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Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: My Lords, since this is something of a storm in a teacup, I hope that we shall be able to proceed with the main body of Business very soon. Over 30 noble Lords wish to speak. This is just delaying their opportunity to do so. I recognise the deep and proper concern of the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, for the constitutional proprieties. I also recognise the strong argument that whatever government are in power, they must never neglect their duties to this House. Ministers must see their responsibility, whether in another place or here, as being first to Parliament.
As was said by the noble Viscount, there is no doubt that, given the collective responsibility of government, it is perfectly proper to have the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, open the debate. He is a competent person in every possible way. I should have liked the noble Viscount to say that, having heard his noble friend, he would advise all his colleagues not to vote for the Motion. However, if the Motion comes before the House I hope that it will in no way become a substitute for a vote on the Second Reading, which is not the custom in this place. Certainly we on these Benches will vote against the Motion should it be put.
Lord Richard: My Lords, before the House continues, perhaps I may refer to a matter that I should have raised earlier. The noble Viscount referred to his attitude towards my noble friend Lord Whitty. On 20th May, my noble friend Lord Whitty said:
Therefore, it was made perfectly clear as long ago as 20th May that my noble friend Lord Whitty would be replying on European Union issues in this House. I can only repeat what I have said--and that would be merely
Resolved in the negative, and Motion disagreed to accordingly.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, first I profoundly regret the 38 minutes that we have spent on that Motion. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, for informing me that a question may be raised about the non-presence of the noble Baroness, Lady Symons. I am grateful to him for that. But I do not believe that the past 38 minutes commend this House for its seriousness and concerns about the issues raised in the way that I would have hoped.
I cannot see any major constitutional issue. As the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal effectively pointed out, from the very beginning of this Government's administration, the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, has been one of the Front Bench Members handling European issues and he has done so to the great satisfaction of the House. Like many other noble Lords, I wish this House to be treated with the seriousness it deserves. I do not believe that the past 38 minutes have particularly helped in doing so. Perhaps I may be indelicate and ask the question whether those on the Front Bench of the Official Opposition were aware of the position. I trust not.
I begin by dealing with one issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, simply because my noble friends and I found it rather difficult to understand. Several noble Lords are about to speak in this debate who are or have been Commissioners. It has always been my understanding that no Commissioner is appointed by the government of a single member state, nor should he be, for the responsibility of the Commission is a collegiate one. The decision to appoint Commissioners is consensual. There have been occasions when Commissioners have not been further advanced because there was not an agreement among other member states as to the appointment. That is as it should be. They all
I agree with the noble Lord on his statement that the Amsterdam treaty was a treaty of considerable significance. But I cannot help reflecting on the fact that shortly after the change in government, the Shadow Foreign Secretary in another place announced that it was a matter of such importance that there should be a test of the opinion of the British people on it; namely, that there should be a referendum. In view of the extreme importance of this treaty, I was slightly surprised that we heard no more about that possibility. Perhaps the Official Opposition will assist the House by telling us into which black hole that particular proposal has vanished.
I turn to an issue on which I very much agreed with both noble Lords who have spoken so far. While the Treaty of Amsterdam may be regarded as a consolidating treaty, it is also an essential clearing of the way towards enlargement. Almost all noble Lords in this House regard enlargement as one of those historic challenges of the greatest possible significance, for if enlargement is conducted successfully, it should give us a more stable and democratic Europe all the way across the Continent than has ever been enjoyed before in this century.
It is a great responsibility of the British presidency to so conduct the early stages of enlargement that that highly desirable objective is attained. In that context, I ask the Minister to comment in particular on the European conference which is shortly to be inaugurated under the British presidency. I ask him to be kind enough to tell us a little bit more about how he expects that to be handled; in particular, the link between the first wave of future candidates' countries--the so-called five plus one--and the second wave of states which will come in a little after.
To my mind, one of the most significant features of the Treaty of Amsterdam, which should not be underestimated, is the existence of Article F1 and Article O. All that sounds rather like an alphabetical game so perhaps I may underline what they provide. They provide that at the centre of the European Union lies a commitment to the principle of democracy, individual liberty, non-discrimination and human rights. That is of the greatest importance and significance. That has never been there before. It was not in the Treaty of Rome, nor in the Treaty of Maastricht, nor in the Single European Act.
