|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Monkswell: I had not intended to intervene in this debate but I am driven to my feet by the contributions of both Front Bench speakers opposite. I may not have heard the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, correctly, but I thought I heard him say that not all the amendments of the official Opposition were yet on the Marshalled List and that further amendments would be tabled at a later stage of the Bill. Is the noble Lord speaking about a further Committee day? Is he telling the Committee that the official Opposition intends to table further amendments to be considered at a later stage in Committee or that it intends to table amendments at Report stage? Before he responds and while I am on my feet, I point out that this is the Committee stage of the Bill. I hope that we shall not have to sit through Second Reading speeches, as we have just heard from the Liberal Democrat Benches. I hope that the normal procedures of the House will obtain in future.
Lord Moynihan: Perhaps I may assist the Committee on the extremely important point just raised by the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell. The issue before the Committee at the moment relates to Article 1 which is widely embracing. Before Committee stage a number of your Lordships were concerned that specific separate amendments were required to give full and detailed coverage of those points that had to be gone through in considerable detail, and that just to have a broad amendment, as in another place, might not give noble Lords time to go in sufficient depth into the specific areas covered by Article 1.
For that reason, your Lordships will see that there is a range of amendments, not least Amendments Nos. 6 to 9, that breaks down the issues covered by Article 1. In another place those matters were coupled, but in this House it was felt wise to have a number of opening statements, in the form of a short debate under
I also assure the noble Lord that on future Committee days it is likely that the Opposition will be tabling further amendments, but they will not have direct relevance to Article 1. They will relate to the future stages of the consideration of this Bill which it is not intended to cover today. As noble Lords will have seen, the principal debate today is likely to be on European and monetary union. That is to be covered by the next group of amendments. I hope that that assists the noble Lord in explaining that we have covered the points that he has rightly drawn to our attention.
Lord Monson: The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, reminds us that the Amsterdam Treaty permits the European Court of Justice to extend its powers into aspects of home affairs from which it has hitherto been excluded. He went on to say that it was only a marginal encroachment. Marginal encroachment it may be, but, as we have seen so often before, once the ECJ gets even its little toe in the door leading to an area from which it has previously been excluded that door is inexorably pushed further and further open.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: I thank the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, for the spirit in which they have approached the Committee stage of the Bill. I should say at the outset that the Government cannot accept the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, which would have the effect of excluding from the European Communities Act 1972 all of the provisions of Article 1 of the Amsterdam Treaty. Since some of those provisions give rise to Community rights and obligations, if passed the amendment could prevent us from ratifying the treaty.
I am glad to say, however, that I agree with much of what the noble Lord has said about the handling of the Bill in the House. Although I do not intend now to delve into the detail of the treaty, any more than the noble Lord did in moving his amendment, I believe that noble Lords will have ample opportunity to do so during Committee stage, and that is as it should be. I am glad that we have a substantial amount of time already set aside for our detailed examination of the treaty. A full three days have already been allocated. It is right that the Chamber should use the outstanding experience and expertise on European issues which many noble Lords on all sides will bring to bear on our debates.
Before the election in May the Labour Party set out in a number of different documents its approach to European issues. I am confident that we shall see the commitments made in those documents, and those made when in opposition, fulfilled in the terms of the treaty. The fact that at Amsterdam we fulfilled the goals that we set ourselves was reflected in the overwhelming support which the Bill received in another place.
The Amsterdam Treaty is by no means as far-reaching as the Single European Act or the Maastricht Treaty; but it contains many useful improvements of the kind that we set out in our pre-election manifesto as the Government's ambitions. The treaty also fulfilled a different function. It was the essential precursor to the start of our enlargement process. If we had not reached agreement at Amsterdam enlargement would not have had the flying start that we have been able to give it during the British presidency.
Therefore, this is a useful treaty which touches on the real concerns of ordinary people in areas like employment, environment and the fight against crime. It is a treaty which consolidates past agreements rather than redefines the structure of the Union. We shall be able to consider all these points and more in the debates which I am sure many noble Lords will enjoy in the coming days.
