we must be devolutionary and stay democratic.

Those reservations have led me to the belief that Britain should leave the European Union and pursue our belief in Europeanism through the Council of Europe, on which I, too, have served, for which I have the highest regard and which I think is an admirable

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institution in both theory and practice. I believe that we must reach that view; I believe that my party will realise that that is the way forward; I hope that the Conservatives will be pushed back into that position sooner or later; and I think that Britain will.

As has been said so often today, the people of Britain do not like the European Union, its effects or what it does. As was said just now, they may like the kind of world that Europe has helped to produce, but I am not certain of that. I am far from clear that the European Union has improved anything during the past 30 years. It may have done, but there is no proof of that. My party has not yet bitten that bullet and come out against membership but, when the chips are down, we, the Conservative Party and plenty of others—including, ultimately, the people of this country—will arrive at that solution.

In a world increasingly run by corporations, this is not the time to abandon the rights and liberties of particular nations, especially when we see how the American empire appears to be ruled by the oil industry. We must fight the rule of corporations, which is thoroughly wrong and a real demonstration of the choice between God and Caesar—or, rather, Mammon, because the corporations speak for Mammon. As a nation, we are not interested in Mammon. In our time, we have been rich, and, compared to the rest of the world, we are very rich. However, although Britons tend to run a mile at the word "culture", it is, nevertheless, the culture of our country that we most prize. If we were to ask people why they liked living in England, that is one of the things that they would say.

Like so many people, including the noble Earl who has just spoken, I am not anti-European. Our ancestors were not anti-European when they resisted Napoleon. Churchill was not anti-European when he resisted Hitler. The cases are different, I agree. There is no question now of European unity being created by force. Those attempts were based on force, but this one is not. However, the results will be the same.

One of the results of the previous attempts would have been what is now being sought—the abolition of the nation state. It will be the end of our national individuality and our legal system, which is incompatible with that of the rest of Europe and is unique. That system may not be perfect, but it should not just be jettisoned. The point has been made by various speakers that what is best in our tradition is the general evolution of our constitution and our national character. That is how things happen in this country, and it is not to be cribbed, cabined and confined into the hutches of a restrictive and, ultimately, sterile constitution.

I have always thought of myself as an internationalist. I still do. As I said, the noble Lord, Lord Judd, was wrong to accuse some of us of not being internationalists just because we are also nationalists. The time will shortly come when we must decide whether we want the British nation to continue as an effective entity with its own ethos. I hope and

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believe that we will choose that it should. If it is to do so, we must oppose the plans for a new constitution for a united Europe.

8.33 p.m.

The Earl of Dundee: My Lords, I join others in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, on introducing the debate, which is linked to the recent report by the House's Select Committee on the European Union and to the Convention on the Future of Europe, which reports later this year.

What is the purpose of a European Union of any size and at any time? How should it be structured accordingly? I shall refer to three separate, yet related, forms of security and will claim that those forms and their interaction are what planning theory and practice should seek to achieve.

First, there is defence security and the maintenance of peace in Europe and, from there, assistance to world peace. Secondly, there is political and economic delivery towards and within the European Union's nation states. Thirdly—not least—there is the confidence and well-being of families and communities throughout European Union member states. No doubt, the common factor among the three securities is economic stability.

By 2000, a dramatic change had occurred in European defence security. Already, by 1990, the Warsaw Pact had replaced the dogmas of Soviet communism with the aspiration of economic stability, human rights and democracy. Ten years later the former Yugoslavia embraces the same objectives while, in its case, rejecting the twin evils of national hostility and ethnic cleansing.

While still no less of a dramatic change and contrast, it may not be too surprising that an outcome like this should follow on from the implementation of a good defence policy, if there had been one, as the fruits from its labour. However, what may be less obvious is that economic and social development levels themselves should ever form part of the means, as well as the outcome of any defence policy; let alone that they should have proved already to be the key instruments within a recent, effective European defence strategy.

