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House of Lords

Wednesday 2 March 2016

3 pm

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of St Albans.

Pharmacies: Funding


3.06 pm

Asked by Baroness Walmsley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they will take to ensure that every community continues to be served by a local pharmacy, in the light of their plans to cut funding to pharmacies in October.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Prior of Brampton) (Con): My Lords, community pharmacies are a vital part of the NHS. The Government believe efficiencies can be made without compromising the quality of services or public access to them. Our aim is to ensure that community pharmacies upon which people depend continue to thrive. We are consulting on a pharmacy access scheme which will provide more NHS funds to certain pharmacies compared to others, considering factors such as location and the health needs of the local population.

Baroness Walmsley (LD): I thank the Minister for his reply. Has he made any assessment of the value of the services provided by pharmacies to the NHS, local communities and local authorities in assisting with their public health responsibilities? In light of the importance of all these services and the potential for expansion in future, is it not rather arbitrary of the Government to make these cuts that I understand could cause the closure of 3,000 pharmacies? Then they will sit back and wait for the survival of the economic fittest.

Lord Prior of Brampton: My Lords, it is important that we recognise the fundamental changes happening in the market that community pharmacies operate in. With the growth of online ordering of prescriptions, the large-scale automation of dispensing and the integration of health services within which community pharmacies are absolutely vital, the industry will have to change.

Lord Cameron of Dillington (CB): My Lords, have the Government rural-proofed this policy? Has detailed thinking gone into how people without transport in remote rural communities can access pharmacies for their local, possibly life-saving medicines? I am sure that there are solutions to be had in IT and so on, but has that thinking and even understanding gone into the process?

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Lord Prior of Brampton: The noble Lord raises an important point. There is no doubt that community pharmacies are vital to all people, but particularly to those living in isolated rural communities. There will be a pharmacy access fund based around isolation and local health needs of the population. We are consulting with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee over that issue at the moment. I assure the noble Lord that we are fully aware of the issue he raises.

Lord McColl of Dulwich (Con): My Lords, the Government’s plans will squeeze all pharmacies, resulting in the closure of the least-viable ones—which are often in the poorest districts where they cannot easily diversify. Why do the Government not undertake a means assessment to find out which pharmacies are essential? Closing pharmacies will put even greater pressure on overworked GPs.

Lord Prior of Brampton: I assure my noble friend that not all pharmacies will be squeezed equally, as he put it. A pharmacy access fund will ensure that greater resources go to those pharmacies which serve isolated communities in rural areas, and a pharmacy integration fund will ensure that we encourage pharmacies to work more closely with primary care.

Lord Clarke of Hampstead (Lab): My Lords, does the Minister consider that prisons are communities? If he does, will he give the House an assurance that the NHS pharmacies operating in prisons will not face any cuts because, as I understand it, the pharmacies in some prisons are far below the required standard? Can we be given an assurance that they will be exempt from any cuts?

Lord Prior of Brampton: The noble Lord raises a very important issue. I do not have the answer to his question. If it is all right with him, I will investigate the matter and write to him.

Baroness Greengross (CB): My Lords—

Lord Mawhinney (Con): My Lords—

Lord Clement-Jones (LD): My Lords—

Noble Lords: This side!

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Stowell of Beeston) (Con): My Lords, we should get out of the habit of shouting “This side” when we are on our feet. I suggest that the Cross Benches would like to go next.

Baroness Greengross: My Lords, has the Minister considered the relationship between hospital pharmacies and local community pharmacies? At a hospital I know well 56 people are discharged every day. However, they cannot be discharged until their prescriptions are ready from the hospital pharmacy. As people wait up to four hours, beds are blocked 56 times for four hours while they wait. A closer link—which exists in one or

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two areas—between the two types of pharmacy might remedy that situation. Has the Minister any plans to look at that issue?

Lord Prior of Brampton: The noble Baroness makes a very important point. There are many delayed discharges from hospital because people are waiting for their medications and many hospitals do not have the automation within their in-house pharmacies to meet the demand to which she refers. The big driving force going through healthcare and community pharmacy today is one of integration, which means that community pharmacies must in future work more closely with their local hospitals and GPs.

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, we all have heard what the Minister has to say, but is not the Government’s policy totally inconsistent in that community pharmacists are being encouraged to do more but, as these drastic cuts are being put into effect, they can only do less?

Lord Prior of Brampton: I think the noble Lord has misunderstood what I said. Interestingly, 40% of all community pharmacies are in clusters of more than three within 10 minutes’ walk. There has been a proliferation in the numbers of community pharmacies at a time when we want a deeper integration of community pharmacy with primary care in particular.

Lord Mawhinney: My Lords, talking about the services which pharmacies provide, when do the Government plan seriously to regulate and inspect pharmacies with a view to making sure that their patient record-keeping and consultation facilities for patients are appropriate to the high standards of patient confidentiality which we insist on in every other aspect of the NHS?

Lord Prior of Brampton: The noble Lord raises an important point which I regret I cannot answer. I will have to write to him on that matter. However, for community pharmacy to play the important role in primary care that we expect it to do, it will have to have access to integrated patient records. The confidentiality that surrounds those records is very important.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab): My Lords, this is all very well but will the noble Lord confirm that one of the ideas of his department is for doctors to prescribe medicines for a longer period so that fewer trips are made to the pharmacy, thereby compensating for the closure of up to 3,000 pharmacies? However, is he aware that it is estimated that £300 million worth of medicines are wasted every year? I understand that a third of that is in medicines that are never opened by patients. Surely it is not cost-effective to extend the length of the prescription time because all you will do is add to wastage of medicines.

Lord Prior of Brampton: My Lords, there is no intention to extend the prescription time just for the sake of it. But there are many people who have stable long-term conditions, for whom a 90-day prescription

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period might be appropriate. We are not saying that all prescriptions should be for that length of time but some of them might be.

Railways: Southern, Southeastern and Thameslink Franchises


3.15 pm

Asked by Baroness Randerson

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the performance of the Southern, Southeastern and Thameslink rail franchises, and what steps they intend to take to ensure that passengers on those routes receive an improved service.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport and Home Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con): My Lords, customers on these parts of the rail network need to see improved services. There are problems that are being fixed. However, Govia Thameslink Railway—GTR—Southeastern and Network Rail still have to do much better when it comes to fixing faults and communicating with their passengers. The Government are determined to reduce crowding and improve the passenger experience, which is why we are investing in the multibillion-pound Thameslink programme that is due to complete in 2018.

Baroness Randerson (LD): My Lords, I am glad the Minister agrees that customers are not getting the service they deserve. Thameslink and Southeastern have commuter satisfaction down at 68% and Southern at 70%. The disruption at London Bridge has not helped but it is only part of the problem. As the Minister says, the operators need to do better. Do the Government intend to terminate franchises early if there is no significant improvement in performance? Does the Minister agree that punctuality and reliability are more likely to improve if train companies are penalised financially and automatically required to compensate all affected passengers, based on a more generous compensation scheme?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: My Lords, I acknowledge the challenges and issues that have arisen, particularly with these two franchises. I assure the noble Baroness that the Government are determined to hold those operating the franchises to account. That is why my honourable friend in the other place, the Minister for Rail, Claire Perry, meets the operators, together with the ORR, on a monthly basis to ensure that the requirements of the franchise are being met.

Lord Polak (Con): My Lords, my friends in Elstree and Borehamwood are never happy when I am on the Thameslink platform because, when I am there, there is always a delay or cancellation. Will the Minister support the action of the MP for Hertsmere, Oliver Dowden, in his campaign to get Thameslink to provide

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a much better service for the people of Hertsmere, who pay a lot of money to be packed like sardines in an often-late train?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: I assure my noble friend that the delays are not down to his presence on the platform, as he brings to our attention the delays that we are seeing on these lines. As I have already said, the Government are committed both to holding those operating these franchises to account and to ensuring that, yes, there is greater investment. That is why the Government have committed to the investment of more than £1 billion in the improvements at London Bridge and beyond, and we are committed to ensure that by 2018 these improvements are felt by commuters. He is quite right to point out that the current service is not good enough.

Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab): As one of those weekly commuters from Bognor Regis to Westminster, I also have my tale to tell. I only just made it in on time on Monday, having sat on three separate trains before one left the station, and along with other commuters was shunted from one platform to another three times just to get on a train that worked. Go-Ahead, the parent company that owns the franchise, reported an increase in profits of more than 30% last year. Can the Minister tell us why this money is not being invested to improve services for passengers but instead is going into shareholders’ pockets?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: Investment is going into these franchises. There are three new fleets of electric trains, which will see an overall increase of 50% in capacity. Within the wider franchise, new trains will be introduced on the Gatwick Express later this year. But the noble Baroness is quite right to point out that the challenges remain. As I have already assured the House, the Government are working very closely not just with those who are operating these franchises but the Office of Rail Regulation to ensure that the challenges are met and the franchisees are held accountable.

Lord Tebbit (Con): My Lords, would the Government give some consideration to a restoration in the longer term of the vertical link so that “Notwork” Rail and the rail operating companies have one board of directors coming together to solve the problems, instead of blaming each other?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: I note the reference that my noble friend made—I am sure he meant Network Rail. As noble Lords will be aware, we have appointed Sir Peter Hendy to look at Network Rail’s operations and we are working closely together, as many delays on these lines—my noble friend is quite right to point out—are because of Network Rail-related issues and are not down to the franchisee.

Lord Wills (Lab): My Lords, I am delighted to hear the Minister being so tough about these things. Two weeks ago, my wife was on a Southeastern train to Ramsgate. When the train stopped, the doors opened,

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a woman tried to get out and the doors shut on her. She managed to extricate herself and the train took off—all within about 30 seconds—lugging my wife and 13 other people to Broadstairs, where there was no one to help them or advise them on how to get back to Ramsgate.

The concern that Go-Ahead, the parent company of Southeastern, has for the health and safety and convenience of its passengers can perhaps be demonstrated by the fact that I have rung it three times and have, so far, received absolutely no response. From what we have heard already today, this is not an isolated occurrence of its insouciance towards its passengers. Will the Minister agree to meet me and any other noble Lords with concerns about this company to discuss what can be done to improve its performance?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: It is always my pleasure to meet noble Lords.

Lord Lucas (Con): My Lords, I will add my name to that list. Southern is absolutely dedicated to reducing service to customers in all possible ways. Its first action when it took up the franchise was to abolish tea trolleys; its latest action is to abolish ticket offices, even though the ticket machines will not offer the best price and are extremely hard to use. Will the Government please take this franchise to task and either abolish it or make it better?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: I assure my noble friend that we are of course holding those operating the franchises to task, as I have already said in your Lordships’ House. If they do not deliver, they will be held to account. We are going to see the completion of the investment by the end of 2018 and I think that that will be the real challenge and test of how efficient these franchises are.

Housing: Underoccupancy Charge


3.22 pm

Asked by Baroness Sherlock

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to protect disabled people and victims of domestic violence from the effects of the under-occupancy charge.

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud) (Con): We have already taken steps to protect disabled people and victims of domestic violence by providing local authorities with £560 million in discretionary housing payment funding since 2011. A further £870 million of discretionary housing payment will be provided over the next five years, which will allow local authorities to make long-term or indefinite awards so that people in difficult situations such as these are protected.

Baroness Sherlock (Lab): I thank the Minister for that Answer. The Government are spending a quarter of a million pounds appealing two bedroom tax cases in the Supreme Court this week: one from a rape

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victim who had had a panic room installed by the police and the other from a family caring for their severely disabled grandson. I intuit that the Minister will not want to comment on the cases specifically, but he mentioned discretionary housing payments, which are always the Government’s defence when the bedroom tax comes up. But the Government’s own evaluation found that a third of people hit by the bedroom tax did not even know that the payments existed. Can the Minister tell the House what he is doing to improve the situation for disabled people and rape victims and how people will know about the discretionary housing payments?

Lord Freud: To start with, roughly 40% of people knew about the discretionary housing payments—that figure has now increased to 66%, I think. So there is information out there. I thank the noble Baroness for making the point that the Supreme Court is looking at this area right at this moment—today; I am necessarily more circumscribed than normal in some of what I can say on this area in the next few minutes.

Baroness Thomas of Winchester (LD): My Lords, have the Government thought of changing the law so that the partners or spouses of disabled people who are also their carers would be eligible to have the spare room—which is often needed for very bulky items such as hoists, wheelchairs and so on, as well as a bed—so that the carer, who is the husband, wife or family member, may have what one might call respite sleeping?

Lord Freud: The noble Baroness has put her finger on a Supreme Court issue, which I will just have to duck today.

Lord Wigley (PC): My Lords, if it turns out that the funds available to local authorities, which the Minister mentioned, are in fact inadequate to meet the defined needs of disabled people and others who should come within their orbit, will the Government make more funds available?

