HL Deb 13 September 1972 vol 335 cc329-466

2.53 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now further considered on Report.

Moved, That the Bill be now further considered on Report.—(Earl Jellicoe.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

LORD SHACKLETON moved Amendment No. 10: After Clause 3, insert the following new clause:

Annual Reports to Parliament

"… There shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament on or before the 31st of December in each year commencing with 1974, a Report on the application of the Treaties which shall include an account of such proceedings of the Communities as may seem appropriate."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 10. Of all the Amendments, this seems to me to be the one that is most suitably introduced in Parliament: first, because Governments traditionally forget to provide for reports to Parliament; and, secondly, because I cannot see any of the technical difficulties that have been adduced with regard to the other Amendments. It therefore seems to me to be something which we really ought to accept, and that your Lordships in particular, in your capacity as a revising Chamber, ought to accept.

I should like to refer briefly to some of the matters we discussed yesterday. We attempted to move Amendments which, without involving questions of how Parliament organised its procedure, ensured that Parliament was informed in advance of proposals which emanated from the Council or the Commission, but in a rather restricted form we referred only to those which would require action by Statutory Instrument; and we did that by proposing that they should be laid before Parliament. A technical argument was adduced against that (although in fairness I must say that the Government did not rest their case solely on that); namely, that it would be possible to do this, but so late as to be of no use to Parliament. I think I dismissed that argument with contempt, because clearly Parliament would not wear that and it would have been possible to amend the Instrument to provide for a suitable date. But we have failed to do this, and we have failed for reasons which have been repeatedly given by the noble Earl and the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor: namely, on the grounds that, among other things, these failed to get to the real heart of the matter, which is how Parliament should give consideration to these matters and the Committees that should be set up to deal with them, and that really it was a matter of sitting down with the Opposition and agreeing the procedure. I will not go over the argument again beyond saying that in this matter we are acting as a House of Parliament, and not as a behind-the-scenes discussion group, and that it is right—indeed, it is the duty of Parliament—to ensure that it is kept informed on matters of this kind. Indeed, it is implicit, and is clearly the wish of the Government that this should be so; and I do not doubt that the Government in fact have every intention of honouring this understanding. But we are not concerned with this Government or the next Government: we are concerned with Governments in the future. Parliament has always been very jealous to ensure that it establishes the right sort of control over the Executive, and it will do so by Statute.

The Amendment I am moving is, I think, about as simple an Amendment as we could have. It provides, as is the case in certain of the other Community countries, that Parliament should have an annual report, in a convenient form. We have not sought to say what should go into it; we should be quite content to leave that to good judgment. I believe that in Holland they have a report of the length of about 30 or 40 pages. We are told that all the information emanating from the Common Market, from the Communities, will be available in one form or another through the Journal Officiel, which will be published in English; that the treaties will be sent to the Clerk of the Parliaments; and that the information will be here in one form or another. But a great deal of information is here in one form or another. It is perfectly possible to have the Service Estimates in one form or another, but we still have a White Paper as part of those Estimates; and there are numerous examples which I could quote of obligations that reports should be made.

I want to urge that it is very largely the reluctance of the Government, for reasons which we all understand—because they do not want to go back to the Commons with an Amendment—that they were unwilling to accept some of the very reasonable Amendments which we moved yesterday. I would suggest that this is an Amendment that we ought to make to the Bill. If it is defective in any way, I should be content to withdraw this Amendment and for the Government to bring in a further Amendment on Third Reading, for which there is provision, which is not defective. But it seems to me that this Amendment is satisfactory and that it is consistent with provisions in other Statutes for such a report. If it is argued that normally it is the responsibility of the Minister, or perhaps of the Department, to make such a report, then I am only bound to say that we are in some difficulty in the case of this Bill because we do not know who the Ministers are. But if, again, it would help the Government, we should be perfectly willing to say that it should be the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, or indeed the Prime Minister himself might be appropriate; but we have worded it in a very neutral form.

My Lords, when, late yesterday evening, we were debating an Amendment to ensure that Parliament was supplied with a comprehensive account of the various actions, obligations, decisions, and so on, taken by the Communities, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said that this is just part of the running battle we have been having as to the appropriate way in which the Parliamentary mechanism of control can be operated to secure the results that we all want. I do not think that there is any difference between us as to what we want. It is a question of whether there should be a statutory obligation. On the last occasion, the noble and learned Lord said that this would give rise to two mountains of paper. This particular Amendment will not give rise to any mountain of paper; it will produce, I hope, a comprehensive report which will be valuable for those who have anxieties and who are concerned about the way the Community is going. It is the sort of basis for the annual debates that they have in the Dutch Parliament. It does not have anything to do with the earlier Amendments on the very important matter of the mechanism of controlling the Executive and informing the Executive as to the views of Parliament before proposals are agreed in Council.

I cannot see why at this stage this Amendment cannot be accepted. This Bill—and there can be no misunderstanding about this—will not become an Act until another place meets again. It cannot become an Act, although it will have passed through all its stages, before the House of Commons comes back (I think in the middle of October) and it will be perfectly easy to do something on that first day. It cannot become an Act before the Party conferences or before the Norwegian referenda or any of these things. The Royal Assent will have to be given, even if it is signed before the Commons actually meet. I see no reason why an Amendment as restricted as this, but none the less valuable from a Parliamentary point of view, should not now be accepted. Anxieties were shown by the noble Earl on other occasions when, admittedly lightheartedly but I thought misguidedly, he said that certain people could hold up business; but anyone who knows the procedure in another place will know that the capacity for doing much to Lords' Amendments is very restricted. At the most they would lose one day. Admittedly, this Government have an overcrowded timetable, but we hope in the next Session they will have learned wisdom—as they will do, at any rate, if they have listened to the advice of the noble Earl.

I think it will be outrageous for us to pass a Bill of this importance without making some provision for a comprehensive report by the Government to Parliament, a report which sets out the good and the bad. Therefore I hope that on this occasion noble Lords opposite will face the fact that this is something which can be safely done, that this is something that this House is able to do and that it is something which at this stage would do something to redress the pretty sorry story of the way in which Amendments have been handled in the House of Lords. I beg to move.

3.3 p.m.


My Lords, I apologise for hesitating in rising to my feet, but yesterday evening I rose to my feet and found that I had anticipated the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill. As the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition has intimated, we have already debated a variety of Amendments put forward by noble Lords opposite—put forward, I admit freely, with moderation and with not a little wit at times—designed to place statutory requirements on the Government of the day to provide information to Parliament on this, that or the other aspect of our involvement in the affairs of the Community at this, that or the other time; although I must admit that we got into a little muddle sometime yesterday over the precise rhythm with which some of these requirements will have to be effected.

From all that I have said, from all that was said by my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack and from what was said by other Members of the Front Bench team on this particular Bill, I hope that it is abundantly clear that we recognise that behind this series of Opposition Amendments there lies a very important issue. That issue is how the whole complex of our Parliamentary procedures, how the relationship between Parliament and the Executive and how the triangular relationship between Whitehall, Westminster and Brussels can best be adapted following our accession to the European Communities. This is a very big issue and I think our debates in this House have been valuable. If they have been valuable for nothing else—and I think they have been valuable in other respects—they have been valuable in that they have demonstrated that there is in all quarters of this House a very clear recognition of the magnitude of this issue.

What is really involved here was, I think, described accurately and succinctly by my noble and learned friend when speaking to one of those Opposition Amendments yesterday evening. He told us that what we in Parliament had to do in this area was to bear three things in mind when we join the Community: first, the securing of an adequate flow of information, and that I shall come back to in a moment; secondly, distinct but linked with the first, how most effectively and efficiently Parliament could influence the policy of Ministers inside the Community institutions before those policies crystalised. That was the real guts of the matter. The first point, the provision of information, although not unimportant is subsidiary. The third area which my noble and learned friend exposed to our view was the need to devise mechanism for distinguishing in the great haystack of detailed information which will pile upon us the needles (if I may pursue this rather unfortunate analogy) which are really important.

I do not wish unduly to press this point but I must once again say that all this process, believed in by all of us who believe in Parliamentary scrutiny over the workings of the Community and who believe in Parliamentary democracy, would be greatly facilitated if only the Opposition could bring themselves without undue and unnecessary delay to accept the proposition of an ad hoc Committee which has been put to them; or if that is not what they want, to come forward with some alternative proposition. Time is beginning to run out here, if we are going to get new mechanisms and new procedure (including how we can best receive all the information we need) in time for Parliament to grip these matters at the time of our accession—and that is only three-and-a-half months, fourteen weeks, from now.

My Lords, there is one further point. Some noble Lords opposite have been inclined to argue—and the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, reverted to this point this afternoon—that all this has little to do with our discussions on this Report stage. They have suggested that what I have been talking about is something which is going to be "cooked up" between the three Front Benches in this House and the other place; and that these waters will run through the usual subterranean channels, mysteriously to some inland, remote unparliamentary scene. This has never been our intention. My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster put this proposition fairly and squarely and openly to the Opposition. Any Committee which is established will be established under Parliamentary control. I can see no reason at all why the operations of that Committee need take place in camera. There is nothing behind the scenes, there is nothing hole-and-corner, there is nothing subterranean, there is nothing unparliamentary about our proposition. All that we ask is that the Opposition should co-operate in the interests of Parliament as a whole in getting things moving. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, was a little inclined to twit us yesterday for not advancing our own ideas in this area in greater detail. In response I advanced tentative ideas of my own. But, my Lords, if we are posing a joint examination of these problems I can almost hear the criticism which the Opposition would have heaped upon us if at the outset we had come forward with our own detailed blue-print. May I briefly recapitulate the basic standpoint? We recognise the reality and the magnitude of the problem. We believe that the heart of the problem is the nature of Parliamentary involvement in, and examination of, community proposals and decisions. We also believe that the provision of information is an important albeit a subsidiary matter. We should like to get our Parliamentary mechanism and procedures examined in some such way as we have proposed with the least possible delay and examined on an all-Party basis. Again, we recognise that here the flow of information is an important albeit an auxilliary and ancillary aspect of the problem.

This brings me to the ancillary area of the provision of information and to an outlying appendage of this particular ancillary area; namely, the statutory requirement embodied in the Amendment now before your Lordships. In moving his Amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, referred to the procedures which obtain in the Parliaments of the Six at the present time. I must admit that I have been struck by the somewhat selective use that noble Lords opposite make of the examples drawn from the practice of our future partners in the expanded Community.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Earl to say that I have always gone for the best practice?


Well, my Lords, again that demands an element of selection. In any event, yesterday, in press- ing for a statutory requirement for the laying of certain information before Parliament, the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, drew our attention to the fact that the Germans in this instance had such a statutory requirement. He failed on that occasion to mention that neither the French, nor the Dutch, nor the Belgians, nor the Luxemburgers, nor the Italians, had such a statutory requirement. It happens to be five to one, but I am not saying that the Germans were not right. To-day, to be fair—and, like the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, I am always scrupulously fair—the noble Lord has not quite the same need to be selective. It is the case that in Belgium, the Netherlands and France the requirement for annual reports, such as is suggested in this Amendment is embodied in Statute. But in the case of the other three members of the existing Six there is no such statutory requirement—it happens to be three to three.


My Lords, the noble Earl is being less than fair. The fact that the Germans do not have the requirement is because they have an infinitely more detailed arrangement for receiving this information.


My Lords, I should like to come now to what the Germans do because there are two points which I should like to make. The first is that if one is basing one's argument on the legislative and other practices of the Six the fact that there is a particular theoretical requirement for annual reports has precious little to do with the actual, practical working of the Parliamentary processes. In Germany, the country to which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has just referred, and where there is no statutory requirement, half-yearly reports on the Communities' workings are made to the Bundestag and the Bundesrat but they are not debated. In France, despite a statutory requirement for an annual report, no annual report is made.

My second point is the one on which I wish to dwell. It is that no single pattern for the provision of information is equally apt to all countries with their different constitutional procedures and provisions. The right pattern in any country is reached only by experience, and I submit that it is unwise to determine in advance what procedures would best serve for us who have no day-to-day actual experience of how the Communities work in practice; how this club works. In fact, given our different Parliamentary practices and consequential procedures, there is no need for us to look too closely at the practices of the Six which in any event vary in different areas, as I have shown, in order to select from them a procedure for this country and this Parliament.

My Lords, I would suggest that it is our responsibility to fashion our procedures to suit our own traditions and serve our own objectives. We have to remember that in this country we have a very special provision, not to be found in anything like the same degree in the Parliaments of the Six, of day-to-day accountability by the Executive to Parliament. In this way, working through the mechanisms still to be devised, we should involve Parliament in the working of the Community. It is in this way that Parliament will be able to influence policy and our Ministers at the formative stage. It will be through traditional methods, revised maybe and brought up to date; through the day-to-day inquisition, by Parliamentary questions—


My Lords, is the noble Earl implying that annual reports to Parliament are not traditional?


No, my Lords, I am not and I am coming on to the analogy which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has just drawn.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl a question? Is it not the fact that these questions could be put to Ministers after we had entered into obligations?


At this stage, my Lords, I think that is another question. We have all the processes by which we bring day-to-day accountability into effect: Parliamentary Questions, Statements in Parliament and the examinations which follow those Statements; Opposition debates and, maybe, votes of censure. That is the way in which I see our involvement working, rather than through annual, formal set piece debates, although those might still take place—the sort of debate which obtains in the Dutch Parliament and, I think to a certain extent, in the Belgian Parliament. That being so, I doubt whether an annual report is required over and above the day-to-day supply of information which the procedures I have been talking about are bound to produce. I will return to that in a moment.

The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, also adduced in support of his Amendment that in other areas Parliament has laid a statutory requirement on the Executive to produce annual reports. I freely admit this. Annual reports cover a number of Departments and are provided for by Statute. They cover the nationalised industries and so on. If that is the argument, I do not find any exact parallel here. When we legislate in the case of the nationalised industries, Parliament lays clear obligations and duties on the undertakings. It refrains from interfering in the clay-to-day management and there is no day-to-day accountability. But it requires a statement, in the form of an annual report, on the way in which the undertakings have discharged the duties and obligations laid on them by Parliament.

In the case of Community matters there is no parallel. There is not a single Statute giving powers and laying obligations as in the case of the nationalised industries. Here, unlike the situation in the case of, say, the nationalised industries, there is day-to-day accountability by Ministers responsible for our policies in the Community. In any event, Parliament will already be receiving—as speakers from this Front Bench have made clear time and time again—a free and full flow of information from the Commission.


My Lords, before the noble Earl leaves the question of debates in another House and the nationalised industries, I should like to say that it is correct that the Committee which deals with the nationalised industries cannot deal with the day-to-day management. But the heads of the industries appear before the Committee. These heads of national industries are submitted to severe cross-examination. The Report of the Committee is given to the House, and it is debated. Is not the noble Earl making rather heavy weather when he brings this forward to suggest that such an important thing like this change of our constitutional procedure should not be debated in the same way as the nationalised industries, or all kinds of matters are debatable on the twenty-six Supply Days in the other place? Surely Parliament as a whole is entitled to debate Community matters on similar lines.


My Lords, would the noble Earl—


My Lords, I think it is normal that one answers, in the course of a debate, at least—sometimes we err on Statements—one question at a time. What I would say in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, is that I do not think he and I are far apart on this matter. Just as chairmen of nationalised industries may be examined before this or that Select Committee, what I have been saying is that Ministers who are responsible for Departments and who are operating in the Brussels arena will be subject to all the processes of day-to-day Parliamentary accountability. They will be subject to this whether or not there is an Annual Report. This is bound to happen, because this is the way we operate. I do not think that an Annual Report will have anything to do with this one way or another.


My Lords, referring to what has been said by my noble friend Lord Popplewell, is the noble Earl aware that, for example, the Minister responsible for fuel and power can be called in front of these special Committees to answer questions on problems that confront the Committees in the course of their investigations? This fact has not been mentioned by the noble Earl in answer to my noble friend Lord Popplewell.


My Lords, I think we are tending to go a little wide of the subject. What I would say is that in any event, whether we have an Annual Report or not—and we can have it whether or not there is a statutory requirement—Parliament will already be receiving, as speakers from this Front Bench have made clear time and time again in these discussions, a free and full flow of information from the Commission. There will be the Official Journal, which we have already talked about ad nauseam, and which I am sure will come to be regarded as an indispensable authority and an authentic repository of essential information about the Community. What is more, the Communities themselves have already agreed to meet the needs which the proposers of this Amendment evidently have in mind. Article 18 of the Merger Treaty, which replaces Article 156 of the E.E.C. Treaty, stipulates that the Commission shall publish annually, not later than one month before the opening of the session of the European Parliament, a general report of the activities of the Communities. This report will likewise be readily available to members of your Lordships' House—and this is no slim volume. I would submit that this volume is the true parallel with the Reports of the nationalised industries, to which reference has been made. I would further submit that it is in principle better for the reports on Community procedures to come to Parliament from the Community institutions direct rather than to be filtered, as they admittedly would be filtered, through the Government machine.

Again, as we have made clear time and time again, this information which is received from the Community will need to be reinforced by information produced, and if need be extracted, as it will be in the course of day-to-day accountability, from the Government. I am certain that this will come about in any event as a result of this accountability. I am not at all certain that matters would be improved by a statutory requirement for a report, which is bound to be cautious in tone, necessarily generalised and inevitably out of date before it is printed and read.

Let me say this, my Lords, by way of conclusion. I must admit to some doubts—and I have expressed them this afternoon—as to whether this particular requirement for a statutory Annual Report is a sensible one. It does not, as I have sought to show, really accord with the way we work things in Parliament in this sort of area. But I do not wish to be unduly obdurate here or to blow up this issue into a great issue of principle. It could be that after we have worked ourselves into the Brussels' machine, and once we have devised the mechanisms of which we have spoken, a periodic report of one sort or another, concentrating possibly on certain aspects of the affairs of the Community, might well be held to be desirable. Certainly I do not wish to dismiss that possibility. Just as the French, despite a statutory requirement, do not furnish an annual report to their Parliament, there is absolutely no reason why the British Government of the day, minus a statutory requirement, should not do so. All I would say—and I say this with real conviction—is that it would be silly for us, at this stage, when all our procedures have still to be worked out, when the mechanisms for Parliamentary scrutiny which we are anxious to fashion have still to be devised, to embody a precise requirement in the Statute as the Amendment proposes.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl a question on procedure, a matter on which I feel very ill-informed? From time to time in the course of these discussions the noble Earl has alluded to the possibility of discussions through the usual channels and between the great Parties of State on the general question of Parliamentary procedure, which presumably would cover matters relating to foreign affairs. The question I wish to put to the noble Earl is this. Supposing that as a result of those discussions, which he has freely offered to the other side, there were to emerge an agreed report, would Her Majesty's Government be prepared to give effect to it in such a way as to give permanence to the recommendations?


My Lords, I think that no Government would commit themselves in advance to this. What I would assure the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, is that the Government, who have urged so strongly the establishment of a high-level Committee of this sort—and we are not wedded to any particular form of Committee here—would give deep and due consideration to the recommendations which emerged from such a Committee.


My Lords, I have listened carefully to the noble Earl. Does he not now believe that after his speech he has created a part of the doctrine for the future discussions of the Market? Is the noble Earl aware that the Table Office in this matter has great power, too, because, to my knowledge over some quarter of a century, gradually the attitude of the Table Office to the nationalised industries in Questions has altered? Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, who has put this succinct and cogent point, has I think put forward to the noble Earl a suggestion which should be answered—and I do not mean this in an impolite way—thoughtfully.


My Lords, I am not quite certain what question the noble Lord has asked.


My Lords, is the noble Earl aware, despite what he has said—and it is interesting information, which will be useful to some of us in the years to come, if we live long enough—that what has not been taken into account is instructions sometimes to the Table Office, and that the Table Office is losing its power?


My Lords, I am getting rather frightened that I might have laid down doctrine for all time. I am not a very doctrinaire person. What I am doctrinaire about is not laying down precise requirements of the sort envisaged in this Amendment, although I am not necessarily doctrinaire about doing the sort of thing which that Amendment would do if it were not laid down in a statutory requirement.

3.30 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to make just one comment. This Amendment and several of those which we debated yesterday have clearly as their object to ensure that Parliament shall receive the maximum appropriate information at the best time, so that it can exert its influence. That is a most important matter; and I personally am very glad that these Amendments have been put down because it is clearly of fundamental importance that Parliament should have the information it needs as early as possible, and that the information should be collated, sifted and deliberated upon so that Parliament can exert its maximum influence.

Now I think there can be no division in any part of your Lordships' House as to the importance of that, and the only difference lies in finding the best method of ensuring that this happens. Where a number of us would differ from those who have put down the Amendments is that many of us—certainly including myself—would doubt whether at this particular moment we are in a position to be sure what the precise machinery will be for ensuring that the best arrangements are made. I believe that the arrangements that will be made will be varied and will cover a very wide field. I personally find it easy to believe that, when the time comes when decisions can be best taken on this matter, some statutory arrangements will be appropriate. I was therefore very glad to hear my noble friend say at the end of his speech that he would not rule that out when sufficient deliberation had been possible to decide the best methods.

I would end, my Lords, by urging the Opposition to lake advantage of this information and to discuss these matters in depth with the Government, so that we shall be in a position, after appropriate thought and as close as we possibly can be to the time when this information comes to us, to know in which forms the information will come and thus to ensure that the best arrangements are made, so that Parliament can exert its maximum influence and control.

3.33 p.m.


My Lords, I shall be very brief. I want to cast my mind back two years to the occasion of the last General Election. We were then assured that we should have a new form of open Government; we should have more information given to Parliament and to the people; there would be a two-way exchange of information; there would be more consultation. Yet the whole of the working machinery of this particular enterprise of the Government is to be cloaked in secrecy. The Minister told us yesterday that at the time when certain Orders are made we shall be given information. That is understandable, but we shall want to know how those particular Orders have worked out in six months' time at the end of the year. We want to know these things about a particular Order which has been publicly laid before the House, say next Wednesday: what effect will it have upon the living conditions of these people next March or April? Will the cost of living have gone up? Will our trade have been competitively hit? Will our wages have suffered?

If we are confined merely to receiving information at the time the Order is made, and if that is the end of it, we have no means of tracing out what effect the Order will have upon the living conditions of the people in this country. The noble Earl has agreed that many Departments of State issue their annual reports—labour relations, education, social welfare, the nationalised industries and so on—but he said that those reports were issued because those Departments were regulated by specific Statutes passed by this Parliament. If an annual report is required in those cases, surely it is even more necessary in cases where the appropriate Statutes will have been passed not by this Parliament but by half of the Parliaments on the Continent of Europe?

This question involves matters which are very important to the people of this country. It involves trade, imports, exports, the balance of trade, the prices that will prevail in this country, the wage standards that will exist in this country, the working conditions, hours of work and the holidays of people in this country. We shall want to have the curtain lifted occasionally to show us how much we are paying in food subsidies to the farmers of France. All these are very important matters which the people of this country are entitled to know, and it is no use fobbing them off with a statement that at the time the Statute is made full information will be laid before Parliament. We want not only to know the text of the Statute but to be able to know a few months later what effect it has had upon the people of this country.


My Lords, I rise to make just a short intervention. During the course of the speech made by the noble Earl he emphasised co-operation so far as the Opposition in this House is concerned. The Party to which I belong, led by my noble Leader, is looked upon as the official Opposition. One point is apt to be overlooked, which is that an Opposition, whether it be Liberal or Labour, is looked upon as an alternative Government. Therefore it has based its policies upon principles that it believes in, and emanating from such principles come these particular Amendments that my noble Leader has endeavoured to move on this occasion, as on previous occasions. I should like to ask the noble Earl the Leader of the House, for whom I have the highest regard and respect, whether, as a member of Her Majesty's Government and of the Cabinet, together with other members of the Front Bench opposite who are responsible for taking this Bill through its different stages, an order or direction has been received from the Cabinet or through their Cabinet colleagues that in no circumstances whatever must they give way to any Amendment that is tabled by the official Opposition or by the Liberal body to this particular Bill, but that they must be guided by the principles and motives of the negotiations that have been undertaken by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

I sincerely hope we shall be able to have an answer to that question. It may be that some noble Lord will feel that in making these observations I have a very suspicious mind. That may be so in my particular case on this particular issue. What I have in mind are not only Members of Parliament, as such, who are elected to look after the interests of the general public in this country but also we who are sitting here as a non-elected Chamber and who have to give consideration to the recommendations that come from another place. We should take these other aspects into consideration. When the time comes and we go into Europe as a partner along with the other Six, I shall have every sympathy with Ministers who will be responsible for giving answers to Questions that may be tabled in the other place or in this House, because of the policies that have been laid down by the Commission in Europe who are responsible for the working of the European Community. I sincerely hope that we shall be able to get same answer as to whether there has been any form of direction or instruction given through the Prime Minister and his Cabinet to Members of the Front Bench opposite during the particular stages of this Bill.


My Lords, the noble Earl has an invariable formula when his case is rather weak: he starts off by saying how much he agrees with the principle of the Amendment. The length of time he spent on that point to-day is an indication of the weakness which he recognises in his argument against this Amendment. If I were to point to any part of his argument which was weaker than the rest I should have thought it was the phrase, "This is not the way we usually work in this sort of area". What kind of experience have we had in this sort of area? When were we in this area before? Of course we are now moving into something completely new and different. With respect to the noble Earl, it is not enough to say that we do not do this in this sort of way in this sort of area.

On a previous Amendment the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack waxed indignant when my noble friend Lord Davies of Leek said that noble Lords opposite were voting against their inner convictions. My noble friend may or may not have been right on that occasion. I should like to go round the room to-day, as it were, asking each noble Lord in turn whether or not he is genuinely against this particular Amendment. How many of the noble Lords can say with conviction that they think it would be wrong for Her Majesty's Government to make a report at the end of each year on the application of these treaties? It has been said that we shall get a good deal of information in the Official Journal of the Commission—one might say, in the words of the noble and learned Lord, "a mountain of paper". But we are not asking simply for a timetable, a catalogue of events; we are asking for a report from Her Majesty's Government on the application of these treaties. It can be as dry as dust; it can be too cautious, as the noble Earl said. He dismissed it because of that. If it was too cautious, too restricted, presumably we should have debates and the questioning to which the noble Earl has referred, and which he said would be possible. We should have complaints from the House that Her Majesty's Government—and let us not think simply of the present Government; there may be other Governments—who are arranging our affairs, are not giving a proper account of what is happening. If they give a proper and full account, and explain how the treaties are working out and the application of these treaties, we can disagree with them. We can raise issues as they arise and show why we disagree, and what we think should be done differently in the year that lies ahead.

