Examination of Witnesses(Questions 79-99)|
THURSDAY 13 FEBRUARY 2003
79. Thank you for coming and we owe you an apology
for keeping you waiting in what must be an extremely busy life
at the moment. Would you be kind enough to begin by introducing
your two colleagues and let me say that the Committee would very
much welcome either of them chipping in at any stage where you
or they feel it appropriate.
(Sir Stephen Wall) Chairman, thank you
very much. My colleagues are Joe Griffin and John Bourne who both
work with me in the European Secretariat of the Cabinet Office,
Joe in particular dealing with the Convention and accompanies
Peter Hain to most of the meetings and John deals with defence
issues insofar as we in the European Secretariat do so. As you
know, there is also an overseas and defence secretariat in the
Cabinet Office who have the prime responsibility for co-ordinating
Government business on defence matters, but our responsibility
is to co-ordinate EU policy as a whole, so we have an interest.
80. I wonder, just in a very broad outline,
how you see CFSP now following the events of the last couple of
weeks. It looks a little ragged, does it not?
(Sir Stephen Wall) It does look ragged and I think
what we are seeing is a very clear demonstration of its limitations.
I think, given that the issue of Iraq in particular is one that
is divisive within nations, it is perhaps not surprising that
it is divisive between nations as well, and I think that our approach
to the evolution of common foreign and security policy (ESDP)
has always recognised that there are certain limitations and that
you cannot handle this issue in the way that you handle legislation
on the single market, for example. I think that we have made some
progress on the development of a common foreign and security policy
over the last few years, but it has a very long way to go.
Lord Morris of Abervon
81. Sir Stephen, what is the momentum for changing
the CFSP? What is the drive, is it desire or institutional effectiveness
or is there is broad agenda and would that not militate possibly,
if not probably, against national interest?
(Sir Stephen Wall) I think there is a tension there.
I think the prime motivation of most people in the European Union,
and most of our partners, is a belief in having a European Union
that is an effective actor on the world stage. If you think of
aid relationships and the trade relationships that as a Union
we have with most parts of the world, that is an effective instrument
of policy that is not matched by the foreign policy side and their
natural desire to make the two things coherent. At the same time
there is tension between those countries who believe that their
interests within the European Union are best advanced by the traditional
community methods, and those like ourselves who believe that foreign
policy has to be a matter for governments, involving all the institutions
but in a more limited way. In addition to that, inevitably when
you get a negotiation of the kind we now have in the European
Convention, you get tensions between institutions. There is a
certain amount of jostling for power between the European institutions:
the Council on the one hand and the Commission and the European
82. We have just seen the draft convention Article
14, "Member States shall actively and unreservedly support
the Union's common foreign and security policy in a spirit of
loyalty and mutual solidarity. They shall refrain from action
contrary to the Union's interests or likely to undermine it effectiveness".
What is your view on that?
(Sir Stephen Wall) Subject to correction from my right
or left, who have the text in front of them, the language of that
particular clause is the same as the language of the existing
Treaty. What is different, this is really the burden of the argument
we have been making over the last few days since those articles
appeared, is that at the moment Common Foreign and Security Policy
is set in one of the pillars of the Maastricht Treaty, the intergovernmental
pillar, and it is very clear, even when we talk about the Union,
that it is the Members States who are in control. On the language
of the Treaty as put forward by the Praesidium, I believe it is
not their intention to change that legal basis as regards foreign
policy, in the sense that it is still the intention to carve out
a foreign policy, albeit within a single Treaty structure, on
a different basis from normal community law. Nonetheless there
is an impression given, certainly politically, the way those articles
are drafted, that somehow there is an authority which rests in
the constitution and is then devolved down to the Member States,
whereas our view is the opposite: the authority rests with the
Member States and it is up to the Member States to determine how
far they devolve that authority to the Union. We have an opportunity
now to put in amendments, which we will be doing. There will be
a debate in the plenary of the Convention in the next few weeks.