Lord Freud: We keep this under review and, as I said, we have increased the amount quite substantially for the next five-year period. Currently, local authorities have been somewhat underspending and we get a small return of the money that they do not spend. The bulk of local authorities, at the halfway point of the current financial year, have been spending under 50% of their allocation.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab): My Lords, two-fifths of local authorities whose policies are online make it clear that payment is short term, while nearly a third specify a fixed period for discretionary housing payments. The Minister’s own evaluation report warned that,

“this funding is by its nature short term and offers tenants little certainty over their future”,

which is particularly relevant to disabled people and domestic violence victims. How much longer will the Minister pray in aid discretionary housing payments to justify an unjustifiable policy?

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Lord Freud: On the noble Baroness’s first point, we have made it absolutely clear in our guidance that these can be longer-term payments. One thing that we have done by having a five-year settlement is to give local authorities the confidence to make longer-term payments. The guidance in the manual says that,

“it may be more appropriate to make a long term award in cases where a claimant’s circumstances are unlikely to change, and making a short term award will cause them undue distress”.

We have recognised the exact point that the Baroness makes.

Baroness Hussein-Ece (LD): My Lords, is it the case that current regulations allow for an additional bedroom for a disabled adult who requires overnight care but not for a disabled child in a similar situation? If that is the case, is that fair?

Lord Freud: I will have to repeat the answer that I gave to the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas.

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: Can I take the Minister back to the first question of the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, about panic rooms? His answer was that there is information out there but when someone has had a panic room installed through a sanctuary scheme, there is a clearly defined problem. It seems that we need to find some way to make sure that that advice automatically gets to them. Has the Minister considered any way in which we can encourage local authorities to have a duty to give that information about the discretionary housing payments?

Lord Freud: The information on this is disseminated. When people are written to, informing them that they are subject to the removal of the spare room subsidy, the information is made available to them on that occasion. Awareness of that is growing.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe (Lab): Given the well-known problems in housing with rentals and finding accommodation, have the Government given any thought to extending their policy on the underoccupancy charge to the private sector?

Lord Freud: The way that this was introduced was to replicate what happens in the private sector, where the LHA does exactly that: it provides the family with what they require. The removal of the spare room subsidy brings the same system into the social sector as was introduced into the private sector by the very party that the noble Lord sits in.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham (Lab): My Lords, two-thirds of those affected by the bedroom tax have a disability. Will the Minister tell us what proportion of those people affected—the two-thirds—are actually receiving discretionary housing awards? The money does not stretch to them.

Lord Freud: I have gone through these figures before. When you look at the numbers of disabled people who are subject to the spare room policy, 63% of the

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original number were disabled on a DDA basis but, by the time you take it on to the higher rate DLA basis, the figure was down to 17%.

Asylum: Processing of Applications


3.29 pm

Asked by Baroness Hamwee

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the amount of training required by employees on temporary contracts who process asylum applications, including gap-year students.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): My Lords, all members of staff who make decisions in asylum cases, whether on temporary contracts or otherwise, receive the same level of training. This includes a dedicated five-week foundation training programme that includes training on international and domestic law and safeguarding issues.

Baroness Hamwee (LD): My Lords, the decisions that people dealing with asylum applications have to take are very sensitive and complex. Would the Minister agree that they require skills such as critical analysis, sensitivity and maturity? Is it appropriate for young people—by definition students, as referred to in the Observer article—to be taking such decisions? Is there likely to be an extra cost to the Government from incorrect decisions being taken by people who do not have those attributes?

Lord Bates: I can understand the concern, because these are very sensitive issues that people are being asked to deal with. But I can reassure the noble Baroness that out of the 290 decision-makers currently looking at cases, two are undergraduates in law. Under this scheme we have often looked in particular at people who have an interest in law—perhaps with the possibility of their coming in to become decision-makers in future—who might get some experience doing that. They have their induction course with all of that but, crucially, they also have mentoring. An experienced person must sign off on all decisions taken by that individual. That is a very important safeguard which I hope will reassure noble Lords.

Baroness Afshar (CB): My Lords, as a teacher of Islamic law in Strasbourg, I can tell noble Lords that even post-doctoral students take a very long time to understand the complexities of notions such as rights, entitlement, duty and obligations, which are very different from current secular or Christian laws. I am not sure that five weeks is quite enough for people to grasp that knowledge, as well as having the social abilities to know what the facilities are. It is multi-tasking.

Lord Bates: The short answer, of course, is that it is not enough—and, of course, that five weeks is then followed up by a period of at least six months when they receive close mentoring and all their decisions are

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checked. Also, in the cases that the noble Baroness mentioned, when there are areas of particular sensitivity, when people have been victims of torture or violence, or where there are LGBTI issues, there is also the provision of a second pair of eyes, which means that, even when an experienced person has done the evaluation, another experienced person will look at it. Of course, in the extreme situation that that person disagrees with the finding of the decision-making officer, they and their legal advisers will have the opportunity to appeal.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes (Con): What is the position regarding the phone helplines that we discussed with regard to the Immigration Bill this week? Is the same type of education or training given to people whatever phone line they work on—health or immigration? How qualified are they? Are they like insurance companies, which have a list of answers, and if you ask a question outside the list they have no answer? I do not think that we got an answer on that from the Minister the other day.

Lord Bates: I am trying to remember the immigration phone line to which the noble Baroness refers. I assume that she means the right-to-rent checks, for which there is a helpline charged at local rates. That is simply just to check immigration status. It is almost a binary issue of whether the person is legally entitled to be here or not. We think that it can probably be dealt with at that level.

Lord Hylton (CB): My Lords, I understand that students may well be able to carry out clerical functions connected with processing, but will the Minister assure the House that they are never in a position to conduct the substantive interviews on which essential decisions depend?

Lord Bates: If they have the qualifications and the mentoring in place, they can undertake those interviews. It is very important to say that their work is overseen by the independent chief inspector. When he looked at this, he found that the decision-makers were professional and dedicated and demonstrated commitment to fairness. Perhaps it might also be of interest to noble Lords to visit the office in Croydon—I can arrange that—to see the type of people who are undertaking these very important decisions.

Lord Christopher (Lab): My Lords, this department is not the only one which is employing temporary staff to deal with complex problems. The subject of this Question is not a problem that is going to go away quickly. Who knows how many years it will be before the number of asylum seekers declines seriously? It is appalling that we have this situation. It is similar in HMRC with temporary staff. It is quite disgraceful. There has to be some reason why the Government are doing this rather than establishing posts.

Lord Bates: The reason we are doing it is to ensure that people get crucial decisions as quickly as possible. When we inherited this system, we had a backlog of

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400,000 pre-2007 cases. Everyone was rightly expressing concern about that. That was we needed to bring in people who could work through that backlog. The backlog has gone. We now have professional standards of six months for simple cases and one year for more complex cases. This is not like other areas where you get a seasonal flow, such as with passports or student visas. Because of events in Syria, there is currently a 29% increase in the level of applications. So it is very difficult to manage, and the people who are doing it are doing it in a very professional, effective and sensitive way.

Baroness Ludford (LD): My Lords—

Lord Naseby (Con): My Lords—

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Stowell of Beeston) (Con): There we go; saved by the bell.

State Pension Age


3.36 pm

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Altmann) (Con): My Lords, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has today made the following Statement.

“Yesterday we announced the appointment of John Cridland to lead an independent review of the state pension age. The review will make recommendations for the Government to consider to ensure the future state pension age is fair and affordable in the long term. The review will report by May 2017. I want to stress that the review is independently led and evidence-led. It will be evidence put forward to John Cridland to consider in his important considerations about the state pension. The review will consider changes in life expectancy, as well as wider changes in society.

It is also useful at this point to remind the House why this kind of review is necessary. In 1945, a man, for example, retiring at 65 had a life expectancy of between 60 and 63. Men rose from 14.27 years in retirement after their pension age to 27 years under the present forecast and existing timescales, and women have gone from 18 years in retirement after their pensionable age to 29.5 years in retirement.

Future generations will rightly expect that we reflect those changes in how we set the pension. It is right that pensions should reflect these changes in life expectancy. Future generations will not thank us if we do nothing and do not have the courage to ensure pensions are sustainable to avoid them picking up the bill.

I want to make clear what this review is not. It will not cover the existing state pension age timetable up to April 2028. We have already provided legislation for this, and the review will not look to change the state pension age up to this point. The Labour Government first legislated for state pension rises beyond 65, but without any commitment to an independent review. When we brought forward the Pensions Bill in 2013, Labour seemed to have a change of heart. They agreed

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with us about the need for a regular independent review of the state pension age. The shadow Secretary of State at the time, the honourable Member for Birmingham Hodge Hill, said:

“The Secretary of State and I have no difference of opinion on the need regularly to review the state pension age”.—[Official Report, Commons, 17/6/13; col. 661.]

So, that is what we are doing. Under that legislation, we are required to appoint an independent reviewer who will make recommendations to him on future state pension age arrangements. We have appointed John Cridland to lead this work. Under the legislation, we are required to report in 2017 on this, and that is what we will do.

This review is part of the Government’s reforms to pensions to ensure they are affordable for the long term. But it is right that we recognise those who have reached their pension age, who have worked hard, done the right thing and provided for their families. We are delivering for them. As a result of our triple lock, pensioners will be receiving a basic state pension over £1,100 higher a year than they were at the start of the last Parliament. We are providing greater security, more choice and dignity for people in retirement, while also ensuring the system is sustainable for the future”.

3.40 pm

Lord McKenzie of Luton (Lab): My Lords, I start by thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Altmann, for repeating the Statement delivered in the other place. One of the matters that has characterised this Government’s approach to pensions—changes to both the state and private pensions—has been the lamentable approach to communicating change. This has manifested itself in the frustrations of the WASPI group; the misunderstandings over why only a minority of those retiring after 5 April this year will receive the full rate of the new state pension of £155 per week; and issues arising from the so-called new flexibilities.

What assurance will the Minister will give about not repeating the mistakes of the past when the review that is being undertaken brings forward its recommendations? The terms of reference require consideration of what a suitable state pension age is in the immediate future and over the longer term. However, the government press release states—this is what the noble Baroness said—that the review will be focused on the longer term and will not cover the existing timetable to April 2028. So can the Minister please reconcile these two positions? It is a classic case of confused communication which fuels speculation about the Government’s true intent.

Do we take it that there is no intention of revisiting with some transitional relief the position of those in their mid-50s who are adamant that they received inadequate notice of the rise in their state pension age?

The review has to take a view on how changes to state pension age rises support affordability. I ask therefore whether the triple-lock is within its scope.

We accepted the 2014 provision which required a periodic review of the pension age. We know that life expectancy is generally increasing, but we know that this does not always equate to healthy years of life.

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We know also that health inequalities remain stubbornly persistent. How does the Minister consider that these factors should be reflected in a fair approach to the pension age? Can the review cover an assessment of the adequacy of social security arrangements for those who cannot sustain work before reaching an extended pension age?

We wish John Cridland well with his review: transparency, consultation and a clear recognition of the need for long-term notification of any changes will be vital.

Baroness Altmann: I thank the noble Lord for his comments. I would like to request and invite all noble Lords to be in touch with the review, so that we can ensure lessons are learned. If noble Lords have any observations on issues relevant to the consideration of long-term changes to the state pension age and state pension age policy, this is the opportunity to do that. It will be an independent review which will consider all the relevant factors, and the reviewer will welcome such evidence. The review is about the state pension age. It is also about the longer term. I repeat that it will not consider any changes to the state pension age timetable that is already legislated for up to 2028.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: If the Minister will forgive me, could we just clarify that point? The terms of reference—I have a copy here—say that the review will consider:

“What a suitable State Pension age is, in the immediate future and over the longer term”.

Baroness Altmann: The Government have made it clear that this is about the changes for the longer term and the appropriate framework for state pension age policy. No changes will be considered and the reviewer will not be looking at making or recommending any changes to the timetable before 2028.

Baroness Kramer (LD): My Lords, as Pensions Minister, Steve Webb set up a system for gradual rises in the state pension age that was widely hailed as both fair and affordable, so why are the Government seeking so soon to unpick this consensus? Are they contemplating changes that will fall harshly on low-income earners, especially women, who depend on the state pension and have no private pot to enable them to retire earlier?

Baroness Altmann: I assure the noble Baroness that this is not about unpicking anything. This was legislated for in the Pensions Act 2014. We are merely following the legislation that was introduced.

