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Lord Monson: My Lords, the Maastricht Treaty was sold to the people of the United Kingdom and the people in the rest of the EEC, as it was then known, on the understanding that new, intrusive laws, regulations and directives and an extension of qualified majority voting would be counter-balanced by the introduction of the principle of subsidiarity. That promise must have been critical in tipping the scales of public acceptability, not least in France and Denmark.
Although nebulous and ambiguous in many respects, and although philosophically dubious, as the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, pointed out, subsidiarity seemed to represent an advance of sorts. One remembers how exultant the last government were after the Edinburgh Summit, as the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, reminded us. But what a damp squib that turned out to be. How little of substance has been repatriated to the people. Indeed, if the people of France and Denmark had realised that they had been sold subsidiarity on a false prospectus, would they have voted respectively for the Maastricht Treaty on the narrowest of margins? Almost certainly not.
A Danish MEP has discovered that legally binding EU diktats--regulations and directives--have soared from 680 in 1973 to 14,071 in 1996, the last year for which statistics are available. Moreover, such diktats increased during the period of subsidiarity from 8,507 to the aforesaid 14,071. That is an increase of 65.4 per cent. in less than four years.
The noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, says that subsidiarity has meant that many draft directives have been withdrawn. Thank goodness for that! The position would have been even worse otherwise. I calculate that these directives and regulations have increased by 13.5 per cent. per annum compound before subsidiarity was introduced and by just over 18 per cent. per annum since.
Apologists for this state of affairs will argue that changed circumstances necessitate new or changed laws and regulations. But even if one were to accept that argument, what about old and arguably redundant laws, directives and regulations which conflict with subsidiarity? Can one round up all those escaped horses and herd them back into the stable, the doors of which were left open for 20 years or more? The answer of course is no. The villain of the piece, as the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, reminded us, is the acquis communautaire, the ground conquered--or, less emotively, occupied--over the years by the EEC, the EC or the EU, in its various manifestations.
Until the Amsterdam Treaty it was still not 100 per cent. certain how rigid and immovable the acquis was. There was still some hope that the occasional loophole could be found. But, unhappily, this treaty now declares the acquis to be totally sacrosanct. Such a proposal demonstrates, like nothing else does, the immense gulf between the Community elite and the people of the EU. Of the hundreds of millions of voters in the Community, one can confidently predict that at least 95 per cent., were the question put to them, would see no reason for the acquis to be set in tablets of stone. One can also confidently predict that if the question were put to them 80 per cent. or more of voters across the Community could visualise at least one area where they would dearly like to see the occupied ground re-conquered by their own country for the benefit of themselves and their fellow countrymen, and quite possibly others as well.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I wonder at the modesty of this new clause. The noble Lord, Lord Pearson, is asking that a Minister of the Crown shall lay before both Houses of Parliament a report containing details of the application in the United Kingdom and in the European Union of the protocol to the treaty establishing the European Community on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. All he is doing is asking that Parliament should have laid on the table before it what is happening under subsidiarity and be able, if it so wishes, to discuss
I think it is altogether a good thing that this amendment, modest though it is, should have been moved. It will give the House the opportunity to decide whether it wants to know what is happening to its powers, to the powers of the House of Commons and to the powers of the Government as more powers are transferred in this and other treaties to the institutions of Europe. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, criticised the Conservatives, and presumably Mr. Major in particular, because they did not take credit for subsidiarity. I seem to remember that Mr. Major came back saying that on this particular issue and on others he had won "Game, set and match". I know that he is a cricket enthusiast and not a tennis enthusiast. But I really do believe that he should have understood what "Game, set and match" means. It means that he won everything; but, as we have found, he did not win very much at all.
In 1997 there was a net increase of 721 in Community instruments. So there has not been much subsidiarity there. Every instrument that the Community passes is an instrument which Parliament here does not have to pass. We really have to wonder where it will all stop and how Parliament will be able to decide just what it is here for. After all, who decides whether a matter is within Community competence or whether it is a subsidiarity matter? It is not Parliament which decides; it is not this House or the House of Commons which will decide whether or not the matter is subsidiary. It will be the Commission and, in the last analysis, the European Court of Justice. So Parliament will have nothing to say, except in so far as it will be allowed to say it, although do very little about it, if this amendment is passed. It is a modest amendment to which we should really all agree.
The noble Lord, Lord Hurd, when he was Foreign Secretary, said that he was fed up with the European Community getting in to the nooks and crannies of our affairs. What is certain is that since he made that statement, which is a very good one, the European Union has intervened in even more nooks and even more crannies of our national life. There is the question of duty free goods. That will be decided not by Britain but by the European Union. These people are supposed to be concerned about building the people's Europe, about which the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, is to have a conference on 6th and 7th, or 7th and 8th, of next month. But far from listening to what the people are saying about duty free goods, an issue which will affect tens of thousands of British jobs, they have ignored public opinion, they have ignored the newspapers, they have ignored the trade unions and they have even ignored the British Government. They have said that they are not even prepared to reconsider the matter. Some subsidiarity there!
I urge noble Lords to think very deeply on this matter. I feel sure that if they do think deeply on it they will come to the conclusion that this is the least they can do to ensure that Parliament knows what is happening. I support the amendment.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, there is a large gulf between those of us who believe that one should mistrust other governments on principle as setting out in combinations to do down the interests of the British people and those who see international co-operation as in the British interest. It is of course the case that we have given up some of our sovereignty to a number of international organisations. The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, referred to losing British sovereignty over defence. We have been a member of NATO which has steadily grown more integrated over the past 50 years. To that extent we have shared our sovereignty although perhaps we have given it up to the Americans rather more than to others. That is part of the process of international co-operation.
Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, NATO is a group of countries freely discussing together, each taking their national interests into account, and very often reaching a common decision by consensus. What we are concerned about now is not that, but a group of unelected, unappointed officials, one might say--I am speaking about the Commission as distinct from the Council--who make the decision first whether or not subsidiarity should be required and whether or not proportionality is appropriate. As has been said before, this is coming from the top down and it is not a free discussion between equals coming to a decision, which is the situation in NATO. That is a very different situation.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire My Lords, the noble Baroness and I clearly differ in our understanding of the decision-making procedures in NATO and the European Union. The annual report on subsidiarity and proportionality to which my noble friend Lady Williams referred, comes from the Council Secretariat and not from the Commission. That secretariat operates for the Council of Ministers which consists of elected ministers of national governments. It is they who take the decisions that the Commission proposes.
The largest area in which business has grown in the past five years in the European Union--I have this from people in the Council Secretariat who service committees--has had very little to do with the Commission. It has been under the third pillar and it has been to do with police, asylum, etc. The British Government, under our previous Home Secretary, Mr. Michael Howard, were very actively concerned with pushing forward closer co-operation in that area. That has nothing to do with the Commission grabbing powers; it has to do with responding to international developments. I recall Michael Howard saying to a Committee of this House some months ago that he regarded that as part of his normal business as Home Secretary.
When one talks about subsidiarity and proportionality we are concerned with the question of what should best be done at which level. I and many of my colleagues--
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