Whatever the Convention does there will be an intergovernmental
conference where decisions will be taken by governments.
83. That is what I was asking you, although
I do not think I put it to you properly, what would be the view
of HMG as regarding words such as "unreservedly support",
is that in accordance with what we are trying to do or is that
something that is external?
(Sir Stephen Wall) I think "unreservedly support",
if the policy of the Union is something which we by unanimity
have agreed, once you have agreed it you should unreservedly support
it. What you cannot do is have something which assumes, whether
you have agreed or not, as it were, you will support it.
84. Which is our view?
(Sir Stephen Wall) Our view is that it is the former,
ie that Member States should reach an agreement and when they
reach that agreement then, yes, they should support it.
85. If that hurdle has not been crossed this
does not mean anything to us?
(Sir Stephen Wall) That is right.
86. Unanimity and momentum are two very important
aspects. There was a report, which this Committee has seen, in
the Financial Times on 7 of this month which is describing
Giscard as saying he is against the extreme irritation of the
European disunity over Iraq and then writes the following, "Underpinning
the exercise for a Common Foreign Security Policy would be the
extension to majority voting and the reduction in the use of national
veto. France and Germany recently proposed such a move and it
has been privately endorsed by Britain in spite of earlier reservations".
Would you comment on that?
(Sir Stephen Wall) The French and German proposal
suggest that majority voting should be the norm, except for issues
relating to security and defence. We certainly agree with what
they say about security and the defence, the question is about
majority voting for the rest of the foreign policy. The obvious
driver for this is the feeling among many of our partners, and
it is perfectly valid in a Union of 25 or 27, and ultimately more,
does the vast majority want to be held back by possibly one Member
State? Our feeling on this is that it comes back to the convoy
argument in the sense that it is rather irritating if the convoy
has to proceed at the pace of the slowest ship. On the other hand,
if it does not there ain't no convoy. How effective is a foreign
policy if it is not bought in by the whole of the Member States,
particularly if we are talking about action as opposed to words,
which is why we have been very cautious and continue to be cautious
in terms of the fairly restrictive provisions on majority voting
that are in the existing Treaty. I think any British Prime Minister,
certainly this one, will want to continue to be in a position
where ultimately he is answerable to Parliament for British foreign
policy. That does mean that in terms of the extension of majority
voting there is more to consider than the French and German paper.
There may be scope for greater use of enhanced co-operation for
which there is also provision in the Treaty. Our feeling is that
that has to be limited probably in the terms in which it is limited
now under the Nice Treaty.
87. Sir Stephen, I imagine you would agree there
has rarely been a moment in recent history where there would be
widespread perception amongst the British public of how very different
our government's position is particularly from France and Germany.
My concern was in that environment if there is too great a gap
between what is privately endorsed and what is publicly stated
we add to public confusion and the debate deteriorates.
(Sir Stephen Wall) I accept that. I think, although
the perception may be of Britain on one hand and France and Germany
on the other, in terms of Iraq in particular, that is in reality
far from being the case. We all want to see a more vigorous and
effective Common Foreign and Security Policy and we sometimes
pay a price for unanimity in terms of our ability to act. The
argument I am making is that in terms of the overall balance of
interest that is a price which, with the exceptions that are already
in the Treaty, we have to pay.
Lord Williams of Elvel
88. Sir Stephen, I was surprised to see the
French Government putting forward an extension of qualified majority
voting, do you really believe that President Chirac has come to
a decision on something that went against him?
(Sir Stephen Wall) I think the French Government probably
feel, partly because of their relationship with the German Government,
there would never in practice be a situation in which they would
be out-voted, and in terms of an assessment of political risk
that is probably a pretty fair assessment. I do not believe in
our system we can base our policy on the assessment of risk, although
the chances are that 9 times out of 10 on something really serious
we would not be out-voted. The French and the Germans, by inserting
security and defence caveats, probably exclude from majority voting
a very large portion of grave issues. Nonetheless we have to be
able to give clear and ultimately legally clear answers before
Parliament and the public as to what might be subject to majority
voting and what might not. The Franco/German formula does leave
you ultimately at risk.
