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I was asked whether part of economic and monetary union is tax harmonisation. As far as I know, that was not discussed at Cardiff. What I am doing is making a Statement about what was discussed at the European Council in Cardiff. The noble Lord said that enlargement had not got off to a flying start and asked, "What about the CAP?" I put back to him, "What about Agenda 2000?", which is well on the Community agenda and, one hopes, will be resolved in the course of the next 12 months--by March 1999, if I remember rightly.
The noble Lord also referred to subsidiarity and asked whether it is a fraud. He thinks it is a fraud. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister does not think it is a fraud. He believes that it is perfectly possible to devise a relationship between the European institutions and the member states in which more decisions are taken by the member states and fewer--but, in the words of M. Santer, perhaps better decisions--are taken at the centre. That seems to be a sensible concept and one which I hope will gain the approval not only of a majority of this House but indeed of the country as a whole.
Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, I wish to make three points of a non-controversial nature on the Statement delivered by the Prime Minister in another place. I found it a little remarkable--this has been a matter of concern to all members of all parties--that there was no mention at all of the prevention of fraud in Community institutions--I would emphasise that--or any incisive statement that there is a real determination among the institutions and in the member states to deal with fraud. It is relegated to about three words in paragraph 56 of the President's conclusions, which are made available together with the speech of the Prime Minister.
My second point arises on the British contribution. I had rather hoped that the Prime Minister would take a slightly more robust attitude than he in fact did towards the British net contribution and the abatement
Finally, I was a little worried about Annexe 2 to the presidency conclusions relating to Kosovo. I noted with some regret that the remainder of the member states did not take the more incisive view backed by action taken by our own country together with the United States with regard to the operation of NATO over the question of Kosovo.
Lord Richard: My Lords, as regards the last point, I believe that my noble friend is wrong. My information is that there was unanimity on the question of Kosovo. The European Union is not a military organisation. If action is to be taken, clearly it would have to be done by NATO.
I would have thought that the Government's position on fraud is pretty well known. As far as I know, it was reiterated at Cardiff. I cannot accept my noble friend's strictures concerning the UK budget rebate. Perhaps I may repeat two sentences from my right honourable friend's Statement. He said,
Lord Beloff: My Lords, can the noble Lord confirm that the discussion about bringing the institutions closer to the people means accentuation of the role of national parliaments rather than the transfer of further powers to the European Parliament?
Lord Richard: My Lords, I do not believe that there was any discussion at Cardiff which would lead to the conclusion or implication that the European Council was in favour of transferring more powers to the European Parliament. The discussion that took place with the president of the European Parliament in Cardiff was more concerned with looking at the terms and conditions that the members of the European Parliament possess at present rather than contemplating that it should be given greater powers.
Lord Grenfell: My Lords, will my noble friend the Leader of the House be surprised to hear that there is at least one noble Lord on the Back Benches who believes that the six-month presidency was rather a good one under the circumstances? Does he not agree that the March 1999 deadline for completing the deal on the Agenda 2000
Does my noble friend also agree that as regards what the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, said concerning slippage, there are two very good reasons why the enlargement process will take longer than originally contemplated? The first is that nothing will happen about reform until after the German elections. Secondly, the candidate countries themselves are now beginning to realise, as they enter the negotiations, just how complex they are and that they would rather they took longer and got it right than that the negotiations were rushed and they got it wrong.
Lord Richard: My Lords, I believe that my noble friend is quite right on his first point. When the European Union is taking decisions it is very helpful to have a deadline to which it has to work. Therefore, the imposition of the deadline for Agenda 2000 does two things; namely, it concentrates the minds of those who have to take the decisions and, secondly, it makes the decisions themselves more likely.
Concerning the second point made by my noble friend, he again is quite right. The enlargement process is extremely complicated and more so than some of the others. I believe I said a little earlier this afternoon that we have to look not only at the ways in which the enlargement countries adapt to the Union, but also at the ways in which the Union will have to adapt to them. What is extremely significant in some ways about enlargement is that decisions on it have been taken at all because the complexity of the issue is immense. However, the political and economic advantages of an enlarged Community are also immense and therefore worth the complexity and the difficulties of the process.
