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Lord Palmer: My Lords, following the Lord Privy Seal's answer to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, will he not agree that UK agriculture is going through the biggest crisis in its history? Will he bear that clearly in mind when we come to the reform of the CAP? I know that every Member of your Lordships' House feels passionately that the crisis is deepening literally daily.
Lord Shore of Stepney: My Lords, like others I welcome the advance that has been made towards enlarging the Community. That is something that we all favour, though no one has any doubt how difficult the enterprise may be. That is not least because of the CAP
However, I am afraid that I am not so happy about the relationship between the so-called Euro-X and ECOFIN. I do not dispute for a moment what the Leader of the House said about the absolute supremacy of ECOFIN in making decisions. It alone can make decisions; that is part of the Maastricht Treaty. But that treaty makes no mention whatever of a Euro-X committee; it does not exist; it has no basis. A treaty would have to be agreed unanimously before it could be set up and given a major role. So what is left for this so-called Euro-X? Informal meetings. The essence of informal meetings in part is that the members have not been able to have the presence of the Commission and the other institution, as it would be, the European Bank. That was the position. If we had stuck to that and if the Community had not been agreed, even if they had informal meetings without us being present, they would not have been able to bring the Commission in, to give it authority.
The other point that worries me is what the Leader said, when being questioned. He said that if there was a dispute about our wish to attend a particular meeting of the Euro-X committee between the committee and ourselves, such as if there was a dispute over whether we had the right to attend because it was of common interest, the matter would then go to ECOFIN for a decision. But by what vote? Qualified majority voting? The members of Euro-X and the common currency would more than account for the majority, the qualified majority in ECOFIN.
All we seem to have done, as a result, is to give a kind of status to the new body, a seven-page resolution, although resolutions do not have all that much status. It is a seven-page resolution describing what it can do and others cannot. I see no reason why we should feel that this is an advance over the position that was absolutely clear under the Maastricht Treaty.
Lord Richard: My Lords, I have to say, not for the first time to my noble friend, that I do not share his apocalyptic view of European politics. The short point is that a number of countries have agreed to come together for matters of what they conceive to be in their common interest. To assume, as my noble friend does and other Euro-sceptics have done in the past, that because there is some lacuna somewhere by which if you are tortuous enough you can trace a danger to a possible future British government and its position, is unfortunate. I say that respectfully to my noble friend who has considerable experience in these matters. There has to be some trust in European countries and European institutions.
A situation in which the countries under Maastricht meet by themselves, whether the Commission is there or not, does not seem to me to be of vast consequence. It seems to me that would be a pretty good protection of British interests for us to have the right to attend that committee meeting whenever it discusses matters of common interest which would affect Great Britain and then, if there is a row--and it is difficult to envisage it
I know that my noble friend Lord Bruce of Donington will not agree and I hear him behind me saying "No". However, if we had it copper-bottomed, tied in a treaty, ratified by all the nations in the Community, I suspect that even then my noble friend would find that there was something wrong with the copper, the seals were not in the form they should be, the treaty had not been ratified properly and it was all a plot to do the British down. I do not share my noble friend's view as to the inherent dangers in anything European.
Lord Tordoff: My Lords, perhaps I may take the Leader of the House back to the conference which is being arranged for the complete list of applicants. The noble Viscount raised the point and asked about the agenda for such a conference. It will be a pleasure to your Lordships' Select Committee to hear that the conference is taking place. As we heard in the recent debate, there was concern that people who were not in the first phase might feel shut out and this might well be a way of helping them through that difficulty.
However, would the noble Lord care to comment on the reports in the press that Turkey has already rejected membership of that conference for itself and has gone further? It has said that if the accession of Cyprus is proceeded with, without it being the whole island, Turkey would incorporate Northern Cyprus into the Turkish Republic.
Lord Richard: My Lords, I have not seen those reports and I would not dream of commenting on press reports I had not seen; nor on a telegram from the Turkish Government which I had not read. However, my understanding--and I put it no higher than that--was that the initial reaction of the Turkish Government, though heavily critical, did not absolutely reject the possibility of its attending the European conference.
While I am on my feet, perhaps I may answer my noble friend Lord Shore, and maybe I should have done so earlier. It may go some way towards reassuring him, though I am not confident of that. If there is a dispute as to what is or is not a matter of interest, the matter goes to ECOFIN. ECOFIN will then decide the issue on the substance, not merely the procedural point as to whether it is a matter of common interest that should go back to Euro-X. I hope my noble friend finds that reassuring.
My support was given because I began my political life as a Greater London councillor, defeating Sir William Fiske, the great Labour leader of the Greater London Council, in Romford and Hornchurch. Being only 26 at the time, Sir William was one of the finest politicians I had ever dealt with in my young life. It was a privilege to be allowed to follow him on the Greater London Council.
I add too that, despite the abolition of the GLC and the amount of discussion that may go on about the removal of that body, like the Minister I admire greatly the work of London First and congratulate it and my noble friend Lord Sheppard on the amount it has done. However, it would be unwise for anyone to declare their interest in the post of mayor before we see what the people of London decide on 7th May next year and-- I go further--until we know what shape the Bill will take. We will not even see the Bill until 23rd March.
A point was made by the Minister on the question in two parts. I watched her closely when it came to her argument on the subject. Like the Deputy Prime Minister in another place, she read the wording very carefully indeed. It led me to believe that many people on the Benches opposite--not just ourselves and the Liberal party--are not convinced by the arguments that she and the Deputy Prime Minister put forward.
Most people reading those words would not be in much doubt that it is already two questions for the price of one. I join the Liberal party in believing that it should be two questions. Can the Minister say, when she replies, why the people of Scotland are allowed two questions and we are not? Are they in some way superior to we Londoners? Cannot the people of London be trusted with two questions? Cannot those two questions be put to us?
The Minister suggested that when we see the White Paper on 23rd March we will then have enough knowledge on which to decide this question. I ask: is the Minister suggesting that every word in the White Paper will automatically go through and be the law of our land? I think not. I think there may be some changes. We saw a rebellion in the House last week. Is the Minister suggesting that the Labour Party is now such a machine that it can deliver a White Paper and it will be law? I do not accept that, and I am shocked that the Minister does.
I hope that when the Minister comes to reply she will not read out a carefully worded statement but that she will have the courage to say that perhaps we should recognise the position of two questions. The Green Paper, in its strength, allowed us to discuss what we felt,
I hope that the Minister will be courageous enough--if she believes in it--to say to the Deputy Prime Minister, "We would gain great credit in saying in the White Paper that we think it should be two questions." The Minister laughs. I can tell her that the people to whom I speak in London are not laughing; they are insulted at being asked one question when the people of Scotland are offered two.
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