I believe that the Government can take credit for having arrived, like the sheriff at the OK Corral, to approve the new treaty with human rights at the heart of it when it was clear that the previous government had no interest in putting it there at all, and no interest in putting in place Article 4, which deals with discrimination on grounds of race, religion, sexual orientation, disablement and age, and no interest in putting in place the strengthening of the gender equality objectives.
I say clearly and loudly that I believe there can be no refutation of this. In the approximately six weeks that the present Government conducted negotiations as regards the Amsterdam treaty, they succeeded in putting in place certain crucial principles that the previous government never did in eight months of negotiations. Therefore, I cannot agree with the proposal made by the Official Opposition that the present Government take full responsibility for the Treaty of Amsterdam. They arrived very late; and, having arrived very late, they put some essential features in place and, in my view, had they had more time, they would have put more of them in place.
I mention one other matter in the context of human rights and civil liberties. Article F1 is of the greatest importance because for the first time it provides that tough sanctions--and they include the removal of voting rights--can be applied against member states which stand in breach of crucial human rights considerations. That is beginning to lay the ground of a constitutional and ethical order in the affairs of the European Union which I believe to be of crucial importance. I do not believe that there is any noble Lord on either side of the European argument who would wish to see a member state in direct contradiction of human rights allowed to join the European Union. That new article places clearly on the line that a country which wishes to be a member state of the Union must meet those tests of human rights and anti-discrimination as well as the economic tests which have applied in the past.
Secondly, I should say a few words about the issue of the third pillar. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, regarded as an achievement the continuation of the opt-out by the UK, Denmark and Ireland from the attempt to establish a so-called area of freedom, justice and security. In that respect, to some extent, he echoed the noble Lord, Lord Whitty. We on these Benches do not think that that is an achievement. In our view, one of the greatest benefits which could be brought by the EU to the ordinary peoples of Europe is the opportunity to move around, reside and live where one wishes. Indeed, many people in Europe believed that that was one of the bonuses they would get; not just capital and establishment, but ordinary people's choices. Indeed, it is something that we all believe we care about.
There are problems and I do not diminish them, not least while we still have a terrorist risk on these islands. However, it is unwise to regard the continuation of the opt-out as desirable on more than a purely pragmatic and temporary basis. We would wish to see the attempt to establish that free area of movement and justice as one of the objectives for which Her Majesty's Government were committed. I hope that the Minister will say something about that in his response.
I have two broad points to make on economic issues. First, on these Benches, I do not pretend that we other than regret the Government's decision to indicate their interest in European monetary union but to do so sine die, by which I mean without indicating any kind of target date. The trouble with that--and this emerged very clearly from the House of Lords study of European monetary union--is that momentum gets dangerously
Secondly, there is the significance of the employment chapter. Here again, having criticised Her Majesty's Government on the issue of Schengen and the zone of freedom and liberty, I want to commend them for what has been a very rapid building on the Luxembourg summit and on the employment chapter. It is most encouraging to see now the effort to move towards the comparison of good practice in job creation and in employment policy. That will come to its culmination at the Cardiff summit when all the countries of the Union submit their proposals on how to deal with creating more jobs and how to deal with employment. On this one, I believe that Her Majesty's Government have taken the lead and done so most successfully.
Perhaps I should declare a momentary interest at this point in that I am the chairman of something called the "Jobs Creation Competition" in the European Union. The most fascinating aspect of that work is the extraordinarily good and innovative ideas that are coming from some of the member states, including ourselves, in the area of job creation. I believe that to be of vital importance in encouraging such innovation.
In that context, I have a further question for the Minister. Shortly before the change of government, the then shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer--today's Chancellor of the Exchequer--talked briefly about the possibility of a contra-cyclical fund to deal with what might be some of the effects of differential shocks on the member states and member regions of the EU should there be, by any chance, a combination of some slowdown within the region--within Europe itself--in economic growth at the time of the introduction by some member states of European monetary union. I do not know now quite what has happened to that idea. It seems to me to be an extremely attractive one. I speak as someone who is most conscious of the fact that in the United States if a state suffers from differential shocks, from an emergency or from an unexpected crisis, the federal government have the power to channel funds towards it, but that there is no analogue to that in the European Union.