The Earl of Buchan: My Lords, I hope to address noble Lords on the subject of Scotland after the ex-Cardiff pronunciamento from the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal. I am at some double disadvantage here. I had confidently expected to be number 20, 30 or 40 in the enormous list of speakers, but having to bat at number four means that I am deprived of the right to make a short speech along the lines of, "Everything that could be said about this Bill has been said by other noble Lords", followed by a quick return to the seat.
A strong believer in the Union by training and by sentiment, I look with horror on the work of an Administration apparently determined to mutilate the Union and then stand by, presumably, lamenting and wringing its hands as it watches its dismemberment. As a direct descendant of a member of the old Scottish parliament--unkindly dismissed by the noble Lord, Lord Steel, in his speech--who spoke at the time against the Union, but voted for it but was not one of the Peers who were richer as a result, I believe that, by inheritance, I have a claim to fair-mindedness.
My objection to the Bill is not merely prejudice or bias. It is just that it is hard to decide whether the "doing" of the Bill is worse than the deed itself. By the "doing", I am in fact referring to the Bill rushed through last summer, when no details at all were given on the subject of devolution for Scotland. I have already referred to the deed.
There may be Members of your Lordships' House who, like me, from habit or better reasons, read the Murdoch Sunday broadsheet. They may have spotted an article on Scots, the essence of which was that all Scots do not love all other Scots all the time, contrary perhaps to impressions given by spin doctors from Millbank when they are talking about Ministers in another place who, apparently, disagree with each other.
The title of the article was, "Aye, Jimmy, it's a grand sport is pulling the legs off a coo". It purported to be a review of a book by an Englishman entitled Bloody Scotland. Its merit was that it reminded one that from time to time Scots can be quite horrible to each other--Highlander versus Lowlander, and both against those in the Borders.
In the article, which I cannot believe no noble Lord read, there was a reference to a 14th century Earl of Buchan. I must digress on this. It recorded him as having set fire to a forest; driving out the animals and the inhabitants; killing the animals and eating them; killing the inhabitants and allowing them to be eaten by wolves. My family feel strongly that that is a libel. According to our records, the man in question most definitely had a social conscience. He might even have supported the Equal Opportunities Commission. He was a man in advance of his time. We believe that he was merely trying to conduct a census. In encouraging the inhabitants to come out of the forest, they over-reacted and afterwards everyone said, "It seemed like a good idea at the time".
Reverting to the serious point of the article, it served as a reminder of the violent things that Scots can do to each other in good causes. I have already referred to the Highlanders versus the Lowlanders. Let us hope that after independence, unable to blame the Union for its troubles, Scotland does not revert to endless squabbling.
Your Lordships may well ask why I talk about independence for Scotland in the context of a devolution Bill. It is because, although I deplore it, I think that one will produce the other--unless, that is, the Scots come to their financial senses. Sage and savant Billy Connolly
Perhaps noble Lords will be familiar with the two rather dry figures that I dug out of a report, which emphasise what Scotland gets out of the Union. Per person, government expenditure in 1996-97 in Scotland was £4,826 whereas in England it was only £3,885. Where is the difference to come from? Not, incidentally, from oil. Therefore, perhaps I may offer a tiny word of advice to the Minister: how about using as a slogan for those who do not think that independence is right, "Vote for independence and be poorer"?
The point of this small speech is to ask what we are to do. If the Union between England and Scotland dissolves, rending apart monarchy and state with all its ramifications, and if we are removed from our fealty to the Crown, what should we do? I shall set about establishing my proper claim to the throne of Scotland, which I believe is the only legitimate Stuart claim, based on the wishes of James VI in 1625. I hope that I shall not have to establish that claim, but I believe that I will.
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