Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40-46)|
TUESDAY 25 MARCH 2003
MP AND MR
Lord Williamson of Horton
40. Is the problem not oil and gas resources?
We have had attempts by the European Union in the past to establish
some role in relation to UK oil and gas resources and it has not
succeeded in the past, so it is a problem, I think, which needs
keeping an eye on.
(Peter Hain) Certainly that is something where we
continue to resist any attempts to do that.
Lord Neill of Bladen
41. Can I take you back to a dialogue you were
having with Lady Stern about the public's lack of information
in general about the EU. I have been very struck, being a member
of the Sub-Committee working on the text of this Convention when
such chance has come our way and on the Charter of Rights, by
the degree of public awareness about any new developments and
even amongst lawyers the Charter of Rights is very little known.
I wonder if the Government is concerned about this, that the pace
is moving very quickly with the meeting at the end of June and
the IGC in December, that the pace is quick and it seems to me
that the Government ought to be concerned about bringing the public
up to speed as best they can. It is difficult, I recognise that,
because the topics are difficult and there are amendments coming
in all the time, but I do not feel myself that any great effort
is being made.
(Peter Hain) I agree that the public should be kept
informed which is why I, for example, took part in an open-and-closed
debate in the House of Commons last week on the Convention where
some of these issues were discussed in Government time, the second
time we have done that and I hope it might be possible to do that
again before we get into the end game, so I am very keen that
Parliament is fully aware which is why I am at this afternoon's
session and the one I am about to go to. I have noted that although
Laeken wanted a simpler and clear constitution for Europe, and
it is something that I support and I think the final outcome hopefully
will be, it is terribly difficult to engage the wider public in
a debate which becomes incredibly technical and full of Euro-jargon.
42. Some of the language is terrible, and "legislative
acts" and "non-legislative acts", as defined, are
completely nonsensical, and that is the sort of problem that faces
the public. It is virtually impossible.
(Peter Hain) But then the existing treaties which
successive governments have happily signed up to, endorsed by
Parliament, are full of all that sort of confusion. Well, it is
not confusion, but a lack of clarity and accessibility.
Lord Howell of Guildford
43. Following Lord Neill, if, as quite a lot
of people in the Convention have suggested, the new Constitution
is to be the ultimate response to rights and source of legitimacy
of the Union whereas hitherto that source of legitimacy was the
national parliaments and the nation states, is this not in fact,
when it comes to presenting it to the public, much the biggest
change so far of any kind which has been put forward in all the
treaties? Is this not really the big one in the way that all the
previous treaties were not?
(Peter Hain) Do you mean the principle of the new
Constitution or the Charter of Rights?
44. The principle of the new Constitution, its
presentation as a source of legitimacy as opposed to the previous
source of legitimacy which was the nation states and the national
(Peter Hain) No, I think that provided it is a clear,
as we intend it to be in the new Constitution, a clear recognition
of the principle that Member States are the source of all European
legitimacy ultimately, then I think we can re-entrench and embed
that principle in the new Constitution. The new Constitution is
for the most part, although there are some important developments
such as subsidiarity, for example, clarifying the existing treaties,
but I do not think it poses in itself a problem, still less a
threat, provided the Member States stay the masters.
45. To end on a slightly light-hearted note,
Secretary of State, before you go, I have read that a think-tank,
whose name probably usefully eludes me at the moment, has suggested
that the best way to have a meaningful Common Foreign and Security
Policy which really works would be to collapse the two Permanent
Seats of France and Britain in the Security Council into one in
the European Union. Would you care to place on record your predictable
response to that suggestion?
(Peter Hain) Yes, we will not accept that, although
I am happy for France to give up its seat to the Union!
46. Secretary of State and Mr Baird, thank you
both very, very much indeed for giving us your time and answering
our questions so fully in a rather time-limited meeting, but nevertheless
a very, very useful one. Thank you very much.
(Peter Hain) And I look forward to receiving your