Baroness Bakewell (Lab): My Lords, I welcome this Statement from the Minister and the setting up of an independent inquiry. I can only offer my sympathy to the chairman because, as she knows, pension age is a hot potato politically. There was a debate in the Commons last week about the whole case of the baby-boomer, or WASPI, women, and a Motion, which was lost by only a few votes, calling for action from the Government on transitional provision for these women. Will the

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Minister, who in a previous incarnation showed great sympathy for these baby-boomer women, express some concern that this is not within the remit of the newly appointed review?

Baroness Altmann: I stress to the noble Baroness and noble Lords that if there are any issues they would like to raise with the independent reviewer—lessons to be learned from the past or issues that should be considered for the future—they should do so. It is an independent review, looking at all the relevant factors.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con): My Lords, will the Minister assure the House today that the Government would accept any ruling or recommendation from the independent reviewer that that category of women—I have to declare an interest as I fall within that so-called group of women, and I served as shadow Minister for women’s pensions for a year—were not given 10 years, which is deemed to be the appropriate time to prepare for a later retirement age?

Baroness Altmann: The independent review will be considering long-term changes to the state pension age. It will not be recommending any changes before what is currently legislated for up to 2028.

Lord Watts (Lab): My Lords, will the review take into account the ability of people to work beyond the age of 65, bearing in mind that some people have a very physical job and may not be able to work after that?

Baroness Altmann: My Lords, as the terms of reference make clear, the independent review will consider changes in life expectancy as well all other relevant factors.

Lord Kirkwood of Kirkhope (LD): My Lords, will Mr John Cridland, as the independent reviewer, be provided by the Government with official terms of reference? We have seen a press release, but will there be formal terms of reference shaping the work that he does? Will it be possible for him to consider some of the schemes previously used by Scandinavian countries that simply index the increase in the basic state pension age to increasing longevity as it goes forward, both up and down?

Baroness Altmann: My Lords, this will be an independent review. All these issues are a matter for the reviewer. I urge as many noble Lords as possible to make representations to the review. It will consult widely across society and across interest groups to ensure that all these relevant factors are considered.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham (Lab): My Lords, does the Minister accept that there is a deep unfairness in having a single retirement age irrespective of background? In my home city, two wards one mile apart have a difference in life expectancy of 11 years. Those who are better off receive more state pension for longer and enjoy disability-free years. Will the Minister accept that every time she raises the state pension age,

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disadvantaged people have to wait longer for a pension while, at the same time, they are more likely to incur disabilities earlier, so that they enter retirement already unfit, unwell and unable to enjoy it?

Baroness Altmann: The noble Baroness raises relevant points. I stress again that the review is not just about raising the state pension age but about considering the appropriate way to run state pension age policy. I encourage her to raise those issues with the reviewer.

Lord Rooker (Lab): Did the Minister approve the wording of the press release that has been referred to, with the word “immediacy” in it?

Baroness Altmann: My Lords, the press release has been compiled by the department and the wording of the release has, of course, been approved.

European Union Referendum (Date of Referendum etc.) Regulations 2016

Motion to Approve

3.51 pm

Moved by Baroness Anelay of St Johns

That the draft Regulations laid before the House on 22 February be approved.

Relevant document: 26th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): My Lords, before us today are two Motions, each of which goes to the heart of the United Kingdom’s place in the European Union. The first is a statutory instrument that, in light of the UK’s renegotiated relationship with the European Union, would set the date for the referendum. The second refers to a document published and laid before this House on Monday 22 February last week that sets out the terms of this new relationship.

I shall take each Motion in turn, but perhaps I may be forgiven if I start by saying how much I am looking forward to hearing today the maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Gilbert of Panteg.

The statutory instrument is required to set the date of the referendum. Given the deal achieved by the Prime Minister, it is time to give the British people their say. The Prime Minister has announced his intention to do so on 23 June, but it is for Parliament, in this House and the other place, to approve that date. The statutory instrument gives this House the opportunity to give its approval today.

The instrument does several other things, which I shall come to. First, let me set out why the Government believe that 23 June is the right day for the poll. The date strikes the right balance between having a proper debate and a timely vote. Any sooner and we risk unduly curtailing the campaign. Any later and we risk testing the patience of the British people. We have to take account of what is real in human life outside the

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world of politics. Shortly after 23 June, schools start to break up for the holidays. Whereas I know noble Lords will continue to work after that—I do not know, I assume so; we normally do—it would certainly be seen as awkward if we held the referendum while people were on holiday over the summer. That has not been a popular proposal in the past. Delaying beyond late June would mean delaying a referendum until September or October. The British people would quite rightly expect to have their say sooner than that.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab): My Lords, I had the opportunity yesterday of asking the Minister informally about the problem that might arise if the Queen’s Speech was to take place during the course of the referendum campaign and she kindly dealt with that. There was a report this morning that the Queen’s Speech is now going to be held in July. Can the Minister confirm if that is the case?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I am grateful to the noble Lord, who was helpful yesterday in one of the all-Peers briefing meetings that I have held to raise these matters. May I put on the record the answer I gave yesterday and respond immediately to his question? I have seen reports in the press, including in the Times. They have not been substantiated to me. Having been Chief Whip over a period of years, I am certainly aware of the fact that it would be highly unusual for any announcement of the Queen’s Speech date to be made as early as this. There is clearly no decision on that matter. However, the noble Lord raises an important fact about the Queen’s Speech and its interaction with the referendum. There is, I am assured, no inhibition on having the Queen’s Speech during the period of a referendum. That, I hope, underlines the initial answer that I gave yesterday. I am sure there is no let or inhibition on that going ahead.

It is important that people have enough time properly to inform themselves of all the options and to understand the consequences of their vote. Campaigners on both sides of the argument must have enough time to set out their case and have a full and robust debate. We believe that 23 June gives that balance. It also meets the practical requirements of the Electoral Commission. Its assessment of readiness, which was published last week, notes that the date,

“does not pose a significant risk to a well-run referendum”.

As well as setting the date, the statutory instrument also establishes the timing for three key stages of the referendum: the designation process, the regulated referendum period itself and the pre-poll reporting requirements. The House examined all those matters very closely indeed when the referendum Act made its passage through the House. The Electoral Commission’s assessment of readiness endorses the Government’s approach on each of these areas and notes that the arrangements for a well-run referendum are well advanced. This has been echoed by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments and by your Lordships’ Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee. Both have given the instrument their usual rigorous scrutiny and both were content with the approach proposed. I am grateful to the members of those committees.

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The designation process is the means by which the Electoral Commission appoints lead campaigners on one or both sides. We have followed the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act in allowing a total of six weeks. The application window for campaigners will be open for four weeks from 4 March, were the House to agree later today that the statutory instrument be approved. The Commission then has two weeks, from 1 April to 14 April, to decide which, if any, applicants to designate. Many noble Lords here today took an active part in the passage of the Act and will remember that designated lead campaigners receive a number of benefits, including: a higher spending limit, of £7 million; a free delivery of mailings to every household or every elector; and, assuming campaigners are designated on both sides, access to a grant of up to £600,000 and a campaign broadcast. The regulated referendum period follows the designation process, with no overlap of dates. It will run for 10 weeks from 15 April. During this period, full financial and campaigning controls will apply—in particular, spending limits for campaigners. I stress this point because this timetable specifically meets the requests made by Members of this House during the passage of the referendum Act. At that stage, I wrote to the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, who will speak today on this very point.

Finally, the statutory instrument sets deadlines for registered campaigners to report any donations or loans to the Electoral Commission. It is the first time in a UK-wide referendum that sources of significant campaign finance will be visible and public before the poll, ensuring real transparency. This process was refined during the passage through this House of the European Union Referendum Act. I must thank in particular the noble Lord, Lord Jay, for leading that debate with his customary eloquence.

At the end of this opening speech, I shall move that the statutory instrument should be agreed to. However, the formal view of the House on that matter will be taken at the very end of proceedings tonight.

I turn now to the EU renegotiation. The British public made it clear that they were not content with the UK’s relationship with Europe. The Prime Minister sought to address that. In November last year, he wrote to Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, setting out in detail the four areas in which he was seeking reform. These were economic governance, competitiveness, sovereignty and welfare, which has been allied with migration in the press. At the February European Council the Prime Minister negotiated a deal covering each of these areas. This deal gives the UK a special status within the EU that no arrangement outside the EU could match. It is a good deal for Britain—as the Prime Minister has said, it is a deal that gives us the best of both worlds.

This agreement is legally binding. It is also irreversible, because it can be amended or revoked only if every single member state of the EU, including the UK, were to agree unanimously to do so. It commits member states to future treaty change. Last week, it was registered with the United Nations as an international treaty.

Taking each of the four issues that the Prime Minister addressed in turn, let me set out briefly what the deal gives us. I appreciate that noble Lords will have had

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the opportunity to look at the White Paper last week and to have considered other documents published since. On economic governance, the renegotiation secures the UK’s position inside the single market but outside the single currency. It means that we have new commitments from the EU to complete the single market and sign new trade deals. The responsibility for supervising the financial stability of the UK remains in the hands of the Bank of England and other UK authorities. We have made sure that we will never join the euro; British taxpayers will never be required to bail out the eurozone; British businesses cannot be discriminated against for not being in the eurozone. And all discussions on matters that affect all EU member states will involve all EU member states, including the United Kingdom, not just members of the eurozone.

On competitiveness, the renegotiation delivers a new commitment from the European Commission to review annually the burden of regulation on business. If there is too much red tape, we will demand that it is cut. There is a specific focus on relieving the burden on small businesses, and for key sectors. The agreement also makes it clear that the EU will pursue,

“an active and ambitious trade policy”,

and that it must boost its international competitiveness in key areas such as energy and the digital single market.

On sovereignty, we are out of ever-closer union. We will never be part of a European superstate. The text of the renegotiation includes a commitment to change the treaties to exclude the UK from ever-closer union,

“at the time of their next revision”.

We will not be compelled to aim for “a common destination”.

We have obtained new powers to block unwanted European laws: a legally binding agreement that our Parliament can, acting with some others in Europe— 55% of national Parliaments—block unwanted new EU laws with a “red card”. A new mechanism will be created to review existing EU laws to ensure compliance with the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality, so that powers can be brought back to member states wherever possible. National Parliaments will be involved in this mechanism, and the European Commission will also be required to report every year to the Council on its compliance with these principles.

On welfare and migration, an emergency brake will mean that people coming to the UK from within the EU will have to wait four years until they have full access to our in-work benefits. This brake will take effect once the necessary legislation is passed. The European Commission has made it clear that Britain already qualifies to deploy that brake. Migrants from the EU working in this country will not be able to receive child benefit at UK rates if their children live in another EU country.

Let us be clear that much has been said elsewhere about the legal status of the deal. Let me elucidate. This deal is legally binding for EU member states. They all signed up to it in a decision under international law. The February European Council conclusions and the texts of the deal agreed at the Council set this out clearly. They are supported by the legal opinions of

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both the Council Legal Service and Sir Alan Dashwood QC. The deal is also irreversible because, as mentioned earlier, it can be amended or revoked only if every single member state, including the UK, were to agree unanimously.

The European Court of Justice has held that decisions of this sort must be taken into consideration as being an instrument for the interpretation of the EU treaties. The Council president has confirmed this. He said:

“The 28 Heads of State or Government unanimously agreed and adopted a legally binding and irreversible settlement for the United Kingdom in the EU. The decision concerning a new settlement is in conformity with the Treaties and cannot be annulled by the European Court of Justice”.

This new settlement builds on a number of existing protections and opt-outs which apply to the UK’s membership of the EU. This means that the UK now has a special status within the EU: inside those areas of activity where it is in the UK’s interest, but outside those where it is not. I have already mentioned that we are not under the standard obligation for member states to join the euro. We will always keep the pound. The UK has remained outside the Schengen border-free area, which means that we maintain control over our own borders. The UK has opted out of many measures in the justice and home affairs fields while opting in to those which are essential to protect the security of this country.

Noble Lords will be aware that today we laid before Parliament the latest document intended to inform the public ahead of the referendum. This is the most recent in a series of papers fulfilling those commitments that I made to this House during the passage of the European Union Referendum Bill before it became the Act. There were calls from across the House to ensure that the voters went into this debate with all the information they needed. The Government listened carefully and brought forward amendments to the Bill in response to all the positions put forward by Peers from every Bench around the House.

The first paper is named specifically in the Motion on the Order Paper today—The Best of Both Worlds: The United Kingdom’s Special Status in a Reformed European Union. This fulfils the obligation under Section 6 of the European Union Referendum Act which required the Secretary of State to set out the results of the renegotiations and the Government’s view of them. The second paper details the process of withdrawing from the European Union. Though not specifically mandated in legislation, this paper, published on Monday, about Article 50 meets a commitment I made to the House on Report on 23 November at column 475 of Hansard.

