HL Deb 20 December 1972 vol 337 cc1092-114

3.14 p.m.


My Lords, I hope that my noble friend Lord Lauderdale will not think it discourteous of me if I move the third Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper formally, in order to allow myself an opportunity to hear him develop his case and what he has to say on this Motion. Then, if your Lordships agree, I will reply to the points he has made. But, as I have no idea what he is going to say, I think it might be best if I were to listen to what he has to say first. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the Earl of Bessborough, the Earl of Mansfield, the Lord Brecon, the Baroness Elles, the Lord Gladwyn, the Lord O'Hagan, the Lord Reay and the Lord St. Oswald, be designated members of the European Parliament.—(Earl Jellicoe.)

THE EARL OF LAUDERDALE moved, as an Amendment to the Motion, at end to insert" for the remainder of this Session; and that those Lords designated members of the European Parliament thereafter shall only be so designated after a process of election". The noble Earl said: My Lords, may I begin by saying that I had taken care to warn both my noble friend the Leader of the House and the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, whom we are glad to see back and well, and also the noble Lord the Leader of the Liberal Peers, that I would be moving this Amendment and would be very happy to speak after they had done so if they preferred. In this season of good will your Lordships will expect me, no doubt, to be my usual brief, uncontroversial, unprovocative self; and I should like to begin by congratulating those whose names appeared last week in the Press and—surprise, surprise !—only on the Order Paper in their present form since yesterday. They deserve a double accolade for duty and for poverty combined. It is a burdensome, exacting task which I do not envy them. It is to be done on a pittance unworthy of their station. Those from this House even have to forfeit their Attendance Allowance here, I believe—I may stand corrected. One hears there is even a question about the origin and destination point regarding their travel expenses. One can picture them reduced to lodging in some dingy" Hotel Terminus". But other and wider questions deserve a serious answer.

Pending a system of direct election, which many people think could take a decade to devise, the Community treaties are identical whether it is the Treaty of Rome, Article 138, or Euratom, Article 108, or the Coal and Steel Community. Article 21, in that they require each national Parliament to name a delegation according to each State's own procedures. Therefore, we in the Parliament of Westminster need to work out a procedure which is proper to the European obligation we have undertaken and a procedure that is proper to our national tradition. We have to work it out certainly in this Parliament. I believe we must work it out desirably in this Session. And for the Lobby correspondents here and there to nick up the idea—goodness knows where from !—that the Government had no need to table such a Motion does of course make nonsense of Article 138; but I say that in passing.

It will be common ground that we want the strongest team possible; and may I say straightaway, we are very fortunate method of selection, we are very fortunate indeed in being invited to field a team of most remarkable and able people. We have to be thankful for that! But, no matter what the high qualities of those sent—and the names before us, as I say, are quite excellent—their strength as a delegation depends also on the strength of their mandate. What is it that enables the newest Member of another place, even in the trembling cocoon before he has made his maiden speech. to roll up his sleeves and tackle a Minister on behalf of constituents? It is his contested mandate, won from the electors voting by secret ballot. Those of your Lordships who have sat in another place will know very well what that mandate is, and how humbled and honoured one is to be saddled with it. And what is it perhaps that enables, or perhaps causes, noble Lords in this House to treat Ministers so gently? Surely, my Lords, it is that we lack that power of the popular mandate.

What, then, is the mandate of this team that is to be sent to Europe? Some of its members have no doubt been elected or else evolved by their minority group by a process at least equivalent to election. Others have been chosen by the Government Whips—and again I say they have made an excellent choice. But they have been chosen without any known electoral procedure whatsoever. The list has simply been laid before us after the fashion, alas! of some political Parties elsewhere whose record we would surely wish to eschew. The mandate of those team members whom we send is limited to the passage of this Motion.

My Lords, what happens elsewhere? In Holland they name their delegation from both Houses according to Party strengths. In Belguim they do the same. In Germany they do the same, but from the Bundestag alone. In Luxembourg they name them from the Parliamentary Foreign and Military Affairs Committee. But at some stage, I am informed, in most of these cases there is an actual process amounting to election. What then of Italy and France? Their teams are elected, in both cases, from both Chambers of Parliament by an open majority vote, and the question I put to your Lordships is whether we need in Britain, and whether we need in this Parliament, to be any less democratic than the others.

By Article 10 of the Treaty of Accession we owe the European Parliament some 36 representatives. In fact we are fielding 21: 18 Tories, 2 Liberals and one distinguished Independent chosen from among the Cross-Benches of this House. So we are 15 short. Should Parliament acquiesce in this? Had there been a system by which, for example, aspirants put their names forward openly and the House or Houses had been invited to pick so many on one Party or group ticket, so many on another, so many on a third, so many on a fourth—on such a quota basis, if it could have been agreed—I believe that aspirants would have been forthcoming for all tickets, even at the risk of losing their Party Whip in the process.

The strength and quality of our team's mandate is also in direct proportion to the measure of their accountability. To whom will these representatives be accountable? In what way will they be accountable? There is a rumour around in some quarters that in the Conservative Party it might be thought sufficient that the Conservative members of the team should report to private Party committees in another place (and maybe also here) behind closed doors. If that is thought to be sufficient, it simply is not good enough. I hope it is not thought so, and I hope that my noble friend, when he replies, will scotch that rumour straight away, for it would mean that a mandate lacking the fundament of free election would be matched by the harmless and painless sanction of accountability in secret. By our democratic and parliamentary tradition something much better is needed.

So too, it might seem, is the mood of the European Community if, despite the attitude of scepticism with which I am credited through recent events, I am at all correctly informed. But the mood was, for example, quite lately articulated by M. Etienne Dailly—and I apologise to the House in general and to my French-speaking friends here in particular for my pronunciation. He is the Vice-President of the French Senate and he said, in a recent lecture, that each national delegation to the European Parliament at least theoretically had the duty to make an annual report for their own Parliament about the work of the European Parliament. Perhaps I may (with apologies) quote his exact words. I shall take care to give them to Hansard so that if they cannot understand my pronunciation others will at least be able to read it. They are as follows: Signalons au passage, enfin, que chaque délégation nationale au sein de l'Assemblée Européenne a, théoriquement au moins, dans la systéme actuellement en vigaur, l'obligation d'élaborer un rapport d'information annuel portant sur l'activité de l'assemhlée et destiné au Parlement dont cette délégation émane.


Hear, hear!


My Lords, if the noble Earl the Leader of the House can do no more to-day, at least let us have his assurance that noble Lords despatched to Europe will be fully, openly and publicly accountable to this House. Perhaps a Select Committee could be set up to examine their programme and their performance, and report. Indeed, that is the kind of thing I had hoped that this Select Committee which we have just appointed would have the power, among other things, to consider but the terms of reference of this Committee, only disclosed this morning, are indeed so narrow that, as I read them, it would be precluded from even considering this aspect. Would the noble Earl the Leader of the House consider widening the Committee's terms of reference once its first, strictly limited, job is done, to embrace this question of accountability?

Then there is the duration of the mandate. As this Motion stands, simpliciter, unamended, and unless it is countermanded by some later Motion, either in this Parliament or in another, I understand it does not automatically lapse (like a Select Committee) at the end of a Session or at the end of a Parliament. What it does is to designate someone from this Parliament now—and in our case from this House now—as a member of the European Parliament, indefinitely and without any term being specified.

I cannot imagine that the Government intended us to pass a life sentence on our distinguished colleagues but that is what this Motion does, unless it is amended to-day or at some other time. Once our team is there and accepted, whether they come from this House or whether they come from another place, they are members of the European Parliament and that Parliament has no official cognisance of any change in the composition of Parliament in this country or as a result of any general election that may take place. One recognises readily enough that in the team there is a need for continuity, especially at the start and one can appreciate the thought that the team should go perhaps for two Sessions in the first instance. This point has been met by the French procedure. for they elect their team for two years at a time and make plain from the word" go" that the mandate is renewable.

My last point relates to the power of the Executive. We all realise that for reasons over which they could not have much, if any, control, the Government considered themselves to be faced with the need to act in something of a hurry. Many of us have already deplored the Executive's handling of the E.E.C. Bill; some of us think that it need not have been handled so brusquely; but that is water under the bridge. What emerges from the present affair is a massive increase in patronage at Government disposal—eighteen more placemen in the Government's pocket. That some of them will in fact be out of pocket at the end of it—and probably all of them—has nothing whatever to do with the case. Noble Lords who accept ennoblement and come to this House as a result of patronage may well lose materially by it, but the exercise of the right to recommend their appointment is nevertheless patronage.

The harsh and unpalatable fact is that the power of the Executive has increased once again. I well remember the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, rising to his feet, as he put it," at twenty minutes to midnight on August 7 only from a sense of duty," to make the very point that the power of the Executive had increased, was increasing and should be diminished. I endorse that and I sum up my point by asking whether this is a worthy way for the Mother of Parliaments to approach the European democratic system; is this the dimension of greatness? I beg to move.

Moved, As an Amendment to the Motion, at end to insert" for the remainder of this Session; and that those Lords designated members of the European Parliament thereafter shall only he so designated after a process of election".—(The Earl of Lauderdale.)

3.30 p.m.


My Lords, may I ask the Leader of the House for his advice on a matter? There are two important Motions standing on the Order Paper at the present time. I and perhaps other noble Lords consider this to be an important point. I think that my noble friend Lord Lauderdale will agree that he cannot make much progress with his Amendment at this point. It is however something which should be considered in greater detail before the next appointment or before the next Session of this Parliament or the European Parliament. Would it be possible, in order to prevent a delay in the other Motions which appear on the Order Paper coming forward, for my noble friend to say that the matter raised in the Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Lauderdale will be considered by this House in the near future, when we are enabled to have proper time to discuss what to me and others is an extremely important point?


My Lords, are we so strictly bound to a timetable that we cannot adequately discuss all these matters? Although two further Motions stand on the Order Paper, judging from the time at which we rose earlier in the week I would have thought that there was ample time to-day to discuss fully the Amendment moved by my noble friend Earl Lauderdale without cutting short the necessary time afterwards for debating the two other motions.

3.33 p.m.


My Lords, I hope that it will be in order for me now to make a few remarks about the Resolution and the Amendment moved by the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale. In one respect I agreed with the noble Earl: there will obviously have to be eventually direct elections to the European Parliament. The reasons for that have been given and they are well understood by anyone who knows anything about the Parliament in Strasbourg. It is difficult for the Parliament, if it is to have greater powers—Europeans hope that it will shortly have greater powers—to be manned by what are in fact very part-time politicians, since if they are also to discuss important matters elsewhere they will not be able to be in Strasbourg for the necessary period. Thus, I am certain that direct elections will come about, and sooner than the noble Earl and most people believe, if only because Ministers said at their Summit meeting in October that it was their intention to grant rather more powers to the European Parliament. There is every reason to suppose that in the near future they will give the European Parliament more powers, and when that happens it will become clearer than ever that direct elections of some kind are necessary.

Nobody knows better than I do how difficult it is to organise direct elections to a body like this. Various schemes have been put forward. We have Mr. Michael Stewart's plan, and my colleague, David Steel, has a plan, but eventually the Parliament itself will have to decide which scheme should be recommended. I have no doubt that within one or two years—I am willing to go out on a limb and say certainly within three years—this body will by one means or another be directly elected. However, for such time as it is not, the only possible means of manning it is for the various Parliaments to nominate members from their own countries and Parliaments, and our method of nomination seems to me at the moment to be reasonably good.

There is of course a great deal to be said, in principle, for the suggestion of the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, that eventually, and even before there are direct elections to the European Parliament, our members should somehow or other be elected by their own Parties in this House and in the other place. I do not think that would be very difficult to organise and I should regard it as a democratic way of proceeding. At the moment, however, that is not the case perhaps there has not been time to consider fully how it should be done. Also the Labour Party is not taking part in this operation, and no Party, certainly not the Tories or the Liberals, have actually proceeded to elections. Thus, the Members of this House who have been nominated have been, as it were, chosen by their own Whips in the last resort. It would in any case be rather unfortunate if the noble Earl's Amendment were accepted by the Government because we, the Members of this House who have been nominated, would in that case have no security of tenure, as I understand it, beyond eight months from now. Having tried to do our best and having learnt the rules of procedure. we might by that time find ourselves flung out by our Parties voting for somebody else.


My Lords, would the noble Lord care to move an Amendment to my Amendment, making it two Sessions?


My Lords, I will resist the temptation to do that. I believe that the sensible thing would he to nominate for the period of this Parliament the Members of this House who figure on the Order Paper, and if that is not clear from this proposal then perhaps the noble Earl, the Leader of the House, would agree either to say that it is the intention of the Government that they should be nominated for the period of this Parliament or even to move a small Amendment to make that abundantly clear.

The question of how the delegation, such as it is, should actually report to the House is important and it was rightly raised by the noble Earl. I imagine—I have not studied this matter at all—that it would be for the leader of the delegation as a whole (and he would be the leader of the delegation even if the Labour Party came in, as we hope it will do, within the next year) to put in an official report. It would be Mr. Peter Kirk in the present case. That report, as I see it, would be submitted to Parliament as a whole. If that is technically wrong I stand to be corrected. but I should have thought that it would be a sensible thing to do. and in the meantime, pending this official report. which would be a record of what happened. there should be no difficulty. and I suggest every advantage, in the leaders of the particular Party delegations in either House—the Liberal Party has only one in this House, myself, and my colleague Russell Johnston in the other place—making a statement from time to time about what had been achieved, the decisions that had been taken and what he thought had been or should have been done generally in the Session of the European Parliament. That would be one way of keeping everybody in both Houses informed as to the progress of events.

As regards patronage, of course in the present circumstances there is a certain amount of patronage owing to the fact that all members of this delegation are appointed by the Patronage Secretary—or the equivalent in this House—but as the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, said, it is not exactly a thing that everybody would covet for the reasons which he gave. He is shaking his head and no doubt the noble Earl himself would not covet the job at all. Therefore I cannot imagine that this would be considered to be in any way an abuse of patronage to nominate the people in the way in which it has been done.

One might say, in conclusion, that it is an anomaly that Members of an appointed, a non-elected House, should become members of this great democratic assembly which is after all democratic and which even now, is supposed to represent, in general, the will of the people. On the other hand, it is our Constitution; we are a part of Parliament; and therefore so long as there are no direct elections it is inevitable and right that certain Members of this House should be represented on the Parliament of Europe. The mere fact that we are non-elected and are, so to speak, nominated Members, increases the general desirability of proceeding to direct elections as soon as it is possible for them to be arranged. I repeat that I believe that this day of direct elections is going to come sooner than a great many of us now think. Personally I hope that it will arrive in the reasonably near future.


My Lords, may I add one remark on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Alport, that this is too wide and important a subject to be discussed at this time of the day? May I ask whether the noble Earl the Leader of the House feels like answering that question?


My Lords, I wonder whether I also could support what the noble Viscount, Lord Barrington, and the noble Lord, Lord Alport, have said, that it is wrong that we should have, almost as a procedural Motion, a matter of this kind. Although I know that in speaking for this side of the House we have certain inhibitions, nevertheless we do have a duty to look after the affairs of this House. I found the noble Earl's speech remarkably impressive except in one particular. He researches his speeches with immense care always and I am not sure from where he got the information, but had there been four lists there would have been nominations for the four, assuming he meant the fourth list applied to Her Majesty's loyal Opposition in this House.


My Lords, without wishing to disclose sources of information, perhaps it will content the noble Lord for a moment if I mention that there is the Bishops' Bar and there is also the place where we have tea downstairs.


My Lords, I am not quite sure where one goes in order to check information gathered in the Bishops' Bar but, as I say, my own researches, although they provided certain very interesting pieces of information in this regard, do not support what the noble Earl has said. However, I think that the noble Earl has said enough in his remarkable speech to indicate the wisdom of the Labour Party in not participating in this delegation. None of those questions which the noble Earl posed has been properly considered. We now have 10 or 20 minutes this afternoon in which to consider them. Considering the atmosphere generated by the Government's bulldozing of the E.E.C. Bill through the House, it was probably impossible to do anything better. We have a majority against entering the Community at all and we had a guillotine in operation in the other place when the Bill to legalise entry came before them. There has not been the right kind of atmosphere in which this sort of associated problem could be discussed. It needs a good deal of very careful and very constructive discussion. As I have said, I believe that there should be another opportunity for discussion because whatever we may do in the Labour Party at the end of 12 months, these points must be considered.

We had a remarkable example a few minutes ago about the difficulties that face the usual channels when lists of this kind are compiled. There were very bitter and wounding criticisms from behind me when it was a matter of selecting noble Lords to go on a committee dealing only with procedure. I can well imagine that my back would be absolutely riddled with darts if names were put forward for this Parliamentary delegation without some element of election. I cannot see that we could possibly satisfy the cross-section of opinion on the Benches behind me if it was left only to the usual channels. Therefore, as a matter, shall I say, of self-protection, something of the kind suggested by the noble Earl would seem to be desirable.

I would add one further comment. If we did have something of this sort it would be the only element of democracy in the entire set up of the Community. Nowhere throughout the whole of the E.E.C. machinery is there anything that resembles a democratic procedure and that is a matter for careful reflection. However, my Lords, so far as we are concerned, we did not believe that the time was ripe to take a decision here. My Party have delayed that decision and I believe that they were right so to do. I believe that there are a number of very real problems that ought to be properly considered and I hope that after the Recess we shall have time to consider them.

3.48 p.m.


My Lords, before my noble friend replies to the debate, I should like to make one point in regard to the fascinating speech made by my noble friend Lord Lauderdale. He spins his dialectic web so skilfully that one does not always observe what are the weaknesses in it. In fact, exactly the same process will be gone through in the House of Commons, and I hope that in years to come the Opposition Party will be taking part in it also. The fact that Members of the House of Commons are democratically elected by the voters of this country will not make any difference to the way in which these delegations are elected at the end of the day. At the end of the day certain names will be put before the other place; they will be moved in a Motion by the Government of the day and I hope they will be approved of. Of course, consultation will have taken place behind the scenes. I do not know what sort of democratic processes go on in the Party of the noble Lord. Lord Beswick, but I know what go on in mine and I am very certain that if the usual channels neglected to see that these consultations followed a democratic course, there would be very serious trouble. But at the end of the day there is no alternative but to put a list of names in front of this noble Chamber or the other place and for that to be decided upon as the delegates who are to represent us.

The basic point made by my noble friend Lord Lauderdale in criticising the Motion is really wrong. I have no difficulty in agreeing, and in fact welcoming, his suggestion that there should be an annual report. I could almost bear it if it were to be made in French if it is as Anglicised as my noble friend's point because I can almost understand it—but an annual report would certainly be valuable. Of course there are all kinds of details that have to be worked out. I would hope for myself that noble Lords who are good enough to serve on this delegation will continue for several years so that they can get continuity and understand what is going on.

The major point I want to make, and briefly, because I do not want to hold up the other debates which are coming, is that my noble friend Lord Lauderdale's basic point is fallacious anyhow. We can never have the strength here of noble Lords being elected by an electoral process by the citizens of this country. I say" never", but we cannot visualise it at present—certainly as the House is now constituted. Therefore, all that we can have here is a vote of the Chamber, and I suspect that that is all that the other House will have, too. I hope that my noble friend the Leader of the House, when he replies, will not allow too much weight on the basis of my noble friend's argument.


My Lords, I speak but rarely, and briefly I hope, and therefore I will detain only for a few moments those noble Lords who, quite rightly, wish to get on with the other debates. I think we are touching on a most important and vital point raised by my noble friend, Lord Lauderdale. I personally dislike the Motion of Her Majesty's Government because it is giving more power and patronage to the Executive, and this at the expense of the Legislature. There can be no comparison between a European Parliament and the Council of Europe at Strasbourg—the Minister who replies may endeavour to use that comparison as an argument. The Council of Europe advises, recommends, expresses views. Here we have people nominated to a Legislature; here we have the Executive in this country encroaching upon our Legislature and saying who is to be a member of a European Legislature. I echo what my noble friend Lord Lauderdale said: that it is no personal criticism, but a great tribute to those who have said that they will serve. Nevertheless, it is, to put it bluntly, an Executive-packed team that both Houses of Parliament are sending to the E.E.C.

Our Constitution, as your Lordships know, many of you better than I do, is based upon the principle of separation of powers: the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. Mr. Montesquieu has put that very clearly. We are infringing the independence of the Legislature by allowing the Executive this power of nomination. There have been expressions as to the great difficulties of having some form of election. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, said that an election will come in due course. We should never have gone forward without having first thought out some process of election. And it is not impossible. Many of your Lordships, like myself. are members of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. There, a number of names are given to us and we are asked to say whom we wish to be on the Executive. That is, in fact, an election in the C.P.A. of the Executive. Surely it would not be beyond the wit of your Lordships or those in another place to suggest that there should be nominations and then Members should say whom they wish to have in those particular nominations.

There is only one other point I want to make: that is, on the constitution of your Lordships' delegation, which, as I say, is excellent. But I do regret that there is no, what I might call, antiMarketeer on that delegation. The ground is pretty thin on this side, as your Lordships will see if you look at the Division List on Second Reading, which I have been reviewing; there was only my noble friend, Lord Lauderdale. My regret is that Lord Lauderdale must have been unable, for personal reasons, to accept the invitation which I am quite sure the Leader of the House gave him, in the same way as the Prime Minister gave it to Sir Derek Walker-Smith. It was no doubt personal reasons on Lord Lauderdale's part which prevented him from accepting such an invitation. Per haps the noble Earl, the Leader of the House, will also be able to express to us his regret that such an invitation was not accepted when made.

3.54 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that my noble friend, Lady Brooke, will acquit me of not having tried, at any rate, to shorten this debate and give her an opportunity of moving her Motion.


My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt my noble friend, but if I was correct in hearing him making a speech not long ago on this Motion, I would point out that this is the second one. Was the first one not a speech?


My Lords, I did not recognise it as a speech; it was a question to the Leader of the House which, unfortunately, received no answer at all, although I hoped that he would have enabled me to dispense with the necessity of making this speech on this occasion.

I want to support my noble friend, Lord Lauderdale, in the point he has put before your Lordships this afternoon. I am very sorry—I must say so straight away—that the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, when he was commenting on it, introduced what seemed to me to be an entirely false point with regard to the Party position of the Labour Party on this particular matter. I am sure that what he said would not be acceptable to a great many of those who sit on the Bench with him. We are not considering now, or we should not be, I submit to your Lordships, Party representatives going to the European Parliament. The relationships between the Parties in this country and the Parties on the Continent are always very tenuous indeed.

We are invited by the Treaty of Rome to send Members of Parliament. I can give the exact terms: The Assembly shall consist of delegates who shall be nominated by the respective Parliaments from among their members in accordance with procedures laid down by each member State. We are not sending representatives of the Labour Party or of the Conservative Party or of the Liberal Party, or, in the case of this House, of the Cross-Benches. We are under an obligation to send representatives nominated by the respective Parliaments, our Parliament, both Houses of our Parliament, by the House of Lords and by the House of Commons, nominated by procedures laid clown by the member States. Who has laid down the procedure by which the members of the delegation which is going from this House, or from Parliament as a whole, have been nominated? I do not remember any Instrument or Act or Motion being passed through this House declaring how that nomination should take place. I do not remember its being part of the Bill which we took so much trouble in passing during the last Session. The decision as to how this nomination should take place has been made, apparently—by whom? By the Prime Minister? By the usual channels? By the two Front Benches acting together? Is this a constitutional procedure in a House of this sort and a Parliament of this sort? Should not Parliament have laid down the appropriate procedures by which these important representatives of this Parliament are selected to go to Strasbourg, to the European Parliament, in order to take an increasingly important part in the procedures of that body?

It seems to me that the habit has grown up—and this applies to the Executives of both Parties—of taking Parliament increasingly for granted. In this House we are not a representative body; we fully recognise that fact. But we are, for the time being at any rate, the body that composes the Upper Chamber of Parliament. I suggest to your Lordships that my noble friend is quite right in his submission, that it is we, not the Front Benches, not the usual channels, not the Prime Minister, not the Leader of the House nor anybody else, who should have selected the members to go from this House. It could be done. My noble friend, Lord Balfour, has suggested one way in which it could be done, but there are plenty of ways in which constitutional procedure and ingenuity could have ensured that the right people, or people willing to serve, could put their names forward, not simply, in this House at an rate, as members of the Conservative Party or the Labour Party or the Liberal Party or the Cross-Benches, but as Members of your Lordships' House willing to serve as representatives of this Parliament and this House of Parliament in the European Parliament.

It is quite wrong for the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, to say," Well, nobody else does this in a democratic way." I know, he knows, and we all know that those who are at the present moment serving in the European Parliament are looking to this House to produce processes, constitutional developments, which with the passage of time are going to help them become more democratic, more representative. Some of the great dangers—and I put this question to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn—before the whole conception of the European Community are that so much power lies in the hands of non-representative groups in the Commission itself, the European Parliament has so little power, and that at the present moment it is not sufficiently representative.

I do not believe for one moment that Lord Gladwyn's prophecy that there will be direct election to the European Parliament will come in our lifetime or in this century. It is not a possibility, in my view at any rate, so far as this country is concerned; but the members of the delegations that go there should. I think and believe, be representative of the Houses of Parliament from which they are drawn and not simply the nominees of the Front Benches, or the Prime Minister, or whoever at the present moment is selecting. There should be a recognisable way by which they are selected—or perhaps elected, as my noble friend suggests—which we can perhaps evolve here in this House. If we can set a precedent in this, it is something which I believe will be an example and give leadership to the Parliaments of the other Members of the Community.

This is not a small matter. This is something which if the Community is going to be successful, if it is going to exercise the power and influence over our lives in the future which it may well do, is going to be of the greatest importance to our sort of constitutional traditions and point of view in this country, and to democratic Europe as a whole. I think it is right that my noble friend should have proposed his Amendment. I do not think that there is anything we can do at this particular stage. I pay tribute, as he did, to those noble Lords who have accepted the obligation of going to Strasbourg. I spent a very unhappy and miserable year as a Member of the Council of Europe and got to loathe that city, which I regard as the dreariest and most dismal city in Europe, with all the characteristics of French and German provincialism combined (and that is lethal), and something that cannot be remedied either by asparagus or pâté de foie gras. But they are going, and we wish them well; they go with our full support and confidence. But the next representatives to go from this House, I hope as a result of some machinery that we will evolve, will go as the representa- tives of Parliament and of this House, and not as the nominees of any Party, Front Bench, or of anyone else.

4.3 p.m.


My Lords, may I add a few sentences. This is the first occasion upon which we are sending Members to this Parliament, and we are the Parliament to which the other countries of Europe have looked to give them a lead in Parliamentary and democratic procedures. I think that it is a pity that we should, at this time, fall back on a process of nomination by a Government, which is something which seems out of step with our Parliamentary traditions. I hope that my noble friend will find some way of resolving this problem, even if he feels that he cannot accept the noble Earl's Amendment.


My Lords, while agreeing with my noble friend Lord Lauderdale that election would be the most satisfactory method, the question arises on the system that could be devised. The difficulty in this House is that you could not really have a system of election involving all the Members of the House, because many of them never come here. Therefore, you would have to devise some system where you have only the working Peers as the electorate. I suppose you would have to include Peers who have attended over a third of the appropriate time, or something like that. I think that point should be made. I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord Alport, that this is such an important matter that we ought to have had a full-scale debate.

4.6 p.m.


My Lords, since there are two quite important debates to come perhaps I should intervene now. I should like to say straight away that I find myself in total agreement with four points which have been made in this discussion. I think that all of them were made, among others, by my noble friend Lord Lauderdale. In the first place I should like to take this opportunity, as he did, of welcoming the Leader of the Opposition, the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, back to your Lordships' House in, I hope, full health. He is passing me messages fairly frequently, so I assume that this is an indication that he is restored to full vitality.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Earl? The noble Earl has made a most dangerous allegation. All I said was," I think it is time for you to get out".


My Lords, I do not think that that is strictly accurate. I think that the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition also said that the noble Lord, Lord Alport, was totally in order, as I think he was. That is the first point on which I find myself in agreement. Secondly, I find myself in total agreement with those noble Lords on both sides of the House who have said that this is an important matter, and one that we should not underestimate. I find myself very much in agreement with what my noble friend Lord Alport was saying in that respect, and I do not grudge—although those who may be speaking in the next two mini-debates may—the time that we have taken on this question as a result of my noble friend's Amendment. I think that this is a very important matter. Thirdly, I should like to associate myself with what has been said—not least by my noble friend—in wishing those Members of your Lordships' House who are going to be Members of the European Parliament all possible good wishes in their task. This is an important task, and we are lucky that those Members of your Lordships' House whose names stand on the Order Paper have accepted this obligation. Fourthly, I agree that this is going to be an obligation, in my noble friend's words," both burdensome and exacting", and not one in which those Members of your Lordships' House who undertake it will enrich themselves unduly.

Having said that, I should like to turn to the substance of what has been said, especially by my noble friend Lord Lauderdale, and I think has been echoed by almost everyone who has spoken. He said that it was a pity that we had not yet worked out, and that we certainly needed to work out in the lifetime of this Parliament (preferably in this coming Session), our procedures by which we select, or elect, Members of this House who will be delegates to the European Parliament. I cordially agree with my noble friend. Indeed, I would go further and say that it is a great pity that we were not able to work out in the course of last Session precisely those procedures. I do not wish to go over old ground (especially Party political ground) on this occasion, but I must briefly remind my noble friend that it was the ardent desire of the Government that the joint ad hoc committee we proposed as long ago as last February would have dealt not only with the question of the involvement of Parliament in Community affairs and Community subordinate legislation, but also with this whole question of the selection of our delegates to the European Parliament. It was only a matter of a week or so ago that our suggestion that, first, this should be a joint committee, and, secondly, should cover this particular matter of the composition and selection of our delegates to the European Parliament, was finally turned down. However, I cordially agree with my noble friend that this is an important matter, and one on which I hope that we can still proceed—if not now, in the very near future—by agreement between the Parties, and one which deserves a great deal of attention.

