Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, how does the Minister define "crack down" or "success"? Crack down does not mean to me letting 1.25 million people get away with being uninsured.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, that is exactly right. The noble Earl will have recognised from my Answer that I said how many prosecutions had been sought with regard to the issue. The problem is acute, and that is why we have introduced new regulations to make compliance more effective and why we are serious about the issue.

The Earl of Erroll: My Lords, how about having a minimum third-party insurance paid up for the vehicle at the same time as the road fund licence? The road fund licence is merely a tax, which is rarely applied to the benefit of motorists, whereas third-party insurance would be very much to the benefit of the general public and motorists.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, we are in constant talks with the insurance industry about the situation. It is important that any scheme that is introduced does not increase insurance costs for the average law-abiding motorist.

EU Draft Constitutional Treaty

11.29 a.m.

Baroness Park of Monmouth asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, Parliament has already influenced the Government's decisions on the draft treaty and will continue to do so. Two Members of this House and two Members of the other House participated in the Convention on the Future of Europe in their capacity as parliamentarians. Parliamentary committees have this year issued 14 reports on the convention and IGC, all of which have been studied carefully by the Government. Ministers are attending eight committee sittings this autumn to update Parliament on progress of the negotiations. That is, of course, in addition to debates on the Floor of both Houses.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, can the Minister confirm that the Government have said that they do not want a referendum because Parliament

20 Nov 2003 : Column 2049

must judge? How does she reconcile that with the fact that, for instance, the major report by the Select Committee on the European Union in this House has not been debated and there will be no time to debate it in the near future? It is all very well to say that the Government have studied matters; I am talking about the voice of both Houses of Parliament. As I understand it, if a treaty comes before them, they have to accept it or reject it in toto. They cannot then say, "We do not like this particular decision". There are some vital decisions such as the defence veto, the future of NATO and many others that I could name. So far as I know, neither House has discussed on the Floor of the House the very detailed work that has been done by the appropriate committee.

I hope that the Minister will agree with and put forward the proposition that the Government should resist pressure by the EU to reach decisions on the treaty by the end of this year. There is no need for such haste. With more time we could have proper debate.

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I disagree with the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth. There will indeed be time, on 3rd December, for debate on the excellent report from the House of Lords committee to which she refers. I hope that noble Lords will take the opportunity to participate in that debate. The Government welcome that report, as the Foreign Secretary has said. As for further scrutiny by this Parliament, a Bill to implement the new treaty will come before both Houses when parliamentary time allows.

Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, perhaps I may mention one paradox in this whole affair. Can my noble friend confirm that all noble Lords are able to participate in the Committee on the Intergovernmental Conference of another place, which usually attracts about a dozen Members of this House? Is it not a little odd that even on the famous occasion when the Daily Mail splashed across its front page the headline "Blueprint for Tyranny", the committee could not get a quorum to discuss it?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend. It is extraordinary that, despite continual calls from noble Lords and Members of another place for more and more scrutiny, Members are not taking this unprecedented opportunity for scrutiny in both Houses. Sometimes it is difficult even to find a quorum.

Lord Maclennan of Rogart: My Lords, is it not almost unprecedented to have repeated sittings of Joint Committees of the two Houses during IGCs? The Government have introduced that novel procedure, which is welcome. Alas, it is not being adequately supported by the Members of either House. It would be very difficult for the Government to do more in these circumstances.

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that. I agree that scrutiny is available and

20 Nov 2003 : Column 2050

continuing. As he said, such access to a committee is unprecedented. I also thank him and my noble friend Lord Tomlinson for their excellent and expert work on this subject.

Lord Grenfell: My Lords, I think that the noble Baroness can rest assured that, as chairman of the European Union Committee, I am learning, albeit rather slowly, to accept all small mercies when it comes to finding time in the Chamber for a debate on our reports; I think that we currently have nine in the backlog. However, does she not agree that it is rather unfortunate that this particular report should not find time for what I would call a full debate? The truth of the matter is that on 3rd December we shall be taking note of the report during the foreign affairs, defence and overseas development day of the debate on the Loyal Address. I am grateful that we have even that, but, frankly, it is not enough.

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, as I said in an earlier answer, the Government very much welcome the report from the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, and the work that has been done on it. I hope that we will have ample opportunity on 3rd December to discuss the report.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, does the Minister recall that the Government White Paper on the constitution says that Parliament will have the opportunity to examine the treaty line by line? It does not go on to say that we will have no opportunity, as my noble friend has reminded us, to alter a single dot or comma of the treaty. Would it not have been a shade more honest and open to have said that in the White Paper and to tell people the real position?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, the treaty, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, will know, is being discussed by governments. When it comes back to this place it will enter a process that has been used for the Maastricht Treaty, the Single European Act, the Amsterdam Treaty and all other treaties. That will not be a surprise to noble Lords.

Criminal Justice Bill

A message was brought from the Commons, That they do not insist on their disagreement to an amendment made by your Lordships to the Criminal Justice Bill; they insist on their disagreement to certain other amendments, but have made amendments to the words so restored to the Bill, to which they desire the agreement of your Lordships; and they have made consequential amendments to the Bill, to which they desire the agreement of your Lordships.

Lord Grocott: My Lords, I hope that that is clear!

I beg to move that the House do adjourn until noon. The reason for doing so is that amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill are still being processed following discussions on how to resolve the differences between the two Houses. At 12 o'clock I shall come back to the

20 Nov 2003 : Column 2051

House to make a further business Statement about when we expect to start consideration of Commons amendments on the Criminal Justice Bill and on the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill, and when it will be convenient to repeat the Statement that the Foreign Secretary is making in the House of Commons on the terrorist attack in Istanbul.

Moved, That the House do adjourn until noon.—(Lord Grocott.)

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, I am sorry about this delay. Earlier today the Government tabled amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill but those amendments have now been withdrawn. We are trying to understand why and, as the noble Lord the Chief Whip says, discussions are proceeding. In the interests of reaching agreement, I think that the House should rise as suggested until noon. I am sorry that the House is inconvenienced in this way but, as I say, I think and I hope that it is in the interests of reaching agreement.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 11.38 a.m. to noon.]


Lord Grocott: My Lords, as promised I now give the House further information. I shall formally move that the House do adjourn during pleasure until 12.45 p.m. By then the amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill will have been processed. I wish to emphasise that I make no criticism whatever of the Public Bill Office, the staff of which are working heroically at this difficult time.

Once we have considered the Commons message on the Criminal Justice Bill, the House will immediately consider the Commons message on the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill. When we have completed that, my noble friend the Leader of the House will repeat a Statement made in the other place by the Foreign Secretary on the terrorist attacks in Istanbul. The start of business will be a little later than we should all like, but I hope that the sequence is now clear; that is, the Criminal Justice Bill, the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill, then the Statement. I beg to move that the House do adjourn during pleasure until 12.45 p.m.

Moved, That the House do adjourn until 12.45 p.m.—(Lord Grocott.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 12.1 to 12.45 p.m.]

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page