In May, the Labour Government were given a popular mandate to make a break with the previous administration's handling of European Union issues and to follow an agenda along the lines that we have described. In the Amsterdam treaty, in the November job summit and in their position on economic and monetary union, and now in their handling of the presidency, the Government have shown that they can do business in Europe in a co-operative way which enhances the UK's ability to influence the way in which the Union develops. That is good for Britain and it is good for Europe. This is a treaty entirely consistent with that policy. I commend it to the Committee.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: I appreciate what the position is, and that there have been some declarations from each of the Front Benches. I do not intend to speak for long on this issue. There is considerable disagreement in some parts of the Committee, particularly with some of the remarks that have been made this afternoon. I hope sincerely that we shall have detailed and long discussions about the matters involved.
I want to emphasise the fact that in another place the treaty was given scant regard. Indeed, it was treated as if it were not a 3,000-mile service but a 1,000-mile service, and that is just not good enough when we are talking about the ratchet effect of further European integration which is included in the Amsterdam treaty.
For example, I am confused--I hope that we can get my confusion levelled out--about the position of the WEU. It seems that there was a statement about the WEU and what its position would be, but that statement was made in advance of the treaty being signed. As far as I can see, it was made after the IGC in June. So we do not know exactly what is the position of the WEU within the treaty and what indeed it seeks to do. What is certain is that in J(1), for example, all reference to member states is removed. It is the Union, not in conjunction with the member states, which will be defining and implementing a common foreign and security policy. Article J(7) appears to give the WEU an operational role and co-operation in the field of armaments, and may indeed give it an armaments procurement role within the treaty. Those are some of the matters that we shall want to examine.
I heard my noble friend the Minister mention three days in Committee. I sincerely hope that that was a slip of the tongue, because I do not believe that we can examine all the matters that need to be examined in this important treaty in as short a period as three days. I hope that she will be able to tell me that a great deal more time than that will be available.
Lord Moynihan: I endorse the points that have just been made. I believe that I heard the Minister correctly when she said that three days had already been "allocated". I should have been equally concerned if she had merely mentioned that three days were all that we were going to have in Committee. The thrust of what noble Lords have said on the amendment underlines something which is of great concern to me; that is, not least because of the application of the Guillotine in another place, we need a great deal of time to examine in a forensic manner each and every detail that concerns Members of this place in a wide-ranging treaty.
This is no measure that should be treated lightly by this place, nor is it a measure that can be dealt with in one, two or three days. I anticipate that considerably more time will be required in Committee. That is a matter for your Lordships and for the interest shown in the debate. I already know--I hope from the nodding opposite me that I have confirmation from the Government Front Bench--that more than three days are already anticipated for the Committee's consideration of the Bill. It is essential that they are.
In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, I say that I hope that by the end of the Committee proceedings she will have a clearer view of the Opposition's vision for Europe; what our agenda for Europe would be; what our concerns are; and that that agenda will be a constructive one. Equally, she will be aware that we shall be looking in detail at many aspects
I believe that there is widespread agreement in this place about the benefits of enlargement. There should also be widespread concern that the institutional reforms which are necessary and a prerequisite for enlargement have not been put in place as a priority. Without those reforms, many of the aspirations of those who seek enlargement will lie fallow.
I listen carefully to the Minister's arguments. I repeat once more, for the benefit of the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, and others, that all the critical issues will be debated in full. I give him and the Committee an undertaking that while I am at this Dispatch Box, we shall be pushing all the time for every detail and every explanation that we require to ensure that the Bill is properly analysed and effectively scrutinised by your Lordships. There will be no shortage of opportunity today when we reach the EMU implications of the Bill, and possibly later today when we reach flexibility--although I anticipate that there will be a great many contributions on EMU--and in future days in Committee, for a full examination of the Bill's contents. Having listened carefully to the Minister, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.