I have two further points to make before I conclude. I hope that I shall keep those remarks well below the amount of time that has been taken so far in this debate by individual speakers. I have already pointed out that we have wasted 38 minutes and I believe that to be regrettable. The first of my final points concerns a most important aspect of the switch of visa, immigration and asylum policy from the third pillar to the European Community, with the exception, of course, of Britain, Ireland and Denmark. Can the Minister say something about the need in this country to take steps to speed up our processing of asylum and refugee applications?
In conclusion, I should like to say a few words about the common foreign and security policy about which my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire will speak at considerably greater length. I highlight one particular aspect. There has been discussion under the heading of the common foreign and security policy about some form of code of practice with regard to the sale of arms. In the light of the revelations of the past few days, sadly it has become all too clear that certain European countries, and other countries, have supplied the means to create weapons of mass destruction to Iraq and other countries. It also emerges that there is a feeling-- it emerged in a letter to The Times today from a number of distinguished military and other figures--that the present controls are hopelessly weak. That is partly because countries compete with one another to sell such weapons of mass destruction.
I wish to commend the idea--and this is our final suggestion of a positive nature for the Minister's consideration--that we should look again at a possibility of creating an arms procurement agency bound by a single and strict code of practice regarding the supply of weapons and arms of destruction to countries which cannot be relied upon not to misuse them. This is exactly the kind of opportunity that the British presidency might pursue. When replying, I should be most grateful if the Minister would comment on that suggestion. I should add that I believe the noble Lord has already shown to the House that his comments on all our suggestions and proposals are likely to be wise, well-informed and helpful.
Lord Tombs: My Lords, in following three such wide-ranging speeches, I shall be very brief. I want to deal with the question of public awareness. In doing so, I should like to draw attention to the steady, if largely imperceptible, movement towards a federal Europe which this Bill will promote. That process has continued through a succession of summits, directives and European Court judgments. Its inexorable progress has been aided by a stream of seemingly unimportant developments and by the failure of successive administrations to draw attention to those developments.
I am reminded of the way in which Gulliver was ensnared by a myriad of slender threads by the Lilliputians--a cautionary simile, but we might remind ourselves that Gulliver broke free. I am concerned to make the point that the process has been continuous and largely unperceived by the electorate. I hope that today's debate, and the ensuing Committee stage, will help in rectifying that important gap.
There is surely no doubt that the founders of the European Union wanted to create a federal Europe. That has been amply demonstrated over the years by public pronouncements and by the general trend of settlements. Successive British leaders have denied our willingness
But the keystone of the federal process is, of course, economic and monetary union which would remove effective control of individual economies by seeking to establish a common way forward for a group of countries widely different in culture, economic strength, philosophy and interests. The difficulties in this Utopian vision are already becoming apparent in the fudging of the convergence criteria agreed only two years ago. Basic economic facts are to be ignored so that essentially political aims can be achieved. Such a structure--if it goes ahead--will be built on sand and is likely to have serious consequences unforeseen by its reckless supporters, but with inevitable knock-on effects for other nations.
The fact of the matter is that most of our European partners believe in a social-democratic state in which bureaucracy and protectionism combine to stifle enterprise. Despite that the Government have accepted the social chapter, perhaps failing to realise that proposals will evolve, under qualified majority voting, which will prove undesirable and damaging to this country. It is certainly possible to be pro-European without being pro-federation. I am one such individual. I believe that close collaboration between sovereign European states is to be encouraged by every available means in many areas. But the present mechanism is ruthless in its pursuit of a vision--a politically and economically integrated Europe. To suggest, as has been done, that supporters of that vision in this country should form what is breathtakingly called a "patriotic front" is taking the misuse of our language to new depths. For what is patriotic about surrender of sovereignty?
But the debate in your Lordships' House offers the opportunity of bringing to the attention of the nation the cumulative process of the past 30 years which already affects their lives and governance and which will increasingly come to do so. This country's scope for limiting such developments has been largely ineffective despite trenchant assurances to the contrary. I hope that today and in Committee we shall expose the reality.
