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Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, can I ask him whether, as he takes
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exception to the Minister's phrase "on the sidelines", he would prefer the characterisation that Britain would be "the only one in step"?
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord did not hear what I said. Throughout Europe there are people insisting that they want a Europe that is not top down and not imposed by some top down processsome agenda from the political elitebut want an entirely different, looser and more flexible kind of Europe. Even the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been telling us that he wants a more flexible and competitive kind of Europe and has indicated that there will be no deal on the treaty unless that happens. So we are not alone. The vast majority of modern Europeans understand that they do not wish to be stuck with a hierarchic, out of date, bureaucratic structure that belongs to yesterday.
Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, it was my pleasure, together with the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, to be able to represent your Lordships' House during the convention. I should begin by setting on record how grateful I was both to the Select Committee, under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, and the Joint Committee that we had with the House of Commons for their work in scrutinising during the process of the convention. I sometimes wish that it had been done with a little more enthusiasm, particularly in the Joint Committee, due to the number of times that we had to wait to get a quorum and the number of times that we had to adjourn while the quorum disappeared. The hordes were not queuing up to enter the room in order to debate the draft constitution.
This House should be particularly proud of itself, because it had a commentary and proposals on every suggested draft clause of the new treaty in time for it to be taken into account by the convention. We were the only Chamber of any parliament of the 15, or, indeed, of the 25, to manage to do that. It was of great credit to your Lordships' House that so many members of the convention took your Lordships' opinions somewhat more seriously than it would seem that some of your Lordships currently do.
In particular, I turn to some of the words of the noble Lord, Lord Howell, in his introduction, because, unlike him, I do not merely "take note" of the draft Constitutional Treaty, but I actually welcome it. I do so because it does not, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, suggests, introduce new competences. If he has a list of those new competences, perhaps he will ask his colleague to introduce them in the debate, although I am willing to give way to him now if he wants to tell me what they are. Where are the new competences in the draft constitution? I do not believe that they exist. One only has to look at Article 11 and onwards to see the precise definition of competences in the new draft treaty, where it makes it abundantly clear that the
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European Union is a union of conferred competences, and competences that are not explicitly transferred to the EU explicitly stay with the member states.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, as the noble Lord has challenged me, I can certainly give him, or later on provide, the detailed areas where there are six new areas of competence which are acquired by, and ascribed to, the central institutions. But, can the noble Lord share with us, if he believes that the matter is all so clear, his view of what is meant by the concept of shared competences? Who lays down the sharing and who takes the larger sharethe upper or the lower level?
Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, again I have given the noble Lord the reference to that and it is most unsatisfactory to answer one question with another. I notice that we still have no demonstration of a new competence and I look forward to hearing them later in the day.
The idea that is presented to this House is that we are a nation that is being cowed by Mr Chirac, by Giscard, by Mr Prodi, and by Mr Lamy. The noble Lord can be frightened of them if he wants to be, but I do not think that they actually have the effect on the population as a whole that the noble Lord attributes to them. If the noble Lord is suggesting that there are reforms that we want that were not considered, perhaps he should have a word with Mr Heathcoat-Amory, who represented the Euro-sceptic point of view from another place so well in the convention and see how far he reached with the proposals that the noble Lord seems to be espousing. He complains about entering into the negotiations without an exit strategy. Perhaps one matter that has been provided, should the noble Lord opposite ever form part of, or be in the supporting cast for, a future government, is that the draft treaty does give the noble Lord an exit strategythe only one that is availablewhich is, if at the end of the day one does not like it, get out.
The reason for having a convention has been forgotten in this debate. We had a convention because there was a process of enlargement; it was enlarging a European Community that started at six, grew to nine, then 10, then 12 and then 15. It was about to increase to 25 and we needed a proper constitutional treaty, a proper methodology of work, so that we would not have a European Union that was hamstrung in its procedures. That historic enlargement required change. One of the changes that have had to take place is that in qualified majority voting.
However, let us not have phoney lectures about how that is a fundamental change. In 1986 the Single European Act extended qualified majority voting to 12 new or existing areas of Community activity. In 1992 the Maastricht Treaty not only established a common foreign and security policy and justice and home affairs co-operation but also paved the way for the single currency and for many of the new areas of shared competence. The noble Lord might look at his own government's proposals in that area, because that is from where most of the shared competences came. I
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am delighted to see the noble Lord, Lord Brittan, agree with me. In that case it extended qualified majority voting to 30 new areas. Then there were the extensions at Amsterdam and Nice, which added a further 16 and 31 areas respectively.
Qualified majority voting cannot of itself be claimed as being such a fundamental change. The extension of qualified majority voting is not the major problem. The major problem is insisting on those so-called red line areas. I merely assert, as clearly as I can, the need to be as clear in pursuing that in the future and not changing our mind as we were about the need not to have a referendum in the early stages of the argument.
There are some areas on which political circumstances may force a government to change their mind; there are some where the change of mind is not acceptable. I regret the change of mind in relation to the referendum; it was unnecessary. I understand the reasons for which it was made; I will never understand the way in which the decision was made. It was shambolic at bestthat is from somebody who is trying to be kind to his honourable and right honourable friends in government.
Enlargement needs new mechanisms of decision-making. The treaty does not change the fundamental relationships between the European Union and member states. It does not change the basic principles of the Union. It continues to be a Union based on the conferral of competences. I see no reason why we should have presented to us this spectre of a European Union with all the trappings of a superstate. It is hysteria of the worst kind to pretend that that is anywhere inside this document. As a member of the convention who listened extremely seriously to the advice of your Lordships' House during the passage of the convention, I would have had no part of any draft convention that introduced those trappings of the so-called super state into the deliberations.
The treaty has done many modest things. It has replaced the complex and overlapping set of European Union treaties with a single, more readable document that sets out rights and responsibilities. It establishes clearly the right of member states. In so far as we are criticising the role of the Council of Ministers as a European institution, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, did, we should put on sackcloth and ashes and criticise ourselves for our incapacity to hold representatives of our Government to account in that process. Those in the Council of Ministers are representatives of member states. In that role they have democratic legitimacy in exactly the same way as we have a duty as representatives of national people to control them.
I say to my noble friend that I welcome the draft treaty. I regret that we are having a referendum. I look forward to participating in the arguments on the referendum, and I am sure that we will find a basis on which there will be strong support from the United
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Kingdom public for this sensible, pragmatic series of steps to ensure that we have a European Union that works.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I have had time to look up the answer to his challenge to my noble friend Lord Howell. I hope that he will agree that Article 1-12 adds a huge new area of exclusive competence in the treaties. It expands the EU's exclusive external competence to the conclusion of an international agreement which,
If that is not enough, the area of freedom, security and justice now becomes a shared competence, which means that we can deal with it only when the EU cannot be bothered. Other such areas include energy, common safety concerns in public health matters, and economic, social and territorial cohesion. I could go on, but this is a timed debate. I trust that that will be enough for the moment.
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