As the noble Earl was good enough to say, we have tried to ensure that our Parliaments shall have the opportunity of knowing what is going to happen in Brussels. We have had an Amendment down which said that the texts of treaties should be laid in the House. That Amendment was rejected. It was said that it was not possible to write this into the Statute. We could not know what was going to be enacted in any new treaties. We suggested another Amendment to let us know what is to happen by way of indirect legislation; to let us have that laid in the House for thirty days before it comes into effect, or before a decision is taken. That was turned down. It was said that it would be impossible to do it that way or leave it to some ad hoc Committee of the future. We said: "If we cannot know what is going to happen, then let us know what has happened; let us have a report as soon as practical after the events". We asked for reports at three-monthly intervals. I thought the advocacy of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack was absolutely superb because he persuaded the majority of this House that if we had a quarterly report that would mean six reports a year and that would be too big a mound for us to consume.

If we cannot have a three-monthly report, let us have an Annual Report. What conceivable argument can there be against that? My noble friend Lord Shackleton referred to the fact that certain other countries in the Community already have provision for this. It is perfectly true, as the noble Earl said, that some of them do not take advantage of it. In Article II of the Treaty the French have a provision that reports shall be laid in the French Parliament, but the French Parliament has not demanded that that provision should be fulfilled, although in French law that is supposed to happen. I thought one reason why we were going into the Community was that we were going to give a lead in observing proper Parliamentary practices. It may be that on our example the French will say, "We ought to have our laws obeyed". It is also perfectly true that although the Italians started this practice, they have subsequently given it up. It so happens that in Italy they change their Government frequently, and it is not always convenient for the Government of the day to carry out this practice because they may not be the Government at the end of the twelve months. Therefore they have not had the report. It is conceivable—and we hope it will be so—that in Italy they will return to this practice.

The noble Earl went so far as to say that the Germans do not have an Annual Report. If they do not have an Annual Report it is because they have a biannual report—a report every six months. This is the kind of argument that we have had presented against our Amendment. I suggest with as much force as I can possibly muster that the arguments are not good enough. The final leg of the arguments that we have had trotted out is, "Let us have a committee to go into these things". Are we not, in effect, in committee now? We have had a Committee stage; we are virtually in committee now. What we want to see in this House, away from the turmoil of the other place, is the atmosphere that one can obtain in a committee in which one can consider these matters and agree that certain alterations are necessary to the Bill and that certain arrangements will be required. Why cannot we go into the details of this Amendment? If in some respects, as my noble friend Lord Shackleton said, it is inadequately worded, then better words could be produced. We would listen to them; we would be very happy to have the benefit of the observations of the Members of the Government and their advisers. If they can get a better form of words, then let us have them and we can come to some agreement.

It has been said that the details are not the type of thing that can be agreed or discussed on the Floor of the House. We are not asking for details; we are setting forward a principle. How that principle is implemented, or what use we make of this information, will be a matter for further consideration. It is conceivable that we might agree that a Joint Select Committee is the proper way of receiving these reports and that they will make a report to each House of Parliament. It may well be that if in the future this House and the other place, as with certain other Parliamentary legislatures in the Community, find that they do not have enough business—I believe the German Parliament now sits for 45 days a year—maybe we shall not sit so often and we shall be glad to have a little more business to discuss on the Floor of the House. It may be that certain of these reports can properly be discussed here.

That kind of detail, how we give consideration to the reports when they are received, would be a matter for later discussion. But certain things ought to be written into the Bill, and this is one of these things. It cannot conceivably upset the principles of the Bill and the purpose the Government have in mind. It cannot conceivably set back the time by which we enter into the Common Market. It can do only one thing: it can upset the obstinacy of the Government who have said in terms that they cannot afford to have any Amendments. I do not believe that this House should be treated in the way it has been treated. I do not believe that noble Lords opposite who have conscientiously come along here to listen to the arguments, feel that they are doing their duty simply by going into the Division lobbies at the behest of the Government, irrespective of the arguments. They know that there is something in this. The noble Earl knows that there is something in this. The noble Earl would like, I believe, to have this Amendment accepted—and he has done a good and noble job in putting up arguments against it. But those arguments were not good enough, and I still hope that we can come to the conclusion that this is one Amendment that can be accepted.

3.50 p.m.


My Lords, I hope I may be forgiven if I add my mite to this debate. I do not think—


My Lords, may I ask the noble and learned Lord how he spells "mite"?


My Lords, I was thinking of it without the "gh" on this occasion but with an "e" at the end. But, having been covered by confusion, I will now, if I may, proceed to show what strength I may in support of my little mite. The noble Lord who has just spoken is quite wrong in describing the Government as being obstinate in relation to this Amendment. And since he cannot go round the room, as he put it, asking each individual Peer whether he thought this was a good Amendment or a bad Amendment, I hope he will forgive me if I simply express my own opinion about it.

Perhaps before I do, I might correct something he said about a previous Amendment. On that Amendment he accused me of showing superlative advocacy—which in another context might be a compliment—but I must correct one thing. He was not in that Amendment asking for a quarterly report: what the Amendment did was to say that every rule of direct application must be published in a particular way within three months; it was not a demand for a quarterly report. And I gave my reasons, from which I do not resile—indeed, I would emphasise them rather more strongly—for saying that in practice that would lead to at least six two-monthly reports every year, because every rule would have to be published within three months. The only doubt I have is whether it would not involve more than six. But I was stating the matter conservatively, as befits a Conservative Lord Chancellor.

On the other hand, I simply address myself to the question whether this Amendment, if we sent it back to another place, would improve the Bill or whether it would not. Unlike the other Amendments which the Opposition has proposed, this depends on two questions which are quite simply stated. The first is: Is an Annual Report containing the matter referred to in the Amendment, the application of the Treaties and an account of such proceedings of the Communities as may seem appropriate"— whatever that may mean—a good thing? Secondly, ought it, if it is a good thing, to be inserted in the Statute? I have already said what I wanted to say about inserting things of this kind in the Statute. I want to direct my mind therefore to the particular problem involved in this Amendment, as to whether an Annual Report is a good thing. I think it is a bad thing; and I propose to say why I think it is a bad thing in itself. I am quite at one with my noble friend the Leader of the House in saying that of course one does not want to close one's mind to this issue. Obviously, if the Opposition will take up the matter (I was despondent to read in this morning's Press that they had again decided not to take up our repeated invitations to discuss this new and urgent matter) and persuade me I am wrong, I do not want to close my mind to it, any more than my noble friend closed his mind to it. But I do want, since we are compelled to discuss the whole question in public, to express my present mind about it, making it clear that I am not at the moment determined at all costs to resist it but simply that I do not agree with it.

I was very glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in his opening remarks, agree that what we want to do in the course of this operation is not a matter of controversy between us. We are arguing about means and not about ends. We all want to get adequate Parliamentary control and adequate publicity; and for that reason I thought that the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, about open Government were quite misconceived. We are agreed—and the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition was generous enough to say that he accepted that the Government thought so, too—that we want to achieve the three objects which I sought to set out in my remarks on Amendment No. 4 yesterday. Whatever else an Annual Report will do, it will not serve any one of those three objects, and that is demonstrable. It will not serve to get a flow of information at the time of the formation of policy, which is perhaps the most important thing we have to set about. It will not do that because what is asked is ex post facto information. It will not enable Parliament to control future policy; and that was admitted. And it will not seek to differentiate, to sift, the important from the unimportant, because there is no attempt in this Amendment to achieve that. Nor will it secure by itself an annual debate on the workings of the Common Market. One must therefore ask oneself, rather coldly, what is the purpose of this proposed piece of paper to come out every 12 months?

I have been in Parliament ever since 1938. I hope that I may claim to be as sincerely devoted to its interest as any other Member of this House. I have as a Minister in the past had to prepare annual reports both in, I think, the Admiralty and in the Department of Education; and I am far from saying that departmental reports or reports of nationalised industries do not serve a useful purpose—although their use can be exaggerated.


My Lords, could—


May I just finish this point, and I will give way to the noble Lord in due course? I am far from saying that they do not serve a useful purpose—although I believe that their use can be exaggerated. But where I think the Opposition have gone wrong here is to think that our relations with the Common Market, the application of the Treaties and the operations of the Community institutions, are the same kind of animal, if I may use that analogy, as the reports of a Department because I can conceive of no Department—we are in a new field, as the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, was saying—that will not be affected in one way or another, except perhaps in the field of defence, by the operation of the Community Treaty. I cannot conceive from now onwards of any debate on foreign affairs, once we have acceded, not taking into account the operation of the Community Treaties. I cannot conceive of any debate on a Budget, or on Customs and Excise, or on our tax structure, or on the value of our currency, not taking into account the particular operation of the Community Treaties in those fields. I cannot conceive of a report on transport which does not take account of the new transport regulations for the drivers. I cannot conceive, in the field of the Department of Trade and Industry, of a report, or of a debate, which does not raise the question of the competitive rules. If I went through all the Departments of State I think I would be saying the same thing—I have not forgotten my promise to the other noble Lord.


My Lords, I just wonder whether the noble and learned Lord does not think that Members of Parliament would find it extremely useful. when having these various debates on tax matters, on trade and industry or on transport, as he indicated, to be able to refer to the report of the Government on what has taken place on the application of these Treaties, so that the debates on these various subjects would be better informed.


My Lords, if the noble Lord had allowed me to complete my point he would have seen that I was precisely on that point when he interrupted me, because what I am saying is that the question before the House, which it is bound to consider, is whether a single document every year—which we are assured by the Leader of the Opposition is to be a single, slim document—is in fact something you want to have. If I were Secretary of State for one of the Departments—the Environment or Trade and Industry—I should inevitably have to include in the annual report of my own Department a definite section dealing with the way in which the Community had operated within my field. If I were a Chancellor of the Exchequer producing a Budget, I should again have to devote a part of my consideration to the operation within my field of the tax structure.

We have got to come to terms with the Community, and this is the point I am making. This is my answer to the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, and this is why I disagree with the merits of this Amendment. It is not a separate issue of policy, a separate Department like the mines or the nationalised railways. We must recognise that it is a thread running through the entire administrative structure of the nation in so far as it relates to the economic objects of the three Communities, and until we have seen that we are not assisting the matter by saying that there must be a nice slim volume which tells us how the Treaty is working every year. That is the wrong way to set about it, not the right way. Our objects are the same, but we differ as to means. I promised the noble Lord, Lord Slater, that I would give way to him. I am sorry to have kept him waiting so long, but I wanted to make that point.


My Lords, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is to be admired for the way in which he is endeavouring to reply to this debate, and particularly for bringing in departmental reports of Departments of which he has been the Minister in the past. But he has overlooked the fact that there are two important Committees attached to Parliament and he has not touched upon them at all as yet. One is the Public Accounts Committee, for which Parliament is responsible and is able to debate their Annual Report, from which there arise certain matters that are of great importance nationally and which furnish Parliament with certain information. Then there is the Estimates Committee, which is broken into sub-committees. Parliament can see the work that has been done in regard to these two major Committees. The noble and learned Lord has made no reference at all to those two Committees.


My Lords, I am very glad indeed that the noble Lord has drawn attention to the Public Accounts Committee and the Estimates Committee because they exactly underline the point that I ant making. They deal with the whole of the national life and do not attempt to departmentalise it. They pick up one subject after another without attempting to departmentalise them. If one asks for Annual Reports, one must first make up one's mind that there is a separate department of the national life which requires a single separate report, separate from the other reports. That is precisely the hidden assumption underlying the Amendment which I am seeking to persuade the House is entirely misapprehending the nature of the Community we are entering and the nature of the control problem that we are going to face.

I did not intend to speak as long as I have, but I am sure the noble Lord will forgive me as he did interrupt. I said that I was going to be short but there is just one more thing that I wish to say. What I said yesterday related to possible developments of the committee structure. There is nothing about the development of a committee structure in the Amendment. I fully agree with the noble Lord, Lord Slater, and, I think, with the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, about the value of a committee structure, but this is precisely the thing that the Government are inviting people to make suggestions about, and they are not going to be assisted by an Annual Report. I said that yesterday and I say it again to-day.

I want to conclude by pointing out that precisely because this new Community into which we are entering runs like a thread through all our departments and is not, by itself, a separate department, we must also harness the ordinary mechanisms of government. It is the questioning of Ministers as to their operation within the Community institutions; it is the rights based on interrogation, of writing to Ministers either by individual Members of Parliament or by groups; it is the demand for Adjournment Debates in another place or special debates on Unstarred Questions in this House; it is the objection by Prayers against Negative Resolutions, or criticisms of Motions requiring Affirmative Resolutions, or the criticism of legislation proposed by Government—this is the modern and sophisticated method of control. I do not say that it is enough. I accept the need—and I only wish that the Opposition had realised the need—for a development of our Committee system in order to meet the situation. But these are the mechanisms of Parliamentary control and the mere insertion into this Bill of the demand for an Annual Report does nothing to help and only indicates that those who have put the Amendment forward really would do well to accept our invitation to discuss the matter so that we may think this thing through together, because I genuinely believe that they had not done so by themselves.


My Lords, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor protested five times that he could not conceive of certain events happening. It has also been said that five countries have never had an Annual Report. One of the five, France, has the necessary legislation. Germany is the only country that has an Annual Report. Do the others not make an annual report because there is nothing to report? Or what is the reason? May we have some evidence adduced before we proceed further as to what sort of a report it is that the Germans make to their own Parliament? If we could have questions like that answered, perhaps some of us would be a little more enlightened.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, to whom we always listen with such deep respect, expressed the desire to go round your Lordships' House and ask for personal testimonies. Clearly, for procedural reasons, that is out of the question, but I wondered whether it would be out of order if I were to oblige him to the extent of revealing my own processes of conscience in this connection. I am a friend to reports. When I was an academic professor, years ago, they formed an important part of the raw material on which I based my teaching and my lectures. When I have functioned in other capacities—as Chairman of the National Gallery, as a member of the Board of the Royal Opera House and so on—I have taken the initiative in seeking to bring about annual statements of objectives and difficulties.

Therefore at the beginning of this debate, as I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton—who almost always persuades me in some subtle way that when I disagree with him I am being either foolish or a cad—I wondered which way I should finally decide to vote on this Amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, showed me a red light, the nature of which has been powerfully elucidated by the masterly and mighty speech of the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack. I began to ask myself as the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, catalogued the various issues on which he thought an Annual Report would facilitate the proceedings of Parliament what I should do if, reverting to a former temporary capacity, I was a civil servant in charge of organising that report. As I reflected on this—this was before the Lord Chancellor had developed his powerful battery of arguments—my imagination began to boggle at the immensity and indeed inappropriateness of the task.

I submit, for the reasons which have been effectively deployed and which I will not bore the House by repeating, that the report would have to be absolutely encyclopaedic in its coverage or else be jejune, empty, superficial and misleading. For that reason I implore those of your Lordships, including the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, who support the Amendment to have second thoughts on this matter, and here I speak entirely as a non-Party man.




Yes, indeed. I am rooted to the Cross Benches. I beseech those of your Lordships who may feel inclined to support the Amendment to consider the alternative course; namely, acceptance of the invitation made by the noble Earl the Leader of the House to enter into discussions on the appropriate procedure for tackling the enormously important and essential problem of providing proper Parliamentary contact with the new world which we are proposing to enter.

4.12 p.m.


My Lords, I wish to bring the debate back from the heights to which the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor took it to the practical issue which is now before the House. The noble and learned Lord yesterday made a grossly unfair attack on silkworm breeders. To-day, though not for the first time, he adduced powerful arguments in support of the Amendments which I moved yesterday and which he then opposed. However, to-day the Lord Chancellor was even more helpful, for he outlined the sort of arrangement that this report might have.

Our proposal is broad enough for any Government, in the light of practical needs—the sort of Questions they are asked in Parliament and so on—for the purpose of deciding the nature that the report should take. My noble friend asked what sort of reports had been made in Europe. I wish to stress that I based my argument only slightly on European practice because my case related much more to British practice and our Parliamentary practice. The Dutch and German documents, which are presented regularly, run to about 30 printed pages. This would be the noble and learned Lord's slim volume, though it was the Lord Chancellor and not I who used the word "slim". The Italian report runs to about 200 pages. Perhaps we could compromise and have, say, 110 pages, coinciding with the usual size of the Government majority in this House. Alternatively, I could argue that it should be less. In any event, to argue that it is not possible for this report to be published because it is not confined to a single Departmental subject is, with respect, not convincing. For one thing, we are accustomed to White Papers on the economy and official documents covering much wider subjects than are at present within the purview of the Community. For example, it might be reasonable to have a section on the Common Agricultural Policy, if our entry has not finally succeeded in getting rid of it.

My noble friend who has for many years been my instructor on textile matters can be assured that these reports are very similar in content. We do not have to copy them. They contain factual summaries of the main decisions reached, important Commission proposals on which decisions are pending, and the Government's attitude to the current issues of Community policy and politics, though couched in quite general terms. This is precisely the sort of report that we want, and for Government spokesmen to argue once again that this important matter, which we have discussed previously and which the Government have rejected on the ground that the Opposition still oppose for the most part the general content of this Bill, does not answer the argument that we should, as in practically every Statute dealing with a new situation, make provision for an Annual Report.

I have with me any number of examples of such documents, and not relating only to the nationalised industries. The Department of Trade have to report on certain matters and there are countless other reports. The Statute Book is studded with examples of cases in which such documents have to be produced. We have been modest, and have said that it should be an Annual Report. I agree with the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor that my Amendments yesterday did not call for quarterly reports. Equally, however, I did not see how the noble and learned Lord arrived at six two-monthly reports. They might have been 12 one-monthly reports. It was simply a request for regular reports in a convenient form on what had been decided. We are now asking for what is the last request we can make in this area. The noble and learned Earl the Leader of the House—I apologise; he is not learned.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for correcting himself, especially as the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, made the same slight error.


My Lords, perhaps the slip of the tongue was an indication of the fact that the noble Earl was to-day very much less convincing than is usually the case. I do not believe that he could find a valid argument against what we are proposing. He said very firmly that there is nothing hole-in-corner in what the Government have in mind to do, nothing unparliamentary in the proposals they have for discussions with the Opposition, and so on. But, if I may say so, that has nothing to do with this Amendment. This Amendment is a perfectly straightforward one calling for an Annual Report. It may go some way to help the critics; it may even ease the path of the Government.

What I should like to ask the Government—because this is a very simple Amendment—is: could the noble Earl confirm that this Bill cannot become law until the Royal Assent is given in Parliament and notified to another place on October 12—though it may be that we can have the Royal Assent here sooner. If that is so—and I put this to noble Lords who are worried that if we make Amendments we shall endanger the Bill; (and it is legitimate for them to think of this, although I do not share that worry)—

I hope that noble Lords opposite realise that this Bill will not become law until the Commons come back and the Royal Assent can be notified in that House, as well as in this House. For that reason there can be no argument as to the procedure of entry into the Common Market for not allowing this Amendment.

My Lords, I am really very sad that the Government will not accept a very simple proposal. I only hope that your Lordships will recognise that this is something that we could reasonably do; indeed, our duty as a House, and I may even say our reputation as a House, rests on our willingness to face this sort of issue. I shall take no further time, but I think we shall have to divide on this Amendment. I hope that I shall see some noble Lords come with us in support of a reasonable and modest Amendment.

4.22 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 10) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 54; Not-Contents, 144.

Addison, V. Greenwood of Rossendale, L. Rusholme, L.
Ardwick, L. Hale, L. Sainsbury, L.
Arwyn, L. Henderson, L. Serota, B.
Balogh, L. Hoy, L. Shackleton, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Hughes, L. Shepherd, L.
Bernstein, L. Lauderdale, E. Slater, L.
Beswick, L. Leatherland, L. Soper, L.
Blyton, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Stamp, L.
Brockway, L. Lloyd of Hampstead, L. Stow Hill, L.
Brown, L. McLeavy, L. Summerskill, B.
Buckinghamshire, E. Maelor, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Champion, L. Morrison, L. Watkins, L.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Moyle, L. White, B.
Crook, L. Nunburnholme, L. Williamson, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Parpiter, L. Woolley, L.
Faringdon, L. Phillips, B. [Teller.] Wright of Ashton under Lyne, L.
Gardiner, L. Platt, L.
Garnsworthy, L. [Teller.] Popplewell, L. Wynne-Jones, L.
Gormanston, V. Rhodes, L.
Aberdare, L. Beauchamp, E. Craigton, L.
Abinger, L. Belstead, L. Croft, L.
Ailwyn, L. Berkeley, B. Daventry, V.
Airedale, L. Blackford, L. de Clifford, L.
Albemarle, E. Blake, L. Denham, L. [Teller.]
Alport, L. Brentford, V. Derwent, L.
Amherst, E. Brooke of Cumnor, L. Digby, L.
Amherst of Hackney, L. Caccia, L. Drumalbyn, L.
Amory, V. Carrington, L. Dundee, E.
Ashbourne, L. Cawley, L. Dundonald, E.
Atholl, D. Clwyd, L. Ebbisham, L.
Avebury, L. Colville of Culross, V. Effingham, E.
Balerno, L. Cottesloe, L. Ellenborough, L.
Balfour, E. Courtown, E. Elles, B.
Barnby, L. Craigavon, V. Elliot of Harwood, B.
Bathurst, E. Craigmyle, L. Emmet of Amberley, B.
Ferrers, E. Long, V. Rothes, E.
Fisher, L. Loudoun, C. Saint Oswald, L.
Fortescue, E. Lovat, L. Sandford, L.
Fraser of Lonsdale, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L. Sandys, L.
Gage, V. Luke, L. Savile, L.
Gainford, L. Macleod of Borve, B. Seear, B.
Geddes, L. Mansfield, E. Selkirk, E.
Gisborough, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V. Sempill, Ly.
Goschen, V. Middleton, L. Shaftesbury, E.
Gowrie, E. Mills, V. Sherfield, L.
Grantchester, L. Milverton, L. Stonehaven, V.
Greenway, L. Monck, V. Strange of Knokin, B.
Gridley, L. Monckton of Brenchley, V. Strathcarron, L.
Grimston of Westbury, L. Montagu of Beaulieu, L. Strathclyde, L.
Hailes, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.] Todd, L.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.) Townshend, M.
Moyne, L. Trefgarne, L.
Hankey, L. Napier and Ettrick, L. Trevelyan, L.
Hanworth, V. Netherthorpe, L. Tweedsmuir, L.
Harvey of Prestbury, L. Northchurch, B. Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, B.
Hatherton, L. Nugent of Guildford, L. Vernon, L.
Hawke, L. Penrhyn, L. Vivian, L.
Henley, L. Polwarth, L. Wade, L.
Hives, L. Rankeillour, L. Waldegrave, E.
Hood, V. Rathcavan, L. Ward of Witley, V.
Hylton, L. Reay, L. Wigram, L.
Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.) Redesdale, L. Willingdon, M.
Kemsley, V. Reigate, L. Windlesham, L.
Kilmarnock, L. Rennell, L. Wolverton, L.
Kindersley, L. Robbins, L. Wynford, L.
Latymer, L. Rochdale, V. Yarborough, E.
Leicester, E. Rockley, L. Young, B.
Limerick, E. Rosslyn, E.

Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Clause 6 [The common agricultural policy]:

4.32 p.m.

LORD HOY moved Amendment No. 11: Page 11, line 4, leave out ("annulment") and insert ("approval").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move the Amendment standing in the name of my noble friend. This Amendment is exceedingly simple and easily understood, and one other thing that must be said in its favour is that it affects only one industry, the agriculture industry. The argument that this industry never has a White Paper simply cannot be made on this occasion because in respect to this industry successive Governments have had to produce a White Paper every year and it was on this arrangement that price agreements were made.

This subsection to Clause 6 reads: Where it appears to the Ministers, having regard to any such Community arrangements as aforesaid … that section 1 of the Agriculture Act, 1957 should cease to apply to produce of any description mentioned in Schedule 1 to that Act, they may by order made by statutory instrument, which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.…

The Amendments standing in the name of my noble friend are to change the word "annulment" to "approval" and the word "either" to "each" House of Parliament.

In thinking about this first Amendment, what we ought to be doing is considering what is included in Schedule 1 to the 1957 Agriculture Act. That Schedule 1 is one of the most simple Schedules I have had to deal with in a fairly long experience in Parliament. It simply states that the produce qualifying for guarantee shall he, in Part I, wheat, barley, oats, rye and potatoes, and in Part II, fat cattle, fat sheep, fat pigs, liquid milk and wool. Those items in fact constitute Schedule 1. When the Bill was first drafted and when it first became an Act one other commodity was included in the Schedule—eggs—but apparently for some unknown reason people who were interested in the poultry world decided that we ought to get rid of the guaranteed price, the little lion mark and all that went with it. Noble Lords will be able to judge whether they were wise to do so or not.

All I am arguing is that this particular clause would enable changes to be made and the changes are going to affect the 1957 Agriculture Act. What the Bill proposes is that without any real, well-informed discussion these changes should take place. Along would come the Minister to the House—either House—and simply lay down an Order which we could only either reject or approve without any adequate discussion. All my noble friend is suggesting in his Amendment, to which I am giving my personal support, is this. In this particular industry these agreements as between the producer, the industry and the Government have never been subject to this form of procedure. There is not a single Member of either House who can deny that when changes of this kind were contemplated the Government of the day consulted the industry, the issues were threshed out and decisions were reached, not always, I am willing to admit, with unanimity; occasionally we had agreed reviews, occasionally we had disagreed reviews, and in latter years we reached reviews of a no-comment verdict from the N.F.U.; they neither agreed nor disagreed. But what we are all agreed about is that before decisions were reached discussions took place. This Amendment asks that when the Government are contemplating making substantial changes in our agricultural arrangements which will result in these guarantees being interfered with, they should at least come along with an Affirmative motion explaining to both Houses what they intend doing and their reason for so doing, and allow not only one House but both Houses to discuss it fully.

I should have thought that this particular Amendment would commend itself certainly to many Members of your Lordships' House, and it is certainly an Amendment which must commend itself to the agriculture industry. Without seeking to boast, and with a Parliamentary Secretaryship longer than anyone else in any Government, I can claim to have had a very long connection with that industry in a ministerial capacity. One of the reasons why we were successful was that we always entered into discussions on proposals before changes were made. This proposal is not in any way going to interfere with this particular Bill. We are not even saying that Orders should not be laid. What we are saying is that Parliament and the industry should have a right to consider the proposal. If the Government would substitute "approval" for "annulment", this could be done by an Affirmative order. That is all we ask for in the first Amendment.

In the second Amendment we are saying that not "either" House but both Houses should signify approval. I do not think that is asking too much. In a very recent experience we in fact approved an Order in this House, and then it went to another place where it was proved that the Order was ultra vires and it had to be withdrawn altogether, despite your Lordships' approval. The Government had to place another Order, and we then, of course, approved the second Order. But that proved to me, if proof were needed, that if the Government are going to do what is suggested in this Bill, then both Houses should at least have the opportunity to discuss it. I think this is a very moderate request. I think it will commend itself to agriculturists in Britain, and I can only hope that it will commend itself to those who are listening. I beg to move.


My Lords, I feel that the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, and the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, have not really studied this subsection quite far enough. May I draw their attention to page 11? On the first line, your Lordships will see the word "cease", and at the end of that subsection on line 8, you will see the words "omitted from Schedule 1". This is not something that the Government are going to change; it is something that is subject to being deleted, omitted, and hence the word, "annulment" has been written into the Bill.

This matter was discussed at Committee stage, again under the name of the noble Lord, Lord Beswick. in Amendments Nos. 52 and 53. I thought at that time that he was given a satisfactory answer. However, may I stress that in my opinion to try to change this would be committing a serious mistake. This is not uncommon phraseology even in Agricultural Acts. May I draw your Lordships' attention to the Agriculture Act 1970, Section 27(3) of which reads: Any order under any of the following provisions of this Act"— and then there is a list of various sections in Part I of that Act— shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament. Therefore, it is not an unusual phrase, or an unusual expression. Here we are going to delete something; it is not a question of putting something in. The provisions of the Bill do not allow us to put anything in, and this was not the object of the exercise; the object is to annul something. I feel that this Amendment should not be pressed any further, and I hope that what I have said will be considered a satisfactory reason.


My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, may I say that I leave it to his noble friend to instruct him about Parliamentary procedure, but would he be good enough to tell me in what part of Hansard I am given the answer to this Amendment on Committee stage? Can he give me the column reference?


No, my Lords, I cannot give the column.


My Lords, will the noble Earl allow me to remind him that at column 1383 on August 10, I said that I did not propose to move this Amendment, but I proposed to return to it on Report.


My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Beswick. I thought lie had received a further answer. At the same time, I hope that I have given a satisfactory explanation as to why it would be wrong to change this wording. It is not uncommon, and it does appear in Agriculture Acts.

4.45 p.m.


My Lords, I am bound to say that I was also fascinated when my noble friend Lord Balfour said that the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, had received a satisfactory explanation. I felt somewhat flattered that my words were read so carefully—and even more flattered to think that they are read even when they have not been spoken. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, is really concerned that there should be an Affirmative Resolution as opposed to a Negative Resolution procedure, and that no items should be removed from the system of guarantees without the affirmative approval of Parliament. We all know—and he knows better than most—that the system of guaranteed prices which has been used in this country has been the absolute rock upon which agriculture has depended for support over the last twenty-five years or so.

It is perfectly true that there have been discussions with regard to guaranteed prices, but of course when the noble Lord said that he hoped that there would not be substantial alteration to the principle of guarantees I can only tell him that there are bound to be, as he knows, because we shall soon be in the transitional period of changing over from the system of support that we have been used to to that existing in the Common Market countries. Under this system farmers can, in general, expect to look forward to higher returns from the Common Agricultural Policy than under the existing United Kingdom system. During the transitional period the market prices that farmers will obtain for their goods will move upwards in a series of steps, and in most cases these market prices will overtake the guaranteed price at some stage during the transitional period. After this happens, no guarantee payments will be made, and the maintenance of the guarantee arrangements will therefore become unnecessary. In any case, the guarantee arrangements will have to end by the end of 1977 for any commodity which is covered by a Common Market organisation.

It seems sensible, therefore, for the Government to take power to remove commodities from guarantee at that point in the transitional period, wherever that point may be, when farmers' returns are adequately supported by the new Common Market system of support. At that stage, when no guarantee payments are being made, or are likely to be made, when the market price is above the guaranteed price, or when even the intervention price may be above the guaranteed price, it would seem only right that the obligation under the present system of support should be removed. The National Farmers' Union, who are of course always vigilant in looking after the interests of farmers, have shown no concern about this, and I would suggest that there is no good reason why an Affirmative Resolution procedure for these regulations should be adopted, particularly as the continuation of guarantees under these circumstances for any particular commodity will then be academic, because that commodity will be then supported by the Common Market system.

It could be argued—and I think that the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, might well have argued—that there should be an Affirmative Resolution procedure where subsidies on which people are relying are being removed or are being stopped. However, here we are dealing with a situation in which the Common Market system of support for any particular commodity will have superseded the guaranteed price for that commodity. The agricultural support will then be coming from the new system as opposed to the current system, and so the current system will have been rendered redundant. In those circumstances, I would suggest that a Negative Resolution procedure is entirely adequate, and I hope that the noble Lord will agree.

4.50 p.m.


My Lords, I think that the explanation given by the noble Earl is extremely logical. Of course the difficulty is that things do not always turn out logically. We have talked about areas; I would suggest that we are going into a very foggy area indeed. It is an area in which no one can see very far ahead. We know very well that the greatest anomaly and stumbling block, as regards identifying our systems with those of Europe, is the Common Agricultural Policy. We know that it is the general hope that after membership the United Kingdom's influence will be able to modify and change that policy, but as it stands at the moment—I have used the phrase before and I use it again—it is a complete and absolute nonsense so far as this country is concerned.

The noble Earl has said that farmers will get higher prices. That may be the immediate prospect for some commodities, though already some of the gilt seems to be disappearing from the cereal gingerbread, if that is not a contradiction in terms. Already people are beginning to wonder whether the very high hopes that led them to accept things which otherwise seemed dubious in the agricultural field have been something of a mirage. But we do not know. I have seen many things happen in agriculture which nobody could foresee and which indeed were quite unpredictable even within the space of a few years. I can remember only too well when my friend—I refer to my friend Lord Netherthorpe, and I suppose that sitting on these Cross-Benches one does not have any "noble friends"—was President of the National Farmers' Union and I was doing my best to "prop" for him. We were completely dismayed by a prospective crop of three million tons of barley, and the Government spokesman asked how on earth the Government could increase the guaranteed price for barley when there was that great surplus flooding on to the market. We could not gainsay that, yet within a few years we were growing and absorbing at very much higher market prices eight million tons of barley.

Those are the sort of things which those who have experience in the agricultural field know to be facts. It therefore makes them extremely cautious about saying that this, that or the other will happen. We do not know what will happen, the noble Earl does not know, I do not know and the Government do not know. It is all very well to say, "This is what we think. This is what we hope." It could well be, as time unfolds, that what now looks to be so cut and dried will have to go. This is part of the whole deal. This is understood. We do not know where we shall stand in a few years' time. Therefore, I support the Amendment.

The Government are not being asked to do a somersault or to revoke. This is simply asking that they keep in their hands a statutory procedure which provides the opportunity and the assurance that when the time comes the position can be looked at fully, commodity by commodity, in the light of all the circumstances. We should not pre-commit ourselves at this point of time to what we think may be the position some years ahead. Therefore, this is a very modest, a reasonable and, I hope, acceptable Amendment, and I say that without any partisanship one way or the other. Naturally, as I have made plain throughout, as an individual I am disturbed and worried that the basis upon which modern agriculture has been built in this country is to be put at risk. This disturbs me deeply, however it may appeal to other people.

Nevertheless, all farmers are optimists or they would not be farmers, and we go forward into this foggy area hoping for the best and quite certain of the worst. But in going forward let us at least retain some sensible and reasonable procedure. If indeed the position is to turn out as the noble Earl has said, if it is so self-evident and obvious, then I see no obstacle or difficulty about the Affirmative Resolution procedure. I see no difficulty in something being submitted to both Houses of Parliament. Indeed, by this very procedure it would be made the more abundantly clear to everybody that that is the right, the justified and the proper thing to do, whereas by relying on this other device it might not so appear.


My Lords, we have been through the Bill on earlier occasions and we have discussed the sort of Parliamentary actions which will be required here consequent upon decisions taken in Brussels. Under Clauses 1 and 2, we pointed out how vague are the requirements for Parliamentary action here. Almost always when we have criticised their vagueness we have been told, "Things are much better than you think. The words in Clauses 1 and 2 are really not so bad as they appear to be. They do not mean what they appear to mean." But now for the first time in Clause 6, dealing with the agricultural policy, the action required in this Parliament is spelled out. This is the first time that the requirement is really clear cut. On this occasion the Negative Resolution procedure—the lowest form of Parliamentary life—is required. As I said, at other times when we have asked for greater clarity and have asked for this or that to be done, the Government have said, "Do not tie us. We do not know. Let us not put it into the Bill. Let us have a little more elbow room." Here they have left themselves absolutely no elbow room and, as the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, said, we do not know how these things will work out.

We are not saying that Ministers of the day should not come forward and do what is required of them by Brussels decisions. All we are saying is that instead of having the negative form of procedure we should have the positive form. As I am sure your Lordships will know, the Negative Resolution procedure Orders do not even go through our Standing Orders Committee on Statutory Instruments. They can slip through. This is really hole-in-the-corner stuff. If, when the time comes, it is found that the kind of changes that are to take place are so reasonable and sensible, it will not take up much time to get approval in both Houses. Discussion need not necessarilly follow, but we really ought to be kept informed. This is another case where the general argument which we tried to put applies.

At the outset we should have the maximum possibility of seeing what is being done, and if, later on, experience suggests that we can restrict a little, streamline a little, then let us do that. But at the beginning, until we know, there should be the maximum opportunity for this House and the other place to be acquainted with what decisions are being taken and what action follows from the decisions taken at Brussels. Therefore, I should have thought that the positive procedures would be more appropriate now. Later on, if necessary, we can amend. We can make provision also for the negative procedures. I should have been happy if the noble Earl who spoke for the Government had come along and said, "All right; there is something in your case, but we do not always want to have the positive form; sometimes the Negative Resolution procedure might be appropriate. Let us have a combination of the two". I should have thought there was a case for that; but he has not suggested it. He wants to tie himself down to the Negative Resolution procedure. I am suggesting—and I hope it will be agreed—that we should take the advice offered on other occasions, and not tie the Government's hands by statutory requirement. Let us give them a little more elbow room, and therefore accept this Amendment.


My Lords, I wonder whether I could have the leave of the House to speak again on one or two points, because I think there may be a slight misapprehension here. The noble Lord, Lord Woolley, as everyone knows, speaks with all the authority he had as President of the National Farmers' Union. I know that he is apprehensive, as he has said on other occasions and has repeated to-day, about the prospects for agriculture once we enter the Common Market. That is a view that he is of course entirely justified in holding: the fact that one may not share it is neither here nor there. But what we are considering here is what is to happen during the transitional period. The noble Lord, Lord Woolley, said that in his view farmers' returns may riot be as great once we are in the Common Market as they at present believe they will be. But under the transitional arrangements farmers will have the benefit both of the Common Market policy, with its intervention prices, and of our existing guaranteed price system. The provision to which the Amendment relates is merely to take account of the fact that if, during the transitional period—and the operative word is "if"—the price of products rises to such an extent that the Common Market agricultural regime supersedes the guaranteed price régime, and if in fact the guaranteed price system is rendered redundant, then it would seem pointless for the Government to continue operating a system of guaranteed prices—filling in forms, and asking farmers to do the same, for a system which no longer has any purpose. Where that position comes about in the case of any particular commodity, then it is suggested that we should have the Negative Resolution procedure.

My Lords, there is nothing "hole-in-the-corner", as the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, described it, about this. At the time this came about in the case of any commodity everyone would know that the guaranteed system in relation to that commodity was no longer being used. The Statutory Instrument would be laid and people would know about it. If farmers were aggravated about it, then they could brief either Members of another place or Members of this House to pray against it; and if the Resolution is prayed against in either House of Parliament then of course it falls. I really do try to persuade the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, that it is only in the case where the guaranteed price system, or the operation of it, has become academic that this system would be likely to be used.


My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Earl for his second reply, but I think he has made one or two mistakes which I hope to correct. But I must correct the speech made by the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, because at least in one part he was absolutely honest. I have not heard such an honest statement for a long time. It did not altogether meet with the approval of the Leader of the House, but the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, said that the object of this exercise was to see that nothing was put into this Bill. That, he said, was the object of this exercise, and he made it quite clear—and I am grateful to him for his clarity, and indeed for his honesty. But then he got just a little mixed up with the opening sentences and the concluding sentences, because the concluding sentences of this particular subsection apply only if action has been taken under the first part. I think he has got it a little mixed.

Then the noble Earl went on to say that in the case of certain Acts—and he quoted them—provision had been made for the Negative Resolution procedure. He is absolutely correct; but he would have been equally correct in saying that in the case of other Orders the Affirmative Resolution had been laid down. So there has always been a mixture. Indeed, in the case of the last Agriculture Bill which it was my privilege to take through this House, in 1970, on two occasions the Opposition persuaded me that I ought to change from the Negative Resolution procedure to the Affirmative. I did not altogether agree, but I felt there was a case to be made for it, and I personally accepted Amendments which made the Affirmative procedure possible, instead of the Negative.

The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, said that the agricultural industry will always be aware of what is happening. He could not have chosen a worse time to make that statement—and, of course, he did it quite unknowingly. Quite recently we had before your Lordships' House the Industry Bill, and, as the noble Earl's noble friend Lord Drumalbyn will tell him, for some unknown reason slaughterhouses, which are in association with agriculture, were missed out of the provisions. This omission simply was not noticed, either in your Lordships' House or in another place, until it was too late, or very nearly too late; and I was asked, at more than the eleventh hour, to raise this matter in your Lordships' House—and I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, for the very firm assurance that he gave about it. But here was a Bill going through, and industry itself was not aware of all its contents; and it was for that reason that your Lordships' House had to do what another place had failed to do.

Now it seems to me that if an industry has to be well-informed at all, surely it is the duty of the Government of the day to inform it. What is wrong with producing an Order explaining what the Government want and affirmatively seeking approval or otherwise of either House of Parliament? That, surely, is not asking too much. Nor will I accept the argument of the noble Earl about the price of products rising. Incidentally, I did not say that I hoped that there would not be substantial changes. I know that there are bound to be substantial changes, because the whole procedure is being changed from a guaranteed price to a price which will be raised on the market to the housewife. In other words, the housewife will have to pay prices sufficient to meet the changes which are being made. No one would seek to deny that. That is what will happen, and prices will go up. It is all right taking it at the present time, as the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, said, and saying, "If by doing this the housewife pays another tuppence a pound more, she will more than recoup from what the guaranteed price is at the moment". But you can take that to an extent much too great, and you will find a resistance by housewives and other people to paying higher prices because they feel they are already paying enough. This is one of those things which nobody can assert with any great finality. So I say to the noble Earl that it is because of this that it should be discussed.

The noble Earl rightly says that in the changeover they will be less dependent

on the guaranteed price than on the market price. But he also said that changes should be made when farmers are receiving "adequate" prices—and this is in fact what the discussion would be about. Because by this form of procedure the noble Earl is saying that the all-powerful in Brussels (with the Government represented, I agree) are going to decide what "adequate" means. But so far as I am concerned, in all my lifelong association with agriculture the farmers have always had something to say about what they regarded as being adequate, as distinct from the Government's opinion. So I do not think that that argument holds water.

I do not want to get on to a wider agricultural debate, but I would say this to the noble Earl. It is all right saying that prices will increase but that farmers will in fact be recompensed by higher prices, as if in fact there were all pluses and no minuses. Let us take the example of the people who are producing the meat of this country—the beef, let us say. They are afraid that certain cereal charges will go up very substantially, and that the cost of foodstuffs will move very substantially indeed. So a fair section of the increase in price will be represented by increased costs. There is no Minister of any Government who would deny that. For these reasons my noble friend put down the Amendment which I have had the honour of moving. I will take the argument no further. I think the logic of the case has been evident to those who cared to listen to the debate. I will occupy no more of your Lordships' time but will take the Amendment to the Division Lobby.

5.12 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 11) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 49; Not-Contents, 144.

Addison, V. Buckinghamshire, E. Hale, L.
Ardwick, L. Caradon, L. Henderson, L.
Arwyn, L. Champion, L. Hoy, L.
Balogh, L. Davies of Leek, L. Hughes, L.
Bernstein, L. de Clifford, L. Lauderdale, E.
Beswick, L. Douglass of Cleveland, L. Leatherland, L.
Blyton, L. Garnsworthy, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. [Teller.]
Brockway, L. Granville of Eye, L.
Brown, L. Greenwood of Rossendale, L. Lloyd of Hampstead, L
McLeavy, L. Rusholme, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Moyle, L. Sainsbury, L. Watkins, L.
Nunburnholme, L. Serota, B. White, B.
Pargiter, L. Shepherd, L. Williamson, L.
Phillips, B. [Teller.] Slater, L. Woolley, L.
Platt, L. Snow, L. Wright of Ashton under Lyne, L.
Popplewell, L. Stow Hill, L.
Rhodes, L. Summerskill, B. Wynne-Jones, L.
Aberdare, L. Fortescue, E. Northchurch, B.
Abinger, L. Fraser of Lonsdale, L. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Ailwyn, L. Gage, V. Penrhyn, L.
Airedale, L. Gainford, L. Polwarth, L.
Albemarle, E. Gisborough, L. Ranfurly, E.
Amherst of Hackney, L. Goschen, V. Rankeillour, L.
Ashbourne, L. Gowrie, E. Rathcavan, L.
Astor of Hever, L. Greenway, L. Reay, L.
Atholl, D. Gridley, L. Redesdale, L.
Auckland, L. Grimston of Westbury, L. Reigate, L.
Balerno, L. Grimthorpe, L. Rennell, L.
Balfour, E. Hailes, L. Robbins, L.
Barnby, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.) Rochdale, V.
Bathurst, E. Rosslyn, E.
Beauchamp, E. Hanworth, V. Rothermere, V.
Beaumont of Witley, L. Harvey of Prestbury, L. St. Just, L.
Belstead, L. Hatherton, L. Saint Oswald, L.
Berkeley, B. Hawke, L. Sandford, L.
Blackford, L. Hemingford, L. Sandys, L.
Blake, L. Henley, L. Savile, L.
Boothby, L. Hewlett, L. Seear, B.
Brentford, V. Hives, L. Selkirk, E.
Caccia, L. Hood, V. Sempill, Ly.
Carrington, L. Hylton, L. Shaftesbury, E.
Cawley, L. Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.) Sherfield, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Kemsley, V. Simon, V.
Cottesloe, L. Killearn, L. Stonehaven, V.
Courtown, E. Kilmarnock, L. Strange of Knokin, B.
Craigavon, V. Kindersley, L. Strathclyde, L.
Craigmyle, L. Lansdowne, M. Swansea, L.
Craigton, L. Leicester, E. Tanlaw, L.
Daventry, V. Limerick, E. Todd, L.
Davidson, V. Long, V. Townshend, M.
De L'Isle, V. Loudoun, C. Trefgarne, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Lucas of Chilworth, L. Trevelyan, L.
Derwent, L. Luke, L. Tweedsmuir, L.
Digby, L. Macleod of Borve, B. Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, B.
Drumalbyn, L. Mansfield, E. Vernon, L.
Dudley, E. Massereene and Ferrard, V. Vivian, L.
Dundee, E. Middleton, L. Wade, L.
Dundonald, E. Mills, V. Waldegrave, E.
Ebbisham, L. Milverton, L. Ward of Witley, V.
Effingham, E. Monck, V. Wigram, L.
Ellenborough, L. Monk Bretton, L. Windlesham, L.
Elles, B. Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.] Wolverton, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Wynford, L.
Emmet of Amberley, B. Moyne, L. Yarborough, E.
Ferrers, E. Napier and Ettrick, L. Young, B.
Fisher, L. Netherthorpe, L.

Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Clause 7 [Sugar]:

5.20 p.m.

LORD GREENWOOD OF ROSSENDALE moved Amendment No. 13: Page 11, line 18, at beginning insert— (".—( ) Subject to the acceptance by the Community of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement of 2nd and 3rd June 1971").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 13, and perhaps it would be for the convenience of the House to take with it No. 14, which is linked with it. In my view this is one of the more important aspects of the problem upon which we are spending our time. It is my firm belief that the sugar-producing members of the Commonwealth have been grievously misled by this country as to the effect that our membership of the Common Market will have on them and upon their fortunes.

To get the problem into perspective I think that two things must be remembered. The first is the extent to which so many Commonwealth countries depend upon sugar for their livelihood. There are at least 14 less-developed countries in the Commonwealth to whom sugar is of major importance. It is the main employer of labour and accounts for more than two-thirds of the export revenue of Mauritius, St. Kitts, Barbados and Fiji; and of course it is of vital importance to countries like Guyana and Swaziland. The second aspect to which we must call attention is the history of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement which was started by the Attlee Government in 1950. Many of your Lordships will remember the troubles in the Caribbean before the outbreak of war and the unrest after the outbreak of war because of the collapse of the sugar market. The uncertainty about prices and about an outlet for this major commodity was one of the important causes of instability in those countries and the cause of grave hardship to workers employed in the sugar industry.

The Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, for which I think Lord Attlee's Government deserved the greatest credit, was designed to give a secure market and a fair price to the producers of sugar. It has succeeded in doing that and the financial provisions have been reviewed from time to time. Indeed, so important has been the contribution of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement to the economy of the developing countries of the Commonwealth that both major Parties made protection for the sugar producers a sticking point in the negotiations with the E.E.C., and no one was more vocal about this than Mr. Geoffrey Rippon himself. On February 22 last year he told of what he intended to do for the Commonwealth sugar producers. He said: So far as the Commonwealth Caribbean Governments and sugar producers are concerned, the principal problem is to be able to plan production ahead with a similar degree of assurance to that which they now enjoy under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. For this they require what the Jamaican Minister of Trade and Industry described as 'bankable' assurances; in other words, assurances which would persuade bank managers to provide the credits necessary for the roll- on of sugar production. Cane sugar production, unlike beet sugar production, has, of course, to be planned a number of years in advance."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 22/2/71; col. 44.] So the Government, my Lords, set out to obtain "bankable assurances". Later on we find Mr. Rippon once again describing what he had said to the countries of the Community. He spoke about the developing Commonwealth and he said: I recalled the extent of the dependence of these countries on sugar; the impossibility of their being able to diversify their production in the foreseeable future; the fact that this is not only an economic but a human problem with alternative employment to that in the sugar industry difficult to find; the need for certainty about future markets in order to assure the necessary financial credits; and the need to ensure the economic and political stability of the countries concerned.… I felt that … an acceptable and equitable solution was essential, not least in the interest of the enlarged Community's relationships with the outside world."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 18/3/71; col. 1659-60.]

Gradually, my Lords, Mr. Rippon unfolded this saga of the battle he had inside the Community. We find him saying, on May 17 last year, how the Community had undertaken to bear in mind the importance of sugar and then this dramatic interlude: In the early hours of 13th May, after further contacts, the Community put an additional text to us. They now said that it would be the firm purpose of the enlarged Community to safeguard the interests of the countries in question whose economies depended to a considerable degree on the export of primary products, in particular Sugar."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT Commons, 17/5/71; col. 886.] Mr. Rippon later explained to the House of Commons how the text had said that the Community "aura à coeur". He went on to make the point that, in French, that was a very strong thing to say; and if he did not think that this "having at heart" was a bankable assurance he would not have accepted it.

At this point I think I must raise one issue about the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement because it is said from time to time that in any event the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement terminates in 1974. That is not my interpretation of the situation. It is a continuing Agreement which is renegotiated from time to time. I know that that is the view of M. Sauzier, who speaks with great authority on sugar matters. I have reason to believe that it is the view of my noble friend Lord Campbell of Eskan, who speaks with unrivalled experience in relation to sugar. I do not believe that there is anyone who seriously believes there was any idea that when 1974 came the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement would not be renewed. It has been one of the greatest successes, and in my view it would have been unthinkable that any Government should decide substantially to vary the terms of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, although, of course, the figures would have been open to renegotiation. Certainly the Commonwealth countries, I believe, were quite confident that if we were not encumbered with the Common Market we should be continuing the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement.

The sugar-producing countries had their doubts whether Mr. Rippon had really obtained bankable assurances, and the Lancaster House Conference was held. It is perhaps one of the obstacles we have to overcome from time to time that we have in the Commonwealth so many trusting friends and so many honourable men who are loth to believe that from time to time it is conceivable that this country should mislead them. I have talked to Commonwealth leaders who were at the talks at Lancaster House, and when I told them that I did not regard the conclusions as a bankable assurance, they said to me how difficult it was to take another point of view when the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster had told them that everything was all right. After a good deal of argument and reluctance, Mr. Rippon's point of view prevailed, and the Commonwealth leaders accepted, with some reluctance, what Mr. Rippon had negotiated.

The truth of the matter is that they have accepted Mr. Rippon's interpretation of what was negotiated in Brussels. Incidentally, I think the Prime Minister also was misled about the duration of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement; but I do not want to introduce what no doubt the Lord Privy Seal would describe as an extraneous matter. The truth is that the interpretation put upon the decision in Brussels by M. Schumann was very different from the interpretation put upon it by Mr. Rippon. In Sucrerie Francaise for August/September, 1971, we find a quotation which was quoted in another place two or three months ago: There lurks in the memory the statement in Sucrerie Francaise for August/September, 1971: 'M. Schumann said in precise terms that this document committed only the United Kingdom, and the Community merely took note of it for information.'"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 27/6/72; col. 1208.] And what M. Schumann regards as simply a note for information has been held out by Mr. Rippon and his colleagues to be a bankable assurance. That I cannot accept. Nor do I regard Protocol No. 22 as going nearly far enough to give the Commonwealth countries the stability which is so necessary for their development.

What is so sad is that we are reducing our own power to help the sugar-producing countries when the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement comes up for renegotiation in 1974. I believe that we are limiting our own ability to give them the help which they will continue to need. If one presses members of the Government, the only answer given—and I regard it as a totally unsatisfactory answer—is that we shall always have the right of veto once we are a member of the Community. But we cannot by the use of a veto regain our power to give Commonwealth countries the help that the Common Agricultural Policy will make it impossible for us to give. The only way in which we can use the veto in that situation is to use it indiscriminately, so that we may perhaps wear down our friends in the Community and make them behave more sensibly about our sugar responsibilities, since it means that we shall stop harassing them about other things they wish to do. I do not regard that as satisfactory. I do not think we should go into the Community saying that we are going to use the veto from time to time. I think it would be much better to go in on the assumption that we can trust our friends and can accept the assurances they have given. The point about this, my Lords, is that in respect of sugar they have not given those assurances. I should like us to make it absolutely clear, by accepting both these Amendments, Nos. 13 and 14, this afternoon, that we are standing by our responsibilities to the sugar-producers of the Commonwealth, and that our entry into the Common Market will be done in a way which will ensure that their interests are still protected by the Government and the people of the United Kingdom. I beg to move Amendment No. 13.

5.34 p.m.


My Lords, recalling my experience at the Ministry of Agriculture ten years ago, I know that the pricing and marketing of sugar is one of the most complicated aspects of the whole food production world. I recall, in particular, a clause in the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill which related to sugar and the Irish republic. That clause, in debate, gave me one of the worst headaches I have endured, due to the complexity of the issue. The complexity has certainly not been reduced by being enveloped by our coming membership of the Common Market. Misconceptions in this context are inevitable, and the main task of dispelling them falls, of course, to my noble friend the Minister in this debate. But as one who has suffered in the past from the same kind of confusion of factors, shifting and rapidly altering factors, fluctuating prices and supplies, I have sympathy with noble Lords who are as bemused as I have been and I fancy that this must apply to noble Lords who have put their names to this Amendment and the one immediately following. The purpose of the Amendments is clearly protective by intention, and most honourably so, towards certain developing countries. What I think noble Lords have not taken into account is that such protection has already been ensured by the Government, as it would have been by the previous Government if it had fallen to them to lead us into the European Community, as was their intention. The anxieties lying behind these Amendments may do noble Lords credit morally speaking, but I am certain that they are misplaced.

In studying the strictures already made on this clause, they seem to me to stem from two suspicions, for one of which I have far greater respect than for the other. We are dealing of course with the period from 1974 onwards, not from the date of accession in three and a half months' time. Up to 1974 the existing Commonwealth Sugar Agreement continues unaltered, and our partners-to-be in Europe have accepted this without difficulty. The Labour Government prepared the Commonwealth countries for precisely this formula when in the autumn of 1968 they made the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement of indefinite duration, but subject to review every three years, starting in 1971—so that the first of those three years brings us to 1974. I have never heard it suggested in my Party, in the agricultural world or else where, that this was anything but a break clause to be used in certain circumstances. I have never heard it suggested that this would ever have been used as a way of bringing the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement to an end without good reason. Written into the terms of the 1968 Agreement were the words: If the United Kingdom successfully completes negotiations to accede to the E.E.C., she cannot be committed to continuing contractual obligations after 1974; in which case she will consult with other parties to seek means of fulfilling the objectives which these obligations would otherwise fulfil. That is precisely the course followed by the present Government.

The consultations then envisaged were carried out by the present Government at Lancaster House in a meeting where Britain and all the main sugar-producing countries of the Commonwealth were represented. The agreement reached there was reflected in discussions between Britain and the existing Community and further reflected in the Treaty itself. Sugar is specifically referred to in Article 81 and in paragraph 3 of Protocol 22 to the Treaty. What is contained in that Protocol is so clear that it deserves quoting. It says: The Community will have as its firm purpose the safeguarding of the interests of all the countries referred to in this Protocol whose economies depend to a considerable extent on the export of primary products, and particularly of sugar. The question of sugar will be settled within this framework, bearing in mind with regard to exports of sugar the importance of this product for the economies of several of these countries and of the Commonwealth countries in particular. That is spelling out the good will of the Community. These assurances, being accepted by Her Majesty's Government, were sufficient and satisfactory to the Governments of the producing countries. They were formally accepted and the acceptance placed on record after the consultations held in London. The Governments represented—and I quote— expressed their satisfaction at the Community's readiness to offer the Governments concerned a choice of forms of association or a trading agreement; and also at the readiness to recognise the United Kingdom's contractual commitments to all the C.S.A. Member Countries up to the end of 1974. For their part, the British delegation assured other delegations—and again I quote— That the Community's proposals constituted a specific and moral commitment by the enlarged Community, of which the United Kingdom would be a part. The British Government and other Commonwealth Governments participating regard this offer as a firm assurance of a secure and continuing market in the enlarged Community on fair terms for the quantities of sugar covered by the C.SA. in respect of all its developing member countries. The developing Commonwealth countries will continue to plan their future on this basis. The noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, quoted pant of that. I do not think that he quoted it in any tone particularly distinct from my own, but he clearly gave less weight to it than I do, and less weight than in fact the countries concerned gave to it.

The exporting countries also observed the genuine opportunities opened up by the enlarged Community, whether they chose, individually, either association or special trading agreements. This mutual satisfaction was freely obtained in open discussion. Why then, I ask myself, the dissatisfaction of the noble Lords opposite? Here I seem to discern two anxieties. One is that the present members of the Community have no real intention of carrying out the spirit as well as the letter of the Agreement, and if this is at the root of the noble Lord's anxieties I see a danger in entertaining this anxiety and a danger in airing it. It is based on mistrust, and one consequence of mistrust is that you are in turn mistrusted. Here I think it is mistaken, unnecessary and unhealthy. Even if you put it more mildly and more euphemistically, and say that certain other member countries may interpret the terms of the Agreement and the expression of intent in a somewhat different way from ourselves, the anxiety still ignores the fact—the important fact—that in 1974 when the new arrangements for sugar are to be negotiated, Britain will be an important and, we trust, persuasive partner, well able to continue to protect the interests of other Commonwealth countries as well as our own. The noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, appeared to place little faith in our persuasiveness, whatever Government might be in power. He did not seem to think that it amounted to as much as I do and as the Government do. There is no Party political feeling entering into this: I believe that one Government or another would be equally persuasive and equally determined to protect the interests of our Commonwealth partners in the context of what used to be the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement.

The other anxiety, which is less sinister but also, it seems to me, misplaced, is that the Community will not be in a position to take up the Commonwealth sugar production since the present Community is already in surplus itself. The noble Lord did not refer to this, but it may be raised in the course of the debate and so I am attempting to pre-empt it. It does not fall to me to go into detail on this, but the figure of 1 million tons surplus, sometimes quoted by the Commission itself, is based on the present total output measured against human consumption within a Community of Six. It is nothing like a true guide to consumption in a Community of Ten, the incoming Four representing between us a large net deficit in sugar.

Moreover, there is no true surplus of 1 million tons at the present day, since this figure is measured against human consumption and in fact a large proportion of that so-called surplus goes into animal feedingstutfs and chemical products, while a certain proportion is exported outside the Community. It has been calculated by experts—among whom I am certainly not numbered—that by 1974 the requirements of an enlarged Community, taking into account increased consumption along present lines, will be certainly adequate to take up the production of the developing countries now forming the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement; that is to say, there will be scope for selling to Europe the whole of the 1,400,000 tons which at present come to the United Kingdom.

Before sitting down I should like to add a footnote by saying that when, on that former occasion, I had to cope with a clash of opinions on sugar, the whale of the massive indignation of Tate & Lyle fell upon me in most articulate fashion. In contrast, following the joint communiqué from the C.S.A. members on June 3, there was a statement by the Board of Directors of Tate & Lyle which declared that, following the assurance given by the E.E.C., the Beard of Tate & Lyle now feel able to plan ahead both as sugar producers in the Caribbean and as refiners in the United Kingdom for approximately the present tonnage of raw sugar from the developing countries of the Commonwealth. The communiqué had been welcomed by Lord Campbell of Eskan, Chairman of the Commonwealth Sugar Exporters' Association, and by a spokesman for Booker & McConnell, describing the assurances as "entirely bankable". They were all in harmony with each other in welcoming the Agreement reached with the Community.

My Lords, these are among the reasons which serve to convince me that it is not necessary, or in any way desirable, that the words of the Amendment now before us should be incorporated in the Bill.

5.46 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to say just a word or two in support of my noble friend Lord Greenwood. The fact that we have had his speech and that of the noble Lord, Lord Saint Oswald, both tightly packed with fact and argument, I think justifies our having placed this Amendment on the Order Paper, because in spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Saint Oswald, has said, I think there are considerable anxieties among those concerned with the sugar-producing territories of the Commonwealth. Like many other noble Lords, I have had the privilege of visiting several of these countries in the Caribbean, Fiji and so on. Those of us who have been to such countries know very well that they really are mono-crop countries for practical export purposes and that they depend overwhelmingly on sugar. Therefore, with great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Saint Oswald, to have to refer in this context to the other opportunities which might be opened up by association in one form or another within the Community, I would suggest is really neither here nor there. For most of them it is sugar or nothing.


My Lords, if the noble Baroness will allow me, I was thinking in terms of exports of sugar and not of other products in particular.


I doubt whether any of the Commonwealth sugar pro- ducers will find anything that suits them better than the terms of the existing Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. I do not think they could get anything better by any other form of association than what is at present on offer; and therefore I do not think that is a truly relevant argument in this context.

I take the noble Lord's point about the consumption of sugar in the Community of Ten being very different from that in the Community of Six, and therefore one should not use the present surplus in itself as an argument. But on the other hand members both of the Six and the Ten are themselves producers of alternative forms of sugar, such as sugar beet. This is by no means an irrelevant matter. It is partly for this reason that I think some of us are concerned about the kind of comment which my noble friend quoted by a very distinguished representative of one of the beet sugar producers in the Community, M. Schumann. I do not know how many of your Lordships listen to the Saturday programme on B.B.C.'s Radio 4, "On your Farm". I always listen if I can, and there was an extremely interesting discussion last Saturday on the subject of eggs. Those of your Lordships who did listen to that programme—this was a different commodity but the principle is the same—would have appreciated the considerable apprehension of British farmers as to their situation in relation to egg production, and in particular as to the political dangers our own egg producers may face because of the political pressures within the Community, which may be detrimental to their interests. Mutatis mutandis the same might well be true of the production of sugar. There may be a situation in which there is pressure on the various Governments to increase beet sugar production.

This may not be an immediate danger—I am not suggesting for one moment that it is—but it is possible, within the terms of the Treaty, for negotiations to be carried out on sugar which would not, in our view, give adequate protection to the small territories which are so entirely dependent upon this one particular crop. Therefore we have not only a certain right to be somewhat suspicious, but a duty to be suspicious. The noble Lord, Lord Saint Oswald, suggested that this was a sentiment which we ought never to entertain. I am afraid that I cannot agree with him. Any of us who have had even superficial acquaintance with political conditions in certain countries of the Community would agree that one must be suspicious because they are subject to political pressures. One must put oneself in a position so far as possible, especially when one is in the relationship of a trustee—and I regard ourselves in that relationship in that context—where sentiment is not what one relies on, but one relies on the real facts of the case.

I was much disturbed by the quotations given by my noble friend Lord Greenwood. We should have a straight answer from the Government as to what is the real standing of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement post-1974. Is it just an aide memoire for our colleagues in the E.E.C., and binding only on the United Kingdom? This was the substance of the quotation given by my noble friend Lord Greenwood. If this is true, the euphoria of Lancaster House in June, 1971, was misplaced. No one has a greater regard for Mr. Geoffrey Rippon as a negotiator than I have. I saw some of the Commonwealth sugar representatives at that time. It is perfectly true that in the end the majority of them—all but one—accepted Mr. Rippon's assurances and said so publicly. I repeat that he is a good negotiator; but whether one left the grandiose atmosphere of Lancaster House and went home one was quite so happy. I am not so sure.

Therefore it is particularly important that before we leave this matter in this House we should have a categoric assurance that we shall be in a position—after all, 1974 is very near—genuinely to protect the interests of our Commonwealth partners in this matter. It will not rest only with ourselves. Quite contrary to what M. Schumann appears to have said, we have a true understanding of the matter. This is an obligation which devolves upon the other members of the Community as well. I do not think that we should in any way apologise for having put down this Amendment, because this is a matter that we ought to clear up.

5.54 p.m.


My Lords, I was hesitating as to whether one should participate in this debate, having regard to the accurate prediction of the noble Lord, Lord Foot, that we are talking to a closed wall and that there is is no purpose in all this palaver. This weighed on me but I said to myself, "What we say is not important because they will not listen—they never do. Facts will impress them later such as the facts on wages, monetary policy, budgets, industrial relations, and Northern Ireland." I could go on with this roll call of the battle honours of the present Government. They are so euphoric, trusting and enthusiastic. Whenever the Establishment is enthusiastic the ordinary man ought to be very careful indeed because always mischief comes up; either we go back to the gold standard or we do this or that. The Establishment, with flags flying and drums drumming, goes into battle and leads us to defeat. But I said to myself that I should like to see the opposite side counted, so I will, nevertheless, participate in this debate.

I will take up two points with which I thoroughly disagree and which were made in the impressive speech of the noble Lord, Lord Saint Oswald. On the whole, as a political economist, I am not in favour of commodity agreements. Commodity agreements are not a very good way of subsidising most less developed areas. Commodity agreements support export goods, and export goods, cash crops, are the very crops the production of which brings in much more than food production. If you look at Ashanti or the Sudan, or any country in Africa or Asia, you will see that the export crop producers are very prosperous relatively to the rest of the population. As a Socialist, on the whole, I do not want to support the most prosperous; I should like to see the less prosperous supported. Therefore for many other Market political reasons I am not on the whole in favour of commodity agreements. It is also very difficult to have commodity agreements which exclude the payment of increased dividends to the commodity agreement giving country—for instance Tate & Lyle does not benefit the Caribbean but benefits British shareholders. Whether that is good or not I will leave to noble Lords opposite, who are such experts, to decide in these particular matters. It is also very difficult to tax these people unless there are marketing boards. Marketing boards are difficult to run for many of these commodities and the people do not know how to run them.

On the whole I am not in favour of commodity agreements. I am, however, in favour of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. For the reasons which my noble friend Lord Greenwood so ably exposed, most of these countries—especially Mauritius and Fiji—because of climatic reasons cannot easily go over to anything but sugar. In sugar they have a crop which at least is not completely devastated by hurricanes, cyclones or whatever they are called. There is also a special moral obligation on this country. Most of these sugar islands have been populated by Britons with indentured labour. The labour were not born there; they were transported there for making profits for a previous generation of Englishmen who were tougher than you are now. Therefore the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement is an essential and outstanding case and it ought to be looked at like that.

The noble Lord, Lord Saint Oswald, perhaps forgot to say—tactically he may be quite within his rights—that the price of sugar on the Continent is now about twice, and it has been up to four times, the price in the world markets. Up until recently, roughly speaking, it was twice our price. This obviously is very important as there will be a common Community price for sugar. This is going to increase our production of sugar. I was very interested that the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, who is such a staunch supporter of Liberalism and Free Trade and that sort of thing, in this case asked himself tragically what a terrible thing it would be if our sugar production declined or ceased. I, on the whole, think it would not be such a terribly bad thing, because this is one of the easiest crops to switch from. From an army and a strategical point of view sugar is the most easy thing to store; the rats do not get at it.

Therefore, the probability of beet sugar production increasing because of the price increase is not small. What is worse is that productivity itself is increasing as a result of scientific developments. Our sugar cost has decreased in this particular period of very heavy inflation, and it is still decreasing. So if we get an unlimited guarantee, the situation will be very bad. The demand in this country, or the other hand, has reached a very great height. We are the highest sugar consumers in the world, I think; but sugar consumption is not now substantially increasing. It is not increasing partly because people are very much afraid of coronary thrombosis and sugar is associated a little with it—not as much as tobacco is with lung cancer, but somewhat associated with coronary thrombosis, or is said to be so. Therefore, sugar demand has not been increasing very rapidly. This has not been mentioned.

It is true that Britain and Ireland and Norway, if they enter, and Denmark, are deficit countries. The problem, however, is that their deficit is not so great as to be able to accommodate both the present sugar quota under the Commonwealth Agreement and the production of a surplus in the European area. The million tons is a surplus; it exists. The current annual surplus varies very much according to the weather because sugar is a sun-dependent and water-dependent commodity and therefore it is often a failure. We have, in consequence, a net surplus, including the Commonwealth Agreement, of about 200,000 to 300,000 tons a year; that is, if we include the present agreement. To think that this is not going to lead to a tremendous pressure by French interests, who are extremely prosperous and the most influential agricultural interests in France, for an increase in their exports to us, with a curtailment of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, is, I must say, a little naïve.

The noble Lord, Lord Saint Oswald, had two answers. First of all there was this famous veto affair. It is extremely easy to veto something you do not want. But to get something done by a veto is very complicated indeed, and especially complicated if you are up against very astute chaps. There is in this House, as there was in another place, a general sort of nonchalance in regard to the ability of the French civil servants and negotiators. I am not, generally speaking, considered a very modest man; in fact, my enemies say I am immodest. Nevertheless, I am terrified when it comes to having a debate in French with a Frenchman. Just recently, I have been in connection with another Commonwealth country, negotiating with the German Commissioner for Trade, Dahrendorff, who is a German professor. He was educated in the London School of Economics and whenever it came to termini technici in our conversations he spoke French. So I was a little astonished and asked him why he spoke French when it was neither his language of origin—I cannot do that of course—nor his language of education. He said, "Ah, well, you see, everybody speaks French in Brussels". I do know now. I am absolutely terrified of what will happen, because those people who are gossiped about are not the sort of people I would put up in a boxing fight with no holds barred, low punches preferred, with a French team. Perhaps the Prime Minister, who is not an entirely trusting chap, in this case has not been acting up to his capacities. I think that what the French will do is to try to induce these countries to negotiate singly. I daresay one must not say how—there is an English word but it is unmentionable—but by picking off the little countries one by one. That is exactly what they are trying to do. They want to pick these countries and see which of them is softest and then begin to negotiate.

The Yaoundé Agreement has been quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Saint Oswald, but he forgot to tell us that Madagascar was a very heavy sugar producer and is no longer able to send sugar to France—60,000 tons was their quota, or very nearly so—except for refining and re-export. If that is the help that Lord Saint Oswald and the Ministers think the French will give to our Caribbean countries, all I say is, thank you very much!

I think that this Amendment is necessary, indeed essential—it is doomed by the obstinate obscurantism of the Government—in order to be able to resist these pressures, so that our negotiators can go home, just as the Americans and the French can go home, and say, "Look here, I should love to give in, but I cannot. There is this terrible Parliament which does not give us the permission to give in". As I say, I think that noble Lords and Ladies opposite are far too complacent. They are living in a false atmosphere of euphoria. I hope that my fears are unjustified, but I do not think they are.

6.8 p.m.


My Lords, I apologise to the House, and particularly to my noble friend Lord Greenwood of Rossendale and to the noble Lord, Lord Saint Oswald, because I was not present when they spoke. I should like to intervene because, as the House knows, while I was at the Commonwealth Office I had a special responsibility for the Caribbean, for Mauritius and for Fiji. Therefore I have a special feeling towards these countries in what I believe is going to be a very serious position for them in the next few years. The noble Lord, Lord Saint Oswald, I believe thought that the Opposition was being unduly suspicious. It is the duty of all Oppositions to be suspicious. The most suspicious person I have met is my bank manager, particularly when I go to see him on behalf of my business organisation and ask for funds to be made available for a capital development. Quite rightly, the bank manager wishes to know what we wish to do; what is the profitability of the project we have in mind. This is a factor to which I should like to come back, because one of the real issues for these territories is the extent to which the banking community will accept as bankable the assurances that have been given by Her Majesty's Government. What is not clear is whether the banking community, on these assurances, will continue to lend the very considerable sums of money that are required in the various sugar estates, not only for the capital development but to permit the recropping of the estate. As the noble Lord, Lord Saint Oswald, will know, this is a seven-year crop and therefore there is a considerable capital risk, not only in terms of the normal economic factors but also in terms of climate—hurricanes and the like.

My noble friend Lord Balogh mentioned that sugar consumption is moving up only very slowly. This is a factor which we must all take into account. The other day I was in Holland, visiting friends of mind who are among the leading Dutch agricultural consultants, and we were talking about sugar in terms of Jamaica. They showed me the graphs of the way in which sugar beet production has increased in recent years in Europe, and what is projected. We can be under no illusion about this: sugar beet production is advancing and increasing at a rapid rate throughout Europe, and there can be no doubt at all that the existing surpluses are bound to be very much greater in the next five or six years. So there is going to be difficulty, not only in consuming the sugar that is grown in Europe but in absorbing the existing tonnages that this country has been willing to take under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreements. I am certain, too, that the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, will agree with me that the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement was one of the most efficient and effective ways of giving economic aid to developing countries. Let us equally be under no illusion that for countries like Fiji and Mauritius—and particularly the latter—the possibility of industralising or switching into any other crop is very remote indeed. In Jamaica this is possible, but again the experience there is that where industry has been financed it is efficient, labour-saving industry; and while vast sums of money, in terms of the Jamaican economy, have gone into Jamaica, the effect on the unemployment rate (which is very high) has been minimal.

Let us also remember the political consequences that could flow from the collapse of the sugar industry in these countries. In the main, these countries are agricultural, and their chief crop is sugar. If there is a collapse of this crop there will be vast unemployment, and in that event the political consequences, particularly to America, would be very grave. Jamaica and Trinidad are a long way away from us, but I would say to the noble Baroness that we have a responsibility because the economy of these countries was created by us. We have become wealthy as a country on the economies that we created in these territories, and therefore we have a responsibility to them.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for one moment? He was referring to the growth of the sugar beet industry in Europe. I am not in a position to say about this, but is there any significance in the fact that cane sugar, which of course is the Caribbean product, is much better than beet sugar? Would that have a competitive influence?


My Lords, cane sugar may be better. I do not know whether I could tell the difference when I had a sugar lump—which, anyway, the doctor does not permit me—but unfortunately cane sugar is more expensive than beet sugar, and that was one of the reasons for bringing into being the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, to cushion the effect—because, in the end, cane sugar is a high-cost production.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? It is not.


My Lords, if I may say so, the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, is quite right. I used to farm in Jamaica and I can confirm that cane sugar is a lower-cost product.


My Lords, if that is so, I do not know why we have had to subsidise cane sugar from the Caribbean.

The question I should like to put to the noble Baroness is this. Is it not the fact that in 1974 the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement will come to an end, and that after our entry into the E.E.C. it will not be possible for us unilaterally either to renew it or to replace it? Therefore, if there is to be a new Agreement, so far as the Commonwealth sugar producers are concerned, this will require of the E.E.C. countries a unity and a decision as to what arrangements are to be made.

I want now to return to the question of the assurances. I have myself no doubt that Mr. Rippon and Her Majesty's Government fully intend to see that the understanding they gave to the sugar-producing countries will be honoured to the best of their ability. But there is one thing that I have not been able to find out, though I have pressed the noble Earl the Leader of the House on a number of occasions, the last being on the Second Reading of this Bill, and to my mind I did not get a satisfactory answer. If we cannot get an agreement, we can use the veto, but what I have never been able to understand is how we can use the veto in order to get an agreement with other parties who are required to be party to that agreement—how we use a veto in order to force them to do it, other than by adopting the traditional French system of using a veto right across the board on all matters which are of particular interest to the French, until the French agree. That is my understanding of the way in which the veto can be used. So can the noble Baroness give an assurance that it would be the intention of Her Majesty's Government to use the veto in order to achieve a satisfactory agreement and so be in a position to honour the undertaking that Her Majesty's Government have given to the sugar producers.

There is another factor to which again there has not been a satisfactory answer—and here I know that I am on fairly safe ground. One needs a different process to refine cane sugar as compared with beet sugar. Therefore the crunch comes on the question of whether we shall retain in this country a capacity to refine cane sugar. I think all the pressures will be on the refining industry to refine beet sugar, and refining machinery is very expensive. Therefore, unless not only the sugar producers but also the refiners are assured that there is going to be a continuing agreement on sugar there will be difficulties in the sugar islands. It may well be found that the refining industry will not put in the new sums of money required for the refinery works. It should be made clear not only that the Government have this obligation but that they intend to use every power, even the veto, in the E.E.C. to see that their pledge is honoured. If the noble Baroness would say, "We will use the veto right across the board to get a satisfactory agreement" I should be a happy man. I suspect, however, that she is not in a position to say that, and that is why this Amendment should be made.

I have heard a great deal over the years from the Lord Chancellor—I hope I may call him my noble and learned friend—and frequently he speaks of honour. I suggest that this House is honour bound to the sugar producing countries. These are countries for which we were responsible. We created their economies and we have given them a pledge. In terms of world affairs they are very weak indeed. If this House has any honour at all it will pass this Amendment, and then never again need we worry about fulfilling the pledge we have given to the people of the sunny isles who grow sugar.

6.22 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that it has been good for the House to have had this opportunity to debate in quite a wide manner the whole question of our obligation to the sugar producing countries. As the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd and indeed every speaker has said, to many of these countries sugar is one of the main crops. I have been lucky enough to travel quite widely in the Caribbean and to see something of the production and problems associated with it.

We are being asked to include at the start and end of Clause 7 Amendments Nos. 13 and 14. While I will answer the points that have been made in this debate, I wish to begin by pointing out that what is really being asked of your Lordships involves the inclusion of something which is quite outside the scope of the Bill. The purpose of the Bill is absolutely clear. It simply makes those changes in our law which are needed so that we can carry out the terms of the Treaty of Accession—so that we can ratify it and then become members of the Community. It is not possible for one of the parties to a treaty to write into its own legislation the way in which any particular provision should be interpreted in the future. This can be done only within the enlarged Community by all the members of the Community working together. By the very nature of the subject with which the whole of this short Bill is concerned, it would be quite impossible to include the way in which various provisions should be carried out on what are very varied subjects indeed.

However, I sense that the purpose of this debate has been to try to give an assurance to the sugar producing countries that this country has obtained, through the negotiations of my right honourable and learned friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, assurances which will make it possible for us after 1974 to conclude an agreement which will give the countries concerned an assurance both of a market and of a reasonable price.

The noble Lord, Lord Balogh, said he did not believe in commodity agreements. I could not help but feel that he was rather at variance with a large number of your Lordships. Indeed, this country has taken a leading part in some of the commodity agreements. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, pointed out that it was important that those who produced sugar, or indeed those who would give us a refining capacity, should be able to get the necessary financial resources and that that depended on the kind of agreement that we could achieve after 1974.

It is relevant to point out that in the Community itself the Six alone have a demand for sugar which is growing every year at the rate of about 150,000 tons. It is perfectly true that at present there is a surplus, but my noble friend Lord Saint Oswald, in an extremely able speech, told us what were all the ingredients of the types of sugar needed in the Community for human and animal consumption, for use in chemical materials and of course for use in the re-export of foodstuffs. I will not quote again the facts he gave.

I wish to refer in particular to the point which I think is worrying the supporters of the Amendment, and that is the whole of the Lancaster House Declaration, which is of course incorporated in both the Amendments we are discussing. They refer to the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement of June 2 and June 3, 1971. The two days referred to, being the two days of the Lancaster House Conference, saw the discussion between Her Majesty's Government and the Governments of those countries whose sugar industries are a party to the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. The position at that time was that the Community had offered the undertaking about sugar after 1974 which now appears in Protocol 22 to the Treaty, but as this was quoted by my noble friend Lord Saint Oswald and as it gives a firm assurance, I do not feel that I need weary the House by quoting it again.

My right honourable and learned friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster informed the members of the Community that he could not accept this undertaking until he himself had had a chance to discuss it with the Commonwealth countries concerned. As the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said, there was considerable discussion, and the Commonwealth Governments accepted the Community undertaking in the terms set out in the Declaration issued after the Conference. While I do not wish to quote it all, it might be helpful if I quoted the part which recorded that …the British Government and other Commonwealth Governments participating regard this offer as a firm assurance of a secure and continuing market on fair terms for the quantities of sugar covered by the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement in respect of all its existing developing member countries. The Chancellor of the Duchy has explained this to Parliament on a great many occasions. On July 21 in particular he pointed out that the developing Commonwealth Sugar Agreement countries had a clear assurance from the Community, to which the United Kingdom, as a member of the enlarged Community, would be a party and that the Community would have as its firm purpose the safeguarding of their interests. In the same debate my right honourable and learned friend said: The Commonwealth sugar producers have expressed their satisfaction with the safeguard offered them as a result of the negotiations. We have reached an agreement with the Community, and have written into the record what we accept as the practical meaning of the agreement that we have reached."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 21/7/72; col. 1459.]


My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness to quote the agreement in the French text?


Quote which part?


"Au coeur" is not a firm intent. "Firm intent" is "intention fixe".


My Lords, while I do not have the French text with me, I have the English text and I think I understand my French sufficiently to appreciate what "au coeur" means. Section 3 of Protocol 22, which is, after all, what we are discussing, refers to this point. It says that the Community will have as its firm purpose …the safeguarding of the interests of all the countries referred to in this Protocol whose economies depend to a considerable extent on the export of primary products and particularly sugar. The question of sugar will be settled within this framework hearing in mind, with regard to exports of sugar, the importance of this product for the economies of several of these countries and of the Commonwealth countries in particular. There I would entirely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady White, who also said how important it was that there should be a total both of cane and of beet sugar. She referred to the fact that there is an increase in beet sugar production on the Continent, although in this country it is fairly static. That is perfectly true, but happily there is a growing demand for sugar, despite what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, that if we consume sugar we shall all get coronary thrombosis. If he has the interests of the Commonwealth producers at heart I suggest he should keep very quiet on that matter indeed. But the fact remains that it is true that at the moment the price of sugar is high, and if we take into account the various factors and the various products for which this commodity is used I think we can safely conclude that, with the enlarged Community, we shall well be able to take part of any surplus, which there is at the moment.


My Lords, would the noble Baroness once more excuse me? When it was quoted that sugar is also used for purposes other than human consumption, did she take into account that this is one of the ways in which sugar is got rid of in a subsidised manner—for instance by turning it into alcohol and, in one country, mixing it with petrol. So I do not think the noble Baroness is entitled to say that this is a way of getting rid of the sugar which is natural. May I also say that if the noble Baroness says she has it "au coeur" I absolutely believe her. But it is not her "coeur" that we have to deal with, but Mr. Pompidou's "coeur", which is a very different matter.


My Lords, I dare say the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, has a point there, but I would also say to him that I cannot believe that this particular debate is going to hang on whether the United Kingdom is going to use its beet or cane sugar to mix with alcohol or petrol. It is but one part of the end-product of the primary production from the Commonwealth countries.

The noble Baroness, Lady White, and the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, did in particular pay attention to what was said by Mr. Schumann in interpreting the agreement reached at Lancaster House. May I suggest to both of them that they are attaching considerable weight to what is alleged to have been said outside negotiations between Her Majesty's Government and the Commonwealth countries without paying due respect to Protocol No. 22, Section III, which I have ventured to read to the House? This is in the Treaty of Accession, and, I would put to the House, is really the most important part of it all. The reason therefore why I feel it is not practicable to accept these two Amendments is that we should have a Bill of at least 300 pages were we to include in it the manner in which every kind of future negotiation should be interpreted or carried out. The purpose of this Bill as I have said before, is to make only those changes in our law which are really necessary if we are to accede to the Community. And the arrangements for sugar after 1974 will form part of association or trading agreements between the enlarged Community as a whole and Commonwealth countries. It will be for the Community to carry out these arrangements through Community legislation.

The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, asked if I would give a categorical assurance that the United Kingdom would use its veto in these negotiations if we did not feel the negotiations were coming out as we should like them to do. I do not feel that any of us should go into an association saying that we are going to use the veto right and left. We all know that we have the power to use the veto, but surely if we are going in as a member of the Community we hope, on the basis of this Declaration and of the welcome which was given to it, that we shall be able to reach agreement on this matter. I suggest that the veto should always be used sparingly, just as I hope it would be, and not in the manner suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd.

Therefore, my Lords, I would say that because we do not know at this stage the precise nature of the arrangement it is impossible to say whether any changes in the future in the United Kingdom law will be needed. But the whole purpose of Clause 7 as it stands is to make it possible for us to continue the London sugar terminal market. I will not go in detail into all the arrangements within Clause 7, but on these two particular Amendments which try to give great importance to the Lancaster House Conference on June 2 and June 3, 1971, I would put it to the House that I do not think they are suitable for inclusion in this Bill. I hope very much that on reflection the noble Lord who moved this Amendment may consider withdrawing it and not moving the next one.

6.37 p.m.


My Lords, I find myself in the great difficulty of having to stone my heart and refuse to meet any advances that the noble Baroness makes towards me. I remember that in part of the discussions which Mr. Rippon was having with the European powers, when they were being particularly obdurate, he spoke of it being a "dialogue of the deaf" and I am beginning to think that the debate we are having in your Lordships' House is also virtually a "dialogue of the deaf". The Government do not listen to what we say and we find the arguments which the Government give in rebutting our point of view wholly unacceptable.

Surely the point about this is what is the nature of the assurance that this country has given to the Commonwealth sugar-producing countries. So far as I can see, what emerged from the Lancaster House discussions was simply a British guarantee to the Commonwealth sugar producers: a guarantee which we on this side of the House say the Government will not be in a position to carry out once we are in the Common Market. What has happened is that Mr. Rippon has gone to the Commonwealth sugar producers with what he regards as a bankable assurance, but what Mr. Schumann—and I must quote him again—said was a "note for information". It really is not good enough for the noble Baroness to say that this was something said by Mr. Schumann outside the conference chamber. I am not aware that either Mr. Schumann or M. Pompidou have ever denied the accuracy of what Mr. Schumann said on that occasion and I have certainly no reason to believe that they take a different view from that which Mr. Schumann, perhaps ill-advisedly, expressed on that occasion.

It may be that we as a country, having given an assurance to the Commonwealth sugar producers, shall be helped by the other members of the Community to carry it out. I suppose that is just barely conceivable. But one would have to be extremely credulous to believe this is likely, remembering the influence of the beet sugar producers on the Continent of Europe. I see very little chance whatso- ever of the European Powers' making any real attempt for us to make the assurances that we have given to the Commonwealth sugar producers as bankable as Mr. Rippon held them out to be. Perhaps I could say at this point, because I do not want to be unfair to Mr. Rippon, that I have a quite unqualified admiration for him. He is one of the most outstandingly able members of the Government, and although I disagree with many of the conclusions he reached, he carried out the negotiations in a most skilful way. But even my admiration for Mr. Rippon does not lead me to believe that what he got were really bankable assurances.

The noble Baroness has spoken tonight with her usual reasonableness and I am glad that she has not used the point she made when we discussed the matter in your Lordships' House on July 25, when she said that because of what the Labour Government had done our obligations under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement "will terminate at the end of 1974". As the noble Lord said, this is an agreement of indefinite duration, and it will terminate at the end of 1974 only because of the straitjacket we are putting ourselves in by joining the European Economic Communities.

I have some sympathy with the noble Baroness in saying that it is not possible to write this into this Bill. Of course, this is one of the difficulties we constantly come up against. We are told it is not suitable to write in the various safeguards which we believe the people of our country are entitled to have. But I make this offer to the noble Baroness. She has rejected the suggestion of my noble friend Lord Shepherd that she should give an assurance that if we are not able to get satisfactory conditions for the Commonwealth sugar producers from the countries of the European Community Britain will exercise the veto, to quote him, "right across the board". I will make another, less radical proposal to the noble Baroness, because I know that she certainly wants to help the Commonwealth sugar producers. Will she give us tonight an absolutely unqualified pledge that the Government next year will negotiate a new three-year agreement with the sugar producing countries of the Commonwealth which is not less favourable than that they are at present enjoying? This, after all, is what the Government are telling us it is their intention to achieve. Will the noble Baroness give that unqualified assurance to-night? If so, I will gladly withdraw my Amendment, and I know there will be jubilation throughout the Commonwealth that that clear and unqualified statement has been made. But if the noble Baroness is not in a position to rise and give that unqualified pledge, I think the only thing to do is to ask your Lordships to divide. It may be that the poorer countries of the Commonwealth have not got very many friends in your Lordships' House, but I think perhaps it is right that those countries should know that they are not without friends here and that we should put on the Record to-night the names of the Members of your Lordships' House who believe in discharging our responsibility to small countries who are in no position to help themselves.


My Lords, I feel I must ask the leave of the House to speak very briefly again—on Report I believe I do have to ask for leave—in order to reply to the specific question put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale. He asked me to say whether I could give an unqualified pledge that next year, 1973, we would negotiate an agreement no less favourable than that we have now. He knows perfectly well, of I may say so, that nobody can guaran-

tee what they can achieve. Our aim, obviously, is to try to achieve a situation which is no less favourable than we have now, but no one can guarantee that. He knows perfectly well that if he were in my position he could not guarantee it either.

I would say also that I very much regretted—because there was so much in his speech that I thought was moderate and to the point, and careful and wellinformed—that at the last moment he should say that the poorer countries, the sugar-producing countries, have few friends in this House. I think that was absolutely disgraceful. There are a very great number of Members of this House who have a great deal of personal experience of the Commonwealth, and it is on their behalf that I utterly reject what the noble Lord said.


My Lords, by leave of the House, perhaps I could just make one point in reply to the noble Baroness. I accept, of course, that she cannot give this assurance. The reason she cannot give this assurance is that we are accepting the conditions laid down by the European Economic Communities.

6.45 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 13) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 35; Not-Contents, 136.

Addison, V. Garnsworthy, L.[Teller.] Phillips, B.
Arwyn, L. Granville of Eye, L. Rhodes, L.
Balogh, L. Greenwood of Rossendale, L. Serota, B.
Bernstein, L. Hale, L. Shackleton, L.
Beswick, L. Hoy, L. Shepherd, L.
Blyton, L. Hughes, L. Slater, L.
Brockway, L. Lauderdale, E. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Buckinghamshire, E. Leatherland, L. Watkins, L.
Champion, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. [Teller.] White, B.
Davies of Leek, L. Wigg, L.
de Clifford, L. Maelor, L. Wright of Ashton under Lyne, L.
Douglass of Cleveland, L. Monson, L. Wynne-Jones, L.
Aberdare, L. Bathurst, E. Chesham, L.
Abinger, L. Beauchamp, E. Colville of Culross, V.
Ailwyn, L. Beaumont of Whitley, L. Colyton, L.
Albemarle, E. Belhaven and Stenton, L. Cork and Orrery, E.
Aldenham, L. Belstead, L. Cottesloe, L.
Amherst of Hackney, L. Berkeley, B. Courtown, E.
Amory, V. Blake, L. Craigavon, V.
Astor of Hever, L. Brabazon of Tara, L. Craigton, L.
Atholl, D. Bradford, E. Davidson, V.
Auckland, L. Brentford, V. De L'Isle, V.
Balfour, E. Carrington, L. Denham, L. [Teller.]
Derwent, L. Hylton, L. Robbins, L.
Digby, L. Jellicoe, E.(L. Privy Seal.) Rochdale, V.
Drumalbyn, L. Kemsley, V. Rosslyn, E.
Dudley, E. Killearn, L. Rothermere, V.
Dundonald, E. Kilmarnock, L. St. Just, L.
Ebbisham, L. Kindersley, L. Saint Oswald, L.
Effingham, E. Lansdowne, M. Sandford, L.
Ellenborough, L. Leicester, E. Sandys, L.
Elles, B. Limerick, E. Savile, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Long, V. Seear, B.
Emmet of Amberley, B. Loudoun, C. Selkirk, E.
Ferrers, E. McFadzean, L. Selsdon, L.
Fisher, L. Macleod of Borve, B. Sempill, Ly.
Fortescue, E. Mansfield, E. Shaftesbury, E.
Gage, V. Massereene and Ferrard, V. Somers, L.
Gainford, L. Middleton, L. Stonehaven, V.
Garner, L. Milverton, L. Stradbroke, E.
Gisborough, L. Molson, L. Strathclyde, L.
Goschen, V. Monck, V. Stratheden and Campbell, L.
Gowrie, E. Monk Bretton, L. Swansea, L.
Greenway, L. Mountevans, L. Teviot, L.
Gridley, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.] Townshend, M.
Grimston of Westbury, L. Trefgarne, L.
Grimthorpe, L. Moyne, L. Tweedsmuir, L.
Hailes, L. Netherthorpe, L. Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, B.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.) Northchurch, B. Vernon, L.
Norwich, V. Vivian, L.
Hanworth, V. Nugent of Guildford, L. Waldegrave, E.
Harvey of Prestbury, L. Penrhyn, L. Ward of Witley, V.
Harvey of Tasburgh, L. Platt, L. Wigram, L.
Hawke, L. Polwarth, L. Windlesham, L.
Hemingford, L. Ranfurly, E. Wolverton, L.
Hewlett, L. Rankeillour, L. Wynford, L.
Hives, L. Reay, L. Yarborough, E.
Hood, V. Reigate, L. Young, B.

On Question, Motion agreed to.


My Lords, I have been asked by the Table to announce that in Division No. 1 the Contents figure should have been 55 and not 54. The mistake was not mine, and it does not affect the result of the Division.


My Lords, in view of the very important correction that has been made, can we now understand that Her Majesty's Government are going to accept that Amendment?


My Lords, that is not a question for the Lord Chancellor.

Clause 12 [Furnishing of information to Committees]:

6.54 p.m.

LORD SHACKLETON moved Amendment No. 15: Page 18, line 30, at end insert ("and shall, if not already published in another form, be laid before Parliament.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 15—


My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord who is moving this Amendment would agree that it might be for the convenience of the House to take with it the arguments for the following Amendment, No. 16?


My Lords, I should be very happy to discuss both Amendments together, although they are rather different and have somewhat contrary effects—which is possibly an argument the Government might wish to use. Lawyers are accustomed to contrary arguments, according to the purpose they intend them to serve. This is a not unimportant Amendment from the standpoint of business as well as that of the national interest. Clause 12 provides: Estimates, returns and information that may under section 9 of the Statistics of Trade Act 1947 or section 80 of the Agriculture Act 1947 be disclosed to a government department or Minister in charge of a government department may, in like manner, be disclosed in pursuance of a Community obligation to a Community institution. I quite understand the purpose of that. Clearly, if we go in certain information will have to be given. Under the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community there is provision in, I think, Article 213, that the Commission may, within the limits and under the conditions laid down, collect any information or carry out any checks required for the performance of the tasks entrusted to it. Article 214 goes on to impose an obligation of secrecy on officials of the members of the institutions of the Community, the members of committees, and the officials. I take it that "members of the Community's institutions"—and I should like some guidance on this point from the noble Earl—will cover not only the officials but Ministers who, I take it, are members of the institutions. There may be a different definition somewhere, but my researches have not extended that far.

This is not unimportant, because when I say that anybody could be a member of the Council, I mean that any Minister could be a member of the Council. I do not wish to pour doubts on the integrity of members of the Council, but I happen to believe that in this country we have a higher standard of public morality than in any other country in the world. It is quite exceptional for us ever to doubt the integrity of our Ministers. There may occasionally be some doubts, but, none the less I think politically, and as Ministers, we take a highly professional view of our obligations. This is not to suggest that people do not occasionally write their memoirs and leak information of a kind which causes some concern to the Cabinet Secretariat; but that is another subject.

I will concentrate on the Statistics of Trade Act 1947 and not go into the Agriculture Act, and I will explain this as shortly as I can. Section 9 makes provision for the disclosure of information. Of course the supply of information to Government Departments has always been a somewhat controversial issue. Section 9 states: (1) No individual estimates or returns, and no information relating to an individual undertaking, obtained under the foregoing provision of this Act, shall, without the previous consent in writing of the person carrying on the undertaking which is the subject of the estimates, returns or information be disclosed except—

  1. (a) in accordance with directions given by the Minister in charge of the government 408 department in possession of the estimates, returns or information to a government department or to the Import Duties Advisory Committee for the purposes of the exercise by that department or Committee of any of their functions; or
  2. (b) for the purposes of any proceedings for an offence under this Act".
Then there are a number of further restrictions and, in particular, in subsection (5) of Section 9 there are very stringent provisions with respect to any report, summary or other communication to the public which very strictly prevent the disclosure of any information which could affect commercial secrecy. For instance, (a) no such report, summary or communication shall disclose the number of returns received with respect to the production of any article if that number is less than five. I shall not go into the details. I do not remember this section, although I was in the Commons at the time, other than that there was a good deal of concern about it.

Under this clause, the Government are taking powers to make information available to the Community institutions. I have down two Amendments and if it is convenient I will speak to them both, although I may wish to return to the second one. However, I agree with the noble Earl that it is easier to take them together. My first Amendment states: and shall, if not already published in another form, be laid before Parliament. The purpose of this Amendment is to establish some kind of control over the sort of information which is given to the Communities. It is arguable that what is given to the Communities ought to be given to Parliament. I do not wish to press this Amendment because, in a sense, if the Government will be giving really confidential information and not merely the published returns under subsection (5) of Section 9 it may be undesirable to give that fact publicity. On the other hand, we do not know what the Government will be giving and I probe on this Amendment partly to find out what they have in mind. If it is to be as extensive as I think will be necessary in order to fulfil the obligation under Article 213, then I should be in favour of the nature of the information—not the detail—being passed through Parliament. As I said, I am not pressing this Amendment very hard and if the Minister has powerful arguments against it he need not tear me to pieces on it. I am deliberately only probing in order to establish the sort of control.

My second Amendment really must commend itself to those who have the national interest at heart, as we all have, particularly in the sphere of commercial secrecy. At the end of line 30 I propose to insert a proviso which does not unduly bind the Government. It reads: Provided that no such estimates, returns or information shall be so disclosed to a Community institution if in the opinion of the Minister"— one might say that "in the judgment of the Minister "would be better; I confess that I drafted this Amendment myself so it is more than usually defective— such disclosure could be held to be contrary—

  1. (a) to the national interest, in particular on grounds of national security, or
  2. (b) to the need to maintain commercial secrecy from the standpoint of an individual undertaking."
I will briefly deploy the argument on this Amendment.

It seems to me that the Minister has complete power to disclose information of this kind and, indeed, individual information where that is necessary. I quite understand this and it may be information gathered through the Census or through other means. But I am more doubtful about the desirability of treating this matter in quite the same way where the Community is concerned. The clause states that information may be disclosed "in like manner". That seems to me to suggest that the Minister will be free to disclose information which might have some bearing on national security. For instance, there may be certain strategic materials about which the returns are not published. There may be details of manufacturing capacity which would enable a potential enemy to estimate our capacity in certain circumstances. In other words, this is all economic intelligence. Noble Lords will recall that during the last war economic intelligence was of the greatest importance both to us and to the enemy. Therefore, I am asking specifically that the Minister must take this factor into account.

It is perfectly possible—and the Government have been arguing this all along—that they are well-intentioned and will do what is right, but it seems to me that this ought to be a specific direction to the Minister. I do not doubt that civil servants and others will bear this point in mind, but there is no sort of guidance on this matter. The clause merely states "in like manner". I am talking about a different type of communication. This is not just giving to another Government Department information which is protected under the Official Secrets Act. Even though I fully acknowledge that there are restrictions, this is information which will be given to a large group of foreigners. It may be that the Government will be in a position to satisfy themselves about the security of certain sections of the Community, but we do not know anything about the security arrangements. However, in the case of individual undertakings the Government will be free to give this information.

I am not impugning the integrity of the people working in the Community. I do not know enough about them to express an opinion. But they do not have the long tradition of the British Civil Service and, although they may have great loyalty to the Community, it would be surprising, especially when they left, if they did not have a national loyalty; and there may be information which is of value to the competitors of individual firms in this country. Noble Lords will be aware that in this country there are quite important restrictions on the sort of jobs which retiring civil servants can take. I will not go into this matter further, because we know that there are certain rather difficult issues which have a bearing on this rule. But there are controls of this kind, though they do not necessarily last for very long. But I am not sufficiently confident if information of precisely the kind that is certainly available in the noble Earl's Department is to be freely given, "in like manner", to the Community institutions—the Council, the Commissioners—largely because we do not know precisely whom it is being given to; we do not know the security and we do not know what the restrictions may be.

Now it is just possible that the noble Earl has a complete answer on these matters and he may be able to set our minds at rest; but I think the matter is one of importance. It is important that the Government should make a statement on it, and I shall be interested to know what they have to say. As I say, I should not feel inclined to divide the House on Amendment No. 15, which deals with publication, and I certainly have no prior intention of dividing on No. 16, which requires the Minister to take these caveats into account; but I think my attitude must be conditioned by the sort of reply we have and the opinions of any other noble Lord. But I stress that, as the noble Earl, with his experience in business and as a banker, will appreciate, there are large numbers of returns that are sent in, and people are concerned from the standpoint of commercial secrecy. There could also be problems from the standpoint of the national interest and national security. I beg to move.


My Lords, I think it would be in order to address myself to Amendment No. 16. I should like to offer my support to my noble Leader on both Amendments, but particularly on Amendment No. 16, which I think is under discussion. It seems to me that some sort of safeguard must be kept by the Minister here. Really, the point at issue is whether it is right to credit other organisations of civil servants with the same amount of probity with which we credit our own. It seems perhaps rather unkind to say it, but I feel—and I think my noble friend Lord Shackleton really said this—that we have a long tradition of straight-dealing, and that one has to be very careful here. The kind of information which could be disclosed by this type of agreement under this clause could be dangerous, and I think has in the past been shown to be so, though of course not in quite this context. The Government reply will no doubt offer some sort of safeguard. I am really more interested to hear what they have to say about how they propose to deal with this problem and what sort of safeguards they have in mind.


My Lords, I should like to raise the question of exactly what this wording means. It says, to start with, that information disclosed to …a government department"— an unknown quantity— or Minister in charge of a government department"— they could be two separate groups of people— may, in like manner, be disclosed in pursuance of a Community obligation to a Community institution". We have to know what are the Community institutions. A "Community obligation" could be an obligation which we have had to accept by a majority vote of the Commissioners or the Ministers. More and more returns are being made every day to Government Departments, and I think rightly, so that we can collect information about the industries of this country. They are made with a feeling of some kind of security. I am interested in a number of enterprises where I think we should be very reluctant to give information to a British Government Department if we thought it could go to a Community institution without our knowing what that Community institution was. It could be any kind of department. It could be disclosed by a Government Department; that is—and this is no attack on civil servants—an unknown person (though the Minister would of course accept responsibility, as Ministers always do for their civil servants) who, in a moment, on reading the requirement, felt an obligation to give the information. I think that in time there will be a reluctance on the part of British industrialists, and it may be even agriculturists, to give the information that the Government require to-day for the conduct of the enterprises of this country and our planning, if they feel that that information might be passed on to somebody else, unknown, by unknown people.

7.17 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition for agreeing that we should discuss these Amendments together, and I think that the points which he has raised are of considerable interest. This debate offers a chance to discuss them, and I hope—indeed, I believe—that in the light of the explanation which I shall be giving any fears that may exist on these points will in fact be allayed. Perhaps I could start by referring specifically to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, about the extension of the secrecy obligations to Ministers. I think this is quite simply answered by reference to Article 4 of the Treaty of Rome itself, which states: The tasks entrusted to the Community shall be carried out by the following institutions:—an Assembly—a Council—a Commission—a Court of Justice". The wording of Article 214 of the Treaty is members of the Community's institutions,… I think we can therefore see that it must cover anyone who is connected with any of those institutions, which would include the Ministers.


And the Assembly.


And the Assembly. That is specifically referred to in Article 4. I should like to begin by offering some general explanation of the purpose of Clause 12, because I think that if we set this discussion in its context it will be possible to see that the effect of this clause is not quite as has been suggested in the remarks that have been made. First of all, this clause is concerned only with information which member States are required under a Community obligation to supply to a Community institution. It is not concerned with information sought on a voluntary basis, nor with information which the Commission is empowered to collect directly from the undertakings concerned in the terms of some directly applicable provision. Furthermore, through the references to Section 9 of the Trade Statistics Act and to Section 80 of the Agriculture Act, the scope of Clause 12—and this is a very important point—is restricted to the provision of information which consists of or reveals details of an individual business or of a farm, as the case may be. There are in fact no statutory constraints on passing on or publishing information which does not fall within this narrow limit, and if it were not for the provisions of those two sections then this clause would not be required in the present Bill.

I stress that we are not concerned here with general statistical information but only with information which reveals the particulars of an individual undertaking; in other words, information the confidentiality of which our legislation protects and which should remain so protected. However, Community institutions, notably the Statistical Office of the Euro- pean Communities, may require, and doubtless from time to time they will require, such information—for example, in order to compile aggregate statistics on a Community basis.

Clause 12—and this is its purpose—will thus provide an effective and economical means of meeting certain Community obligations placed on Her Majesty's Government; that is, obligations requiring information of this kind to be furnished to Community institutions. It does so by making use of information collected under the Statistics of Trade Act and the Agriculture Act, both Acts of 1947. This will minimise the burden of form filling which falls on our industrial and agricultural undertakings. The clause will bring increasing benefits over time as Community statistical programmes develop and the United Kingdom harmonises its own statistical systems with those of the Community.