Lord Powell of Bayswater
89. Pursuing this question of QMV a little further:
in answering Lord Morris you said that we could probably accept
the draft Article 14 if it was based on unanimity. Then in your
subsequent answers you have been visualising the creeping use
of QMV. I think I am right in saying QMV is already agreed to
a limited extent where there is a Common Strategy. Equally you
seem to suggest that it could go beyond that. In a sense we are
being asked to consider Article 14 knowing that could be QMV,
at least in some cases. Is that not going to make it all a little
(Sir Stephen Wall) I was not intending to suggest
a creeping QMV. I was really talking about QMV in the terms in
which it is laid down in Article 23 of the Treaty. What I was
suggesting was that it might mean in practice greater use would
be made of enhanced co-operation, but enhanced co-operation is
itself hedged round by the same provisions in Article 23. I am
not suggesting a change in the parameters within which we operate.
90. When it comes to the Intergovernmental Conference,
is it your impression that ministers are going to stand very firm
if that foreign policy is going to have to be a matter of unanimity,
if they are to be answerable to Parliament on behalf of the British
(Sir Stephen Wall) Yes.
91. In this Committee we have tended to take
the view that it is very difficult to separate foreign policy,
security and defence. If limited QMV for foreign common policy
begins to erode the position of unanimity on defence and security.
Do you see a danger there as well?
(Sir Stephen Wall) I think there is a danger. That
is one reason why, when we are were drafting the Nice Treaty,
we insisted that an enhanced co-operation provision, even in a
very limited form, should not apply to decisions that have military
or defence implications because of the risk that if you had a
group of countries who could go their own way, as it were, on
something like defence implications then that could easily break
the umbilical link we have established with NATO through the arrangements
in the CFSP.
92. We understood from Mrs Stuart there was
quite a lot of pressure for enhanced co-operation in the area
of security and defence, which would imply some Qualified Majority
Voting there. Is this another area where you think ministers will
be absolutely stalwart in resisting any advance?
(Sir Stephen Wall) I think the tension here is with
the desire for action on the one hand; there may well be instances
where we want to take action and we find it at the very least
inconvenient to be held back by one or other Member States. On
the other hand, you have to accept that if you are operating within
a European context that is a necessary constraint and does not
necessarily stop you operating at all. You then have to operate
in a coalition of the willing, which may be less desirable, but
nonetheless it means that your hands are not completely tied.
I think that that is one of the reasons why we believe you have
to accept that there are some constraints on the way in which
ESDP will develop in practice. I think in that context the convoy
argument is a valid one. If you are taking action in the name
of the Union it has to be action where the Union carries credibility,
and it will not carry that credibility unless it has the support
of all the Member States.
93. There is the convoy argument. There is also
the argument wherein the past one starts out with ministers informing
Parliament that they are opposed to the QMV being extended into
certain areas and then that begins to erode round the edges. It
may erode a little bit more in the context of this convention.
When it comes to the IGC they may trade it for something else,
another article we are interested in, and in you end up finding
an important principle has been breached. Do you think the wall
we are building against this is impregnable? Would you prefer
to reserve your position on that?
(Sir Stephen Wall) There will certainly be pressure.
I do not myself believe that the Prime Minister or any British
prime minister would want to be in a position where in the last
analysis they cannot take the decisions they need to take in Britain's
national and foreign policy interest. At the end of the day we
have to have a legal framework that has that right.
Lord Powell of Bayswater Thank you, Lord Chairman.
We have moved on to a subsequent question.
Chairman: Move back if you wish, by all means.
94. I wanted to go back to this vexed question
of Article 14 that Lord Morris mentioned. In your reply, Sir Stephen,
you mention it used the wording of the existing treaties and indeed
the paragraph in the draft about the Union's competences also
repeats the existing treaties. You also said that you would be
tabling amendments. The question I wanted to ask you is are the
amendments designed to take us back from the previously agreed
position as in the treaties or are they merely to clarify that
(Sir Stephen Wall) They are really to ensure that
that draft constitutional treaty is consistent with the existing
treaty provisions that are in force. We are not seeking to roll
back to a position before the existing treaty.
