§ 4.0 p.m.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE, FOREIGN and COMMONWEALTH OFFICE (Lord GORONWY-ROBERTS) rose to move, That this House takes note of the White Paper Developments in the European Communities March-October 1974 (Cmnd. 5790). The noble Lord said: My Lords, today this House has an opportunity to debate the first of the regular six-monthly reports on developments in the Community that the Government undertook last Session to provide to Parliament. It remains a major aim of our European policy to ensure not only that British interests are fully reflected in all decisions reached in Brussels, but also that the views of Parliament can be brought to bear before Ministers subscribe to those decisions. The production of the six-monthly reports and the provision 946 of time for their debate are intended by the Government to complement the valuable work being done by the European Communities Committee in another place to ensure that when Parliament formulates its views on European developments it does so in possession of all the relevant information.
§ Turning to the report itself, noble Lords will appreciate that since it was published a number of important developments have taken place, some of particular relevance to our renegotiation objectives, and I will with the permission of the House, return to these later. The report deals primarily with decisions reached by the Community in the period from March to October this year. In general, it does not cover matters which were still under discussion at the end of that period. Naturally, in a report of this kind it is impossible to cover effectively every Community decision affecting this country, however short-lived or trivial. But I think it is fair to say that all major developments in the three Communities are described in the report with particular reference to the position of the United Kingdom and the views of the Government.
§ Inevitably, the report has had to deal in some detail with the major preoccupation for the United Kingdom during the period in question; namely, the renegotiation. But it also shows that pending the outcome of renegotiation—and without prejudice to that outcome—the United Kingdom has been playing a full part in the current work of the Community, including the attendance by United Kingdom Ministers at meetings of the Council of Ministers, and participation by United Kingdom representatives at all levels of the Community's subsidiary bodies.
§ A list of both types of meeting is included in the report. The report also deals with major developments in the process of political co-operation between the Governments of the nine member States, as this is coming to represent an increasingly important element in the relations of the member Governments. Section IX deals with the arrangements which have been adopted both here and in another place for the handling of Community affairs; and, in particular, for the scrutiny of draft Community legislation. Your Lordships' House has recently had an opportunity for an extensive review of these arrangements, but if 947 any noble Lord or noble Baroness wishes to revert to this topic in today's debate, I shall listen with interest to what he or she has to say.
§ I should like now to talk in rather more detail about some of the more important subjects covered by the White Paper; in particular, about those areas in which events have moved on since the report was published. These are renegotiation, agriculture, the Protocol 22 negotiations, development aid, the regional development fund and energy policy. And then, of course, there is the Summit meeting i held in Paris on 9th and 10th December which has significant implications, as we have just heard, for many of the areas mentioned above, not least for our renegotiation objectives.
§ First, on the renegotiation, as the Prime Minister said following the recent Summit in Paris, useful progress has been made in renegotiation and things are moving along on schedule. Nevertheless, there is still some way to go and it will by no means be all plain sailing. It is the Government's intention that renegotiation should be concluded as soon as possible. We aim to dispose of outstanding matters by about early March. Our partners in the Community share our desire to expedite matters. At the Summit, the Prime Minister explained to his colleagues how he saw things going. He confirmed that the Foreign Secretary's statements of 1st April and 4th June set out the limits of renegotiation and that we were not seeking to add new items. Neither were we pressing for amendments to the Treaties, but seeking our objectives within the Community's normal programme of negotiations and discussions.
§ The position we have reached is that on certain items, and I am thinking of the Protocol 22 negotiations and access for 1.4 million tons of Commonwealth sugar, good progress has already been made. On others, such as the CAP, we are looking to further progress in the context of the price review which is imminent, and of stocktaking of the whole policy for which the German Government has pressed. We hope to see progress on that front by the spring. In the trade field, we shall be seeking continued access for New Zealand butter in the latter half of this decade and beyond, as well as 948 further liberalisation of the Community's GSP.
§ On the important question of the level of our contribution to the Community budget, the decision of principle taken by the heads of Government in Paris marked a very definite step forward. We have firmly established the existence of a serious potential difficulty and the institutions—the Council, the Commission—have been asked to devise a correcting mechanism as soon as possible. We look for early progress by the Council and Commission towards the establishment of that mechanism. All of this gives grounds for cautious optimism. There is still a lot left to do, but we are continuing to make progress according to plan.
§ I turn now to the question of agriculture. The White Paper deals at some length with the situation in the CAP as it obtained at the end of October. Things have moved on since then. Our objectives for renegotiation remain as set out in the White Paper. But there are some achievements to be chalked up. As the White Paper makes clear, the CAP is now operating in a situation of world prices which are in certain cases substantially higher than those within the EEC. The net effect has been that food prices to consumers have of late been slightly lower than they would have been had we remained outside the EEC. In the case of cereals and sugar, the difference between Community and world prices is substantial. This is a remarkable change. The Ministers of Agriculture are now launched on the annual price review for 1975, and have to complete their work by the end of January. We shall be pursuing our renegotiation objective in that price review and in the CAP stocktaking.
§ On beef production, the Minister of Agriculture had to take, with the approval of the EEC, appropriate measures to safeguard the position of British livestock farmers. In negotiating a new permanent Community régime of beef, the Minister of Agriculture will be looking for appropriate and flexible support arrangements which will ensure for producers—and they vary, as your Lordships know—a good return, while taking proper account of the needs of the consumer.
