|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Baroness Ludford: My Lords, is it not the case that the real agenda of many Conservative Euro-sceptics is to take the UK out of the European Union altogether? On the question of subsidiarity, is it not outrageous that they are quick to accuse Brussels of a breach of subsidiarity but at the same time involve themselves in the domestic affairs of Denmark by interfering in Denmark's euro referendum?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness that it is a matter of great concern to hear reports of such interference. If it is happening, it is right that we should deplore it.
Lord Harrison: My Lords, can the Minister give one example of co-operation, enhanced or otherwise, in the European Union by the previous government? Does she agree with me that Britain's entry into and exit from the exchange rate mechanism perhaps provides a lamentable example?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I would love to agree wholeheartedly with my noble friend. I must confess that I cannot immediately think of one example, but I am sure that noble Lords opposite may have a longer memory than mine.
Lord Tebbit: My Lords, to pick up the expression of my noble friend Lord Lamont, is it not time that the British dog got out of the federalist manger? If we were to allow those who wish to create a federal Europe--certainly the German foreign minister is among them--to get on with it, among those countries that
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the noble Lord is talking about a century which has now gone. The Government are committed to the future and to reality. They remain centred on that. Britain's interests are best placed with Europe. As long as this Government remain in office, that is where we will be.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, is it not the case that if there had been more enhanced co-operation between France and Germany over the past 130 years we would all have been saved a great deal of trouble? In the forthcoming IGC and in regard to the Treaty of Nice, should not the attitude of the Government be relaxed and flexible towards these bilateral links that other European powers may wish and these pioneering ideas which may or may not carry European integration forward? I suspect that in some cases it will be backwards. What about the alliances that we should be forming with other European countries? Should we not be much more supportive towards, for instance, Poland and the other applicant states, which are now becoming increasingly disillusioned by enlargement and threatening the entire movement towards greater European integration?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, as I have already said, closer co-operation is possible under the conditions laid down in the Amsterdam Treaty. The noble Lord knows that we are encouraging Poland and the other applicant states to join. That situation will continue.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): My Lords, no timetable has yet been drawn up for moving to directly elected regional government in England. We remain committed to do so where there is support demonstrated in referendums. In the meantime, governance in the regions is evolving through the work of the regional chambers, regional development agencies, government offices and others at the regional, sub-regional and local levels.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I recognise some of what the noble Lord says. Many people in the northern regions wish to see some movement towards a greater degree of accountability of regional government in their areas. That is not necessarily the same as the demands that have been made in Scotland and Wales or, indeed, in Greater London. We are looking at possible solutions that will suit each region. For that reason, the regional chambers and others within each region are considering possible constitutional settlements. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, was involved in the North West constitutional convention which recently brought forward its interim report.
Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the northern region has not only set the pace in this matter, but has also set an excellent example in how regional government ought to be implemented? If, as I understand, the policy is to be implemented region by region, can the Minister give an assurance that, in view of what has been achieved so far in the northern regions, every possible help will be given by the Government to encourage full implementation as soon as possible?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I recognise, as I have recognised on previous occasions, that developments in some northern regions have moved somewhat ahead of those elsewhere. I believe that the North West is now catching up with speed. The detailed work undertaken by local government and business within the northern regions must be taken into account when the Government decide on their priorities for regional government. Whether the model that has been developed in the North East is directly applicable elsewhere, is, I believe, a matter for each region to consider. However, the work that has been completed will be fully recognised.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, can the Minister confirm that the boundaries of the new regions were agreed with the European Union? If that is the case, would he admit that it may be at least a twinkle in the eye of Brussels that any new regionally elected assemblies should end up reporting to our European masters, thus making Westminster more redundant than even our colleagues on the Liberal Democrat Benches would like?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the fevered imagination of the noble Lord as regards all things European never ceases to impress. The development of more regional government and the other elements of devolution and local decision-making which are supported and will continue to be supported by this Government are matters of British and English democracy. They are not determined by Brussels and are not relevant to any ambitions held in Brussels or elsewhere. If put in place, they will reflect the desires of English people in their own regions.
Lord Shutt of Greetland: My Lords, I should declare an interest as a trustee of the Joseph Rowntree reform trust which supports the campaign for English regions. Last week we heard announcements regarding the spending review and transport plans until 2010. Bearing in mind the incredible increase in resources to be made available to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and, in particular as regards transport to London, is it not the case that not to have established any form of timetable suggests a somewhat pedestrian approach to the Question put by my noble friend Lord Greaves?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, allocations made in the SR 2000 announcement and those concerning the 10-year plan for transport, which relate to my own department, will greatly benefit all regions in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Some decisions, relating, for example, to future transport proposals, should, indeed, be taken at the regional level. The pace of change is not determined by the Government or by announcements made by the Chancellor. The pace is determined by the people of the regions themselves.
Lord Smith of Leigh: My Lords, as the immediate past chairman of the North West Regional Assembly, perhaps I may thank the Minister for his comments on the progress being made. Does my noble friend agree that the most important process which now needs to be developed is that of ensuring that a proper debate takes place? This issue is not much talked about among ordinary people in the North West, or even in the North East. Does my noble friend agree that more needs to be done to help local people understand how a system of devolved, elected regional assembly will benefit them?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I agree entirely with my noble friend. I was slightly cautious when the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, in raising the initial Question, implied that this is a matter of priority that is debated in every pub and club throughout the northern regions. The reality is that only a limited number of people have addressed the issue. I believe that more should be encouraged to do so. Indeed, as my noble friend stated, the next stage should be to develop a wider public debate.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|