Today, a third paper was published. It sets out the alternatives to membership of the European Union, and sets out unequivocally the Government’s view that none of the alternative models of association with the EU offers anything like such a good balance of advantages, obligations and influence as we get from our current special status within the EU. This paper is the first part of the report that the Government will publish to meet the requirement of Section 7(1) of the European Union Referendum Act 2015. The second part of that report, which will provide information

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about the rights and obligations that arise as a result of the UK’s membership of the EU, will be laid at a later date—I hope not too much later. Work is ahead. Both parts of the report will be available eventually on the GOV.UK website. Today’s part is on the website and a copy is in the Printed Paper Office. As soon as the second part of the report is available it will immediately go on the website and, again, I commit that it will go into the Printed Paper Office.

The Prime Minister set out last week the Government’s clear recommendation that the United Kingdom should remain a member—

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Con): I am most grateful to my noble friend for giving way. We all appreciated the careful way in which she shepherded the Referendum Bill through this House. Indeed, there was a request for information, but does she not recognise that there is a difference between information and propaganda?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, of course, the Government are leaving propaganda to those who will be the lead designators of the campaigns. They are fulfilling their full requirements under the Act, as they should do.

This will be a once-in-a-generation moment to shape the future of our country. Ultimately, it will be for the British public to decide, and that includes Members of this House, as a result of the drafting of the Act itself. However, the Government have made clear their view. This Government came in with a clear mandate to renegotiate Britain’s place in Europe and to put those changes to the people. The Prime Minister has successfully completed the former. The instrument in front of the House today will set the date for the latter.

This is the last piece of legislation that will be debated in this Chamber to establish the referendum itself. As such, it represents Parliament taking the final steps towards a truly historic moment—giving the people of the United Kingdom and Gibraltar their say on membership of the European Union. The case for holding the poll on 23 June is a simple one. It gives time for proper debate without delaying and trying the electorate’s patience. There is little point in waiting further. We have a deal. The UK’s relationship with the EU has been changed and improved by that. It is time for the campaigners to make their case and for the British people then to decide, settling the issue for a generation.

At this stage, I refer back to a comment I made earlier—I will now formally move, with regard to the statutory instrument before the House, that the decision will be made later. I make that formal recommendation, which launches us on an historic journey towards a referendum in which every single Member of this House will be able to make their own, individual decision. I beg to move that the House do approve the European Union Referendum (Date of Referendum etc.) Regulations 2016.

4.12 pm

Baroness Morgan of Ely (Lab): My Lords, the starting gun has been fired and the Minister has correctly pointed out that this is the beginning of an

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historic journey for our country. This is about our country’s place in the EU and in the wider world. It is comforting to hear, after so many years of sniping and criticism, a full-blooded defence of the European Union from many, if not all, quarters of government. While we will pretend to enjoy the sight of Cabinet Members falling out with each other over this issue, it is worth underlining that the decision on whether we remain or leave the EU is too great a decision for us to fall into party-political squabbles. Whatever the initial motivation within the Tory party for wanting the EU referendum, we now need to do all we can to secure a remain vote, to put country above party and to do what is in the best interests of this nation.

The SI before us today, as the Minister has stated, sets out the date of the referendum, the start of the referendum period and the date on which designated organisations can apply for recognition. We have debated many of these issues before and we have no objection to the SI. The more interesting documents before us today are the White Paper, which sets out the agreement that the Prime Minister negotiated in Brussels in mid-February, and the devastatingly factual document produced by the Government on the process for withdrawing from the EU. If you were not sure about which way to vote in this EU referendum before, I would suggest you read the document on the process for withdrawal, which makes extremely sobering reading on what will happen in the interim period prior to any future relationship with the EU being concluded—a period that could last for a decade and put us in an extremely difficult situation as a nation. In addition, it is worth reading the document on alternatives to membership that has come hot off the press today.

The fact is that many of us would have supported the effort to remain a part of the EU, irrespective of the outcome of the Brussels negotiations. We believe that our relationship with our nearest neighbours must be much more than the four areas set out in that renegotiation. We think that our relationship is fundamental, yes, for access to our largest export market; critical, yes, for us to ensure safety for our citizens; and critical, yes, for protecting workers, consumers and the environment—but more than that, it sets out how we want this country to meet with the wider world. Never before have our country and our world been so interconnected; never before have we seen international terrorist threats that confront us all; never before have we seen worldwide emigration on the scale we see today; and never before have we been quite so aware that what happens economically on the other side of the continent will impact on our own standard of living in the UK. Now is not the time to be turning our backs on our nearest neighbours. Now, while the US is signing partnership deals with Pacific nations, is not the time to be retreating into splendid isolation, with no assurance of what our market access will look like. And now, when Russia is menacing in central Europe and the Middle East is in upheaval, is not the time to be reneging on EU solidarity and threatening our own national security. Now is the time to show leadership in Europe and demonstrate that we are committed to displaying an outward-looking vision for our country, safe in the knowledge that we have strength in numbers.

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There are others who would have rubbished any deal the Prime Minister had returned with. Had he promised a decade’s supply of the finest Belgian beer, or guaranteed a place in the European Championship for every UK nation, or guaranteed lovely sunny days for the next three years, they would still have said no. They believe that we need to regain sovereignty. Where was our sovereignty, though, last week, when the pound plummeted and the markets decided that all this insecurity was bad for our economy? Where was our sovereignty when we needed to ask Italy to send back one of the London bombers? And where will our sovereignty be when we have to go back to our continental colleagues in the event of a no vote and beg for access to their market of 500 million consumers and an economy of almost £11 trillion?

I have heard the argument that the EU has a trade surplus with the UK, so they will want to trade with us; but that does not take account of the fact that EU exports to the UK account for 3% of EU GDP, while our exports to the EU account for 14% of our GDP. Only in Cyprus and Ireland does the UK represent more than 10% of total exports. Half of the EU’s trade surplus with the UK is accounted for by just two member states, Germany and the Netherlands—yet every single EU member state would have a veto on what that agreement would look like. Can we honestly be confident they would all be willing to sign on the dotted line in a generous trade deal? The leave campaign seems to have a schizophrenic attitude towards EU member states. On the one hand, they say that the EU is constantly ganging up on the UK and that we have no influence; and on the other they say that were we to leave, EU member states would roll over, allow us to tickle their tummies and agree to any new trade agreement we demand. Which one is it?

In an interconnected world, sovereignty is a fantasy concept. What the outers are offering is a dream ticket, promising a better life; but they have no idea of nor common belief in what that dream looks like or where it may lead. Nor can they offer any practical pathway or route to get to their promised land.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch (UKIP): My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that although we have 3 million jobs making and selling things to clients in the European Union, they have 4.5 million jobs selling things to us? Does she agree that they need our free trade much more than we need theirs and that it will therefore continue?

Baroness Morgan of Ely: The noble Lord clearly was not listening to me. I just explained that not every single other member state, some of which do not have a trade surplus with us, may want to sign on the dotted line for a future trade agreement. The fact is that 14% of our GDP depends on our relationship with the EU compared with 3% of its GDP. They would have the upper hand in a future negotiating strategy.

In the light of the fact that nobody knows which way the public will vote, I wonder whether the Minister in summing up would let us know whether the Government have made any contingency plans for what would happen, in the case of UK withdrawal from

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the EU, if there was to be a run on the pound. However, there are many people in this country who have yet to decide. It is those people we will all be trying to convince of the merits of our arguments in the next few months, and it is those people whom I believe the Prime Minister was trying to reach out to in his attempts at renegotiation. They may be relieved by the fact that we are no longer on an inexorable route to closer integration. They will be consoled by the guarantee that we will have a full say on the rules of the single market while remaining outside of the eurozone, and comforted by the knowledge that EU citizens will have to pay in to our welfare system before taking out of it. They can also be safe in the knowledge that the negotiations are legally binding and will take effect immediately after the British people vote to remain in the EU. The information that will set out citizens’ rights and duties if we cease our membership of the EU, which noble Lords requested to be produced prior to the referendum, will be invaluable to that group of people. We look forward to that information being published.

The EU is far from perfect. While we sit here in our gilded, centuries-old institution—

Lord Robathan (Con): I should reassure the noble Baroness that I have been listening very carefully. Could she explain what role the World Trade Organization would have should there be any form of embargo or restrictions on British trade with the EU were we to leave?

Baroness Morgan of Ely: It is not about restrictions on trade. The fact is that we would have to renegotiate a completely new deal, about which we have no idea. We would still want access to EU markets. Some 50% of our trade is with the EU. If we went along with WTO agreements we would have to start paying tariffs on our exports. It may be that the noble Lord thinks that that would be a good idea for producers in this country; I believe that it would be fatal for many of our small businesses in particular.

Lord Tebbit (Con): What does the noble Baroness think workers at the Airbus factory in Toulouse would say if their Government put a tariff on the engines made by Rolls-Royce, on the wings made by British Aerospace, and on the landing gear manufactured by Dowty here? Would they refuse to accept those and still expect buyers from overseas to buy an aeroplane with no engines, no wings and no landing gear?

Baroness Morgan of Ely: My Lords, I am glad that the noble Lord asked me about Airbus, which is a major manufacturing industry based in north Wales. About 6,000 jobs depend on that relationship. I can tell noble Lords that I have been speaking to the leaders of Airbus in north Wales. They have assured me that they are very much in favour of retaining their membership of the EU. They know that, yes, there may be a short period when they could not retrain and move that facility abroad, but I can tell noble Lords that, in the long term, the French and the Germans

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would be very happy to receive their ability to build wings on the continent, rather than having them built in our country. This is a critical issue and not a laughing matter, in particular for those 6,000 workers at Airbus in north Wales.

As I said, the EU is far from perfect. Yet we sit here in our gilt-clad, centuries-old institution, replete with our opaque methods of determining membership and quirky yet endearing traditions of expression. Who are we to throw stones at an institution that has had less than 60 years to establish itself? Yes, the EU needs reform: not just this one-off but constant reform to adapt to the needs and requirements of our age, as indeed do our own institutions in the UK.

As a nation we have a moral and practical interest in preventing conflict, stopping terrorism, supporting the poorest in the world and stopping climate change. We need our global institutions to function well to cope with these challenges. We either do this together through bodies such as the EU and UN or we will find to our cost that our ability to influence these challenges independently is restricted. How many would hear Britain’s voice whispering in the world?

The EU also needs the UK. It needs us to be at the top of the table to help reduce the burden on business and ensure that we fight protectionism and trade dumping. But we need the EU. The EU has given us clear water, cleaner air, safer food, anti-discrimination laws, maternity and paternity leave, billions invested in our poorest communities and £3 billion a year for our struggling farmers. Some 3.5 million British jobs depend on that relationship with our nearest neighbour. We have seen caps on bankers’ bonuses, the capping of credit and debit card fees, health and safety laws that have saved countless lives, paid holidays and protection for part-time workers.

But we cannot and should not duck the immigration argument. It is true that immigration brings pressures to some of our communities, but let us not forget that EU citizens make a net fiscal contribution to this country. They staff our hospitals, process our food and are central to the hospitality industry. Let us remind people that 2 million of our own UK citizens have taken advantage of the EU to make their homes on the continent.

Lord Radice (Lab): The noble Lord, Lord Lawson, is one of them.

Baroness Morgan of Ely: Indeed, some of them are in our Chamber. A weakened EU, which is likely to happen if we leave, will not be in the interests of this country. Let us not forget that, whatever else the EU has or has not achieved, there has been a peace dividend for more than 60 years in what was up until 1945 the bloodiest continent in the world. We should not take peace for granted.

Whether we remain or leave the EU is probably the most important political decision that my generation will ever make. The new agreement has now been set out. Our party will be at the forefront of the campaign to ensure that we retain our membership and remain a strong and powerful voice in our challenging and changing world.

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4.28 pm

Baroness Smith of Newnham (LD): My Lords, we on the Liberal Democrat Benches welcome the fact that the Prime Minister completed his renegotiation with a settlement on the UK’s membership of the European Union that enables him to campaign passionately, heart and soul, to keep the UK in the EU. We welcome that this is the position of Her Majesty’s Government, even if not of all her Ministers—or of the former Ministers sitting in serried ranks directly opposite me.

I start by thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, for accepting amendments during the passage of the European Union Referendum Act to bring forward reports on the renegotiation such as the one under consideration today, The Best of Both Worlds. I believe this was the result of an amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth of Drumlean. I am very sorry that he appears to feel that it is propaganda and not the factual document he was looking for. Nevertheless, we are grateful that this document has come forward and, indeed, that the other reports that have come out, and are promised, on the consequences of withdrawal, the process of withdrawal under Article 50, and alternatives to membership in the possible event that the UK leaves the European Union.

