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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I apologise for interrupting the noble Lord, but I am trying hard to follow him. I do not recall the exact clause in the original Treaty of Rome of 1958 which said that Commissioners should take no instructions from national governments. We have just had a row about a French Commissioner who wished to behave in a rather more intergovernmental way. I cannot see where the Treaty of Amsterdam changes what was in the original Treaty of Rome about the Commission in the way the noble Lord suggests.
Lord Moynihan: My Lords, although I welcome that intervention, there are significant changes in this treaty, not least under Article 2, paragraph 41. That is the first use of the word "political" in terms of direct guidance from the President to the Commission. I am grateful to the noble Lord for intervening because we shall have an opportunity to look into this and all related issues in depth in Committee. The noble Lord has highlighted a vitally important issue, which is the concern that can exist when political direction is given. The noble Lord quoted one example. I suggest to your Lordships that we shall see many more such examples as a result of the drafting of this new part of the Amsterdam treaty which has serious constitutional implications for both this House and future governments.
It would be easy for me to spend a similar amount of time assessing the really important issues such as, for example, quota hopping on which the Prime Minister claimed a tremendous result for the Government-- a result which the president of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations regarded as a "hopelessly inadequate fudge". We shall need to look in detail also at the reforms of the European Court of Justice. In Committee we shall need to consider the complex area of flexibility.
We shall also need to look at the far-reaching social and employment implications of both of those chapters. That is an area where the Opposition accept that the Government have not been negligent, but rather, deeply misguided, for we are in genuine disagreement on both the social and employment chapters. Over the past 20 years the United States has created 36 million new jobs, of which 31 million are in the private sector. Over the same period, only 8 million jobs have been created in the European Union, with no increase in private sector employment. Unless Europe cuts its social costs and frees up its labour markets, it will be outpriced and outperformed by the rest of the world, ensuring that unacceptable levels of employment will persist. Red tape and regulation are a regime that Europe can no longer afford to keep in place.
On those and many other issues I hope that I have demonstrated to colleagues, even if they disagree with some of my arguments, that this legislation is vital to our national interest. It is also vital to the opportunity to forge a stronger Europe. It is simply a tragedy that the Government do not share the priority that we attach to this measure. That is why it is ultimately not only a discourtesy, but also a snub, to this House as well as to our European aspirations that the Government deem it unnecessary to be accountable for their actions through the presence of a Foreign Office Minister.
Lord Beloff: My Lords, my reasons for moving such a Motion have, to some extent, already been expressed by my noble friend on the Front Bench. It is the opinion of many noble Lords that this is a matter of great constitutional importance and that there are precedents which show that, whenever a matter of constitutional importance is before your Lordships' House, the Bill is piloted on Second Reading and, even more importantly, in its later stages by a Minister from the department concerned. As my noble friend Lord Moynihan said, this is no criticism of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, who moved the Second Reading of this Bill. He is obviously well acquainted with these matters even though he
The fact that this Bill is of constitutional importance hardly needs demonstrating by reference to its own clauses. In another place, it was taken through all its stages by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary. Clearly, they thought that it was a matter of such constitutional importance that, in spite of their many other commitments, often airborne, they would have to devote the necessary time to dealing with it.
Therefore, one is driven to the belief--regretfully, in my case--that it is not that the Government dispute that this is a constitutional measure but that they dispute that the arguments which apply in another place to the handling of constitutional measures apply to this House. They mean to illustrate, if one can put it rather strongly, their reservations about the ability of this House to deal with serious constitutional and foreign policy issues. One might think, looking around your Lordships' House not only today but also on previous occasions when we have discussed Europe, that the experience of European institutions in this House is at least as great as that in another place--and some, perhaps vauntingly, would say that it is considerably greater.
One is bound to ask what has possessed the Government to believe that this of all issues is one on which they can afford to ignore the traditional way of handling the business of your Lordships' House. I believe that this view is widely shared--it is not my own particularly--both by those who are dedicated to the cause of European integration, like the noble Baroness who is about to speak, and those who may be described in the language of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, as Eurosceptics. All of us agree, some with pleasure and some with apprehension, that it is important and if it is important it is right that a Minister should deal with the later stages of the Bill. I hope that during the short debate that follows we shall get an undertaking to that effect.
Lord Ewing of Kirkford: My Lords, I have listened with great interest and some learning to the words of the very experienced noble Lord opposite who has moved that this debate be now adjourned. In the short six years that I have been here and observed both parties in government I have been conscious of the fact that there are shortcomings in relation to the ministerial complement that forms the Front Bench of whichever party is in power. When one compares the other place with this House it is obvious that one is not comparing like with like. In the field of foreign affairs in the other place there are four or five Foreign Office Ministers, all of whom could have dealt with this Bill in all its stages in another place.
I believe that one of the great weaknesses of your Lordships' House is that, whichever party is in government, there is always only one person with ministerial responsibility for each department. There must come a time when the responsible Minister is physically not available to be present in your Lordships' House to deal with the particular legislation that is before us for consideration. I respectfully suggest that
It has been my understanding since coming to your Lordships' House, rightly or wrongly--I am coming to the conclusion that it is "wrongly"--that designated Whips are second in line to the Minister responsible for particular departments. No one, but no one, in your Lordships' House today can gainsay that my noble friend Lord Whitty has made an outstanding contribution to this debate. I know that the noble Lord opposite in no way denigrates the contribution that has been made by my noble friend. That is said within these four walls, but that is not how it will be seen outside.
Lord Tebbit: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Ewing, made two interesting and useful points which have underlined exactly what my noble friend Lord Beloff has said. First, the noble Lord said that there were at least four junior Foreign Office Ministers in the other place. If this was a Bill of such little constitutional importance, why was it that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary chose to take part of the burden of carrying the Bill through the other place when there were all those other Ministers who might have done it? Secondly, the noble Lord pointed out that there was but one Foreign Office Minister in your Lordships' House, but he had already made the point that there were four junior Foreign Office Ministers in the other place. That there is only one Foreign Office Minister in your Lordships' House is not a choice of this House; it is the choice of Her Majesty's Government that the Foreign Office is under-represented in this House.
I believe that what my noble friend has said is very much to the point. He is quite correct. It would be a remarkably good thing if this House put its collective foot down and asked that a Foreign Office Minister be here to deal with this Bill. It is no good all of us observing, quite rightly, how well the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, read his brief and took on the role. Of course he did. We all respect him. He knows full well how well I respect him personally. In the past he and I have had many matters in common. Indeed, we have in the past shared some duties across the political divide. We understand each other quite well. But the point is that he is not a Minister in the department concerned and therefore has no direct responsibility for that
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