Yet, exactly that did prove to be the case between 1948 and 1989 in terms of the Cold War. The 1949 NATO Alliance could not have been formed had it not been preceded by the economic disbursement of Marshall aid in 1948.

The Cold War would not have ended as it did in the 1980s had the arms race not come to exert an unacceptable level of pressure on the economies of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact states. Nevertheless, until 1989, and in spite of promising signs to the contrary, many of us still believed that Soviet communism would remain entrenched for a long time. It did not, and for that a huge debt is owed to the forging of the North Atlantic alliance in the first place, and to the balance achieved by its membership in terms of deterrence, diplomacy and economic stability.

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What guidance therefore can be offered by the performance of NATO from 1949 to 2000? The two different periods to be looked at should be the Cold War until 1989 and the conflict within the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 1999. Thus, how can the successes within the first period, together with the mistakes made within the second, help us to forge a sound European defence policy now?

NATO's strategy during the Cold War may have been both unusual and successful in three respects. First, unlike the League of Nations between the World Wars, it demonstrates how human rights can be backed up by force. Secondly, and unlike most other powers throughout history, the building up of arms for peace and containment rather than for war and aggression. And thirdly, as indicated, the agenda or philosophy shared by NATO member states: that democracy and human rights are best preserved and advanced through economic stability.

NATO's mistakes during the conflict within the former Yugoslavia and the divisions within western defence security to which these mistakes corresponded, are often agreed to be a product of successful management during the Cold War. For 40 years, NATO's focus had been the containment of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact states, which formed its satellites. The containment of regional instability had thus not been a priority or even a necessity. As a result, NATO states distributed over the European Union, and including the United States, were unused to confronting regional instability in the 1990s, and were divided over and unsure of the best way to do so with regard to the former Yugoslavia.

With hindsight, many of us believe that the catastrophe could have been avoided if at the outset the prescription of July 1991 of the European Union Dutch presidency had been implemented. That prescription was for two expedients. First, it was for firm and decisive action at the outset by United Nations and NATO troops to stop the fighting between Serbs and Croats. And secondly, for those troops to remain to enable the European Union to preside over an orderly secession of states from the former Yugoslavia.

Does the Minister agree that the prescription for NATO and Europe may be fairly clear now? NATO membership should always include those states which belong to the European Union. As the Cold War proves, NATO's capacity should always be fully maintained to achieve deterrence. As the former Yugoslavia teaches, it should act quickly and decisively to deflect and deter crises of all kinds in their early stages and before they take hold.

My second theme is the desired aim of consistent political and economic delivery within the larger European Union. No doubt a useful background to that is offered by the concept of subsidiarity. If that concept emphasises what nation states should deal with on their own, so that the European Union in other respects can provide added value, it also implies a corollary. This is that the areas where the European

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Union does affect member states can even assist as a parallel added value in an improved form of delivery by national governments and parliaments over their own affairs.

In this context, I should like to mention three aspects. First, the new role of the national parliaments as this might come to be devised within the wider European Union. Both the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, and the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, reported progress in this endeavour. The noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, emphasised the importance that the contributions of national parliamentarians should be ex ante.

Secondly, there is the related case, apart from and in addition to that for a council of national parliamentarians, for much improved parliamentary scrutiny by national parliaments of their own governments' European policies. Thirdly, and as indicated, there is the healthy prospect that if national parliaments really do start to scrutinise European policies and proposed legislation properly, through habit and practice they will also become much better at checking and influencing their own governments and executives over their own national affairs. Does the Minister agree that these aspects can and should now be connected together? If so, what steps will the Government take to consolidate further the role of national parliaments over proposed European legislation? How do they propose to encourage among European Union states much more national parliamentary scrutiny over their own governments' European and national policies in order to assist an improved level of European democracy?