Lord Russell-Johnston: My Lords, I am happy to be enabled to make my maiden speech. I am not sure how I will do as it is such a long time since I last made one. For me it is an occasion which was quite beyond imagination when I was a child on the Isle of Skye, off the north-west coast of Scotland, half a century ago. There I received as good an education as I believe I could have had and also was given a sound basis of thought and outlook upon which to found my life. I was warmed before this debate to receive from my primary school teacher, Mrs. Marion MacDonald, who taught me during the war, a letter of kind good wishes. But I did not believe that this background would lead me here;
It was in the run-in to the 1964 election that I became deeply involved in the European argument and wholly persuaded both of its economic need and political vision. It was not an especially popular cause in a rural Scottish seat and both Conservative and Labour parties were eager, not only then but in subsequent elections, to drain every drop of anti-European prejudice they could from the electorate. I do not deny the contention that we did not strongly stress the ultimate political objective of a federal Europe. When Hugo Young wrote in the Guardian on 6th January that Sir Ted Heath and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe,
he was quite right. But what he and others should recognise is that it is a foolish general indeed who advances indiscriminately on all fronts. For myself in these times it was quite enough clearly to support entry into the European community; to defend endlessly the abolition of capital punishment; and to argue the case for a Scottish parliament against scornful opposition from Conservative and Labour. Labour opposition then was most vigorous!
I want on the occasion of my maiden speech to pay tribute to the Liberals in another place who in 1960 divided the House on the choice between EFTA and the European Community and were roundly defeated by Conservative and Labour alike by 215 votes to four. Grimond, Clement Davies, Thorpe, Holt and Wade stood up for their beliefs. In 1972 I went as an appointed Member on behalf of the Liberals to the European Parliament, along with that wonderful man, the late Lord Gladwyn. Your Lordships will recall that at that time the Labour Party (old Labour Party) refused to take part. I was, of course, attacked. The slogan of the day was, "Where's Russell? Russell's in Brussels!". Some days ago a great Frenchman, Maurice Schumann, died, rich in years at 86 or thereabouts. Unlike Enoch Powell, who died at almost the same time, he believed and worked, in far more difficult circumstances of bitter memories of three Franco-German wars, for reconciliation and co-operation. That for me is the role model.
I am grateful to your Lordships on the occasion of my maiden speech for allowing me some recollections and some sentiment. That is all part of the process which led to Amsterdam. In the eyes of some, including myself, it is a disappointing treaty. As a Back-Bencher I imagine that I am allowed to be a little more purist than the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby. There is no harm in having some purists around. As I said, it is a disappointing treaty and a treaty of hesitation rather than commitment. Much of the hesitation stemmed from the then British Government, and we look to the Prime Minister to reverse that. To judge from the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, this seems to be the intention.
I believe that there are two great fears behind the hesitation and the opposition which, after all, have persisted for a long time, and both will prove to be two great fallacies, although they were evident in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, to whom I recommend the possibility of a change by deed poll to the Lord Opt Out! The first is the notion that there is a peculiarly British or French or German or Dutch view not just of life and culture--which there is and which will persist--but of politics. I have never really understood why the Euro-sceptics guddle these two things together. The experience of Scotland and Wales within the United Kingdom demonstrates how absurd the contention is. The second is that each of the Union's states have clear national interests which must at all costs, and in all ditches, be defended.
The argument about the adhesion to the social chapter, to which the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, referred, was not an argument about British interest versus so-called continental European interest, although it was repeatedly so portrayed, but an argument between the dogma of the British Conservative Party and a Liberal, Christian and Social Democrat consensus on the Continent--a consensus of which I believe a majority in this country was also a part. The present Government should beware of using this hollow argument, although I suspect that some time in the future they will. Further, we see clearly in the European Parliament that the groupings are political, not national. The political question is not, what is your nationality, but, what do you want to do? In the previous major debate on Europe in the Commons in which I took part I found myself sandwiched between the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, and Sir Edward Heath. Did I say sandwiched? I think "squashed" might be a better word. I said then, "Sometimes I have nightmares and in those nightmares the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, is Chancellor of Germany".