The present report and the European Council conclusions of 19 February make clear that the United Kingdom already has a unique position within the European Union. We have a permanent opt-out from the euro and have remained outside the Schengen acquis. We are not part of the Schengen border controls and have flexibility on aspects of freedom, security and justice and of police and judicial co-operation. We are not signed up to every aspect of the European Union, even in the current circumstances.

However, the renegotiation goes further, creating a special relationship for the United Kingdom within the European Union which ensures that the UK will not be bound by the concept of ever-closer union—not something that I believe Liberal Democrats were too hung up on but an issue that seems to have affected many people concerned that European integration would go too far. That is now stopped. The renegotiation provides guarantees for the City of London thanks to a commitment to non-discrimination for non-eurozone members of the European Union and an emergency brake. Those who wish to leave the European Union would do well to consider whether it is realistic to imagine that the 27 would give us such a privileged position if we were on the outside—certainly, if we had simply decided that we no longer wanted to be part of the club and withdrew. The evidence suggests that they would not.

Of course, Her Majesty’s Government would seek to negotiate a new arrangement in the event of a vote to leave on 23 June, possibly running parallel with the Article 50 mechanism—I will not say “negotiation” because we do not get to negotiate, should the UK leave. However, it is hard to know what future negotiations might achieve. Seeking to exit is an unknown direction; nobody has tried it to date, and it is hard to see how any changes would benefit the United Kingdom. I do not wish to engage in Project Fear but it is unclear,

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for example, what would happen to EU nationals resident in the United Kingdom, or UK nationals such as the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, who we understand lives in France, should we vote to leave the European Union. I do not imagine that there would be an immediate move to repatriate UK nationals resident abroad, but perhaps we do not want to take that risk.

More seriously, a huge number of unknowns surround the sort of access that British citizens would have to employment and residency in the event of a vote to leave. It might be possible to negotiate rights for those already resident and/or working elsewhere in the European Union, or who have retired elsewhere in the European Union, but such access, if it is to be similar to the rights we enjoy today, would undoubtedly come with reciprocal rights. We would not simply be able to say that British nationals resident in other EU member states could remain but that, if we decided that we did not want EU nationals to be resident in the UK, we could somehow send them home, so we need to think about reciprocity.

Those who wish to leave are almost certainly correct that our erstwhile EU partners would not want to sever all ties. I do not believe for a moment that a vote to leave would simply mean that we were on the outside, completely separated. That is in the realms of fantasy on the negative side. However, it would be extraordinarily arrogant to assume that the UK is so important to the European Union that we would be accorded all the rights of full members once we decided to leave, but without any of the responsibilities. To suggest otherwise would be in the realms of deluded fantasy. After all, those states which have full access to the internal market via the European Economic Area are required to contribute to the EU budget, abide by the rules and yet do not have a seat at the table—“Pay, obey, no say”, as it was put in Brussels recently. So any attempt to keep the benefits of membership of the internal market would undoubtedly come at a price.

We would have less say than we have now but we would still be expected to contribute financially and we would still be bound by the four freedoms, including the freedoms we seem to like—the free movement of goods, capital and services—as well as the freedom we are a little ambivalent about: the free movement of people. The Prime Minister’s renegotiation has secured some limits on free movement, which will be triggered in the event of a vote to remain. A vote to leave would ensure that the European Union remained unreformed and it would surely be unwilling to make new, alternative special arrangements for the United Kingdom after any vote to walk away. By staying in the European Union we can exert influence; by leaving, we lose influence.

Of course, some Members of your Lordships’ House suggest that the European Union is not democratic—a point alluded to by the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan of Ely—and that somehow the European Parliament is lacking. I always find this a somewhat strange argument to make in your Lordships’ House, where most Members, with the exception of 90 hereditary Peers, are not here on a democratic mandate. But the European Union does have democratic processes and the United Kingdom, as a member, has a seat at the table. Indeed, we have many seats at the table—in the

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European Parliament, the Council of Ministers and the European Council—not to mention a European Commissioner, currently drawn, as was his predecessor, from your Lordships’ House. We play a full part in decision-making as a member of the Union.

There is no conceivable alternative arrangement to membership that would give us such influence—the Norwegians will tell you that. Yes, by leaving we could formally regain sovereignty but at the expense of power and influence—an “illusion of sovereignty”, as the Prime Minister has put it. Likewise, the idea of regaining control of our borders is nothing but a siren call. The UK is not currently part of the Schengen border regime; we still monitor our own borders. A vote to leave would not alter that. What it would do is make us less secure as we would be walking away from effective cross-border co-operation on policing, the European arrest warrant and the Schengen information system—areas of co-operation which show how the United Kingdom does indeed have the best of both worlds: access to EU structures where we want them, exemptions where we do not.

In conclusion, it is the view of the Liberal Democrat Benches that the UK is better off and more secure remaining in the European Union. It is good for the United Kingdom and good for peace and security in the European Union. We look forward to campaigning with the Prime Minister for a vote to remain.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: On the issue of influence in the EU—and I know the noble Baroness is very expert on European matters—could she confirm that in the past 20 years the UK has sought an amendment in the Council of Ministers on 72 occasions and been defeated on 72 occasions?

Baroness Smith of Newnham: My Lords, there are all sorts of statistics one can use. My understanding is, yes, where there have been formal votes the UK has been defeated. There are also many cases where there is a process of negotiation and votes are not held, where the UK is able to have influence. Working with our partners, we are able to stop legislation that we do not want. On the outside, a country such as Norway simply accepts anything that is put—or walks away from that part of the internal market. We have the opportunity to influence on the inside. On the outside, we lose even that.

4.38 pm

Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB): My Lords, answering the first question on the Order Paper—the fixing of 23 June for the referendum—will not, I suspect, trouble the House for long. This really has to be the Government’s call and now that the period of negotiation is over, the case for moving to a vote without unnecessarily extending the period of uncertainty, instability and volatility that we already see around us is surely a convincing one.

When the Prime Minister’s Statement was repeated in this House last week, I said that I thought the reforms he had achieved were “substantive and valuable”. Having now read the Government’s detailed account

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of the negotiations in their paper,

The Best of Both Worlds


I am confirmed in that view. I have no intention of going into a detailed exegesis of that paper, which I found clear and compelling, but I am puzzled that some members of the Government, the Lord Chancellor in particular, are challenging some of the content of that paper, which was issued in their name. I am puzzled, too, that the critics take so little account of the European Union’s track record in honouring such post-dated commitments to treaty change. In both the Danish and Irish cases, the post-dated commitments were honoured in both letter and spirit when the treaties were next amended. Nor were they ever challenged in the interim by the European Court of Justice. Since mottos seem to be in vogue, I recall that “pacta sunt servanda”, which can perhaps be rendered into the demotic as “sticking to your deals”, is an absolute rule in Brussels.

It is sometimes suggested that, if the electorate vote in June to leave the EU, we can then return to Brussels and renegotiate the renegotiation, getting better terms for remaining in the EU. Up to last weekend, this seemed to be the view of that Pied Piper of Hamelin of our days, the Mayor of London, but he now seems to have changed his mind—something he does quite often—admitting that the choice in June is indeed binary: in or out. That is wise, because that is what it is. The Government clearly regard a vote to leave as requiring us to trigger the provisions of Article 50 to establish the terms of our withdrawal. There is not a scintilla of evidence that any of the 27 other member states or the Commission or the Parliament would be prepared to enter into negotiation on any other basis. Indeed, the February agreement specifically says that these reforms will be taken off the table if we vote to leave.

We are told by leading Eurosceptics that the EU is rushing headlong towards political union and that, despite all that has been said in this agreement about ever-closer union, we will be dragged along behind them. Again, there is no real evidence for that assertion. Quoting Jacques Delors, who has not held any office, European or otherwise, for more than 20 years, is not evidence. The negative reactions to the Brussels deal of those outside government who hold those views in other member states indicate their belief that the EU will not now be heading into political union. Brandishing such fantasies should surely not be part of the serious national debate in which we now need to engage.

The issue of sovereignty, already mentioned this afternoon, and whether pooling it or hoarding it is in the country’s best interests, certainly will be part of that debate. But it is a complex subject not always well addressed. It is not enough just to mention the word “sovereignty” and expect the traffic to stop. Since the Second World War, successive Governments and Parliaments have chosen to exercise our sovereignty collectively with others on matters every bit as weighty as the European Union. Article 5 of the Brussels treaty, which set up NATO and which commits us to respond militarily, conceivably even in a nuclear exchange, to any act of aggression against one of its members, is one such commitment. So are our memberships of the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund. We accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court,

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and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. None of this pooling of sovereignty is being contested in the current debate, so when the pooling of sovereignty is contested in the EU context, it is surely reasonable to take account of those other instances and to recognise that what we are really discussing is the case for a rules-based international community in contrast to shifting back into a new world disorder.

The one thing that makes no sense is any suggestion that the decision in June is not that important, that the outcome does not really matter very much, and that everything will be much the same the day after as the day before. We are in all probability talking about the survival—or failure to survive—of two unions, not one, and about an irreversible shift in Britain’s role in the world, which it will be too late to regret should the electorate decide to leave the EU.

4.44 pm

Lord Howell of Guildford (Con): My Lords, I welcome the statutory instrument, which should clear the way nicely to the referendum. I dislike the way in which the whole debate has become somewhat personalised, obviously with the eager help of the media. I assure your Lordships that I have good friends on both sides in this argument and I intend to keep it that way. I hope that we can stick, as the late Tony Benn always used to say, to the issues.

I can put my own view quite simply. First, I believe that Britain joined the EU, when it was the European Community, at the wrong time and is trying to leave at the wrong time—or is at least talking about it. We are discussing getting out just when the whole EU is evolving in entirely new directions, driven by major new world forces—a change which seems to have escaped the notice of many of the leavers, and indeed some on the remain side as well. Secondly, I greatly admire the tenacity and energy shown by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister over the deal which we are debating. However, I do not think that it will be an entirely central influence on the way that people vote in the actual referendum, although it has certainly opened up all sorts of reform ambitions in other member states all over Europe, as anyone can see by reading the continental newspapers.

I believe that the way in which people will be influenced to vote is by one overriding and much deeper issue. That is whether they think that the EU is heading inevitably for an integrated, superstate political union—centralised, with an all-powerful euro currency and dragging us into the mangle against our interests—in which case we should certainly leave and stand clear, or whether Europe is in reality evolving by necessity into a new model under outside and global impacts both good and bad, as we can see in the daily papers, which will compel us and the EU to become far more flexible and much less centralised. In that case we would be very unwise indeed not to stay and help steer the new model into being.

My own judgment goes to the latter case and to staying on board, for three main reasons. First, the peoples of Europe clearly do not want more integration and uniformity that they already have, whatever their leaders may say. The White Paper which we are debating, The Best of Both Worlds, asserts:

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“Some … countries have chosen the path of deeper … integration”,

but I wonder whether that is in fact right. Which are these other countries, except perhaps Luxembourg? Some countries may not want to go back beyond the existing co-operation but I see no popular support whatever throughout Europe for a lot more pushing together in the digital age, with more integration, centralisation and intrusion—on the contrary.

Secondly, over the last decade or so new trade patterns, supply chains and modes of production have been utterly transforming the old EU model. Even the single market is not what it seemed in the last century, certainly not for services where a single market in Europe barely exists, despite services being 80% of our GDP and at least 46% of our export earnings, as the Government’s papers remind us. As for the eurozone, while that is depicted as a dominant and fearsome force ganging up against us from which we must be sheltered, it is in fact deeply and chronically sick. I see nothing but crisis and division ahead within the eurozone. I do not know whether the former Governor of the Bank of England, the noble Lord, Lord King of Lothbury, is here but I am glad that he now agrees with me on that.

Thirdly, huge new markets outside the EU are opening up which are not alternatives to the EU region but ones in which we must succeed. Asia, Africa and Latin America are where the big prizes are. The Commonwealth network ought to give us unique advantages in these markets, providing that we use it properly.

In short, we have to ride both horses. The immediate priority here in Europe is, and has been all along, reform—deep reform throughout the EU to meet the digital age and totally new world conditions, not least the total transformation of world energy that is now going on. As The Best of Both WorldsWhite Paper says repeatedly, that work is not over. Indeed, it is just beginning and in that work, all our history tells us that we can and must play a central part.

4.49 pm

Lord Mandelson (Lab): My Lords, I support what the Prime Minister negotiated in Brussels, and I hope that others on both sides of this House will do so. However we got to this point, we have to realise that it is a national fight that we have on our hands now, not a party one, and for the country’s sake we have all of us got to make sure that the right side wins. We simply cannot allow British business and their employees to take such a hit for the sake of the political aims and whims of those who simply cannot understand the difference between taking back control of our country and the modern means of exercising influence in the 21st century—those who simply cannot understand how, yes, you can diminish your sovereignty when you enter a transnational treaty or institution, but then you get back in return a real increase in your power to affect public policy, big events and important challenges, which all of us face in our neighbourhood.