The third theme is confidence and well-being affecting families and communities throughout European member states. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans warned against a narrowly focused attention to material delivery alone. And there is a risk that within the new wider European Union, political and economic delivery will improve while the confidence of families and communities may not do so commensurately. Yet this inconsistency, if it should obtain, may not so much reveal an obsession with material resources; rather more, perhaps, it will reflect an ineptitude in handling them. Not least is that so since, as already indicated, it is the professed conviction of all our states that human rights and well-being are best preserved and advanced through economic stability in the first place. Not least does the challenge from communities come from problems of young people and from those of them who, as a result of difficulties at home and with school learning, require to be deterred, guided and inspired into constructive purpose and away from crime.

Does the Minister accept that those and related matters are best addressed through the attainment of much improved practice and by the examples set to each other by different European Union states? If so, through corporate responsibility, partnership and initiative within both the public and private sectors, what planning and action will the Government embark upon to set our own standards for the benefit of others within a wider European Union? In another

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context, the Government should be congratulated on the good example they have set through the ready response and welcome given to all those who will form part of the mobility of labour when the new states come in.

In summary, as we approach the wider European Union we should do so much more with thoughts of simple values than with those of administrative complexities. And when the wider European Union comes into being, it will be a triumph for peace, for our history and for humanity.

8.43 p.m.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, this has been a useful, important and long overdue debate. I was sorry that my noble friend Lord Russell-Johnston was unable to take part in the debate. He was a little unwell today and wanted to ensure that he was better in time for the debate that he will lead tomorrow.

We have heard a range of opinions and I want to begin by taking issue with the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, on his knowledge of European history. He is not now in his place, but some of us are aware that like him we can trot out the battles that the British won during the war of the Spanish succession. I remember once attending a meeting of COSAC—that dreadful exercise of the conference of European scrutiny committees of national parliaments—in Versailles where in the Chambre de Batailles we were able to see a wonderful panorama of all the battles which the French won in European history, starting in, I believe, 549 and ending for some reason in 1813. Most of these were battles which the British, German, Spanish and Italian representatives did not know about. So we may believe that we are European but we all have our different perspectives on what we think European history is about.

In his new year message, as I understand it, the Prime Minister said that in the long run the convention on the European Union may prove to be much more important to the future of Britain than the decision on whether to go to war with Iraq. That is an important and weighty statement. If that is so, it is quite extraordinary that Her Majesty's Government have been so reluctant to encourage an informed public debate within Britain so far. The Government have shown the same level of enthusiasm for persuading the British public of the case for a simplified European constitution as they have shown for persuading them to join the euro—old patterns which, sadly, as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said, recur under both Conservative and Labour governments.

The Government start by saying that it is not terribly important—only a tidying up exercise. They then run scared of the Daily Mail, The Times and the Telegraph and slip into the kind of language that we have heard from Ministers in the past two months, that "We are winning the argument". The next stage is that they have to explain why they have not won the argument after all because the Franco-German paper has suggested a number of other things without the British Government attempting to conduct intelligent

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discussions at different levels with our French, German and other partners. This leaves the British public, in the end, confused, suspicious and suspecting, yet again, a conspiracy hatched behind closed doors of the kind of which the noble Lord, Lord Lamont of Lerwick, again reminded us.

It is now 10 months since the convention opened; six months since your Lordships' Select Committee on the European Union published its report; there has been no government publication of which I am aware. In spite of the demands that many of us have made on a number of occasions, there has been no Green Paper to set out the Government's approach and to focus the attention of the public and Parliament. The British Government have made a number of proposals in the convention—which, with some difficulty, Members of this House and another place have been able to obtain—and, oddly enough, they seem to have focused their small efforts on informing the Welsh. The Prime Minister gave a useful speech in Cardiff; the Secretary of State for Wales attends the convention and reports back occasionally to his constituents. But, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, reminded us, it is after all an English constitution and perhaps the English, the Scots and the Northern Irish would like to be a little better informed as well.