95. I just wondered why the amendments were
necessary when the words were the same.
(Sir Stephen Wall) We believe the amendments are necessary
in order to make it clearand we do not think the draft
is clearthat the Union has powers to the extent that the
Member States confer powers on it, and for whatever reason the
draft that has come out implies there is a body of constitutional
law which will have been decided as a result of which there will
be duties beholden on the Member States rather than those duties
arising out of the decisions which the Member States will themselves
take. In other words, it is reversing what we think is the proper
constitutional order in that sense.
96. Are these really matters for the Part II
which was referred to and which we have heard about from Lord
Maclennan and have not seen, and maybe nobody has seen as yet?
(Sir Stephen Wall) Nobody has seen them as yet. That
is one of the arguments that is put to us by some of the people
working on this draftingwait for Part II. On the other
hand, this is the constitutional treaty, which is designed to
be read not just by "anoraks" like myself or by lawyers
but by people who now cannot read the treaties and make sense
of them, and therefore it seems to us the clear basis on which
the Union operates has got to be there clearly stated in the first
part of the Treaty.
97. Is this question of Part II going to be
approved by the Convention? The reason I ask the question is that
the Convention which dealt with the Charter of Fundamental Rights
produced Part II as an explanatory document but in theory it was
never the Convention's document. It was produced by the Secretariat
which sought to explain, and in fact very adequately explained,
the Articles of the Charter itself, but if Part II of this constitution
is going to have the implications which you suggest then presumably
the Convention ought to actually approve it?
(Sir Stephen Wall) Yes and that is the intention.
As you know, they have got a relatively short period of time in
which to do this work given that their business is supposed to
be completed in June. That is the intention, that both Part I
and Part II will be before the Convention and the Convention will
aim to reach consensus on them.
Lord Williamson of Horton
98. Of course we have to react to the proposals
on the table, including Article 14 and whatever comes in Part
II. I absolutely agree with you that it is a good principle in
negotiation not to wait. It is good to react when you have to.
I am 100 per cent in favour of that. I want to ask a slightly
different question, which is irrespective of what we are reacting
to: what changes, if any, in the foreign policy arrangements would
we like to see in the Treaty? I know we are sticking with our
basic principle of Pillar II, and I personally would not like
to see many changes, if at all, but are we looking for some changes
in the operation of Pillar II and its links with Pillar I? Is
that something we want or not on the foreign policy side?
(Sir Stephen Wall) We do want to see greater coherence
between Pillar I operations of the Union and what happens in Pillar
II, but that is more a matter of practice and coherence in the
way policy is implemented than in treaty change. We also want
to see greater coherence in the way that the Union operates in
terms of arms procurement, for example, in order to increase our
capacity and capability but again there are very strict limits,
in our view, on how that can be done. Primarily it is a matter
of better and more efficient co-operation between governments
rather than applying the procurement rules from the rest of the
treaty to the area of arms, not least because, in our view, it
is very difficult if you go down the Community route to ring fence
that and prevent it going beyond procurement into other areas.
Lord Morris of Aberavon
99. May I return to the answers you gave to
Lord Powell and myself. I assure you I am not in the process of
drafting an amendment but would the thrust of your remarks amount
to, if there were such an amendment: "Member States shall
actively and unreservedly support, on the basis of the existing
need for unanimity, the Union's common foreign . . . et cetera".
. . Is that the kind of matter that would meet our general concern
or the wishes, perhaps more importantly, of HMG?
(Sir Stephen Wall) Yes, that is certainly one aspect
of it. The other aspect of it is to make absolutely clear in the
treaty that the Union's policy is the policy that the Member States
decide it to be, not something which otherwise exists separately
from the powers and decisions of the Member States.