Noble Lords should be under no illusion that the coming referendum presents us with a profound moment in the life of our country—and once the die is cast, there will be no turning back. We cannot leave the

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European Union and for economic and trade purposes be treated as if we are still in it; that is the unescapable fact that we are facing. Let us be clear about what that means. Unless we want to become a bigger version of Norway, accepting all the laws and rules of the single market without having any say over them whatever—and, by the way, paying quite a healthy sum into the EU budget for the privilege of doing so—or if we want to become some variation of Switzerland, which by the way has no passporting rights for its financial services into the European Union, leaving would mean no more unhindered or unfettered access to Europe’s single market by Britain, our businesses or exporters. It would mean continuing to accept European norms and standards as a condition for the market access that we are granted, and it would mean that once the divorce is promulgated, after the two-year Article 50 process, we would face a return to paying EU tariffs while whatever deal was finally negotiated and struck between us. That means that we would pay EU tariffs on our exports and imports, which means higher prices in our shops.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick (Con): My Lords—

Lord Mandelson: If the noble Lord does not mind, I shall continue. It would mean losing the EU’s preferential trading benefits in foreign markets until such time—and it would be a long time—before we were able to renegotiate them back. It would also potentially mean having to raise our own tariffs on imports for those markets, as they would no longer be covered by WTO-compliant agreements.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick: My Lords—

Lord Mandelson: Is this my time or the noble Lord’s time that he is eating in to?

Lord Lamont of Lerwick: I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way, somewhat reluctantly. He has talked about access to the internal market and the additional costs, as he sees it. If this is so catastrophic, will he explain how it is that in the invisible trade in goods since 2011, the United States, without being part of the single market, has managed to sell considerably more than we have to that market? Even in terms of services, the United States sells more than $200 billion worth a year.

Lord Mandelson: I am sorry—I am not just talking about invisible services. I am talking about British exports and British jobs and what we would pay in addition to get our goods, and all we contribute to supply chains and value chains, into the single market.

I am not going to dwell further on the trade implications of leaving, except to say that anyone who thinks that, freed from the so-called protectionist shackles of Brussels, we could somehow beetle around the world bagging major new free trade agreements like low-hanging fruit needs a reality check. This is not the 1970s, which is when Britain last attempted to negotiate an international free trade agreement. We have no people. We have no negotiating capacity left in Whitehall. We would have to rebuild it from scratch before we began that process.

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More to the point, there are not the countries queuing up to negotiate with countries like us. We are a mid-sized, mature, already open, advanced, western economy. Others are seeking trade agreements either with large blocks of countries or with larger, younger, faster-growing, relatively closed economies with a lot more to bargain into a negotiation than we have to offer. That is the reality of international trade, and we have to grasp it.

I shall finish by going back to my original point about what the Prime Minister negotiated in Brussels. This package is not everything, but nor is it nothing. In particular, the renegotiation in the package reassures those members of the public with doubts—people with genuinely sceptical minds—that they can support UK membership again by making it clear that the EU’s talk of ever-closer union is not a catch-all provision driving continuous political integration, by removing the right of EU nationals to unconditional and immediate welfare benefits and by giving appropriate protection to our economy from the operation of Europe’s single currency, which we should not join and from which our businesses should not suffer any discrimination as a result of our being outside it.

This is not the end of reform in Europe. It is a start. Reform is a process; it is not an event. This package is, in effect, a bridge. It is a bridge that people with genuine doubts can walk back across in order to support the European Union in good faith, and I hope they will do so on 23 June.

4.58 pm

Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon (LD): My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord. I so much agreed with what the noble Lord, Lord Howell, had to say about Europe at last changing and feeling the impetus of the external events that cause it to reform. This is such a bad time, especially when we have friends, particularly Germany, who can help us reform and change Europe in the direction that he talked about and that I would strongly support.

I do not think my memory is playing me false when I recall hearing Mr Michael Gove in the context of the Scottish referendum saying to the people of Scotland, “We accept, of course, that you are a nation. We accept, of course, that you have sovereignty, but we believe that your sovereignty is best exercised when pooled with that of the United Kingdom in Scotland’s interest”. There you have it. That is the argument. Quite so. It strikes me as odd that having articulated that and having realised that fact he then makes the conclusion that what is good for Scotland is not good for the United Kingdom within the European Union.

The case for getting out seems to me to rest on a strangely old-fashioned, almost Victorian, view of sovereignty—the days of Bagehot and Dicey, when all power rested in the nation state. It is no longer true. I suspect that there is now more power resting on the global stage today that affects the lives of ordinary citizens than is vested in the institutions of nation states like ourselves. The question is: how do you deal with that? There was a day when you could divide policies between domestic and foreign. You can no longer do that. There is no domestic issue that does not have a foreign quotient with it: not jobs; not the

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environment; not terrorism, which is international; not crime, which is international; not the creation of systems of security, when we pooled our sovereignty. We pooled our sovereignty right from the days of NATO; that is what NATO was about. There is no sovereignty a state has that is more important than the sovereignty to defend itself, yet we found it entirely in the national interest to pool that sovereignty with others to give us better protection for ourselves. That is the reality today.

The question is: how do you deal with those global forces? Are they better dealt with alone, singularly, acting unilaterally, or in concert with your friends with whom you share so many interests? Manifestly, it is the latter. There are those who argue, “Of course, we could set up these trade deals with other people”. It would take a long time, by the way; it has taken Canada 10 years and it has not got there yet. It will take us a long time to set up a trade deal with, say, China. But how does that help us tackle crime on our streets when that is a European problem best tackled through the European arrest warrant on a European basis? How will it help us to create the clean environment that we want for the people of this country, when pollution is no respecter of borders? It is the deals we reach with our European partners that deliver what we want for our citizens.

I am a passionate European—not just because I believe in Europe; I find something attractive to this idea that it has put an end to war of 1,000 years, with the slaughter of countless millions of our young, by bringing ourselves together. I am also a passionate European because I remember in Bosnia, when I was trying to build peace after war, that it was the institutions of the European Union that gave me more assistance in creating those institutions of the state—a legal institution, a customs institution, and intelligence services. The European Union is a massive soft power that, acting together, helps to build peace after conflict. There is no better.

However, I am a much more passionate European for one other singular reason: there is nothing I want to see delivered for the people of Britain that cannot better be delivered by acting in partnership with our European Union partners than by acting alone. Nothing. We can tackle crime better through the European arrest warrant. We can create the environmental cleanliness we need because we can do that on a European basis. We can create better security. Yes, we can tackle refugees better, too. People look at this and say, “It’s the refugee issue that’s now persuading us not to vote for Europe”. This is madness: this is not a new problem; this is an old problem that goes back for 1,000 years or more—the vast passage of peoples—and is much better dealt with on a European, regional basis than on a singular one.

If you think this is a new problem, let me tell you it is not. It will not stop at this either, because this will be one of the great strategic issues of our time—mass movements of people stimulated by war, pestilence, and plague, but above all by global warming. It is only if we work together that we can deal with that. The Prime Minister is right: if we were to withdraw from this process, the probability is that Sangatte would turn up at Dover.

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I recognise that the European Union is not dealing with the refugee issue very well, although it is somewhat hypocritical of us to criticise having taken not a single one of those miserable, desperate people tramping across the muddy roads of the Balkans to get to us. We have helped, by providing a home and assistance, not one of them. For us to do nothing to solve this problem and then carp and criticise Europe for not dealing with a million people in very short order is hypocrisy. They will get there over time. It will not be easy. It will not be elegant. But they will. This will be a major strategic issue for us in future, and it will be working regionally, together, that will assist us to solve that. I know that. I went not long ago to Kuala Lumpur to talk to the ASEAN nations which are already coming together to sort out the problems of massive movements of people out of the flooding Ganges delta.

Here is the thing I do not understand—I genuinely do not. Do we not understand how much the terms of trade of our existence have altered these past 10, 15 or 20 years? We no longer have a United States looking east across the Atlantic; it is looking far more west across the Pacific now. We no longer have the United States to act as our defender of last resort—our friend in all circumstances. It has its interests in the world and they do not necessarily coincide with ours. Meanwhile, on our eastern borders, we have a Russian President aggressively trying to destabilise and divide Europe. We can be sure that Vladimir Putin would be voting for us to leave as that is what he wants to see happen. He wants to divide Europe; that has been Russian policy for ages, and essentially we would be assisting him in doing so. To our south-east, the Arab world is in flames and, to our south, the Maghreb is in turbulence, reaching right down into Africa. All around us, new economic powers are growing up, individually more powerful than any of the European nations individually.

And we believe that this is the time for us to abandon our solidarity with our European neighbours in such a turbulent and dangerous world, and the time for us to adopt the illusory sovereignty of a cork bobbing around behind other people’s ocean liners? That is the way to serve the worst interests of this country. By so doing, we would diminish our influence, we would diminish our protection and we would diminish our capacity for success.

5.05 pm

Lord Stoddart of Swindon (Ind Lab): My Lords, I confess that I was rather surprised when I came in to find that I was in such an exalted position on the speakers list. Now I have to follow that impassioned speech by the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, so I am in some difficulty. But I shall try my best. First, I say to voters: when all the political parties are agreed, beware. Beware, beware, beware. I say to the Government, referring to the title of this debate, that those who always wish to get the best of both worlds very often get the worst of both worlds because they are being too greedy.

I turn to the statutory instrument arranging the referendum for 23 June. I would have thought, bearing in mind that the referendum need not take place until the end of next year, that the Government would have

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taken more time in the negotiations to get a better deal than the sad one that they have got. They would also have had the advantage of asking the Tory Party at its conference in October whether its members agreed with what the Government had brought back from the negotiation.

I have to declare myself straightaway; I always do. I was against joining the EEC, or the Common Market, in 1973, and now that the EU has gained so much additional power in policy fields other than trade, I am even more convinced that we should leave it as soon as possible and have the power in this country to decide our fate and future. I remind those people who say that the direction of the EU is not towards integration that at the beginning of this month the six original members of what was then the EEC proposed that the eurozone should become a fiscal power and have power in military matters as well. So in fact the direction is not backwards but forwards to, as they say, a more integrated Europe.

I cannot help feeling that the Prime Minister made a demeaning spectacle when he went to Europe and did not demand but pleaded with them to give him some concessions that would enable him to recommend that Britain should remain in the EU. I am afraid that he has not come back with anything at all of that sort: indeed, the concessions are pitiful. They are virtually as pitiful as the concessions brought back in 1972—possibly 1973, or was it 1974?—by Harold Wilson, which turned out to be no concessions at all.

He, too, promised that there would be no economic and monetary union. He gave that assurance. Well, we know what happened to that assurance. Now the Prime Minister is assuring the country that we will never join the euro. He cannot make that promise. The parliamentary situation arranges that. As he well knows, no parliament can bind its successor and there is no agreement, national or otherwise, that can alter that constitutional position. So he is promising something which he cannot properly deliver.

I am sick and tired of being told by politicians, self-serving multinationals and foreign potentates that Britain must remain in the European Union—not only for Britain’s sake but for their sakes. We now have to arrange our affairs to suit the rest of the world, not to suit our own country. I remind the Government that they are here to serve British interests and not the interests of those people.

Britain has survived and thrived for 1,000 years as an independent country. Even in the face of hostility from European countries, it would do so free of the incubus of the EU. We need a country that is governed for itself—Britain governing for itself through its own institutions which have been with us successfully for the last 1,000 years.

5.12 pm

Viscount Astor (Con): My Lords, it is easy to be swayed in one’s opinions by powerful speeches in your Lordships’ House. When I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, I felt a burning desire to stay within the EU. To be fair on him, when I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Mandelson, half way through his speech I felt an immediate urge to leave.

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I last spoke on the EU debate in 1975, so I thought it was about time I tried again. A lot has happened since then. We have had the Single European Act, Maastricht, and one must not forget that the one political party that campaigned to leave the EU in 1983, led by Michael Foot, was the Labour Party.

I make no secret that I am slightly Eurosceptic—it is difficult not to be. The euro is a failed concept. Schengen, as we see, is collapsing. The EU machine is often neither representative nor responsive to those it represents. We know that the Commission’s accounts have not been signed off by its auditors for many years. Despite that, we have benefited by being a member of the European Union. However, we must not exaggerate its successes. It is not the EU that has prevented European wars; it is NATO that has kept us safe. We could, of course, survive easily outside the EU with secure borders and new trade agreements, however long that might take to accomplish. Having said that, following the recent successful negotiations, I believe we can also have a better continuing future within a reformed European Union.