The convention is well over half-way through its proceedings and most working group reports have been published. It is time for the Government to be more active, both at home and in relation to other governments, at the highest level outside the convention as well as inside. It is a major failing of the Government that they have not spent more effort, first, in informing the British public and their own Parliament, and, secondly, in operating government to government with their partners in the European Union outside the convention to ensure that the ideas that we float are shared with other governments.

There have been two major British initiatives so far, neither of which seems fully thought through. The first was a proposal for a long-term president of the Council, which aroused fears among all the smaller states of a directoire of the big countries. The second was the idea of a greater role for national parliaments, an additional European chamber, which was floated by the Prime Minister without consulting any of those who had been to COSAC, without consulting Parliament at all and without a full explanation of how it would work in practice.

I remember the cynical remark of, I think, a German politician, that it was odd that the two Governments within the European Union which had the weakest national parliaments, those with the least accountability over their Executives—the British and the French—should be the ones that have put the most effort into saying that the role of national parliaments has to be strengthened in the European Union. It is of course remarkable and a shame that the Government, who have marked this past year by saying that the role of national parliaments has to be strengthened, have not attempted to engage either Chamber in the early stages of this convention.

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I welcome the report of the Working Group on National Parliaments, which overlaps in its conclusions with the report of the European Union Committee of this House on scrutiny. Both of these require a response from Her Majesty's Government and a full debate. We need to discuss pre-scrutiny of the Council agenda, of the kind that some other national parliaments undertake. Some kind of Joint Committee of both Houses, or a Joint Committee consisting of the chairs of various committees and sub-committees in both Houses, to meet Ministers ahead of each Council would be worth experimenting with. We need more active committees in both Houses to report more rapidly—so they would need to be better staffed.

We need greater government respect for scrutiny reserves. When I was chair of Sub-Committee F of the European Union Committee, on two successive meetings of the Social Affairs Council, the scrutiny reserve was overridden by Ministers who said: "Yes, but we felt that it was very important to make this gesture at this particular time". The reference was to the major issues of the social dimension and on Article 13 anti-discrimination directives, which extend the capacities of EU law.

We also need to consider closer links between committees in this Parliament and committees of other parliaments, and whether we ought to work harder to involve our national Members of the European Parliament a little more closely in the work of the committees of this House and of the other place, as is done in a number of other parliaments.

The Government might also have considered putting forward their own proposals for the reform of COSAC—which has the potential to be a useful body even though, so far, the quality of the food provided has been rather higher than the quality of the debate.

Then we come to the question of the institutional triangle, raised by a number of speakers. Clearly, the Council presidency has to be modified in various ways. We could perhaps move towards each Council electing its president for a certain period—its own chairman. There needs to be simplification in terms of the numbers of Council meetings.

So far as concerns the European Parliament, I am very sorry that the move from Strasbourg to Brussels appears again to have dropped off the list. The noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, shakes his head. I trust that the Government will be extremely firm on this matter. It seems to me that giving Strasbourg the Food Agency and any other agency that it wants would be worthwhile compensation for getting the European Parliament to the place where the European media, the European lobbies, the European Commission and the Council Secretariat are—a long overdue presentation.

I suggest that the weakest point of the triangle at present is the Commission. It is too weak. The prestige of the Commission has gone down. Attempts to reform it, led by Commissioner Kinnock, have faltered. I get the sense that within a number of national governments respect for the quality of the

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Commission's work is continuing to decline. That is very worrying because we need an effective Commission. We need an effective body at the centre to make proposals, to consult and to make sure that implementation takes place.

The college of Commissioners is clearly too large and will get larger. I strongly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, that we should have followed the French in proposing that we now make a jump to a much smaller Commission—which would be a much more effective Commission. I am very sorry that when, in a meeting of the European Union Committee of this House, some of us made that proposal to Peter Hain, he showed very little interest in taking it further.