§ On sugar, we have won assured access for 1.4 million tons of Commonwealth sugar each year for an indefinite period. 949 A negotiating mandate has been agreed for discussions with the producers, and talks started last week.
§ Another area in which important progress has been made since the publication of the White Paper was the negotiations for the Association of forty-five developing countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific—the ACP countries as they are known—with the EEC. These renegotiations are now approaching their conclusion. The final decisions leading to signature will be taken at a joint Ministerial meeting between the ACP and the EEC countries either immediately before Christmas or early in the New Year.
§ It is of course for the Commonwealth countries concerned to decide for themselves whether to associate under the conditions negotiated, but it is the view of Her Majesty's Government that this is likely to be the best way for them to safeguard their trade interests. The arrangements for developing Commonwealth sugar producers form part of the Protocol 22 negotiations. As I have said, the Community has now accepted the principle of access for 1.4 million tons on a continuing basis. Negotiations are taking place with the supplying countries concerned.
§ We believe that there should be a more balanced distribution of Community aid; aid for associates through the EDF being supplemented by aid for the highly populated and very poor developing countries lying outside the circle of association. Many of these peculiarly disadvantaged countries lie outside the circle of association, as noble Lords know. Thanks to the efforts of my right honourable friend the Minister for Overseas Aid, progress has been made in bringing about this more balanced policy over the last eight months, In fact. agreement was reached recently that the countries to benefit from the first slice of the Cheysson Fund should be those developing countries most affected by the rise in oil and other raw material prices. The bulk will go to needy Commonwealth countries in South Asia which come into the category of peculiarly disadvantaged countries, to which I referred in an earlier section of my speech.
§ It will be our aim now to obtain the agreement of our Community partners 950 to the implementation in the near future of a programme of continuing financial aid for non-associates on the basis of the agreement reached between member States in July on the principle of such aid and the recently issued Commission study of future developments in the Community's aid policy.
§ On the Regional Development Fund the position is as follows. After the Commission's consultations with member Governments mentioned in paragraph 40 of the White Paper, it was decided at the Heads of Government meeting in Paris last week that the European Regional Development Fund be put into operation with effect from 1st January next. The Statement to which we have just listened gave some of the financial details involved. The Fund will be endowed with 1,300 million units of account (£54 million) for the three years from 1975 to 1977. It is envisaged that the United Kingdom will receive 28 per cent. of the Fund. How it is paid out net in each year will, I hope, be further clarified, if that is possible, when the Answer to the proposed Written Question is considered. As the Prime Minister said in his Statement in another place, this contribution will be welcome. The detailed implementation of the Heads of Government's decision—that is, on the RDF—will be settled by the Council.
§ Turning to energy, good progress has been made in Brussels on the examination of the details of the Community's energy strategy. I will not—at least in this opening statement on this point—go into detail as your Lordships debated this matter as recently as the 9th of this month. However, if any point is raised in the debate I will do my best to address myself to it when I briefly wind up at the end. Also, the meeting of the Council of Ministers on energy will be taking place in Brussels tomorrow, and we should await the results of that meeting.
§ Many of the strands of Community work, including those on which I have touched today, were drawn together by the Heads of Government when they met in Paris last week. The House will have seen the White Paper (Cmnd. 5830) published on 11th December, to which today's Statement referred. The House will have regard for the Statement by my right honourable friend the Prime 951 Minister, which was repeated this afternoon by my noble friend. I do not think that at this stage I should seek to add substantially to this Statement. I will, however, repeat that the Government regard this as having been a useful meeting, not only from the point of view of our renegotiation of the entry terms, but from the point of view of the Community as a whole. The Heads of Government were able to have a useful discussion of the grave economic problems which face all our countries—a point to which the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, referred in his question to my noble friend.
§ They are agreed that although we cannot adopt the same policies because our situations are different, we must all do our best to act in a helpful way towards each other. In particular they agreed that it was essential for all of us to avoid protectionist policies. There was also a discussion of the energy situation and the consequent major financial problems created for the Community and the world at large. I have already mentioned the agreement on the setting up of a Regional Development Fund, and on the guidlelines for a solution to the budget problem which we have raised in the renegotiations. As the Prime Minister said, this was, in a sense, the first meeting of the European Council, and we think it has set a more realistic pattern for the future than perhaps earlier Summits have done.
The White Paper states that—and I quote:
in the view of the Government political co-operation among the Nine has proved valuable".
We have indeed, as a country, played a full and active part in this. The Nine are increasingly aligning their positions on a large number of foreign policy questions. For example, we have worked together closely and effectively at the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE); over Cyprus, including practical aspects such as our contributions to the UN peace-keeping force there; and in the dialogue which the Nine are conducting with the Arab World. In response to a proposal by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the Nine are co-operating more closely on Rhodesia sanctions. Our delegations to the larger international organisations—that is, the
delegations of the Nine—have developed the habit of regular and fruitful consultation.
§ Naturally, it is not yet possible for us to agree on every issue. It never will be possible for that to happen. Some of the Nine countries have traditional links and policies which lead them, on occasion, to adopt a different position from that of their partners. But the important thing is that co-operation has become a habit, and the Nine consider the views of their partners even when they cannot agree with them. Political co-operation is, of course, voluntary co-operation. