(HANSARD) in the second session of the fifty-third parliament of the united kingdom of great britain and northern ireland commencing on the thirteenth day of june in the fiftieth year of the reign of
HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH II
VOLUME DCLI ELEVENTH VOLUME OF SESSION 200203 House of Lords
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, the Government will produce two Command Papers in July on the work of the convention and a White Paper in advance of the intergovernmental conference due to begin in October.
Lord Blackwell: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that encouraging reply. Will the Command Papers or the White Paper set out the detailed analysis that I requested in my Question? Secondly, given the complexity of the issues, will it be possible for officials to be made available to brief Members of the House on some of the issues, perhaps through the Joint Committee on the European convention?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, so far only parts 1, 2 and 4 of the convention are in draft. We hope to have part 3 later this week. The two documents on the convention will be largely factual statements of what is contained, although I understand that there will be a foreword by my right
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, we have been over this before. If by that the noble Lord means to imply a referendum, I am sorry to have to disappoint him, as I have had to disappoint some of your Lordships on previous occasions. As your Lordships are aware, in Britain Parliament has the opportunity to scrutinise treaties before ratification. That has happened with all the European treaties since we joined the European Community and that is planned for this treaty too.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I am extremely disappointed by the Minister's reply. We are dealing with extremely contentious issues. At the very least we should be talking about Green Papers and Select
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I have not proposed anything except to say that there are definitely plans for two Command Papers and one White Paper. I have not ruled anything out. I specifically told the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, that Her Majesty's Government would try to be as helpful as possible on the issue and that I was discussing it with my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary and my honourable friend the Minister for Europe. I understand that the Constitution Committee of your Lordships' House has already made a request similar to that made by the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell. I am sure that the European scrutiny committee will also have a view on the issue. I am happy to talk to the chairmen or to the full committees, both of which have a strong interest in this matter, to learn what they would find helpful. The specific suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, has not been ruled out. I made it clear that it was under discussion.
Lord Maclennan of Rogart: My Lords, we very much welcome the Government's commitment to publish their view, particularly in view of the fact that, on Friday at the last plenary session of the convention, the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, felt moved to list so many objections to the draft of part 3, which was in front of the convention, that it almost called in question the Prime Minister's judgment that the convention's findings form a basis for negotiation. Can the Minister make it clear that in one or other of their publications, the Government's objectionswhich now look far greater in number than those of any other participant in the conventionwill be made available so that we can decide whether, once again, we resemble the Scottish mother looking at her son marching with the soldiery, saying, "Look, look, they are all out of step but our Jock"?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, as we know, there is a wide variety of views about the convention, not only in your Lordships' House but elsewhere. The Government's detailed position will be set out in a White Paper published in preparation for the IGC. That will explain the Government's position on the issues in relation to a constitution. I hope that your Lordships will find that helpful.
The noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, asked for something slightly different. He wanted a comment, article by article, on the 460 articles of the convention, and he wanted explanations as to how they might be an extension of European powers. I understand the noble Lord's point; it is slightly different from the rather more strategic overview of the Government's position on different parts of the convention. As I have made clear to the House, what he has asked for has not been ruled out or agreed but is under discussion, and the Government are seeking to be helpful to your Lordships in another place.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, it is up to them to defend their position. The Government have been very clear that we have great faith in parliamentary democracy in this country. It is at the heart of our system, which is not a system that has been based on referendums. I am bound to say to your Lordships that what was good enough for the other side when they were in government is good enough for this side when we are.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the Civil Service played a full part in advising the Government on the recent announcement of proposals for constitutional change, consistent with the requirements set out in the ministerial code and the Civil Service code.
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