As to the choice of the president of the Commission, the least that can be said is that the present process has not worked very well since 1985. The process through which various governments with British Prime Ministers in the lead black-balled the people whom they did not want—so that you ended up with someone whom no one particularly minded—has applied to both Delors' immediate successor and to the one after that. There is perhaps even some merit in Giscard d'Estaing's idea that a European congress which brought together jointly national parliaments and the European Parliament for this one purpose—namely, to elect a president of the Commission—might be one way forward.

On the simplification of the treaty, I teach European Institutions at the London School of Economics. It is an advanced course lasting a year, and our students struggle hard to understand the full complexity of the European Union, including the differently numbered articles of the Treaty on European Union, the Treaty establishing the European Community and the amendments of the Treaty of Amsterdam and the Treaty of Nice, et cetera. It is a minefield. A simplified treaty would be an immense benefit.

The biggest mistake that the Danes made after Maastricht was to decide that as part of their referendum process they would distribute copies of the treaty to all households. I remember the Belgian representative for that IGC, Phillipe De Schoutheete, saying afterwards that, if we had understood that the outcome of our negotiations would be read by the wider public, we would have understood it as an entirely different exercise. We need a simplified treaty.

I very much hope that the Conservatives will not get too hung up on the novelty of calling this a constitutional treaty. The Treaty of Rome was, after all, a constitutional treaty. For that matter, the UN Charter is a much weaker form of constitutional treaty. The British Constitution is a highly complex set of Acts, charters, declarations, et cetera, which we are still doing our best to simplify and tidy up a little. I welcome the remark that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, quoted from Michael Ancram:

    "We want Europe to work better".

If that is the Conservatives' approach, we are very happy with it.

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The most important area in which we need Europe to work better is foreign policy. I agree strongly with everything that the noble Lord, Lord Hannay of Chiswick, said on the matter. Twelve years after the end of the Cold War, with 25 member states in the European Union, more likely to follow within the next 10 to 15 years, and a more difficult and distant relationship with the United States—for whom the European region is no longer the main foreign policy priority—we need a Europe that can live up to its broader international responsibilities.

The current half-built institutions we have for common foreign policy are not good enough. The other week, someone referred to "the High Representative for the lowest common denominator". That is part of the problem. Solana dashes around immensely energetically, but what can he do in the end? The current division between the Commission and the Council secretariat is untidy and inefficient. There is slow progress, originally on British initiative, towards a European security and defence policy. That must remain intergovernmental, but at least we can move, as some noble Lords said, towards modified unanimity. Of course, we need legal personality, further integration of missions abroad and a larger common budget.

On justice and home affairs, I disagree strongly with the noble Lord, Lord Owen. We need to integrate an area that concerns civil liberties and law into the structures that have proper oversight. We need the European Court of Justice to come in also. On Iraq, at present, we are suffering from a situation whereby in Guantanamo Bay and allegedly in Diego Garcia, as some of us will discuss tomorrow, actions are taking place on prisoners of war that are said to fall outside both domestic and international law. That is unacceptable. Actions that must now be taken jointly by police forces, intelligence services and Customs services in Europe must be subject to law at European level.

A European Union of 25 will be a major player in the world and needs to be a major contributor to world order and world prosperity. For that it needs institutions strong enough to manage its international responsibilities. It needs to build mutual confidence in the implementation of common policies and standards by member states. And it needs to be made more comprehensible to its citizens and more accountable to political representatives elected by those citizens.

There is much still to be done. This time it needs to be done well—better than at Nice and at Amsterdam. We need a constitutional settlement. I strongly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Owen, that we should not rush it. If it takes longer than 2003, we do not need to rush to a new Treaty of Rome. Above all, we need to carry national parliaments and national publics with us this time.

9 p.m.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, I shall not make the customary remarks about the excellence of today's debate. It must be self-evident. Such debates show

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your Lordships' House at its finest. That applies especially to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, and to the very good and detailed European Union Committee reports. Similarly, I shall not trouble your Lordships with too many details of the background to the debate, to which so many have alluded so eloquently.