The provisions in our existing legislation which safeguard the confidentiality of information about individual undertakings are contained in Section 9 of the Statistics of Trade Act 1947 and Section 80 of the Agriculture Act 1947. The former restricts the disclosure of information collected under that Act, as the noble Lord pointed out in moving the Amendment, where this relates to an individual undertaking, unless the previous consent in writing has been obtained from the person carrying on the undertaking. The latter section likewise prohibits without prior consent the disclosure of information relating to any particular land or any particular business. The Statistics of Trade Act, however, makes provision for the disclosure of information about particular undertakings to another Government Department in accordance with directions given by the Minister in charge of the Government Department which is in possession of the information. There are similar though less restrictive constraints in the Agriculture Act 1947, which do not refer specifically to Ministerial consent.

As the two Acts stand, therefore, neither contains an appropriate provision which- would allow the disclosure of information about a particular undertaking to a Community institution. Clause 12 accordingly has the effect of including Community institutions among the authorities to which information may be disclosed, always provided, as I have said, that the disclosure is to comply with a Community obligation. The reference in the clause to in like manner"—and I was asked about this by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton—means that information collected under the Statistics of Trade Act may be disclosed to a Community institution only in accordance with a direction from the Minister in charge. We are not concerned here with the nature of the information.

I think that what I have said so far shows clearly the importance attached by the Government to making sure that the confidentiality of details of the affairs of individual undertakings is adequately protected. I add at once that this is no less the aim of the Communities institutions, which operate under rules of nondisclosure which are very similar to our own. Providing information to a Community institution does not of course mean that it will be made publicly available. All the Community Treaties contain specific provisions to ensure the security of information. As one example, Article 214 of the E.E.C. Treaty prohibits disclosure of information covered by the obligations of professional secrecy by members of Community institutions and Committees and by officials and other servants of the Community, and we have already looked at what that means. The Article states specifically that this prohibition applies in particular to information about undertakings. There are in the terms of service of Community employees further prohibitions against passing on information obtained in the course of official duties, and these prohibitions continue after the person concerned has left the service of the Communities. In the case of the Statistical Office of the European Communities these general provisions are reinforced by administrative rules specifying that confidential statistics must not be published or passed outside the Office and that all published statistics must cover a minimum of four constituent units, which is of course similar to our own rule. The Statistical Office in fact operates under rules which are similar to those to which we are accustomed in this country. As a member of the Communities we shall be concerned to see that satisfactory standards are maintained.

Turning to Amendment 15, I think that the House will now clearly perceive that the sole effect of this Amendment would be to make publicly available details about individual undertakings which have never hitherto been published; details furnished on the basis that they would not be published, which Her Majesty's Government have consistently been concerned to protect and which the Community institutions are equally anxious to safeguard. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, asked that I should be gentle in this and perhaps I can say as gently as I know how that I think in the circumstances the Amendment is not one that would commend itself to the House.

I turn now to Amendment 16, which seeks to exclude the use of Clause 12 in certain circumstances—firstly, if the national interest is in question. Here I would again stress that Clause 12 is concerned with statistical data obtained under the Statistics of Trade Act 1947 or the Agriculture Act 1947. We expect that most, if not all the information to be provided under the Clause 12 power will be furnished to the Statistical Office of the European Communities. Further, it is important to recognise that we are here concerned only with Community obligations binding on Her Majesty's Government, obligations which if not met by the use of the powers in Clause 12 this being the most convenient way, would have to be met in some other way. As members of the E.E.C., it will not be open to us to pick and choose which Community obligations we will accept and which we will reject, although in future Her Majesty's Government will have participated fully in the formulation of those obligations. It would be at that stage—the stage of the formulation of the obligations—that it would be incumbent upon the Government of the day to ensure that no obligations to furnish information to Community institutions were such as to lead to a situation in which compliance with them could be contrary to our national interest.

Against this background to the use of the Clause 12 powers, the Government do not envisage a situation arising in which the disclosure of information in pursuance of a Community obligation, collected for statistical purposes in this country from individuals, firms or farms, could raise issues of conflict with the national interest. Certainly we are not aware of any such conflict which could have arisen in respect of Community obligations past or present in the field with which this clause is connected.

The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said that he thought it would be helpful to have a specific direction for civil servants to take the national interest into account. His experience of civil servants is very much longer than mine, but mine is long enough to lead me to believe that they hardly need instructions to take the national interests into account and still less to take into account national security. These are points on which I am certain they are very sensitive indeed. National security is next mentioned specifically in proviso (a) to the Amendment. It is, of course, quite essential that our national security should be protected and I think this a very useful way to ventilate the issue. While the same arguments apply as in the case of the national interest, the House will note that there is an overriding safeguard in that the position of a member State is explicitly protected by the E.E.C. Treaty itself. If noble Lords will refer to Article 223 of the Treaty, it states: No member State shall be obliged to supply information the disclosure of which it considers"— "it considers", my Lords— contrary to the essential interest of its security. That, I think, is as plain as any language could be.


Which Article is it?


It is Article 223 of the Treaty of Rome. Proviso (a) of the Amendment is therefore, in our considered view, quite unnecessary for the purpose which the noble Lord has in mind and which of course is of concern to the House.

With regard to proviso (b), I hope I have already made very clear that Her Majesty's Government and the Community institutions regard it as a matter of prime importance to maintain the highest standard of commercial secrecy in respect of statistical information provided by individual undertakings. I am aware of no serious complaint ever having been made against Her Majesty's Government or against the Statistical Office of the European Communities in this regard. Information furnished in confidence to either has remained commercially secret. Thus the only effect of proviso (b) could be to frustrate the purpose of Clause 12 as I described it earlier. The Amendment, moreover, implies that Community statistics can always be compiled without the need for the statistics of individual undertakings.


My Lords, can the noble Earl tell me how (b) can frustrate it? How can my subsection or paragraph frustrate? It is only if in the judgment of the Minister it is contrary to the need to maintain commercial secrecy from the standpoint of an individual undertaking". How does that frustrate?


Well, my Lords, of itself, of course, it does not. It could however do so in the exercise of these powers. We discussed in some detail the very limited number of cases to which they might apply and I think that the language of the Amendment itself might cause some problems. I did not intend to refer to this, but I think it would not be a very enviable position for a Minister to have to express an opinion whether something could be held contrary to the need to maintain commercial security. These words, I think, would cause some difficulty of interpretation and, as I have sought to show, the provision which (b) would impose is one not required in the light of the nature of the information being supplied and the confidentiality with which it is safeguarded.

There is an essential need to safeguard commercial secrecy of individual undertakings which provide information about their activities and this I am quite satisfied, for the reasons which have been explained, will be secured by the provisions which exist both nationally and also now in the Community. Accordingly, on consideration of the two parts of this Amendment I must ask the House to take the view that if the Amendment is pressed it would not be appropriate to be included in the Bill.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl a few questions? We were told by the Leader of the House to-day that Ministers would be available to answer questions. Now it is suggested that it would be an embarrassment for a Minister even to offer an opinion to his own Department. The noble Earl also said that information had already been given to the European Communities and there would be no divulgence of the secrets we parted with. When did we start passing information? I did not know that we had started. Also, I should like to know which are the institutions? I caught a mention of the Court of Justice but which institutions have a right to this information? The noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack spoke yesterday and to-day about the variety of matters which will now come up for discussion because we were going into the European Community. That means that a lot of the things we were talking about become our obligation and will be discussed. How do we find out what information given here is to be disclosed? Is there no Minister to whom we can put these questions? Is there no information to be given? All that is asked in (b) of the Amendment is that the Minister should not disclose this information if in his opinion such disclosure would not be of help to the country. Perhaps I could be given answers to those questions.

7.35 p.m.


My Lords, I wonder whether at this stage I might intervene. In a way, I suppose, I must apologise to the House for raising this matter at the Report stage. But we had a pretty heavy time on Committee. I think this is a matter of very great importance, and owing to the restrictions that are imposed on us on Report stage I think it would be very much better if we took it in Committee. We are in good time, I do not think that it would take more than 20 minutes. Frankly, my Lords, I am dissatisfied with the answers of the noble Earl. I do not mean that in an offensive way. I am very concerned to press him in a manner which it is not open to me to do on Report. Therefore I should like to move that further consideration of the Report be adjourned and that Clause 12 be recommitted to a Committee of the Whole House. I think that is the right procedure to follow in the circumstances.

Moved, That further consideration of the Bill on Report be adjourned.—(Lord Shackleton.)


My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord, who has sprung this upon us—although I am not quarrelling about that—could tell us what would be the practical effect of what he suggests.


My Lords, I think I have my procedure right.

I may say that I sprung it on myself, but, for a start, my noble friend Lord Bernstein was speaking for a second time, and there are a number of points on this Amendment. As I understand it, we would go straight into Committee and continue the discussion on this clause, whether on the Amendment or not; and thereafter, when we had finished our discussion, the noble Earl would move us back to the Report stage.

Perhaps the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, would like a minute or two to consider the procedure. It seems to me that we are not under very heavy pressure. It is partly because my noble friend Lord Bernstein spoke twice, and also because this is a Committee point. I have quickly looked up the procedure and it seems appropriate in respect of a matter which has not been dealt with in Committee. I assure the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, that, although I will not say there is not just a little touch of mischief in what I am doing, it is not done for that purpose. The point is that on a Report stage Amendment I cannot cross-examine the Minister in the way I want to do. We are ahead of the game—indeed, we are a day ahead—and I promise the noble Earl that if we do as I suggest it will not delay us for very long.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shackle-ton, for that explanation. It was because I had no doubt at all that there was a little bit of mischief in what he was proposing that I hesitated for a moment before giving advice to my noble friend. It is quite true that we did not discuss this point on Committee stage. It was towards the end of the Committee stage, and noble Lords opposite did not move their Amendment, and I did not quarrel with that at the time. Whatever noble Lords opposite may feel about the attitude we have taken towards Amendments which they have moved, I hope they will agree that when advising their rejection we have not in any way sought to avoid the argument on the Amendments. Certainly we would not wish to do so on this occasion and therefore I very willingly fall in with the noble Lord's suggestion.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be recommitted to a Committee of the Whole House in respect of Clause 12.

Moved, That the Bill be recommitted to a Committee of the Whole House in respect of Clause 12.—(Lord Shackleton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to: House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD DERWENT in the Chair.]

Clause 12 [Furnishing of information to Communities]

The Clerk at the Table: Amendment No. 15.


Whether we can take the Amendment set out of the Marshalled List for Report stage, I am not sure, but I think this would be correct, because if we did decide to divide on the Amendment it would probably be right to go back to the Report stage. I have a suspicion that the noble Earl may be feeling himself rather vulnerable at the moment back in the atmosphere of Committee. My noble friend, who is an experienced businessman, has raised this point. I may say that I am partly stimulated in this (if I may refer to the occupant of the Chair) by the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, the other day on the Report stage when he thought that we were speaking too often. I think there was something in what the noble Lord said, and therefore it is right for us to take this clause in Committee.

The noble Earl gave a clear explanation, which was useful to the House, as to the meaning of the clause we are discussing in relation to the Statistics of Trade Act 1947. I would remind the Committee that this is an Act which appears to have stood in its original form. I do not think it has been amended since. It was passed by the Labour Government in 1947, and it paid great attention to the maintenance of commercial security. It did not raise the question of national security because, one assumes, that was already covered within the responsibilities of the Government of the day. But the noble Earl has not really answered my point.

I fully accept that the Community institutions provide a degree of control over the actions of their members; and although the Community institutions include the Assembly, I am not necessarily assuming that information given to the Commission and its officials is just handed out to the Assembly. I fully accept that they will maintain the sort of security that we maintain, and that their Statistics Office is a highly professional body. I want to make clear that I am not impugning their integrity. But we know that the officials in the Commission are not necessarily permanent Community civil servants. I know that the noble Earl is anxious to get the right sort of people to go and serve as officials, and some of them will be civil servants from this country and others will be businessmen. The same thing is being done by other countries. I do not wish to name other countries in the Community, but some of these people will return and they may be in possession of information which under Clause 9 is expressly restricted to British Government Departments.

I hope that I have understood this aright—and perhaps the noble Earl will interrupt me if I have it wrong. As to the provisions with regard to the publication of reports, obviously there is no difficulty there because anything that is published is made available. As the noble Earl pointed out, subsection (1) of Clause 9 provides that no individual estimates or returns shall be given without the consent in writing of the person carrying on the undertaking. People have been giving this information on the understanding that it will not be disclosed to other parties except in accordance with the direction given by the Minister to a Government Department, to the Import Duties Advisory Committee or for the purposes of dealing with an offence—though that last circumstance does not come into this discussion. All I am saying is that we want to lay on the Minister an obligation to take into account (I am sorry to have to repeat this), (a) national security, and (b) commercial secrecy from the standpoint of the individual undertaking. My noble friend pointed out that there is already concern and, as the noble Earl may know, there is a certain amount of resistance. Most people fill in their returns and send them in, but some can get a bit "bloody-minded" and some people worry about the secrecy side.

The noble Earl said—and this is where I want him to come back and answer me—that we can rely on civil servants to take into account the national security. Did he not say that?


I did say that. But (if we may deal shortly with this question of national security) I thought that we had already disposed of it by reference to Article 223 of the Treaty of Rome, which states in quite unambiguous language: No member State shall be obliged to supply information the disclosure of which it considers contrary to the essential interests of its security. We are here therefore concerned with national interest, rather than with national security under which this complete protection is available.


That is my point. There is no obligation in the Treaty of Rome to do this. But what I am wanting is that the Minister shall specifically have the responsibility of considering it. Certainly we have no obligation under the Treaty of Rome. Clearly the Treaty of Rome could not operate if people were unable to protect their national interests. I fully accept that that is in the Treaty of Rome. I must confess that it never occurred to me—although I have not looked it up—that there was not a provision to that effect. It may be that: the Minister will satisfy me at the end of this discussion, and that is why I think it is worth while pursuing it in Committee; but what I am saying is that I want the Minister to have this obligation. The noble Earl queried the wording of my Amendment, where it says: …if in the opinion of the Minister such disclosure could be held to be contrary… He said that it would present him with difficulties. I accept that it may be a little too vague—it might possibly read, "if in the judgment of the Minister such disclosure would be contrary"—and I should be happy to accept something different. I think I have dealt with that particular point.

The noble Earl has given me an assurance. He is quite positive that there are no returns and no information of this kind anywhere in a Government Department derived from statistics, either from Censuses or from their returns, that have any significance from a national security point of view. Before the noble Earl answers that point, I should like him to ponder this matter carefully, because it is a positive statement: that nationally there are no economic secrets in his Department. It seems to me that almost automatically there will be a control over the Department. We are going into an unfamiliar situation. Administrators are very much creatures of habit. It will take a long while for people to adjust their thinking to being part of a Community and to realise that in sending a return it may find its way into the hands of a French or Italian civil servant rather than to a British civil servant operating within a framework of British security, where we do have a degree of control. I see my noble friend Lord Wigg is in the Chamber. He has had a lot of experience in these matters. All I am asking is that this obligation should be laid on the Minister. You may say, "He will do it anyway". But I want him to do it.

Let me now turn to the commercial security point. Here again information could very easily "leak" as regards particular processes. This is a matter where we have already taken powers to restrict such information so that it cannot be published without the agreement of the undertaking, unless the Minister so directs. The Minister hitherto has only been able to direct it to be sent to a British Government Department. The noble Earl looks bothered—I will not say confused. Perhaps my argument is not coming across clearly, but I think there is a real argument here and it is important to explore it. We can go over it again on Report, but I should like to ask the Minister what procedure there is, and what restriction, other than simply relying on the reliability of the institution. Will the Government be prepared to say: "Although we would give this to an English Government Department, this could be damaging to the competitive position of a particular firm"—it could be Lord Bernstein's firm, or anybody's—"and in these circumstances we would not disclose it"? Perhaps I have completely misunderstood the situation, but I think it is worth while probing this because so far I am not satisfied.

Amendment moved— Page 18, line 30, at end insert ("and shall, if not already published in another form be laid before Parliament").—(Lord Shackleton.)

7.53 p.m.


I will not detain the Committee for very long, but it seems to me that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, was en to a point—that is, if one accepts a basic assumption. That assumption is one that I do not accept: it is that Her Majesty's Government are concerned with the national interest, and of course it is not so. The whole Treaty of Rome and its acceptance is the act of a country which has been defeated and is now engaged in accepting and making as respectable as possible the terms of that defeat. The "national interest", in the sense in which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has been speaking this evening, is an issue which used to exist when one could use with truth the term "Great Britain", but the greatness has now gone. We are not even Little Britain. We are a subjugated country, a small island off the North-West corner of Europe; and the interests of the people of this country are no longer of paramount interest to the Government, who must accept the diktat of what are now called their partners.

Of course it is perfectly true that every Government Department and every great firm will be stuffed up with information which is of prime importance to our partners, and there is no doubt whatever that that information will be used against us—but why complain at this stage? The decision has been taken, willy-nilly, regardless of the consequences, to take this country into the Common Market, certainly, of course, in the class interests of those represented by the Conservative Party—but that has nothing to do with the interests of Britain, as one had always wanted to believe in it, as a homogeneous society, because the homogeneous society, in which all count, but none too much, has long since gone. Therefore the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in coming to this Committee and asking the Government to take a step—a very tenuous and limited step, because the Amendment is not couched in revolutionary language but only "in the opinion of the Minister", and it asks that the Minister should have some regard for the national interest—is making a plea to an Administration which has completely rejected that concept.

The concept in future is to be that what our "partners" decide we, the defeated, will carry out. We shall not be allowed to discuss it; and penalties will be imposed on us if we do not carry it out. But to ask at this late date that the Minister should act in the national interest is to ask this present Government to turn back on everything they have been trying to do during the last two years and will go on doing. I am one of those who accept the inevitability of this step, but I hope that sooner or later there will be a group of my fellow-countrymen—I hope a majority—who will recognise this measure for what it is. When that day of reckoning comes, as I believe it will in the not too distant future, then on that date this House—which I hope will no longer exist but which will have been replaced by a popular assembly, strengthened, I hope—will recognise that the duty of the Government is to act in the national interest. But do not ask this Administration to do that, because it will not.

7.58 p.m.


I should like to put one question to the noble Earl and I do so in a desire to follow-up the process, initiated by my noble friend Lord Shackleton, of exploring what the situation really is here. May I take this situation: may I assume that under Section 9 of the Statistics of Trade Act 1947 a great deal of highly confidential information has been provided by a number of individual undertakings in this country to a Government Department? This highly confidential information is supplied, so far as the individual undertakings are concerned, upon that understanding under the terms of Section 9 which hitherto has always been regarded as providing the necessary protection in relation to possible disclosure of that information. Suppose that the Minister, acting under the powers conferred upon him by Clause 12 of this Bill when it becomes law, decides in the exercise of his discretion to disclose to the Commission that information relating to various undertakings. Let us make that assumption. Would the noble Earl turn back to the Rome Treaty; and would he bear in mind that under Article 156 of that Treaty, which I now think is subsumed in the Accession Treaty, the Commission is put under an obligation to publish annually, not later than one month before the opening of the Session of the Assembly, a general report on the activities of the Community? Suppose that those responsible for the running of the Commission perfectly honestly and genuinely believe that in the exercise of their duty they ought to send out all that confidential information, or a summary of it, giving the names of the individuals concerned, in order to inform the Assembly about it, the Commission taking the view that the collecting of that information comes within the scope of the words,"the activities of the Community". Will the noble Earl make that supposition? Can the British Government correct that? Is there any way of stopping it?

The noble Earl referred my noble friend Lord Shackleton to Article 214 of the Rome Treaty. That will not enable any check to be placed upon a proceeding of that sort. That Article does not refer to the Commission as such; it simply refers to the members and service of the Commission. It forbids them to disclose information which they acquire, I suppose as members of the Commission, to third parties without authority and unlawfully. It does not inhibit the Commission from taking a step like that if in the view of those responsible for the Commission they think they ought to do it.

If one turns back to Article 157 of the Rome Treaty and looks to see how the Commission is appointed, it is an independent civil service. It consists of members who shall be chosen on the grounds of their general competence and whose independence can be fully guaranteed. If one looks at paragraph 2 of Article 157 one sees these words: In the performance of their duties, they"— the Members of the Commission— shall neither seek nor take instructions from any other Government or from any other body". If I read that correctly the Commission are empowered to take a decision that, for example, in the exercise of their duty to prepare a report under Article 156 they ought to include all this highly confidential information. So far as I know, there is no power in the Council of Ministers to stop them doing that. They are put under a duty to do it and must exercise their independent judgment whether their duty so requires them to act.

Therefore I ask the noble Earl to supplement his assurances by pointing to the provisions of the Rome Treaty, the Accession Treaty, or any other relevant document, which can prevent firms which, under Section 9 of the Statistics of Trade Act, supply the information and a year later see the whole of it deployed in the report which is furnished to the Assembly annually by the Commission. I should be very grateful if the noble Earl could tell me what would prevent that.


May I ask the noble and learned Lord whether he feels in his mind that this country will be so much the loser in what is clearly to him a balance sheet of, on the one side, credits of the issue by the Community of Italian, French or German confidential industrial information to this country and, on the debit side, the release by the Community of the confidential industrial information to those countries? Are we going to be so clearly the loser on what must be a mental balance sheet of debits and credits?


I think that question was addressed to me and I will gladly answer it. As a convinced promarketeer, I am firmly of the opinion that we shall be the gainers. I am anxious to see us become members on January 1, 1973, and I wish to see this great association of peoples work together. The reason I rose to my feet was because the noble Earl gave certain assurances, and as I listened to his speech I wondered whether they were wholly well founded. I thought it might be of assistance to the Committee if I put to him a specific question on an assumed case and I asked him whether he would amplify his answer by telling the Committee what would prevent what I described happening. I put that question as a convinced promarketeer and I have no desire to suggest that we should be the losers. I am quite convinced that we should be the gainers.


If I may answer that question, my answer would be that I fear it.


I have some sympathies with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, on this matter, but I think it somewhat of a storm in a teacup. On the question of commercial secrecy, surely it is the responsibility of each individual undertaking to protect its own commercial secrets to a certain point. In this area there are two things. First of all, there is technical information which could be regarded as secret. There is no doubt that we are way ahead of the Continent of Europe in the technological field. I therefore feel that we have more to lose than to gain. On the financial side, we have certain requirements in this country which are to the good in that our companies disclose far more financial information than their counterparts on the Continent. They do this quite willingly; the information is freely available. There is no doubt that a company from Italy or France, in particular, where the disclosures of information are slightly more limited than they are over here, can gain from obtaining financial information on British companies in this country. In my view this is a point that should be discussed and then dropped because the worries are not as great as people make out. Commercial information is fairly freely available across Europe. There are innumerable sources. One of the problems that we have at the moment is that there is too much information available and it is extremely difficult to sort it all out.

8.8 p.m.


I should like to ask the House, as we are now in Committee stage, whether it is all right for me to ask again the question that I asked before. I should like to know quite specifically the names of these institutions. I have not been told them yet. I should like to know whether we have already supplied information to these institutions, directly or indirectly. Does "Community Institution" mean anything more than the Court of Justice? Could we have a list of the institutions? Is it not possible to alter the Act of 1947 by an Order in Council?


As this debate has developed I must confess I have been at a loss to think what we are debating. We seem to have got into an area which is quite a long way away from the areas covered by Clause 12. It is worth going back to the beginning of this matter. This clause is concerned with information which member States are required under a Community obligation to supply to a Community institution. The noble Lord, Lord Bernstein, asked what was meant by "Community institution". This is set out in Article 4 of the Treaty of Rome, to which I have already referred. Specifically it is the Assembly, the Council, the Commission and the Court of Justice. If I may try to get back to the information with which we are dealing, before we can be concerned with this information in any way whatsoever the information must be collected under the Statistics of Trade Act. Section 1(1) of that Act starts: For the purpose of obtaining the information necessary for the appreciation of economic trends and the provision of a statistical service for industry and for the discharge by government departments of their functions, it shall be lawful for a competent authority …. to require people to furnish information. This is the information about which we are talking.

So far as the Statistics of Trade Act is concerned, this process has been going on since 1947 which, if my arithmetic is correct, is 25 years. It has been going on for a number of years within the Community. The Community has not been dealing with information collected under the Statistics of Trade Act, because this requirement has not yet arisen, but it is a similar type of information. Relating this to the Amendment, I will try to deal with the points that have been raised. I am in some confusion as to which Amendment we are discussing.


If I may help the noble Earl, I shall not proceed with the first Amendment; I accept his argument. It is on the second Amendment.


I thank the noble Lord; that is very helpful. The Amendment which we are now discussing would not strengthen the Minister's ability or his resolution to protect the national interest. Protection of national interest must depend upon Ministerial action before the obligation is placed on Her Majesty's Government; and Clause 12 can come into effect only after the obligation has arisen. The only effect of the Amendment would be to confuse (I will not use again the word "frustration") this most straightforward way of supplying this very limited class of information; that is, information relating to single undertakings which may be required from us in the terms of the Treaty of Accession. If we do not furnish the information under this clause we shall have to furnish it in some other way. That point cannot be in issue. This is one of the consequences of our accession to the Communities. So we are talking only about the method in which some very limited class of information is furnished. I think this has to be said so that we can get our debate back into context.

If I may try to deal with specific points that have arisen, first those raised by the noble Lord, Lord Bernstein, he asked how do we find out what is being done under this clause? Here I would refer him to an undertaking which was given in my answer to a question from the noble Viscount, Lord Watkinson, on August 10. The undertaking was briefly, first, that the Government will arrange for notification in Trade and Industry each time a Ministerial direction is made under Clause 12 in respect of the provision of information obtained under the Statistics of Trade Act; and secondly, that the Government will notify the individual firm or firms concerned, so that when this particular method of providing this very limited form of information is adopted it is a matter that will become known.


Will this information he given before or after it is passed on to the companies concerned?


It will have been discussed in advance with the C.B.I. The information that it has been given will of course be published after it has been given. Confidentiality was another point greatly bothering the noble Lord, Lord Bernstein, but this we have discussed so much I do not know what more to add.

The point was raised that civil servants in the European Community are not permanent. This of course is very true. The obligations of secrecy apply to them after they have ceased to serve the Euro- pean Communities, and they will thus be bound to continue to maintain certain matters secret. I do not think that I need go on with this answer except that I should like to deal with a point raised with me by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill. I would suggest to him, with the greatest respect, that his hypothesis is unlikely in the extreme. I just cannot see how this situation would arise. It would seem incredible that the Commission would seek to publish confidential information in its annual report. But one has to accept that it is not expressly forbidden from doing so, so long as it is concerned with the activity of the Communities.