It is not an easy process. When recently touring European capitals and talking to their politicians, I found that they all wanted us to stay in the European Union. They claimed that without us it might collapse and other countries might leave. Yet those same politicians fought tooth and nail against every change, every sentence, every dot and comma when the Prime Minister sought to renegotiate terms, so much so that even the Eurocrats—or European civil servants as I think they now like to be called—looked accommodating and reasonable in the process.

Lined up against the Prime Minister were formidable opponents. The Prime Minister succeeded way beyond expectations in his negotiations and I have nothing but admiration for the way he achieved the outcome. As someone who has known the Prime Minister probably longer and better than anybody else in this Chamber, I never doubted the ability, toughness, determination and intellectual rigour that he would bring to the negotiations.

The agreements are a substantial change to our relationship with the European Union. However, it is fair that I should ask the Minister a couple of questions. Should there be a successful stay-in referendum, what would happen if the European Parliament rejected some important elements of the deal? As we know, MEPs cannot be forced to vote one way or the other. The Attorney-General has said that the European court has to take the treaty changes into account and that the agreement is legally binding. In the past, the European court has been expansionist in its remit, so what would happen if it rejected a part of the agreement? I am no lawyer, so I look forward to my noble friend explaining this to me.

The other issue that the Minister did not mention is that, at one point, the Government floated the idea of a European Supreme Court to act as constitutional longstop to regulate the impact of EU law in this country in a similar way to what happens in Germany. I wonder whether that is still on the agenda and, if so, perhaps my noble friend will tell me how it would work.

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My final plea is this: let this be the start of a reform of the EU into something that can adapt in the ever-changing world. We cannot allow this agreement to be the end of the process of reform. There is no right or wrong in the decision that we all have to make. There are compelling arguments on both sides. However, having weighed up all the arguments, I will be voting in the referendum to stay in the EU. I believe that our Prime Minister has made considerable progress and is the best person to lead this country forward in the continuing reform of the European Union.

5.16 pm

Lord Giddens (Lab): My Lords, this has been a pretty gripping debate so far, and it has only just started—so gripping, in fact, that I have scrawled all over my notes and completely ruined them, even though I took the trouble, unusually, to type out my speech.

I too am a passionate pro-European, but I am an academic and would put it in a rather more muted way than the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, did. As my noble friend Lady Morgan said, this world is, by far, now more interdependent than ever before. That interdependence, connected to the expansion of global markets and an emerging global system of law, has fuelled a very rapid process of economic development in some of the poorest parts of the world. At the same time, large-scale tensions and conflicts have been generated too. Some of the most dangerous are today concentrated in the European neighbourhood. Wide-ranging collaboration is needed to separate the benefits from the risks and to manage them. The EU has an essential role to play here, as is emphasised in the document we are considering today.

I only wish that the opportunity had been taken to question some of the easy nostrums of those who would have Britain quit the EU. For instance, they routinely assert that the EU is a quagmire of bureaucratic regulation and the enemy of flexibility and progress, as though this were some unquestionable truth. Yet it is obvious that collaborative rules very often limit and reduce bureaucracy rather than the reverse. There could be no European single market without commonly agreed procedures and protocols that have to be stuck to. Imagine what would happen if 28 states had to agree individual trade deals with one another and in a rolling fashion. As the report makes clear, effective European security depends upon cross-border collaboration. The problem with the refugee crisis today is the lack of such effective collaboration between EU states, rather than an excess of it, and in this case the knock-on consequences could be very serious indeed. For me, it is in fact a terrifying example of what can happen when consensus breaks down and nations start again to see the world primarily through the narrow lens of self-interest.

A favourite adage of many Eurosceptics is that in today’s world small is beautiful. I enjoyed the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Howell, which was a nuanced one. He has been an eloquent interpreter of this position. If one develops that view, free from the shackles of the EU, the UK can, as it were, float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, daily picking up trade deals here, there and everywhere. The EU, it has been said, is an analogue organisation in a digital world. Try telling that to the negotiators putting in place the Transatlantic

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Trade and Investment Partnership, the biggest free trade deal ever implemented, should it be finalised. The US has made it clear that Britain acting in isolation would have no chance of joining up. Size and clout still count for an awful lot in world affairs. The EU holds 16% of global trade, compared to 14% for China and 10% for the US. The US, China and India have all made it clear that they want the UK to stay in the European Union. Britain exerts much influence in the world, given that it is a country of only some 60 million in a world of 7 billion, but it does so in some large part through collaboration and the attempt to enforce common rules within the EU itself, in NATO and in the UN.

Nor is it the case that leaving the EU would magically allow the UK to restore tight control over migration. Switzerland is not a member of the Union, but has negotiated a deal which allows access to the single market, as Britain would also have to do. To do so, the country had to negotiate 120 separate agreements with the EU. Yet Switzerland has a far higher ratio of immigrants per head of population than the UK does—more than twice the proportion, in fact.

As I messed up my speech, I will cut it short. The natural impulse is to revert to traditional political battle lines at this point. Many aspects of the approach taken in the report could be questioned, but keeping Britain a full and influential member of the EU is crucial to the country’s future. I hope that all of us who share such a goal will work together on a cross-party basis, setting aside other political differences, to achieve this end.

5.22 pm

Lord Lawson of Blaby (Con): My Lords, in well over 40 years as a Member of one House or another of this Parliament of ours, I have never before known such a blatant campaigning document—not least one that is so economical with the truth—masquerade as a Government White Paper. The title itself, I have to say, is a lie—The Best of Both Worlds: The United Kingdom’s Special Status in a Reformed European Union. The European Union has manifestly not been reformed, and, such is the nature of the beast, is almost certainly unreformable. Britain’s so-called special status may well, should we remain in the European Union, prove to be not the best but the worst of both worlds. It is certainly very much worse than being outside the European Union.

Those of us who wish to leave the EU are asked to say what our alternative is to our membership, so I will answer that question. The alternative to being a member of the European Union is not being a member of the European Union. It may come as a great shock to the little Europeans in our midst, but most of the world, including significantly the fastest-growing countries in the world, are not in the European Union. As one who for a number of years had responsibility for the conduct of economic policy in this country, I have little doubt that we would prosper more if we were not a member of the European Union.

As for the contents of the White Paper, there is one curious and significant omission. It fails to mention the single most important feature of the Brussels agreement of 19 February—namely, the declaration:

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“Member States not participating in the further deepening of the economic and monetary union will not create obstacles to but facilitate such further deepening”.

Thus, at a stroke, we have given up our ability to veto a further transfer of powers from the United Kingdom to the European Union—should we remain in the European Union—that it believes is necessary for further economic integration. Not so much White Paper as white flag. Moreover, it completely undermines the claim in the White Paper that more powers cannot be transferred from the United Kingdom to the European Union without the United Kingdom agreeing.

What then of the exit mechanism in the welcome event of the referendum being won by the leavers? There is much talk of having to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty and of the process taking up to 10 years or even more. This is balderdash. If it requires Article 50 to leave the EU, the 1975 referendum would have been a fraud as the Lisbon treaty dates back only to 2007. Article 50 refers to the EU’s recommended procedure for negotiating the nature of the relationship of a member that has left the EU with the surviving European Union.

As the Prime Minister has frequently pointed out, Parliament is sovereign and we can at any time leave the European Union by repealing the European Communities Act 1972, which makes UK law subordinate to European law. Indeed, Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty states:

“Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements”.

In the case of the United Kingdom, our only constitutional requirement is the repeal of the 1972 Act.

Among the many grossly misleading scare stories peddled by the Government—whose only argument, I regret, is Project Fear, with nothing positive at all—is that we would have to renegotiate all our trade agreements with countries outside the European Union. The plain truth is that we have nothing to fear but fear itself. The great bulk of our trade with the rest of the world is regulated by our membership of the WTO and would remain wholly unchanged.

Lord Mandelson: Does the noble Lord accept that 60% of British exports are covered by the free trade agreements negotiated and won by the European Union on our behalf—60%?

Lord Lawson of Blaby: The great majority of the agreements we are party to through the WTO and its predecessor, GATT, were concluded before 1995, when, at that time, the European Union or its predecessor was not even a member of the WTO or GATT.

As for the argument that you need to be a member of the so-called single market to trade with the single market, that is an equal nonsense. Indeed, exports into the single market from countries outside it have, for many years now, grown much faster than UK exports to the single market. After all, the weighted average of the European Union’s common external tariff is only 3.6%. The prospect of our not being able to secure a far better free trade agreement than little Switzerland is minimal.

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Certainly the future is uncertain. That, after all, is its nature. But the uncertainty surrounding Britain’s future within the European Union, should we decide to stay, is far more worrying than regaining our freedom. The EU’s blundering route to political union—for that is what it is all about; that is the purpose of the whole enterprise—will continue and, even though we have secured an opt-out from political union, we will remain shackled to it: a sort of colonial status.

This referendum debate is not primarily about economics. It is about whether we in this country wish to take control of our own affairs and to be a self-governing democracy with a global rather than a merely European perspective.

Baroness Ludford (LD): Before the noble Lord sits down, could I press him to spell out what his alternative is? He is the chairman of one of the leave organisations. He always raises a laugh—I have had the privilege of hearing it several times now—when he says that the alternative to being in is being out. But what does that freedom consist of? What kind of deal would he conclude?

5.30 pm

Lord Hain (Lab): My Lords, contrary to the protestations of the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, Britain has benefited from lower prices, more jobs, more trade and more investment by trading with the rest of the 27 European Union countries with whom we form the biggest, richest market in the world, amounting to more than 500 million people.

Our membership has been a considerable economic success, according to a new paper, The Growth Effects of EU Membership for the UK: A Review of the Evidence, by respected economic historian Professor Nick Crafts of Warwick University, in which he says:

“Membership has raised UK income levels appreciably and by much more than 1970s proponents of EU entry predicted … Joining the EU raised the level of real GDP per person in the UK compared with the alternative of staying in EFTA”.

His calculations suggest that the positive economic effects of membership have outweighed the cost of Britain’s EU contributions and red tape by a factor of about seven to one.

Thanks to European co-operation, more than 4,000 suspected criminals have been sent back to other EU countries and more than 700 suspects have been brought back to face justice in the UK from elsewhere in the EU, including one of the London bombers. If we left the EU, our borders would be weaker. More refugees would try to enter because we would no longer be covered by its Dublin agreement, which requires the country where asylum seekers first arrive—the Greek islands, for instance—to process their applications. But if they do end up somewhere else in the EU, such as Britain, we can send them back to where they first sought asylum. Britain has so far sent back about 12,000. If they get to Calais, the French authorities have to try to stop them coming to Britain. If we left the EU, the French would have no such obligation. Our border with France would shift from Calais to Dover, and when asylum seekers arrived, we would lose our right to send them back.

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Our workers benefit from EU laws that ensure at least four weeks’ paid holiday and extended parental leave. Part-time workers have the same rights as full-time staff. The EU has also made flights cheaper, brought down credit card fees and abolished costly mobile phone roaming charges.

In 2014, the latest year for which figures are available, about 29 million British residents visited EU countries for holidays knowing they were protected by their European Health Insurance Card guaranteeing free or reduced-cost urgently needed treatment, including hospital admission.

Pollution does not stop at Calais, and high EU environmental standards mean we have cleaner air, beaches, rivers and seas.

Some of those advocating British withdrawal suggest that we can have our cake and eat it by staying within the European single market to retain the great bulk of our trade which is with EU countries. They want us to be like Norway or Switzerland, for example, but both those countries pay into the EU budget and also have to accept the free movement of people. Both countries must abide by EU trade regulations but have no role in the negotiations to make these regulations. They pay but have no say. So would Britain if we left: paying less but not that much less than we do now—about £7.5 billion rather than £10 billion a year now, on the Norway model.

In the case of Wales, because it receives more EU funding than any other part of the UK it would be worst hit by Brexit. Wales would end up paying the EU £320 million per year where we currently receive a net gain of £838 million per year. So each person in Wales could end up contributing more to the EU for much less. Instead of being given funding by Europe to tackle our problems, Wales would be paying into it to keep trading tariff-free.

On the intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, on the Airbus, it is now Franco-German owned, British Aerospace having cashed in its share. There will be no obligation if we have left the EU to keep 6,000 north Wales workers making Airbus planes. That would shift to the continent. Critics say that Brussels rules over us, but most EU laws require the agreement of both the European Parliament and national Government Ministers. So our elected European MPs and Ministers accountable to Parliament can vote against proposals that would harm British interests. We can also veto certain proposals, such as any attempt to impose taxes on us.