Nationalism begets retribution. Interest is almost always a euphemism for advantage, and almost always governmental advantage. We must put behind us that way of thinking. The Treaty of Amsterdam takes us further on the road to creating the stable political and economic conditions in Europe which will be the best safeguard of our diverse peoples, not only in the most populous areas but also the sparsely populated such as those which gave me the opportunity to take part in this Parliament--Inverness, Badenoch, Lochaber and Skye.
Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, the pleasant job falls to me of congratulating the noble Lord on his maiden speech and that I do without any reservation whatever. The noble Lord has a considerable reputation against which my perhaps half a page compares with his volume of 10 books. He is well known to all of us, and not only because of his role in the Scottish Liberal Party. For many years he was a Scottish Member of Parliament. He was the leader of his party for a time. However, the role in which I remember him is as a Member of the European Parliament. We had the pleasure of serving together for two or three years when we had the honour of jointly representing our country.
I now pass to the Bill that we are discussing and its relationship with the Amsterdam Treaty. The Bill does not come to us out of a vacuum. In many ways we have already been preconditioned by the European Commission as to how we should receive it. The way in which the whole operation has been carried out over the past few years, and the manner in which it has been conducted by the Commission, is itself conducive to our approaching it from the Commission's angle. Every now and again it becomes necessary to view the issue from a wider perspective.
It may not be generally realised--I await a sharp intake of breath of disbelief--that the European Union is in crisis at present, and that its future is far from assured not only for the reasons set forth by the noble Lord, Lord Tombs, with whose speech I profoundly agreed in many ways, but for the following reason. While all the treaties and their detailed warnings and interpretations have been laid before us, together with an ever increasing mass of paper--a record number of 751 documents were received by the British Parliament for its consideration--the world has marched on. At present in the 15 countries of the European Union unemployment has risen steadily to a point where it is now close on 20 million. The figure has been rising for many years. Why has it been going up? The answer is that, quite deliberately and with acquiescence, or perhaps active support and consent, a deflationary policy has been pursued--a policy which has relied mainly on monetarist considerations, and almost complete repudiation of the constructive economic policies of Keynes.
As noble Lords will be aware, it started with the famous Delors speech some little time before the Maastricht Treaty which laid down the economic rules to be followed by the Community. Although I suspect that not everyone read the Delors Report, a large number of noble Lords may have done so. The effect was to reinstitute supply side economics. Supply side economics have failed, and failed badly. As I indicated, in Europe unemployment has risen to 20 million. It may go a little higher when the true British figures are referred to. Currently the figure claimed is 1.3 million but actually it is nearer 3 million. So there may be a further increase.
What is remarkable is that those supply side economics have not been argued about with any regard to variables. Economic and financial life is essentially a variable quantity from day to day and week to week, with one factor interacting upon another. It was decided to enshrine supply side economics into the Maastricht Treaty. It specifies them in considerable detail in terms of permissible deficit, total national debt, degrees of convergence, balance of payment difficulties, and matters of that kind. We should bear in mind that there is a considerable difference between the way that we in the United Kingdom consider the treaties and the laws
The same Delors, as noble Lords may recall, said at roughly the same time as the report was issued within a few years 80 per cent. of legislation affecting member states would be accomplished at European level. At the time that seemed to me--I do not know whether it seemed so to your Lordships--to be a rather ambitious statement that ran contrary to notions of maintaining the sovereignty of our country.
My attitude towards this matter may perhaps be more informally expressed. When we joined the original Common Market at the request--nay, the demand--of Sir Edward Heath we were promised that there would be no infringement of the national sovereignty of the United Kingdom. That has plainly gone by the board; and I think that Sir Edward would probably agree that he may lay himself open to the charge of having misled the country at the time. I welcome, and indeed have always welcomed, any endeavour to bring the peoples of Europe together on the basis of co-operation to the maximum extent with one another and also for the extension of a common market. That would seem sensible. So would the bringing under some kind of control of pollution throughout Europe--because pollution knows no boundaries.
But what has happened since is totally different. What is beginning to happen more and more every year, with every treaty that passes, is an endeavour to formalise economic matters, particularly matters such as economic and monetary union, which would be far better dealt with in collaboration and close contact with one another rather than by diktat. But it has not happened that way. And it has not happened for a very good reason. I well remember the Commission's earlier stages, particularly when the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, was president. It brought forward proposals which in the main seemed reasonable and commanded national assent. But as time went on, the cascade of paper coming from the Commission progressively increased to a point where it was not easily capable of absorption by any of the government machines of the member states to which the communications were addressed. That happened here. It must be a very rare Minister, even in the Foreign Office or the Treasury, who reads the documentation that comes from the Commission.