I fully support my noble friend Lord Howell in many of his worries about much of the detail of the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, on the convention, especially concerning the new charter of fundamental rights, the legal personality and, most importantly, the discussion about losing our seat and France's on the UN Security Council in favour of a European Union seat. Is this true? It seems difficult to believe. Will the Minister clarify that? These were areas of concern for many of your Lordships. The contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, was particularly interesting.

I shall comment on just three areas mentioned by many noble Lords that feature prominently in the convention report. The convention's scope is very wide, as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said, so I shall concentrate on those three points: first, as the noble Lords, Lord Judd and Lord Beaumont, mentioned, the need to address the growing public disenchantment with the European Union, not only in the United Kingdom; secondly, the ongoing debate about the balance of power between the European Union institutions; and, thirdly, a few of the institutional reforms needed to cope with enlargement.

As we await the first draft this month, it is said that we should expect a great work. Former President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, who chairs the convention with the very able and distinguished former ambassador, Sir John Kerr, compares its work to the Philadelphia Convention of 1787. Perhaps that is the result of having just read David McCullough's very good book on John Adams. Another decisive moment may be when President Chirac and Mr Schroder produce their Franco-German paper this month, as we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Watson.

Nearly a year has passed since the convention started to meet. The whole House agrees that it will be of immense importance to this country and to the continent's future, as emphasised strongly by my noble friend Lord Inglewood and by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire. However, from all the latest reports, the convention is taking the path of yet further arrogation of powers to the European centre and away from the member states. Was this really the reason for which it was set up?

One of the points brought out clearly in the Select Committee's very good and comprehensive report is the need to address,

    "the public disenchantment with an ever more powerful, yet opaque European Union".

Without the political will, the European Union will stagnate once again, as it did for many years until the Single European Act, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, mentioned. Many more noble Lords have emphasised that this is a time of

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unique opportunity for the European Union. With the future enlargement of the European Union, we are forced to debate and will have to decide on many changes that are essential if we want it to succeed.

I remember well the final foreign affairs meeting in the European Parliament in 1994 when I served as a Member. We discussed for many hours whether we should bring in the institutional changes essential for the European Union before the accession of Austria, Finland, and Sweden or whether we should leave it until later. One of the few important responsibilities of the European Parliament is the final decision on the admittance of new member states—that is to say, enlargement. There were strong and persuasive arguments on both sides. Morally, like now, it was agreed that the three countries should join first. Alas, the institutional changes are still being discussed and have yet to be finalised. Initially, we were led to believe that this was what the convention was meant to be about; not about acquiring still further and further powers. With all the reports that we read, it is difficult to follow the argument put by the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, that this is not the case.

Today an ever-expanding European Union is looking, rightly, to the future, not the past. We need a European Union that concentrates on its core tasks—building peace, prosperity, and stability in Europe. But a great deal of the European debate seems to centre on various people vying for presidencies. Even President Giscard d'Estaing was reputed to be unhappy about the constant competing of the intergovernmental view to those of the Commission, saying,

    "If we reduce the EU system to one or another of the two visions, the Convention will be blocked, but also Europe will be blocked".

As I can remember, it is the same old argument between the intergovernmental and the institutional powers; that is to say, the Commission. We have had much the same debate through the centuries here in Britain of where should lie the balance of power between government and Parliament.

Finally, there are many institutional changes that will have to be made as the EU has more member states—further subsidiarity, further involvement of national parliaments, and further consideration of changes in the QMV system. One important change will be the present system of rotating Council presidencies. As the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, stressed, the current system will not work.

However, we oppose the proposal for an individual president elected by his peers for five years. We support team presidencies, or chairman of the Council, with perhaps one large member state working with two small ones for two years. As my right honourable friend Mr Michael Ancram said in another place:

    "Such a reform would have many benefits. It would provide longer-range Council planning, it would be a model for international co-operation and, above all, it would not be a threat to the position of the smaller member states of the EU".