May I accept at once that it is an unlikely situation. I put the point in order to test the working of the Rome Treaty. I quite accept that it is most unlikely that it would happen, but I just wanted to test what the noble Earl was saying to see how it worked. That was all.


I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord. If we could again bring the debate back to the context of this particular Amendment, we are concerned in Clause 12 only with information that relates to individual undertakings. Of course it is the practice of the European Communities Statistical Office not to publish information unless the heading under which this information is aggregated comprises at least four separate units. Therefore, at present there would be no question of such information being published. It is conceivable, I have to admit, that the Community may change its mind on this point and may remove this inhibition. But it seems unlikely in the extreme, and before it does so we shall have to agree to its doing so. That explanation, I hope, will satisfy the noble and learned Lord on that point.

I have done my best to answer the specific points raised. I think that if we can remember the very limited area with which we are concerned, and the fact that it is only those informations which are required from us by the Communities which we happen to choose this way of supplying, and that they have to be such as to relate to only single undertakings, perhaps we can see that the discussion of this Amendment has ranged rather far beyond the scope of the clause in the Bill. I hope that with this further explanation the position will now be acceptable and that we shall draw the discussion to a close.

8.16 p.m.


I certainly think we should draw it to a close. I am not sure whether going into Committee was a good idea. I had hoped to quiz the noble Earl and get information that would satisfy me. With respect—I will not say "with the deepest respect", because that really means without respect—he has totally failed to satisfy me. The noble Lord, Lord Selsdon (I think I interpret him rightly), asked whether there were any really major issues involved or whether there was any information. Of course, the sort of information that can be given under the Statistics of Trade Act in relation to the Census of Production covers a very large number of subjects: not only the number of people employed but the output, sales, deliveries, services provided, articles required, orders, stocks, work-in-progress. There is a great deal of information of an important kind involved.

I do not think there is much point in pressing this matter further. It may well be that the Government, completely innocently, have not really thought about this issue. The noble Earl, however—and I do not know that he has answered me—said, as I understood him, that there is no information within the Departments of this kind which might well be given to another Government Department which he would say involved national security. I am bound to say, although I may have misunderstood him on this—


I think I said that we could not think of any information falling within this very limited category of trade statistics that would so be regarded. But of course the issue of national security is absolutely clear, and our right to withhold any information within the terms of Article 223 of the Treaty of Rome is beyond question.


The fact is that I merely wanted to establish a responsibility on the Minister to bear this point in mind so that this procedure is not automatic. I had not intended to seek a Division on either of these Amendments, but I regretfully say that I do not think the noble Earl's answer on the second Amendment (we agreed to discuss them together) has been satisfactory at all, and I do not think it has satisfied my noble friends who have been raising points. It has been useful to bring up this question, but I do not think we should waste any more time on it. So far as I am concerned, I now ask leave, having moved Amendment No. 15, to withdraw it.


The House should be resumed.


I am advised—it is somewhat difficult—that we should now finish this matter in Committee, but if we wish to resume the House first and dispose of the matter at Report stage I am perfectly happy to do so. I look to the noble Earl the Leader of the House to guide me, having, I regret to say, created some difficulties for him.


I think the Companion, which I am clutching to my bosom on this rather unfamiliar voyage on which we seem to have embarked, is perfectly clear on the point of dealing with the question of re-commitment. It goes on to say: Decision on these amendments can then be reached on Re-commitment". So I think it is quite clear in the context that we should take any substantive decision on the Amendments at this stage.


I am very much obliged. I think this is the way in which it should be done, and therefore I ask leave to withdraw Amendment No. 15.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I beg to move Amendment No. 16 on the Marshalled List.

Amendment moved— Page 18, line 30, at end insert— ("Provided that no such estimates, returns or information shall be so disclosed to a Community institution if in the opinion of the Minister such disclosure could be held to be contrary—

  1. (a) to the national interest, in particular on grounds of national security, or
  2. (b) to the need to maintain commercial secrecy from the standpoint of an individual undertaking.").—(Lord Shackleton.)

8.22 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 16) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 24; Not-Contents, 106.

Addison, V. Hoy, L. Shepherd, L.
Bernstein, L. Hughes, L. Slater, L.
Beswick, L. Lauderdale, E. Stow Hill, L.
Champion, L, Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. [Teller.] Strabolgi, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Watkins, L.
Gardiner, L. Phillips, B. White, B.
Garnsworthy, L. [Teller.] Serota, B. Wigg, L.
Greenwood of Rossendale, L. Shackleton, L. Wynne-Jones, L.
Hale, L.
Aberdare, L. Fisher, L. Pender, L.
Abinger, L. Gainford, L, Penrhyn, L.
Aldenham, L. Goschen, V. Polwarth, L.
Amherst of Hackney, L. Gowrie, E. Rankeillour, L.
Astor of Hever, L. Grimston of Westbury, L. Reay, L.
Atholl, D. Hailes, L. Redmayne, L.
Auckland, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.) Reigate, L.
Balfour, E. St. Just, L.
Bathurst, E. Hanworth, V. Sandford, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Harvey of Tasburgh, L. Sandys, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Hastings, L. Savile, L.
Belstead, L. Hawke, L. Seear, B.
Berkeley, B. Hewlett, L. Selborne, E.
Blake, L. Hives, L. Selkirk, E.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Hylton, L. Selsdon, L.
Brentford, V. Ironside, L. Shaftesbury, E.
Brooke of Cumnor, L. Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.) Shannon, E.
Chesham, L. Kemsley, V. Stonehaven, V.
Colville of Culross, V. Lansdowne, M. Stradbroke, E.
Cork and Orrery, E. Leicester, E. Suffield, L.
Cottesloe, L. Limerick, E. Swansea, L.
Craigton, L. Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Teviot, L.
Davidson, V. Macleod of Borve, B. Townshend, M.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Mansfield, E. Trefgarne, L.
Derwent, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V. Trevelyan, L.
Devonshire, D. Milverton, L. Tweedsmuir, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Molson, L. Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, B.
Dudley, E. Monk Bretton, L. Vernon, L.
Dundonald, E. Mountevans, L. Vivian, L.
Ebbisham, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.] Waldegrave, E.
Ellenborough, L. Ward of Witley, V.
Elles, B. Moyne, L. Windlesham, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Netherthorpe, L. Wolverton, L.
Emmet of Amberley, B. Northchurch, B. Wynford, L.
Falmouth, V. Nugent of Guildford, L. Yarborough, E.
Ferrers, E. Orr-Ewing, L. Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Clause 12 agreed to.

House resumed.

Clause 12 reported, without amendment; Report received.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now further considered on Report.

Moved, That the Bill be now further considered on Report.—(Earl Jellicoe.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Provisions as to Subordinate Legislation]:

8.31 p.m.

LORD STOW HILL moved Amendment No. 17: Page 20, line 27, leave out from ("punishable") to end of line 32 and insert ("otherwise than with a fine not exceeding £50.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is the first occasion during our debates on this Bill when we may address ourselves to the question of the effect on our criminal law of entry into the Community. I raise this matter for two reasons. The first, for reasons which I shall address to your Lordships, is that in my submission this is an Amendment which should be accepted. The second is to ask Ministers for a statement as to the sort of circumstances in which this type of power to create criminal offences is likely to be exercised.

Schedule 2 formulates the power to legislate by delegated legislation. This is a wide power designed to enable the purposes of Clause 2(2) to be carried out. That provision says that delegated legislation may be used for various purposes as specified therein, but generally one may summarise it by saying that its main purpose is to implement any Community obligation. For that general purpose, therefore, Parliament is given power by Schedule 2 to pass subordinate legislation which will carry out that purpose.

However, that power in Schedule 2 is not unlimited. It is in fact subjected to certain precise limitations, and the limitations to which I direct the attention of the House is that which relates to the creation of new criminal offences, and the Implication of Schedule 2(1)(d) is to create a limitation which commits Parliament to the creation of new criminal offences so long as they can be related to the achievement of the general purpose set out in Clause 2(2). They are new criminal offences including those which are punishable, on indictment, with imprisonment for up to two years and on summary conviction with imprisonment for up to three months or a fine of £400. The Amendment would limit the power of Parliament by using this delegated legislation process in relation to the creation of new criminal offences to creating offences which give rise to a penalty not in excess of £50.

The broad case for this is, I submit, that it is not desirable that delegated legislation should be used for the purpose of creating new criminal offences as serious in type as are punishable by up to two years' imprisonment. Always in our Parliamentary experience we have been, and perfectly rightly, particularly sensitive about the criminal law. After all, it may bring deprivation of liberty and it will often involve disgrace on the person convicted of an offence. I do not say that that will always be the case, particularly as there are nowadays offences, considerable in number, which can be termed "technical". Generally speaking, however, conviction of a criminal offence, and certainly of one carrying a penalty of up to two years' imprisonment, nearly always means that one has been guilty of disgraceful conduct which would earn the reprobation of all right-thinking people.

We have therefore always been watchful to see that our criminal legislation is carefully drafted so as not to be oppressive or infringe the broad principles of civil liberties which we in this country hold dearly. I submit prima facie that if an offence of that seriousness is to be created it should be by a Bill that goes through the ordinary Parliamentary processes—of First and Second Reading, Committee stage and so on—and that it is inherently not desirable that powers should be taken by a Minister or a designated Government Department by delegated legislation to create offences of that seriousness.

I know perfectly well that there are many precedents for the creation of criminal offences by subordinate legislation. I am sure that the noble Viscount will be able to cite many instances of criminal offences that carry a fine as a penalty. I would have no objection to the power by delegated legislation to create a criminal offence punishable with a fine of up to £50. If one studies the Bill to see what are the other provisions in this context, one finds provisions relating to criminal offences in, for example, Clause 11. But I need not delay the House in this regard because they are offences relating to deliberately untrue statements before the European Court. One also finds in Clause 5(4) that criminal offences are created in relation to Customs offences, but in subsection (8) the offender is rendered liable to a penalty of up to £50. I submit that that is the appropriate limit when dealing with a power to create new criminal offences by subordinate legislation. If it is necessary to create criminal offences involving penalties of a greater gravity, then the time-honoured Parliamentary processes should be followed to the full so that they may be subjected to the Parliamentary inquiry through which a Bill must pass in order to become an Act.

Having deployed that general case in support of the Amendment, I wish to put some questions to the Minister. He will probably agree that for a great many members of our community who are interested in this Bill it is desirable that a statement should be made by the Government as to the sort of circumstances in which it is likely that, for the purpose of implementing Clause 2(2), new criminal offences will have to be created. First, however, will the noble Viscount confirm that there is no question whatever of altering the ordinary procedure through which we go in our criminal courts before a conviction can be reached? Although people occasionally say airily that the jury system may go, or that the obligation to prove an offence beyond any reasonable doubt may be changed, I hope the noble Viscount will confirm that that is completely erroneous. There is no question whatever of there being any obligation upon this country through joining the E.E.C. to alter our criminal process. That will be entirely our own affair. We shall continue to apply our own process as we have based it on centuries of experience as being the best formulated to be likely to achieve a just result in a criminal case. That is our concern entirely and no concern whatever of the European Economic Community. It is new offences that may have to be created which will be tried purely in accordance with our existing criminal process or by such process as changed by our own Parliament according to the judgment of our own Parliament and our own Legislature. I hope that the noble Viscount will be able to confirm that, because I think that is a matter of great importance and some concern. I have tried to picture to myself the sort of cases in which it will be necessary—


My Lords, would my noble friend forgive me for a moment? Could he tell me where it is said that these regulations may create a criminal offence except by the implication on page 20 which he is now discussing and which is a very clear implication indeed, because as I read Clause 2(2)—and I am quite sure he is right, I am for the moment agreeing entirely with what he is saying—the power to make an Order in Council or a regulation by a Minister or Department to enforce a Community obligation is one which, ipso facto, includes the right to designate a new criminal offence and to impose a penalty without any other specific words in the Act at all.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Hale was absolutely right in what he said, that the power is to be read in by necessary implication, and the necessary implication is to be found in the provisions of Schedule 2 which begins: The powers conferred by section 2(2) of this Act to make provision for the purposes mentioned in Section 2(2)(a) and (b) shall not include power"— and then one looks down to head (d)— to create any new criminal offence punishable with imprisonment for more than two years …".


My Lords, I will explain this but that is wrong. It is not a matter of necessary implication; there are words and I will point to them when it comes to my speech.


My Lords, would the noble and learned Lord ask the noble Viscount if he would kindly tell us at this stage what the words are, so that we can have a look at them, because I recollect that one of his forceful interpretations of Clause 2 early in the debate—


My Lords, I must remind the noble Lord, Lord Hale, that we are on Report stage and he has, within my recollection, already spoken twice Therefore he is one over the odds already.


My Lords, I think we are all agreed that there is at any rate a power to create new criminal offences by delegated legislation and perhaps I may resume my argument from that point. What I was submitting to the House was that the sort of situation as I would envisage it—and I am putting this to the noble Viscount in the hope that he will be able to enlarge upon it and give information about it—in which it might be necessary to create new criminal offences is, for example, that envisaged in Clause 6, subsection (4) which deals with the C.A.P., the agricultural policy. One sees towards the end of the clause that power is given to require declarations to be made and the giving of information in respect of goods imported, and so on, and I can very well imagine that it may be necessary, for the purposes of securing that that information is provided by those who are under an obligation to provide it, to create an offence which will consist in failing to provide that information. I would simply put that to the noble Viscount as a probable example of the sort of situation in which it will be necessary to create new criminal offences.

If I may revert to the earlier part of my argument, I should have thought that in that type of offence the appropriate penalty need not be one exceeding £50. If it must be more, and if one is dealing with a situation, for example, in which dishonest declarations are made so that it is necessary to create a more serious offence carrying a penalty heavier than £50, that ought to be done by ordinary Parliamentary process. That is the submission I make to the House. I should be very grateful if the noble Viscount would be so kind as to enlarge upon that and make a statement about it. While, as I have readily admitted, there are many precedents for offences being created by subordinate legislation, are there precedents, and could he give one or two examples, for offences of the gravity of the kind I have described being created by delegated legislation? Generally, when I ask that sort of question the answer is perfectly properly given, "Yes, and you were a party to a good many of them yourself". If that is so I apologise and plead guilty. I do not think I should have been. I have many sins on my escutcheon and perhaps on reflection I would not have wanted to do that again. However, if the noble Lord tells me that there are many precedents for that I must accept it, but I would still put the Amendment to the House as one which ought to be carried.

I then want to ask this question: when a new offence is created by delegated legislation under the provisions of Schedule 2, does the Schedule require that the procedure by which the Statutory Instrument is enacted is one making it subject to approval by the Houses of Parliament or simply subject to the Negative Resolution procedure? The relevant provision of Schedule 2 is sub-paragraph (2) of paragraph 2 which is not ideally clear in its wording. It reads: Any statutory instrument containing an Order in Council or regulations made in the exercise of a power so conferred, if made without a draft having been approved by resolution of each House of Parliament, shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House. What that amounts to I am not quite sure, but I think it amounts to this: if you find in some other part of this Bill that an Affirmative Resolution is requisite, that governs the situation, but where you do not find in another part of the Bill that an Affirmative Resolution is requisite then the appropriate procedure is by Negative Resolution. The only case I know of in the Bill which provides for an Affirmative Resolution is Clause 1(3) dealing with the designation of Treaties: that obviously is not applicable here.

It may well be, and perhaps the noble Lord will be able to confirm this or not, that the words if made without a draft having been approved by resolution of each House of Parliament are to be construed as meaning that the matter is left to the discretion of the Minister or designated Department which seeks to exercise this power. If that is right, I suppose that the Minister or the Department have to ask themselves, "How serious is the offence; ought we to seek the approval of the House; or is it a lesser offence which we can safely leave to the Negative Resolution procedure?". I should not approve of that altogether. I think that when you create any offence, in principle it is desirable that you use the Affirmative Resolution procedure; but I should be grateful for a statement on those lines.

May I sum up by saying that I would ask the noble Viscount first to confirm that our procedure will not be altered; secondly, to give an indication of the sort of situation when it will be necessary to create new criminal offences; thirdly, to give his view as to the appropriate procedure under this sub-paragraph, whether negative or affirmative; and finally to say, if he does not accept the proposal embodied in the Amendment, why he does not do so. I should have thought it ought to be done and I should have thought the precedents, if there are some—and I infer from the nodding of his head that there are some—are not on the whole desirable precedents and should not be followed in the context of this Bill. My Lords, I beg to move.


My Lords, I understand from the noble Earl, the Leader of the House—


My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Hale, and I do not wish to startle my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack or the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, unduly by appearing to intervene in this debate. I do so for one simple reason. The noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, said that he had many sins on his escutcheon. I, too, like the noble Lord, have many sins on my escutcheon, but I should like to purge myself of one minor sin at this stage. That is why I waved down the noble Lord, Lord Hale, in extending an apology to the noble Lord. I pulled him up because I was under the impression that he was breaking our Standing Order that one does not speak twice on Report stage, under the impression that his very long interrogation of Lord Stow Hill had amounted to a speech. When he rose again, I intervened. But on reflection I realise that I was wrong and that on the first occasion he was putting a question. Therefore, instead of having exceeded his speed limit by one, as it were, I should like in extending my apologies to the noble Lord to make it clear to him that he has still a brisque up his sleeve.


My Lords, at this late hour—and I imagine it may have been the late hour that was actuating the noble Earl a little in giving a ruling which was a little unusual in view of the liberty and freedom we have exercised on Report stage up to now—I will reciprocate his graciousness by being exceptionally brief.

This is a very serious and important Amendment. Of course, one can always quote bad precedents in political history. People will say, "Oh, but by delegated legislation this was done". The noble Viscount speaks always with great ability and very great clarity, and he is not yet prepared to tell us where the missing words are which will fit into this extraordinary legislative crossword and make it complete. But so far as I can see, and so far as what I believe the courts will say, you have by implication on page 20 a power to create criminal offences and to declare and lay down the punishments for them. You have in Clause 2 this extraordinary complication which we have debated day after day and almost week after week about rights and obligations, powers and so on. Ministers have risen, with all their great talents and erudition, to say that a power means this, a liability means that and an obligation means something else and so on. Then in the second subsection there is the provision which says that it can be done by Order in Council or by regulation made by a Minister or Department—a regulation made by a Minister or Department to provide for 18 months imprisonment for a Briton who fails to implement some vague duty imposed in connection with our obligations to the Common Market!

The noble Lord, Lord Wigg, was saying that we shall lose our democratic institutions in consequence of the passing of this Bill. It is a matter which has exercised all our minds. But we are losing our democratic institutions before we pass it if we say that a Minister in his office can issue such a regulation and lay it before Parliament, with one thousand others no doubt. They were running at one thousand a year, and I spent many weeks as a member of the Statutory Instruments Committee trying to find out what they were all about and almost giving up the job weekly. The wording of the Bill is such that I suspect that our courts might very well say "This regulation is ultra vires; this Statute does not give you a clear power to do that." I know that the noble Viscount is waiting with the relevant clause up his sleeve to tell me that this is all wrong and that there are some words here and we should allow him to play his triumphal trump. After all, at this stage of the day it is almost the last trump, and therefore it is entitled to some respect. Well, let him play it.

I am grateful to the noble Earl; he is always courteous and I thank him for the courteous way he put this. For that reason I am not indulging in any histrionics; I am putting a very simple but sincere case. We are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, for tabling the Amendment and for putting it with great ability. I await with interest to know what is to be the elucidation. But even if there is an elucidation it does not affect the merits or the morals of the matter. Even if there are some words there which say that we can do this, it does not override the fact that it should not be done—the Minister creating criminal offences in connection with so nebulous a matter, so undefined a matter over so wide a field of implications. Surely it is a matter for the close study of this House, and one of those questions which really go to the root of the problems of this type of legislation.


My Lords, as someone who served for several years on the Statutory Instruments Committee, briefly want to endorse the plea made by both my noble friends. I do not want to be pedantic, but to speak as somebody who managed to acquire the habit of looking into the Statutory Instruments when we tried to protect Parliament from the Executive from time to time and to see that not too much power was given to Ministers or Ministries. Without reiterating the cogent arguments put forward by both my noble friends, I see in Clause 2(1) that all rights, powers, liabilities, obligations and restrictions from time to time created or arising by or under the Treaties, and all such remedies and procedures from time to time provided for by or under the Treaties … shall be recognised and available in law, and be enforced …". What is not clear so far as I am concerned—and it may be my stupidity, but I mean it very sincerely—is how ultimately these Orders in Council are going to appear. Are they coming before both Houses of Parliament and will there be the right of discussion? All we are asking is a limitation of this power (d)—I will not repeat it because the House knows clearly what I am talking about—under Schedule 2. Quite frankly, I believe we are throwing away some of the rights and powers inherited over hundreds of years of trial and error in evolving a system of common law and a system of democracy that has been second to none in the world, and we are throwing it away where a Commission and a bureaucracy of thousands, which it is going to be increased to, will have more power than this Mother of Parliaments.

8.59 p.m.


My Lords, I very much agree with the three noble Lords who have spoken that this particular limitation in Schedule 2 needs to be explained, and I shall be glad to do so. But first I must address one word to the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, because, evocative though his speech was, I think he really ought by this time to realise—I do not want to go in detail back to Clause 2—that we are not dealing here with Clause 2(1), from which he was quoting. Clause 2(1) has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with this—nothing at all. Clause 2(1) deals with the directly applicable Community law. There has never been any criminal offence created by directly applicable Community law. It seems unlikely that there ever will be, and certainly nothing in Schedule 2 has anything at all to do with directly applicable Community law. I hope. therefore, that the noble Lord will instantly disabuse himself of the thought of there being some vague, hazardous unknown horror hanging over us, which will be imposed by way of criminal offences coming from overseas and hanging over this country. It is not so.

If I may say so, I think that part of the trouble is that the noble Lord, Lord Hale, may have been under somewhat of a misapprehension. If not, I entirely withdraw that suggestion. I think there has been some confusion about this matter. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill is fully aware of this point, but what we are talking about is not directly applicable law that comes from Brussels; this is domestic law which is passed by this Parliament in our own form to fulfil obligations which come from Brussels but which have to be implemented in this country by our own legislation or our own subordinate legislation. All that happens is that the Commission, or the Council, says, "There shall be certain provisions, and in your own countries all the members shall enforce them." We then set about enforcing them, and we do it in one of three ways. We do it under existing powers in legislation that we already have on the Statute Book; we do it by legislation of a completely new character outside this Bill and outside any other legislation—and I will come back to this point in the context of what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, has said—or we do it by way of subordinate legislation under Clause 2(2). That is the proper context for this matter. It is not vague; it is not dangerous; it is entirely specific, and it will depend upon the terms of probably individual directives coming from Europe. I shall give some examples of these in a minute. It is very important indeed that this should be realised by the House.

When this power is taken, it is inevitable that beforehand one should not be able to be absolutely specific on which sort of power will be used out of the three I have given. But if it is done by subordinate legislation, the Government have always recognised that there must be limits—for instance, the limit that we are talking about now. The noble Lord Lord Hale, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, said that in this context the power to create a criminal offence is there by implication. However, it is not. If noble Lords will look at Clause 2(4)—I only want to go back to this for a moment—they will see that it says: The provision that may be made under subsection (2) above includes, subject to Schedule 2 "— and that is the limitation we are talking about— any such provision (of any such extent) as might be made by Act of Parliament, … Since by Act of Parliament one can create a criminal offence, so, under the specific wording of Clause 2(4), one can create a criminal offence by subordinate legislalation. The noble Lord shakes his head. He says that the courts will say that it is ultra vires. However, sufficient unto the day; that is what I am advised that this means; I accept it, and I believe that it is right. Arising out of those words, and specifically arising out of those words, has come the series of limitations that we find in Schedule 2. For instance, there is the one about retrospectivity, and also the one about the criminal offences.

When we come to criminal offences, the Bill has set an upper limit which we think is realistic in the context of the sort of matters which will be dealt with by this kind of legislation. Again I will come to this matter and give some examples. Even so, the House should remember that these are maxima, and in two respects. First of all, they are maxima for the drafting of the subordinate legislation itself. It is not necessary in every case, and I think will by no means follow, that every piece of subordinate legislation which creates a criminal offence will attract penalties of the maximum nature referred to in this Schedule. No doubt some will be very much less and, for all I know, Lord Stow Hill's point about the agricultural provisions will be one of them. The other thing that should be remembered is that the courts do not always impose the maximum, even if the offence creating pro- visions provide for it. I hope that at the end, when I have explained the sort of things that are likely to be done, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, and other noble Lords who have listened to this debate, will think not only that this Amendment should not be accepted but that it is right to keep the Bill as it is on this particular point.

I would therefore go on specifically to the points that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, made. First, I am only too glad to reinforce what he has said, that there is no question of any alteration of our criminal processes arising out of this provision or this Bill. He is perfectly right: we are in no way influenced by foreign jurisprudence; we are in no way required to change our criminal procedure. There is nothing of this sort at all that flows out of this Bill in any way, or out of our accession to the Community. There is no doubt about that at all.


My Lords, may I intervene? is the noble Viscount now saying that in implementing obligations which arise, either directly or indirectly, from the Brussels treaties or regulations, our courts are not influenced in any way, or not affected in any way, by any intervention of the European Court?


My Lords, I just wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, was in his place at the time when the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, asked the question. If he was, I think he will recognise at once that that is a different question from the one I was answering.


My Lords, I heard both my noble friend's question and the noble Viscount's answer. It is the noble Viscount's answer I am asking about.


My Lords, I have no knowledge—and I do not think that this is from ignorance, but is due to the fact that no such judgment exists—of any judgment of the European Court seeking to influence the criminal processes of the courts of any of the Member States. The question I was asked was would we still have trials by jury; would we still have the requirement of the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused or the defendant, and points of that sort. I am answering the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, and I answer the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, that no judgment or opinion of the European Court has, or is likely to have, the slightest effect upon any of those aspects of our criminal law. That is my definitive answer on this, and I am absolutely certain that that is right.


My Lords, the noble Viscount is very clear and very definite about this, but as a layman I presume that somebody in Brussels is going to give instructions to someone to prosecute somebody, and to bring the prosecution under British law somewhere. How can such a person be prosecuted except under British law, and for a criminal offence? Will the noble Viscount tell a layman how this piece of machinery will work, when somebody in Brussels says, "You have to prosecute somebody at criminal law" in this country?