The reason for that is very simple. I am quite prepared to believe that the European Commission, appointed as it was with the consent of the various member states, was full of good intentions. But after a while it found that by creating further pressure upon member states it could get more power for itself. The result has been a whole series of measures, accepted with reluctance and
Let us consider those powers, which have indeed been extended further by the Treaty of Amsterdam. The Commission has sole power to originate proposals. Not only are the Council of Ministers and the various types of Minister powerless to initiate proposals, but also the European Council is not permitted to do so. I obtained confirmation of that the other day. The Council itself cannot originate proposals. They must all come from the Commission.
Moreover, the Commission has a profound effect on the matters that are able to be discussed at the European Parliament. I well remember, as I am sure will the noble Lord, Lord Russell-Johnston, the publication of the Maldague Report in 1975 dealing with the position of international companies within the Community. Before that, there was the McDougall Report, to which many people have made reference in the past, determining how changes in fiscal policy could even up some of the structural differences in the various countries concerned. However, the Commission did not allow those reports to be discussed by the Parliament--they were never discussed by the Parliament. It was only the other day that a copy of the McDougall Report was placed in the Library of this House, even though these were vital documents.
In addition to having sole power to make proposals, the Commission is represented in every institution, except at the Court of Auditors. It has representation at all Council meetings, at COREPER meetings, at the deputies of COREPER meetings and on every management and advisory committee; it has 126 embassies throughout the world, side by side with the embassies of member states, all under the control of the Commission itself.
I bear no personal antagonism; I personally found the commissioners with whom I was in contact; namely, the noble Lord, Lord Tugendhat, Mr. Brunner, and Viscount Davignon, whom I knew quite well, to be very nice people indeed. But, with the passage of time, the Commission has accumulated powers to the extent that it is now becoming arrogant. That is a very great mistake. For a non-elected, appointed body of people with power, it is very dangerous to be in that position. That is one of the reasons why I look askance at the Treaty of Amsterdam, which consolidates their position yet further. I do not think it wise for my own country to allow that to continue indefinitely--more particularly, as within the next couple of years, in my view, the system will break down for precisely that reason. The multiplication of institutions, the continued encroachment on the powers of member states by the Commission itself cannot go on for long, and will not be able to resist the feelings of ordinary people in the various countries concerned, who, with unemployment as high as it has now become, are beginning to replicate some of the symptoms of which many noble Lords were
Lord Tebbit: My Lords, I suspect that the matter arising from our proceedings that most newspapers will report fully tomorrow will be the moving of the Adjournment of the House by my noble friend Lord Beloff. That is a pity, since I am sure that we shall have a long and interesting debate. If, regrettably, I am not here to listen to the winding-up speeches, it is because I have to catch a train to be at an early morning engagement tomorrow in the West Country. I shall read all that is said with very great interest. In particular, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, will not think that there is any degree of personal animus in these matters. The whole affair could have been solved very quickly--had he been promoted in the field to the rank of Minister of State, it would have been well deserved.
I differ from the noble Lord on a number of matters, but one of his remarks worried me slightly. It is a matter that worries me in relation to the whole of the Government, and may have something to do with the way in which some of us felt that the correct procedures were not being followed. If I jotted down the noble Lord's words correctly, he said in relation to the question of the social chapter that at the general election the vast majority of the British electorate agreed with the Labour Party. I have to say that the noble Lord is deluding himself. As I recollect it, 11.3 million people out of an electorate of 36.4 million voted Labour. I do not know whether that makes a vast majority in his understanding of the English language; in mine it works out at something like 33 per cent.
I also took great pleasure in hearing the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Russell-Johnston. He referred back to 1964 when he was inspired--as he still is and had been previously--by the European ideal. I was strongly inclined to agree with him in 1964. He also referred to his education. My school education took place at about the same time as his. I well recollect being instructed by my biology master that one of the distinguishing features of intelligent life is that it can learn from experience and, having learnt, change its response. Certainly I found it necessary to do that.