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It is typical of this Government's muddled approach to Europe that the Prime Minister was unable to face up to this difficulty. He wills the end without willing the means. It is widely recognised that the Council of the European Union needs reform if it is to work after enlargement. However, as my noble friend Lord Howell said earlier, instead of concentrating on real reforms this Government have proposed a grandiose post of permanent President of Council, thus alienating our smaller partners.

It is a great disappointment that while the Government talk about a Europe of nation states, they do not mean it. Last year the Prime Minister proposed a "unified European foreign policy". How can that be reconciled with a Europe of sovereign nation states? It cannot. As the noble Lord, Lord Owen, asked, will the Government enter into a single treaty? Such a policy would either mean that the European Union's foreign policy was reduced to the level of the lowest common denominator or involve the imposition of some countries' foreign policy over others—a thoroughly undesirable situation.

Can the Minister help us on what the convention means by the statement that there may no longer be a common foreign policy but, more worryingly, a single foreign policy? Iraq is a good example in which there are marked differences of view. How will Article 53 from the defence working group work out in that regard?

If the European Union cannot deliver prosperity, it is failing in one of its main tasks. Yet, although unemployment continues to increase in the European Union, the single market remains incomplete and enlargement has not yet even begun to be bedded down, the Government want the European Union to take on still more powers. This side of the House wants a Europe of sovereign nation states that engages with the peoples of Europe to deliver what they want—peace, prosperity and stability.

I return to my first point. We hope that the Government will start to match their rhetoric with action and begin to build a Europe that delivers what its peoples want, even if that be for a start in pubs and homes as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland. Are we to understand that the Government will support the referendum mentioned by my noble friend Lord Howell or refuse it? I very much support the views on asylum and immigration and Russia outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Judd. We must look to Europe more widely for many of the answers rather than just look within the European Union.

I conclude with a reminder from the report. It states,

    "that the Convention's conclusions, whatever form they take, are not binding and that the real decisions will be taken by the Governments at the IGC in 2004 in Berlin".

9.11 p.m.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, today's debate has been a welcome reconfirmation—not that any was needed—of the interest of this House in European matters in general, and in the discussions on the future of Europe in particular. I, too, am very

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grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, and his committee for their report and for the excellent work that they do. I am grateful to all your Lordships for the hard work that has so evidently gone into this debate.

I should like to start with some general remarks about the convention and by assuring the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, that there is no question about the importance of the convention. The convention is an exceptional forum because it offers us a unique opportunity to debate fully the fundamental issues facing the European Union. It is an opportunity to discuss openly how we can take the Union forward in a way that increases our collective prosperity and security and improves our quality of life. Against the backdrop of the expansion of NATO and the enlargement of the European Union, we have the sort of opportunity that arises only once in a generation—an opportunity to define the type of Europe that we and our partners want for our children and succeeding generations.

The work of the convention provides for broader discussion and consultation than has ever been possible before. As today's debate has shown, real discussion can reveal proposals that are radically different from one's own. I personally welcome the hugely interesting and very thought-provoking contribution from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans. I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, for her very thoughtful remarks on this issue.

This House is a relatively homogeneous forum. Imagine the variety of ideas being generated within the convention, where members are far more heterogeneous in their background and aspirations. I also bear in mind the description by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, of progress on treaties that sometimes results in negotiations bearing a remarkable resemblance to trench warfare. I am therefore particularly pleased that we have such doughty fighters in your Lordships' House as our representatives on the convention. We have heard from two of our alternates, the noble Lords, Lord Maclennan of Rogart and Lord Tomlinson, as well as from my noble friend Lady Scotland, all of whom are fully engaged in the discussions. From what we have heard, it is evident that they very much relish the exchange of views that the convention offers. I thank them all for their hard work and application on these issues.