Does European Union membership mean that we give up our sovereignty? No— there is a difference between giving up and choosing to pool sovereignty, because that promotes British interests. As the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, said, we have already given up our right to do what we like in defending Britain because we are members of NATO; we already pool sovereignty with the US and others, because by doing that Britain has stronger defences. Anybody attacking us invites retaliation by all the NATO nations.

Just 70 years ago we gave up our right to do what we liked on foreign policy by agreeing to establish the United Nations Security Council. Its resolutions have the force of international law. However, as a permanent

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member of the Security Council, we get to make the laws. By pooling sovereignty, the British people have greater influence in building a safer, more stable world. Pooling sovereignty can mean compromises, but we can better advance British interests by being right at the centre of NATO or the UN—and, indeed, the EU.

In today’s global village, power shared means power regained. On trade, we live in a global marketplace. Opening it up further depends on our clout in world trade negotiations, and as my noble friend Lord Mandelson has said, only the EU collectively has that clout, including protecting British exporters against unfair competition.

Of course, Europe is not perfect. Nothing is—not our local councils, not our own families or football clubs, not even your Lordships’ House. Does that mean we should opt out of them too? The EU does need reform, which is why we need to be right there on the pitch as a key player, not sitting in the stands, moaning as a spectator and suffering in cold isolation.

5.36 pm

Lord Stirrup (CB): My Lords, in contributing to this important debate, let me say at the outset that I carry no torch for the EU as an institution. I have attended far too many frustrating EU military committee meetings in the Justus Lipsius building, and watched with dismay the often arcane operations of the bureaucracy, to have any rosy illusions concerning the nature of the beast. However, bureaucracy and uncomfortable compromises are far from being the sole preserve of Brussels.

The underlying assumption of all civilised society is that by surrendering untrammelled freedoms we gain a net benefit. Not all consequences will be positive for every individual and group; some will be unwelcome, and will arouse antipathy and even anger. But we do not enter into such arrangements in order to satisfy all our desires and wishes. We do so because, on balance, the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.

The question, therefore, is not whether we find any particular measure or restraint to be repugnant, but what the overall balance sheet looks like. There are, however, two significant challenges to such an approach. The first is that the value we attach to each particular benefit will vary between individuals and between groups, depending upon their separate interests and priorities. The second is that it can often be difficult to recognise, and if recognised to quantify, all the effects of freedoms foregone and benefits accrued. The current debates on our EU membership frequently centre on issues such as jobs, trade, net migration flows and so on. Even here there is a wide divergence of view on which figures should go where on the balance sheet. But there are more intangible—though no less important —issues, such as the effect on our overall long-term competitiveness. How is that to be weighed and accounted for?

I leave the answer to that and similar economic questions to those more qualified to speak on them, and for my part turn to the issue of security. Too often the debate on the EU turns on what our membership does for us in terms of direct gratification. It is of course right that we should look at the question from

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the perspective of national interest; but our national interest is not simply a matter of direct gains and losses. We cannot change our geography by referendum, and our position in Europe has always in large measure defined our interests. Our national security is inextricably linked to the security of the rest of the continent. In that regard, at least, we must ask not only what Europe can do for us, but what we can do for Europe—not out of altruism, or a sense of good neighbourliness, but out of sheer, hard-nosed self-interest.

One gets the impression that some people would be prepared to contemplate the decline of the rest of Europe provided that we could sit on the sidelines. The problem is that we are not and cannot be on the sidelines. Whether we like it or not, we are and will remain on the pitch. We therefore have a vested interest in helping to deliver the right result.

Let me give one example of where we have done so. For a number of years, some important members of the EU wanted to create military command structures that were separate from and parallel to those of NATO. Such duplication would have not only been a waste of scarce resources, but served to undermine and weaken the coherence of the alliance. We therefore opposed the proposition and carried the day. We could not have done so had we not been a member of the EU.

NATO today is stronger than it would otherwise have been thanks to the UK’s position in Europe. This is crucial, because NATO is at the heart of our national security arrangements. That will remain the case, but the EU also has a key role to play. Our national security depends on the power that we can wield in the international arena. Power comes in many forms, but it almost always relies, in the final analysis, on economic strength. Given our dependence on European security for our own protection, we have a fundamental stake in the economic success of Europe as a whole, not just of the UK alone.

The EU also has the capacity to wield soft power, in a way that is not open to NATO. The EU was an important player in reaching an agreement with Iran on that country’s nuclear programme. The EU responded to Russian aggression in Ukraine with a sanctions regime, the robustness of which came as a surprise to many—not least, I suspect, to President Putin. Putin fears and hates the EU. That alone should give us some clue to its security value.

In terms of economic clout and soft power, just as much as military force, we are reliant on partnerships to create the level of capability necessary to protect and advance our national security interest. They must be partnerships in which we play our full role, in which our voice is powerful and compelling, and in which we have a major influence over strategic security goals. That is the case today in the EU, and that is why I believe our continued membership to be so important.

As ever, there is much to be said on the debit side. EU members do not invest nearly enough in defence. The arrangements for co-operation between the EU and NATO are currently unsatisfactory. The EU tends to get ideas above its station, and as a result sometimes risks strategic overreach. These are all significant weaknesses that need to be addressed as a matter of

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urgency within the EU. The UK can do much within the EU to tackle them. Outside it we can do nothing, but inside or outside we will have to live with the consequences.

There is much that I dislike about the EU and there is much that I would like to see changed. I trust that we will go on championing the cause of such change in a way that attracts others to the colours. But when I consider the perils that loom over our continent, when I look at the dangers facing the UK within Europe and when I think of the scale of response necessary to meet those challenges, I feel myself compelled to agree with those who claim that, for the UK, the one thing worse than being a member of the EU is not being a member.

5.43 pm

Lord Gilbert of Panteg (Con) (Maiden Speech): My Lords, I declare an interest as a consultant to the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign, working with Populus Ltd, which is a client of my consultancy business.

I have already seen the huge contribution made by noble Lords in this Chamber—the expertise and knowledge bought to scrutinising legislation and to great debates about the issues facing our country. I have seen, too, the huge work and wider public service of noble Lords outside this House. It is a great privilege and a considerable responsibility to join your Lordships’ House and I thank noble Lords from all sides for being so warmly welcoming.

Most days I am lost here—either actually lost in a corridor or lost in comprehending how this Chamber works. The doorkeepers, attendants and staff across the House demonstrate huge skill, courtesy and great discretion. My thanks to the wonderful staff, who have so often put me literally or metaphorically back on the right track, is heartfelt.

I thank my mentor, my noble friend Lady Perry of Southwark, for her always wise advice, and my noble friends Lord Taylor of Holbeach and Lord Cooper of Windrush, who supported me at my introduction. I first worked closely with my noble friend Lord Taylor when he chaired the volunteer side of the Conservative Party in the dark years after our general election defeat in 1997. He was driven by a commitment to public service. His remarkable courtesy, integrity and good humour served my party well—as they clearly do your Lordships’ House today. By contrast, I first worked with my noble friend Lord Cooper in the years immediately before that historic 1997 general election defeat. I deny that our contribution to that campaign was a decisive factor in that result. I learned much from my noble friend.

I was brought up and first got involved in politics in Pontypool in south Wales, the birthplace and political nursery of Lord Jenkins of Hillhead and represented in Parliament by the great social reformer Leo Abse and more recently by the noble Lord, Lord Murphy of Torfaen, who I am delighted has joined your Lordships’ House. I saw in Pontypool that politics was about public service. It was a Labour town but with an active Conservative Party and thriving community organisations. My father, who I am sad was not here to see me at my

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introduction, was very active in our local community. He epitomised selfless public service as well as being something of a pantomime impresario. I saw that so often the same people who were involved in the stuffing of envelopes for political parties one day would be at the counter of the charity shop the next. I felt then, as I do now, that getting involved in and working for any political party and fighting for your beliefs is valuable, decent and honourable.

This referendum campaign will have a profound impact on future generations. As a participant, I am very conscious that it has the capacity to both divide parties and bring people from different parties together. I hope that we will have a debate that will engage citizens who have never been involved in politics, and that we will all conduct ourselves in a way that increases long-term participation in our politics.

My noble friend the Minister emphatically outlined the nature of the new settlement in Europe that the Prime Minister negotiated for Britain. I believe that it gives us the best of both worlds. We will influence the decisions that affect us—decisions that would still affect us if we left the EU but over which we would have no influence. The deal secured for Britain also shows that the EU is capable of reform—reform that I have no doubt this Prime Minister will vigorously pursue in the interests of Britain and Europe.

The changes that he negotiated in the four key areas of welfare and free movement, sovereignty, economic governance and competitiveness have long been called for by many of those who will be on the other side of this campaign to me. I accept that those of us who wish to remain in the EU have a responsibility to show why our continued membership is positively in the interests of Britain. We will make that positive argument about the jobs that depend on our trade with Europe, the lower prices in our shops and the safety that our co-operation with European partners brings us. But those who would see us leave the EU really need to show in detail what Britain’s future relationship with Europe and the rest of the world would look like and not just tell us that it will all be okay in the end because Germany will still want to sell us its cars. There is more to it than that.

Finally, there is so much that unites us in the Conservative Party. While I do not relish a campaign in which I will be on the opposite side to friends of mine, I commend the words of Dr Liam Fox MP, who said:

“Those who wish to remain in the EU are not ‘unpatriotic’ and those who wish to leave are not ‘idiots’”.

He is of course right. I very much hope that in this campaign we can have the best of both worlds: a vigorous and hard-fought yet respectful campaign that lives up to the huge decision we are taking at the same time as we engage people who have never participated in political campaigns before. In conclusion, I thank noble Lords for their welcome and hope I can contribute to the work of this House in the years ahead.

5.49 pm

Lord Howard of Lympne (Con): My Lords, it is a particular pleasure to follow my noble friend Lord Gilbert of Panteg and to congratulate him on his

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excellent maiden speech. He and I have known each other for many years, have served our party for many years and share the very considerable advantage of having started our lives in south Wales. On the issue before your Lordships’ House this afternoon we differ, but I echo the hope and aspiration of my noble friend that we can express our differences with courtesy and mutual respect. I think—though others may differ—that we have just about kept to the right side of that line this afternoon during our exchanges, and I hope we will continue to do so in the months ahead, because one thing is absolutely clear: on 24 June—whatever the result of the referendum—the Conservative Party will have to come together. It will continue to have the responsibility of governing our country for at least another four years, and probably, given the current state of Her Majesty’s Opposition, for quite some considerable time after that. So we must, and we will, then come together under the continuing and outstanding leadership of the Prime Minister. We must bear that in mind and, indeed, keep it in the forefront of our minds, over the next four months.

Why is it, then, that on this issue I feel compelled to speak out against the Prime Minister, whom I have known and admired for nearly 25 years? It is partly because I have come to the conclusion that the European Union, in its present form, is a flawed and failing project, which is making its inhabitants poorer than they should be and because it is failing—contrary to what has been said by some of your Lordships this afternoon—to keep its people safe. But it is mainly because, in its present form, it is undermining and eroding our cherished principle of democracy. Of the many gifts which our country has given the world, the gift of democracy—of democratic self-government—is the greatest. At the heart of that democracy is a connection between the votes cast at our general elections, the Governments they elect and the accountability which comes from the ability of the voters to turf out a Government who fail to keep their promises.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: Does the noble Lord not appreciate the irony of what he has just said in this Chamber?

Lord Howard of Lympne: I am talking about the way in which our country is governed and our Government are elected. That principally is the responsibility of the other place. If a Government, having made their promises to the electors, are unable to keep their promises, not as a result of some conscious decision on the Government’s part but as a result of a decision of the unelected European Commission, or the unaccountable European Court of Justice, that crucial connection is broken. That is why our membership of the European Union in its current form undermines and erodes our democracy.

Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon: If the noble Lord had not used the word “unelected”, I would not be asking this question, but does he feel no twinge at all about criticising an unelected institution elsewhere when he comes from an institution that bears no connection with democracy whatever?

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Lord Howard of Lympne: I have explained the answer to that. Our Government are chosen democratically by the free and fair votes of the people of our country. I believed—and, indeed, continue to believe—that it would be possible to reform the European Union in such a way as to mitigate that damage. But despite the best efforts of the Prime Minister, that is not currently on offer. That is why I shall vote to leave on 23 June.

Our opponents ask us what alternative arrangements we would make if we left. I will quote the words of Jacques Delors. However, bearing in mind the strictures of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, I will quote him not on the prospects of further integration but on the alternative arrangements that would be available to the United Kingdom. He said:

“If the British cannot support the trend towards more integration in Europe”—

which I think we are all agreed we cannot—

“we can nevertheless remain friends, but on a different basis. I could imagine a form such as a European economic area or a free-trade agreement”.