I recollect that in the past on these matters, particularly when discussing the Treaty of Maastricht, I quoted that great Americanism: if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, it probably is a duck. I observed that if it has citizens, a currency, an economic policy, frontiers and import duties, just like a state, then the European Union probably is a state.
I do not take the view, as does the noble Lord, Lord Russell-Johnston, that politicians, like generals, should seek to defeat their opponents by deception, which was the gist of what the noble Lord said. I take the view that my right honourable friend Sir Edward Heath and others at the time of our debates almost 30 years ago were not merely being economical with the truth but were from time to time over-generous with the less-than-truth.
We shall be told, as we were about Maastricht, not to worry; that all these things, such as a single foreign policy and a single defence policy, are in the future and are in any case subject to unanimity. The lesson that my right honourable and honourable friends should have learnt, even if the party opposite has not, is that, if you do not want a thing in the treaty, you should keep it right out of the treaty. Things should not be allowed to creep in through the back door through protocols attached to the treaty, because, like Schengen, they will steadily worm their way in.
The social chapter came in in that way. I know that many noble Lords opposite wanted the social chapter's policies. Equally, there are many of them who do not think that that was the right way for those policies to be brought into this country.
One or two noble Lords have referred to the issue of the single currency. I shall not do so; I believe that that is a matter for another day. However, I find it interesting how quickly the transition has been achieved. It seems that one day it was much too early for anyone to take decisions about these things; then suddenly, as my right honourable friend Mr. Kenneth Clarke observed, it is now too late to change anybody's mind. When was that split second when it would have been right to think about the issue and to decide? One day it was too early, the next too late. These are the split moments in politics that one has to grab; they are the fleeting moments of life; they have gone already.
Much has gone already in other ways. The Treaty of Amsterdam is a further step along the road to a European state. Of course it is not yet fully formed, but each treaty amendment has taken us along the road. Nothing in any of the treaty amendments has reversed the direction of the march or even put a roadblock in the way.
I was reflecting on this treaty the other day when I took a few moments off for some lighter reading and turned to the New York Times. It led me down an interesting path of thought. I read therein that last week the electors of the State of Maine voted in a referendum--the result of which was mandatory upon the state legislature--for the repeal of the state's legislation banning discrimination on grounds of sex, in
I now return to the European question. In similar fashion, this treaty imposes an obligation which has to a considerable extent been accepted by signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights and which will soon be justiciable directly in our courts. Perhaps I may remind noble Lords of Article F(1), to which reference has already been made. That article states:
That is great stuff; I have no objection to that. But what are human rights? Which freedoms are fundamental? If those questions had been asked 50 or 75 years ago, the answers would have been different to those that would be given today. Is it a fundamental human right to be allowed to join a trade union? Is it a human right to carry arms? The US Constitution would appear to think so. Is there a fundamental human right to a minimum wage or to the right to work or, perhaps more controversially, to take drugs or, even more controversially, to engage in sex with children? Some of these things sound outlandish to us but they are no more outlandish than some rights accepted today would have sounded 30 years ago.
While the citizens of Maine can speak and have perhaps struck down laws which are unjust, the 14th Amendment still stands, not because the citizens are citizens of the State of Maine but because they are citizens of the United States of America.
If at some future stage any one of the states of the European Union should enact legislation which the others consider as outlandish, as perhaps many people consider the views of the citizens of the state of Maine in their referendum last week, there is now a power within the European Union to act on that member state concerned--and to act in an extraordinary manner. It can suspend the right of that state but not its obligations.
Therefore, such a state would be able to be deprived of its vote in the Council of Ministers. There are special procedures set out under which a unanimous vote would be one where a member state was not allowed to have a vote. We only had to wait 25 years or so for a unanimous vote with one dissenter to come about--1984. Then, while the dissenter is deprived of its vote, all sorts of things can be done by majority voting or even by unanimity. The structure of the voting procedures in the Council of Ministers could be changed in the absence of that member state.
The question I ask therefore, the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Tombs, and which many noble Lords must ask, is this: after the ratification of this treaty, will the United Kingdom be more like the United Kingdom we were when we entered into the European
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