My Lords, I am glad to be able to answer the noble Lord, Lord Bernstein, by saying that that is a totally hypothetical situation which has never arisen so far. There is no machinery under which it can arise in any of the treaties that exist. Therefore I do not believe that there is any necessity for me to go further into that.


My Lords, we are not in the European Economic Community yet, so how could it have happened already? It cannot happen until after we have gone in.


My Lords, if the noble Lord, Lord Bernstein, will study the treaties and tell me under what provision or Article of any of them this could occur, I shall be very glad to consider the matter. I have studied them carefully, I have been advised about them and so far as I know there is absolutely no provision in any of the treaties which could give rise to anything of the kind. I am afraid that this is a figment of the noble Lord's imagination. I am sorry, but it is complete and utter imagination on his part.


My Lords, I really must object. It is not good enough. I did not write down the words, but the noble Viscount said earlier that there would be a request or instruction from Brussels to prosecute somebody in this country. That is all I am saying. How would the machine work? Somebody would tell somebody else to prosecute somebody. That is not a figment of my imagination. That is what the noble Viscount said.


My Lords, I did not say that there would be any instruction from anybody in Brussels to prosecute anybody. If the noble Lord thought I said so, all I can say is that I am very sorry but I did not. I hope that I may now proceed.


My Lords, the noble Viscount is on a point which he has not properly cleared up. The noble Viscount is attempting to tell the House that in no circumstances will the European Court ever come into conflict with a British domestic court. That is what he was saying. The noble Viscount shakes his head, but that can only be the meaning of what he said in answer to the question put by my noble friend. I accept what I believe is a totally irrelevant consideration, that the European Court cannot say in what way a domestic court will operate. But if the noble Viscount will turn to Clause 3 of this Bill, he will see that it lays down that, .… any question as to the meaning or effect of any of the Treaties … shall be … for determination … in accordance with the principles laid down by and any relevant decision of the European Court …


My Lords, I must try to take this a little more slowly, I am afraid. I am sorry, but when words are put in my mouth which I did not speak I must try to clear up the matter. The noble Lord, Lord Bernstein, has said I said something which I did not say, and I shall therefore try to deal with the matter as excursively and extensively as noble Lords opposite would like.

Let me, first of all, take the position of the European Court about which the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, has asked me. The European Court is involved when a domestic or municipal court in any of the Member States gets into a position where it either volunteers to, or has to, refer a point of law to the European Court. What will happen is that in the middle of a civil case—or it may be a criminal case—there will arise a matter of interpretation of one of the treaty provisions, or one of the pieces of subordinate Community legislation, which comes in either as the principal or as an incidental part of one of the arguments in the case. This will be done in the context of a domestic piece of proceedings. It will either come in the course of a civil action before our courts, such as the High Court, the county court; or come in the course of a prosecution in one of our criminal courts, such as the magistrates' court or the Crown Court; and, of course, on appeal a matter can be further considered in the appellate courts. The whole of this process will be governed in this country by British procedure in whichever part of the country it is, whether it is in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. If it is a civil case it will be British civil procedure; if it is a criminal case it will be British criminal procedure.

There may be a point of interpretation of one of the Community provisions which comes into one of these cases. In that event a junior court may, and a court of final appeal must, refer that question to the European Court. Meanwhile, the matter is stayed pending the opinion being received from the European Court. The European Court does not in any way decide the issue, either the civil issue or the criminal issue, which is before the British court. What it gives is a definitive interpretation of the point of Community law which has arisen in the course of those municipal proceedings. It then advises the British court what is the true meaning of the Article, regulation, or whatever it is, of European law which has cropped up in the course of the argument. It says, "Article so-and-so means this". That matter then goes back to the municipal court, and it is one of the points of law—and that is where Clause 3 comes in—which is before the British court to be considered with all the other arguments of law and of fact which are before the British tribunal. That is the context in which the European Court comes in. It does not decide the case. It cannot decide the case.

Moreover, there are no criminal provisions of European Community law which it can interpret or impose, because they do not exist. Therefore, we shall be in a position where I can truthfully say to the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, that if this occurs in a criminal case, the criminal processes—the prosecution, the trial, the rules of evidence, the summing-up of the judge, if it is in the Crown Court, the burden of truth and all those matters—will be as they have always been in British courts. They will not be affected in any way, either by our accession to the Communities or by any opinion delivered by the European Court.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Viscount and to ask so many questions, but what about an appeal from a criminal court? First of all, the noble Viscount has not told us who will start the prosecution. That is important. Will it be handed over in the first place to the public prosecutor? Then the case will come along, as the noble Viscount said. Then he said that there would be an appeal, and it might go back to Brussels or to the Court of Justice. If so, will the criminal during this period of appeal get legal aid, as he would normally in the English courts?


My Lords, I am afraid that I despair of explaining to the noble Lord, Lord Bernstein, how this is going to work. There is no appeal to, appeal from or appeal in connection with, anything to do with the European Court. The European Court comes in as an adviser on Community law, and indeed a decisive adviser on that particular point; that is, on an argument of interpretation of Community texts in a case—a domestic, municipal case—which comes up in the courts of one of the Member States. There is no prosecution demanded or insisted upon by, or initiated from, Brussels.

Let us take a perfectly ordinary, internal Customs case—and this has happened in the Community, in other countries—where the Customs say to a British company, "You shall pay so many pence on articles exported", and the British company says, "I do not think so; I will not pay it". The Customs and Excise may prosecute, and then, in the criminal prosecution, the defence put up by the company will be, "But we do not have to pay because we rely on directive this, that or the other of 1968, which says that you cannot do this sort of thing, and that is something which is relevant in this case". There will then be a British prosecution, started by the Customs and Excise, of a British company in front of a British court, where you have the ordinary processes of British criminal law but, as an incidental—and an important incidental—the interpretation of a directive from Brussels. The English court can, and if it is the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) probably will—and certainly the House of Lords must—get an opinion from the European Court on the meaning of that directive.

Does the noble Lord, Lord Bernstein, now see—I hope he does—that there cannot be an occasion when a prosecution is initiated, demanded or in any other way inaugurated from Brussels? Because this simply cannot arise; and there is no instance, either in the treaties or in anything else, which gives him the slightest foundation for fears upon this subject. I hope the noble Lord will take my assurance on this, and will follow the explanation that I have sought to give.


I have followed it, my Lords, and I shall wait until I read Hansard to-morrow to see where, in my opinion, the contradictions come.


My Lords, the noble Lord is extremely welcome to do that. I myself shall no doubt be fascinated to read what I said.

I think I should now go on to give the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, some more answers to his questions. I think it would be useful if one got some idea of the type of context in which Clause 2(2), and regulations made under it, are likely to occur, because then, instead of being worried about vague and broad dangers coming from across the sea, as I know noble Lords genuinely are, we can see the sort of things that we shall be dealing with.

So far as we are at present aware; the sort of regulations which will have to be made under Clause 2(2), with the limitations which we are dealing with under Schedule 2 in the immediate future—that is, to deal with things with which we have to comply up to date—deal with the following things: the mar- keting of eggs and poultry; the registration of hatcheries and other poultry establishments; the grading of fish; formation grants to fishery producers' organisations: certain vocational training schemes; the exchange of young workers; discrimination in rates and conditions for the transport of goods; motor insurance to cover compulsory insurable liabilities in other member States, the licensing of proprietary pharmaceutical products; classification of wood in the rough and of crystal glass: textile appellations; the provision of information in relation to energy policy and re-adaptation grant for redundant workers in the steel industry.


My Lords, what about aid to silkworm breeding?


Aid to the breeding of silkworms is something that we have mercifully passed by at this stage. However, I shall return to one or two of these in a moment. That is the sort of context in which we shall be dealing. I would emphasise that by no means all are likely to involve criminal offences at all—in fact very few will. But I will come in a moment to some that might. We have a fairly good example if we take wood. I am sorry to take some time over this, but I think it is something about which noble Lords feel strongly and which I ought to explain.

There is a directive (I have been talking about directives and the noble Lord. Lord Bernstein, has been bombarded by the word "directives" from me), and it is No. 68 of 89. It is about wood in the rough. It provides methods by which wood should be measured and lays down the way in which it is to be classified. It lays down three quality classes. First, there is class A/EEC, sound wood possessing superior specific qualities, free of defects or possessing defects of such small importance a not to limit its use. Then there is class "B", wood of standard quality including wood from trees seasoned whilst standing, possessing one or more of the following defects: slight curvature and 'twisted grain, a slight bend no coarse knots, some small or medium sound knots, a small number of decayed knots of small size, a heart slightly eccentric, a few flutings or some other isolated defects compensated by a general good quality.

I think I am at the moment translating from the French. The noble Lord must look at the OFFICIAL REPORT for this.

I pass on to classification "C", which is wood that, because of defects, cannot be classified in either class "A" or class "B" which nevertheless can be used in industry.


Now I am sure we are going mad.


I am trying to persuade noble Lords that I think there are other industrial categories where we go into this sort of detail. I am trying to show that we are getting down, not to brass tacks but to some fairly rough-grained wood.


My Lords, who gets the two years?—the person who infringes or the person who wrote that?


My Lords, I will tell the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, in a moment who gets it. There is a similar directive about crystal glass which differentiates between full lead crystal, lead crystal and crystal. There is no point in our setting up this sort of quality standard unless it can be enforced; and the analogy one would draw in this particular context can be none other than the Trade Descriptions Act. This is the obvious parallel that one would seek in this particular respect for both these items. So what one wants to do is to look to see whether one can as nearly as possible assimilate the requirements to impose these standards and to enforce them in this country with other precisely similar provisions in the Trade Descriptions Act which prevent people from selling goods of one standard under another standard. That is what the regulations under these two headings will do.

One then looks to see under the Trade Descriptions Act the penalty for selling goods with a wrong trade description. Under the Trade Descriptions Act we find that any person who in the course of trade or business applies a false description to goods or supplies, and so on, shall be guilty of an offence. If he sells wood as class A/EEC when it is "B" or "C" he is doing something directly analogous to applying a false trade description under the Trade Descriptions Act. One would think—and I would suggest that this is right—that he should be liable to a similar prosecution and penalty. So one looks at Section 18 where one finds the penalty for an offence. It is, on summary conviction, a fine not exceeding £400, and on conviction on indictment a fine, which means an unlimited fine, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or both. There is the first parallel I would draw; a direct case where one would need to implement those two directives, with a penalty which, for the sake of the whole population—the practitioner, the prosecuting authority (which in this case is the weights and measures department), I would suggest to the House should be the same penalty as applies to all other false trade descriptions under our domestic law. That is the sort of case. I do not want to go on quoting cases but I suggest it is a very cogent case where one would wish to assimilate European provisions with our own existing domestic provisions.

Then the noble and learned Lord asked: are there any precedents? There are no precedents, I think, which are as wide and general as this, because there has never previously been a situation in which we have to provide for quite such a variety. But let me tell the noble Lord that there is a very recent example. Under Section 7 of the Mineral Workings (Offshore Installations) Act 1971 regulations can be made. They are not specified. There is no general power in the Act which says exactly what the regulations are to contain. There is no general power in the Act which deals with penalties under them, except that under Section 7 itself the regulations may be made and may create offences and punishments. And the punishment for an offence created by the regulations under this Act may be, on summary conviction, a fine not exceeding £400, and on conviction on indictment, imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or a fine, which is unlimited, or both. There, my Lords, is another case in point.

If one looks at something smaller but still above the limit of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, and involving imprisonment whereas his Amendment does not, one could look at the Food and Drugs Act 1955. Under Section 123(1) regulations can be made and in those regulations offences with penalties. One of the examples is the Food Hygiene Market Stall Delivery Vehicles Regulations of 1966 which create—and I should think very rightly—offences for not seeing that these vehicles are clean. It creates these offences and puts a maximum penalty on them of a £100 fine or three months' imprisonment—one twice the noble and learned Lord's figure and the other one involving three months' imprisonment. Obviously this is a summary offence and not one for indictment because it is within the power of the magistrates' court. So there we have previous examples of regulations actually creating offences carrying penalties and imprisonment and all of exactly the same nature as those in this Bill. Therefore this is not unprecedented. I do not think that these are bad precedents: certainly they are modern ones and approved by Parliament.

At this stage I think perhaps I should answer the noble and learned Lord on the question of procedure. He is quite right in saying that the way in which the last part of Schedule 2 is drafted allows the Government discretion about which sort of procedure they will adopt, whether the Negative or the Affirmative procedure. The noble Lord said—and there is a great deal of force in his statement—that if there are to be criminal offences created, it should be an Affirmative Resolution. There is nothing wrong with that as a doctrine. I do not think it possible to say in advance what exactly would happen in every case. But I take the noble Lord's point and I think it a good one. It is perfectly flexible and it is perfectly possible that this should be so, but one cannot tell. When one is dealing with something very small, as he suggested, it may be a Statutory Instrument susceptible of the Negative Resolution procedure and it may be that the Department concerned will create a criminal offence and make it a big penalty and present it to Parliament actively through the Affirmative Resolution procedure. And I have little doubt that this sort of consideration will be in the minds of Ministers and Parliament, and the noble Lord, therefore, is quite right in saying that there is this option.

We come finally to the merits of this Amendment. In the sort of context that I have been taking about we are faced with this decision when we deal with a directive. We have got to deal with these directives on wood and glass because they are already passed in Europe, and when we come into the Community we must be able to enforce them in this country. The decision to be taken is: do we accept Lord Stow Hill's Amendment and provide that by Statutory instrument they shall create offences if they are infringed, but there shall only be a maximum penalty of a fine of £50, or do we say, as the Bill says, that we should be able to assimilate them with the Trade Descriptions Act? The result of accepting the Amendment would be that, if we thought that as a matter of policy we ought to assimilate them with the Trade Descriptions Act, then we should need to have the "Rough Wood Class A, B and C/EEC and the Lead Crystal Bill 1973", which would set out no doubt the categories that I read out to the House and the penalties for infringing and false descriptions in those categories, and it would have to go through all stages in both Houses of Parliament.

It is really a matter for the judgment of the House, but I would suggest, having given that explanation, that there are cases where it would be genuinely safe to provide for Statutory Instruments which impose even these penalties in the sort of circumstances that I have set out, and it would be absurd that Parliamentary time should have to be spent and, as I sincerely believe, wasted, in having specific legislation on small matters of this sort. That is the choice before the House. I hope that I have answered specifically all the points that the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, raised. I believe that there is a good case—not only a precedented case, but one which stands up in the context of this Bill and the practical things we shall have to do under it—why we should leave this Schedule exactly as it is now.

9.33 p.m.


My Lords, it will be for my noble and learned friend Lord Stow Hill to say whether he finds those explanations satisfactory. I have no doubt, knowing the courtesy of my noble and learned friend Lord Stow Hill, that he gave some notice to the noble Viscount.


Yes, he did.


I recognised when the noble Viscount got into his stride that he was giving a very authoritative explanation. I must say that on most parts I found the explanation that he gave a reasonable one. I would not say that it was well founded, because I have not the necessary authority. On the other hand, I am looking at this in a rather wider way and from a political point of view. I think this Schedule is a mistake. I think presentationally, if no better, it is a mistake to have this tariff of offences in the Bill in this way. If the noble Viscount says that we are worried, he is quite right, and one reason why we are worried is due to the different explanations that we have had about different parts of this Bill as we have gone through the various stages.

The list of minor offences given to us by the noble Viscount was somewhat familiar to me, and I wondered where it had come from. Of course it came from the noble Earl. Lord Jellicoe, who at an earlier stage of the Bill also emphasised the minor character of what we were dealing with. He then said that Clause 2(2) covered the waterfront, and went through the list in some detail. I then asked the noble Earl which of these things would attract a fine of £400, and he said, "None". It was a shock to the noble Earl, as it was a shock to us, that we should at any rate be envisaging in this Bill that there would be such a thing as a fine of £400 for committing the minor offences with which the noble Viscount made great play and which the noble Earl listed. This is a mistake.

There is one other point. The noble Viscount told my noble friend Lord Davies of Leek—he was right to correct him, although I do not think he was justified in using the sort of assertive tone that he employed against my noble friend—that he was mistaken in thinking that this applied to Clause 2(1). Of course it does not. It applies to Clause 2(2). But this is worse. It is worse in the sense that Clause 2(2) is dealing, as my noble friend said, with delegated legislation.




If we were talking about two years' imprisonment for some breach of these major Treaties it would have been at any rate within scale, but we are not. We are talking about offences created by indirect legislation. If the noble and learned Viscount says that there are precedents in our own law, I must put to him that there is one difference between the precedents he gave and this one. The difference is that we, as a country, voluntarily decided to put before Parliament those regulations and to seek the agreement of the two Houses of Parliament. Here we are not of our own volition necessarily bringing anything forward at all. We are fulfilling an obligation under the Bill to carry out what has been decided elsewhere. This will introduce a very different feeling and a very different climate in the whole thing. I say this really seriously. Noble Lords are shaking their heads, but I will tell them why they would be wise not to be so certain on this. Let me put it this way. We have said that if you want to have the British people behind this great venture then you have to give them certain assurances. We ask that at any rate you should give them the assurance that Parliament is fully apprised of what has been and is going on. Those protections have been swept aside. Certainly we are going to come back to them later on, we are told, when everything is on the Statute Book, but so far at any rate none of those protections are in the Bill.

The fact that they are not in the Bill, I think, will exaggerate the sense of frustration that will be apparent in this country when the consequences of entry really are beginning to be felt—whether it is the cost of food, the size of lorries, the fact that we are sucking industry out of our development areas into the centres in Europe. Whether it is any of these things, there will be not only the initial impact or hardship but also the sense of frustration, and the fact that it is all decided elsewhere, is going to aggravate that sense of frustration. We have warned about that. Of course we have passed beyond that now, but we are now coming—and this is why I am suggesting to the noble Lord opposite that he should not be so certain about this—to the possibility of people going to prison. I am saying that whatever feeling of frustration there may be because the cost of living is going up, what may well cause the crunch is when someone goes to prison for an alleged breach of a regulation which arises from our obligations under one of these Treaties.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for one moment? It is our courts that would have to send him to prison or keep him out of prison; and these offences are offences of cheating. We have had the Weights and Measures Act and the Trade Descriptions Act—and the noble Lords on the other side were all calling out for strong penalties in those. It is the courts that will measure by their penalty the degree of gravity of the cheat.


As to whether it will be for cheating, the noble Lord does not know. It may be for something completely different. He does not know what the offences will be. No one knows what may arise out of this very wide power which is vested in the Commission. It really can go far beyond, because there will be treaties of the future and regulations of the future. It will go far beyond the question of cheating. I will come to the question of the British courts later—I was, going to come to that anyhow.

May I finish with the point I was making? I hope that my sincerity will be accepted. I recall the assurances that were given with equal force from the Party opposite about the working of the Industrial Relations Act. We were told time and time again, "No one will go to prison. We have to have these provisions in the Bill, but they will never be applied: it will never come to that." We warned that it might come to that, and that directly or indirectly one would find people going to prison as a consequence of putting this Bill on the Statute Book. This has happened, and because it has happened our country is the worse off. No one can say that we have benefited as a result of putting that Act on the Statute Book. Here we have a similar danger. I accept fully that if we are going to have legislation, regulations, directives, any orders of any kind, they have to be enforced. If they are to be enforced then presumably there have to be penalties. But when the things come before the two Houses of Parliament let us see what the penalties are and decide on them. I am suggesting that it is a mistake to have this tariff in this Bill.

Now the question arises as to whether this is all going to be done by the British courts. The noble Viscount overstressed his case about the independence of the British courts in this matter. When he reads the words that he employed he will see that he referred to British procedure in a British court and said that its views will not be affected in any way by the European Court. My noble friend has been given the assurances which he sought, that there will be no question of affecting the process of law in the courts. But to say that there will not be any influence from Brussels, or from the European Court, is inconsistent with the provisions of Clause 3 of the Bill. If it is not, then Clause 3 is meaningless. Let me read, for the benefit of the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, what is in Clause 3: For the purposes of all legal proceedings any question as to meaning or effect of any of the Treaties, or as to the validity, meaning or effect of any Community instrument"— not simply the Treaties but anything that flows from the Treaties— shall be treated as a question of law …. Why the noble Viscount should say that it cannot come into it I am unable to see, otherwise there would be no phrase of this sort in the Bill. The clause continues: and if not referred to the European Court, be for determination as such in accordance with the principles laid down by and any relevant decision of the European Court. My Lords, if that is not influencing the British court, I do not know what these words mean. It must mean that the European Court, and what follows from that, has some effect in British law. The noble Viscount's own explanation of this was by the phrase "a decisive adviser". This is the second time the noble Viscount has introduced a completely novel phrase into our proceedings. I have never heard of this phrase before—I do not know that any lawyer has ever heard of this phrase before. What is a "decisive adviser"? How decisive can he be? Does it mean that he advises that a certain decision should be reached by the courts and that his advice has to be accepted? What is the meaning of a "decisive adviser"—not just an ordinary adviser but a "decisive adviser"?


I will tell the noble Lord. The decisive advisers decide conclusively on the meaning of the European Community law in so far as it is a matter for their interpretation. They send that decision, which is decisive, to the municipal court who then decide the case before it with that, among the other points, before them.


My Lords, if this does not mean that the European Court is influencing the decisions of the British court, then I do not understand the meaning of English. However, that is that and we will again look to Hansard tomorrow to see what has been said. This Amendment was moved by my noble and learned friend Lord Stow Hill. I know he considered it to be an important Amendment. So far as I am concerned. I should be happy to see this tested in the Division Lobby, so far as it has any meaning at all now in these proceedings; but my noble friend himself will make the decision as to whether to press it. But I do say that when we have experience of this in later years the noble Viscount will be lucky if he does not get quoted against him some of the things he has just said.


My Lords. I want to say "Thank you" to—


By leave.


By leave—I beg your Lordships' pardon.


I would advise the noble Lord that leave does not apply: he has already spoken once on this Amendment.


I am very grateful to the noble Earl, who is a decisive adviser. I only want to ask—no; I will leave it. The night is late. I

will find the opportunity on Third Reading.


My Lords, although we are on Report, I think that as mover of the Amendment I do not need to ask the permission of the House to speak again. I rise to thank the noble Viscount for his extremely full and comprehensive reply, which I think will be widely read and regarded as extremely valuable. I am most grateful to him. With regard to the Amendment, I thought that he put his finger upon the point by saying that really it is a matter of judgment for the House. He presented a balanced case on that. He asked whether it was really in the public interest to enact a large number of measures of the sort that he instanced, dealing with different qualities of wood, and whether it would not be better to deal with that sort of situation by delegated legislation. On the other hand, there is very great (may I say?) legitimate prejudice which a great many people have about the use of delegated legislation in connection with the liberty of the subject. I agree that there is a precedent in the 1971 Act that he cited. From the course of the debate it is quite clear that strong feelings are held, I think on bath sides of the House, on this matter. In those circumstances, following as I do the noble Viscount's view that it is a matter for the judgment of the House, I should like to ask the opinion of the House by dividing it.

9.47 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 17) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 22; Not-Contents, 93.

Addison, V. Hale, L. Shackleton, L.
Bernstein, L. Hoy, L. Shepherd, L.
Beswick, L. Hughes, L. Stow Hill, L.
Blyton, L. Lauderdale, E. Strabolgi, L.
Champion, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. [Teller.] Watkins, L.
Davies of Leek, L. White, B.
Garnsworthy, L. Phillips, B. [Teller.] Wynne-Jones, L.
Greenwood of Rossendale, L. Serota, B.
Aberdare, L. Bathurst, E. Chesham, L.
Albemarle, E. Belstead, L. Colville of Culross, V.
Aldenham, L. Berkeley, B. Cork and Orrery, E.
Amherst of Hackney, L. Blake, L. Cottesloe, L.
Astor of Hever, L. Brabazon of Tara, L. Craigton, L.
Atholl, D. Brentford, V. Croft, L.
Balfour, E. Brooke of Cumnor, L. Davidson, V.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Ironside, L. Reigate, L.
Derwent, L. Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.) St. Just, L.
Devonshire, D. Kemsley, V. Saint Oswald, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Killearn, L. Sandford, L.
Dudley, E. Leicester, E. Sandys, L.
Dundonald, E. Limerick, E. Savile, L.
Ebbisham, L. Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Selborne, E.
Elles, B. Macleod of Borve, B. Selsdon, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Mansfield, E. Shaftesbury, E.
Emmet of Amberley, B. Milverton, L. Stonehaven, V.
Falmouth, V. Molson, L. Stradbroke, E.
Ferrers, E. Monk Bretton, L. Suffield, L.
Fisher, L. Mowbray and Stourton, J. [Teller.] Swansea, L.
Gainford, L. Townshend, M.
Goschen, V. Moyne, L. Trefgarne, L.
Gowrie, E. Newall, L. Tweedsmuir, L.
Grimston of Westbury, L. Northchurch, B. Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, B.
Hailes, L. Nugent of Guildford, L. Vernon, L.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor) Orr-Ewing, L. Vivian, L.
Pender, L. Waldegrave, E.
Hastings, L. Polwarth, L. Windlesham, L.
Hawke, L. Rankeillour, L. Wynford, L.
Hertford, M. Reay, L. Yarborough, E.
Hewlett, L. Redesdale. L. Young, B.
Hives, L. Redmayne, L.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

9.55 p.m.

LORD SHACKLETON had given notice to move Amendment No. 18: Page 20, line, 32, at end insert— ("or (e) to make any provision for the purpose of implementing any Community obligation of the United Kingdom, or enabling any such obligation to be implemented under section 2(2)(a) of this Act unless before such obligation arose any proposal by virtue of which such obligation arises has been laid before Parliament.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, it might be for the convenience of the House if we did not take this Amendment to-night but postponed it until Monday, when once again we may go into Committee to discuss it. But owing to the total refusal of the Government to listen to our arguments, hearing in mind that we have debated various aspects of this matter several times, it seems that we may as well give up. I therefore do not intend to move the Amendment.


My Lords, I am glad to hear that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, is not going to take us on another of his magical mystery procedural trips, and in view of the respite we have had through failing to rise to the little bait which the noble Lord dangled in front of my noble friends, I beg to move that this House do now adjourn.

Moved, That this House do now adjourn.—(Earl Jellicoe.)


My Lords, I assure the noble Earl, lest there be any misunderstanding, that my noble friends and I would be anxious to go on seeking to improve the Bill, but the Government simply are not prepared to meet us at any point.

House adjourned at four minutes before ten o'clock.