Having said that, may I turn very briefly—because I am aware of the pressure of time—to some of the particular points which have been made. There is the question of the duration of this Order. All I would say is that this is debatable ground. It is certainly usual in this House for a Motion of this kind to have currency for the Session only. If the House wished to appoint the Members for the duration of the Parliament I am advised that this should be stated specifically in the Motion; and it is not so stated. So it is my understanding that this is a Sessional Order, although it is my hope that we shall have—and I think it would be a great pity if we did not have—a large degree of continuity in our delegation to the European Parliament, because we all have to feel our way.

On the question of accountability, I would remind my noble friend of the Answer that I gave to a Written Question by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, a week ago, on December 14, when I said that the effect of the relevant article of the E.E.C. Treaty was that … while it is the task of the Member States to lay down the procedure for the desienation of delegates to the European Parliament. it is for the national Parliaments to make the actual designations."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14/12/72, col. 808.] Following from that and deriving from that it is clear, to my mind at least, that those members who go from us are accountable to your Lordships' House.

Having said that, recognising the importance of this issue, I should like to say that I am very open-minded as to what would be the ideal solution for the composition of our delegation and for its selection. It could be by election or by selection or by some form of nomination. If it is by election we shall have to consider all the various possibilities. Should it be by the various Party groups in this House; should there be some regional clement for election imported into our procedures; should it be by the House as a whole; should it be by Parliament as a whole; or should it be on some other basis? There is a whole spectrum of possibilities.

My Lords, we have failed (and it has not been through want of trying) to get a procedure established by which by the agreement of the Parties we could have moved forward in this area. The moment this was blocked there was little alternative but to proceed through some such method as we have proceeded, imperfect though it may be. In the present circumstances, I suggest that it would be premature to prejudge these issues. Because of that, I hope that my noble friend, having ventilated this important subject, will not press his Amendment.

To summarise what I have said: this is an important subject; it is one which deserves our attention; it is one which I hope can be dealt with by broad agreement between the Parties; and it is one which I hope we shall come back to again in this House. Perhaps we may do so quite soon. I would welcome a debate on this matter, and a longer debate than we have been able to have at the present time. But I have some doubts whether it would be right to enlarge the terms of reference of the Committee dealing with Community affairs which we have just set up, because it is important that there should be the possibility of a bridge between that Committee and the equivalent Committee in another place. If we enlarge our own terms of reference we might be setting up some inhibition to co-operate with another place in that respect This, again, is open.

My Lords, having said that, I should like to assure my noble friend that in asking him not to press this Amendment because I think it is a mistake to prejudge these matters now (and I think it would be misrepresented abroad if by any chance your Lordships were to approve this Amendment), I have taken full note of what has been said by your Lordships—and views have been expressed by Members of this House in this matter who have totally opposed views on the question of the Community. It is an important matter and one to which the Government certainly intend to continue to address themselves.


My Lords, before asking your Lordships' leave to withdraw my Amendment, may I thank those noble Lords who were good enough to join in this short debate and give me their support; and may I say to my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye that even if I had been asked to go to Strasbourg I could not conceivably have done so. To the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, I would say that I think he mistook my point. He is usually very quick indeed at getting other people's points but perhaps I was more obtuse than usual. I was talking about election by Members of this House of some of our number.

What comes out of this discussion is that we need to go in to the matter again when we have more time. This is common ground. The noble Lord, Lord Beswick, and the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, made the same point. I should like to thank my noble friend the Leader of the House for what he has been good enough to say. When one says that the obvious thing meantime is to do the thing through the Whips, may I remind him that the obvious choice is usually the quick regret. When it is said that these things are best left to the Government—although he did not say it—may I recall Macaulay's words: A Government which attempts more than it ought will perform loss than it ought. My noble friend was good enough to take all the points that were made, and to take them sympathetically. So, whereas in our debates on the E.E.C. Bill I began to wonder whether if he was a cricketer he should not be likened to Stonewall Jackson, I now find that he is not neces- sarily a stonewaller after all, rather a man of great sport who has taken this Amendment in good part. I appreciate the way in which he responded to it. Having said that, I beg your Lordships' leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Motion agreed to.