Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-65)|
THURSDAY 27 MARCH 2003
MP, MR PAUL
Lord Powell of Bayswater
60. My Lord Chairman, I would not be quite as
cavalier as the Minister in assuming that the underlying American
attitude towards Europe's ambitions have not changed really quite
significantly as a result of recent experiences. I just want to
point out very briefly that he has clarified helpfully the Government's
attitude on ESDPthat we must stick to unanimitybut
I do not think the position on CFSP has been so satisfactory.
We have a situation where a Cabinet Minister last week assured
the House of Commons that there was no sense in having QMV in
foreign policy, and the situation this morning where the Minister
clearly believes there are circumstances in which he would support
using QMV in foreign policy. I find those two statements a little
difficult to reconcile.
(Dr MacShane) No, I do not think so. I need the actual
quote of my Rt Hon friend last week.
61. I have it here. It is coming your way.
(Dr MacShane) He said that he did not envisage QMV
being used. Here we are: "Nor is there much sense in extending
QMV to foreign policy," but we already have QMV in foreign
policy and so far it has worked generally in Britain's interest.
A massive extension in the abolition of intergovernmentalism,
abolition of unanimity or anything that touches on national interest,
security interest and military deployments, that we are not up
for. As I say, you will find when we get back to discuss this
at the Convention that other governments are revising their position
but, as it were, the alternative vision of 15, soon 25, independent,
autonomous, competing foreign policies also is not something that
Britain wants to support. I am fairly clear in my mind that what
will emerge out of the InterGovernmental Conferencebecause
the Convention is simply one stage, it will propose, the InterGovernmental
Conference will disposewill not threaten the nations that
control their foreign policy. If they so choose to pool foreign
policy decisions and actions collectively in the European Union
so much to the good, but not at any stage compromising what is
seen as a profound national interest. It is not fair for me to
ask questions: do we really want to see all of Europe's foreign
policy on any issue blocked by Luxembourg or Estonia? I pick those
two decent and respectable countries out of the hat. I am not
sure any of us would be happy with that.
Lord Maclennan of Rogart
62. To some extent my question has been answered.
Minister, you did mention that majority voting operates in some
respects already and it seems to me that is something that we
should not overlook. For example, where there is an agreed European
strategy, as in the case of Russia, it is possible for decisions
within that strategy to be taken by QMV, but there are some other
areas, the Government is not in any sense seeking to depart from
that principle either, is it?
(Dr MacShane) No. I cannot think of any EU foreign
policy decision that has been taken on the basis of QMV. As I
said, policy must be agreed unanimously, implementation may be
agreed by QMV, but I do not thinkand there are more experts
on Commission practice than me sitting around this tablewe
have an example of that.
Lord Williamson of Horton
63. No, it has never been used, my Lord Chairman.
(Dr MacShane) It can actually act as a spur. That
is to say, if every country knows it simply has to say no or not
turn up and nothing will ever be decided, then there is no actual
pressure on countries to come to agreement on foreign policy issues.
In that sense, QMV, in some areas can put effective pressure on
countries to come to agreement by consensus without invoking a
formal vote. Iraq has been a salutary lesson for us all. All of
these things are now, as it were, in the wash and we will continue
discussing collectively with yourselves and other colleagues in
the other place and with our partners on how to make this work.
Foreign policy is just too sensitive, as it were, to not require
the deepest thought and to ensure that any institutional changes
or a new single external affairs representative really adds value
to the European Union and adds value to British interests within
the European Union.
Chairman: We are coming to a close. Lady Park
wants to come in quickly.
Baroness Park of Monmouth
64. Just very quickly, Minister. Since we have
succeeded in going for what, ten years now, quite a long time,
without making a decision about QMV and Europe has survived, I
cannot really see any argument for consideringbecause we
might in the future encounter one country that ditched something
we all wanted to dothat it matters that much. Basically
speaking, if we want to do something and it is in our national
interest, we will do it, and that is true of all the other countries.
If we have got so far without QMV and foreign policy, I cannot
see why we have to consider it now?
(Dr MacShane) Lady Park, the theory of "If it
works, why fix it", does not seem to be enshrined as a golden
rule in Brussels, but you make a powerful point. Iraq, as I said,
has revealed perhaps some of the thinness of the assumption that
there was a future world of stronger European foreign policy decided
without the full consent of all its Member States, and we will
have to reflect very seriously on this in contributions to the
next stage of the Convention debate and ultimately in the IGC.
65. Minister, I am going to ask you a final
question, which I hope rather winds up this most interesting session
this morning. You have acknowledged that the United Nations, NATO
and the European Union have all had very severe setbacks with
the events of the last few months, and whether or not it will
ever be the same again is a matter for speculation, but you made
a point that there is a need for trying to put things together
again as best one can in the time ahead of us. Do you think that
process would be helped if the United States' Government moved
back to its more traditional role of having a multi-lateral approach
to alliances and away from the situation, which Lord Bowness referred
to, where there was this approach by some people in Washington,
which we detected, this philosophy of saying: "We, the Americans,
are going to do this, if you want to come with us, all very well,
but if you do not, just get out of our way." Do you not think
the rebuilding of these institutions would be helped if the Americans
returned more to their traditional philosophy?
(Dr MacShane) The United States has always been stronger
when it has worked in partnership with allies. America is a nation
ruled by law, not by men, as they themselves say. The shaping
of international law through the WTO, through other institutions,
is now a major priority and the United States will come to accept
and realise that. We have an administration at the moment in the
United States which takes certain positions, but I would add that
if Europe had spoken with one voice and clearly shown a united
determination not just to call for Saddam's disarmament, but a
willingness to will the means as well as demand the end then Saddam
would have been faced with the united will of the democratic world
and the United Nations. So it is not just America that maybe has
to make multi-lateral institutions work, but European Union nations
have to take the UN seriously. If you want to pass 17 resolutions
calling for the disarmament of Saddam after 12 years, ca suffitif
I can use a French termthat is enough, and you should put
your soldiers where your mouth is. I do not know if that is diplomatic
Chairman: Minister, you have given us a most
interesting morning. We have explored a great many issues which
cause this Committee a great deal of concern. Thank you for coming.
We much appreciate it. Thank you very much.