Some of your Lordships, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Howell, expressed concern at what they described almost as "decisions" which they deem the convention has taken or may have taken. However, the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, was clear in his excellent contribution that the work of the convention is not intended to take the place of the traditional discussions by heads of state and government in an intergovernmental conference. The convention's work "paves the way" for the IGC. The IGC is the place where final decisions will be taken, by leaders, by unanimity. The noble Lords, Lord Howell and Lord Owen, need comforting on that point. I assure them that nothing has yet been decided. But it is clear that

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the convention is building consensus in many areas. So it is vital that we remain fully involved and try to do our best to help move the agenda forward in the convention.

In the mean time, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans that it is important that there is ample opportunity for further discussion at parliamentary level, in civil society, in our media, universities, schools and other institutions. Serious contributions to the debate on Europe are still very much lacking in the media, in the BBC and elsewhere. I hope that the right reverend Prelate will make the views that he put so cogently to your Lordships' House known to the chairman and the director-general of the BBC.

I turn to the timetable. We are now set to see the focus shift to look at institutional issues. The next plenary session, on 20th and 21st January, will discuss the functioning of the institutions and how best to ensure their effectiveness after enlargement. February will see discussions on the final working group report on social policy in Europe. There will also be plenary discussion about the role that regions or sub-member state authorities should play in the future of the Union.

Developing in parallel to this agenda, draft articles for the new EU constitutional treaty will be prepared and discussed. The drafts will be presented to the convention in tranches, with the first tranche to be discussed in February. We understand that all parts of the possible new treaty will be available by early May.

Heads of state and government confirmed at the Copenhagen European Council last month that the convention will present the results of its deliberations in time for the June 2003 European Council in Thessalonika. It was also confirmed at Copenhagen that the new member states will participate fully in the work of the next intergovernmental conference. The new treaty that will result from that IGC will be signed after the accession of the 10 new member states.

I stress to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, who was so worried about the lack of discussion, that we have from June 2003 probably until May 2004 to develop that national debate which he, I and many other noble Lords wish to see. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Watson of Richmond, who urged Her Majesty's Government to adopt a practical role, that that is exactly the role that Her Majesty's Government are undertaking. My noble friend's description of negotiating her way through the turbulent waters of the working group on the charter is a perfect example of exactly that: of practicality and the importance of painstaking analysis, painstaking knowledge-gathering and, above all, patience.

Many noble Lords concentrated their remarks on the constitution. I refer to the noble Lords, Lord Howell of Guildford, Lord Tomlinson, Lord Watson, Lord Williamson, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon. The Government have made no secret of their support for an EU constitutional treaty. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, was right; we have a constitution of sorts already, but the current EU

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treaties are so long, complicated, confusing and overlapping that maintaining the status quo simply is not plausible. There is a wide and growing consensus that a constitution would resolve a number of problems currently facing the Union. It would make clear what the EU is and define what the EU does; and it would specify how the EU acts. But, crucially, a constitutional treaty as we envisage it would be a relatively concise document that any interested reader would be able to understand.

But let me be clear and emphatic on this point. We are not advocating a constitution at any price. The key will be in the content; and that content will be discussed comprehensively in the convention over the coming weeks.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, had concerns on these issues. However, the Prime Minister has made it clear that we want a constitution to set out that the European Union is a union of nation states. This is not just the United Kingdom view. It is the view of the overwhelming majority of member state and accession country governments. There really is not a federalist plot, as the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, fears. There is not even a federalist love-child, as the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, imagines. There is no suggestion that an EU constitution is also a means to an EU superstate.

I wish that the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, had quoted a little more from the speech made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. I am sure that he has the full text. He will know as well as I do that my right honourable friend spoke about the importance of electorates feeling close to their own national governments, that they did not feel the same towards European institutions and that it was a settled view that there should not be a federal superstate.

Let us turn to the role of national parliaments, with which so many of your Lordships were rightly concerned. Some of your Lordships were less than impressed at the proposals for enhancing the role of national parliaments.

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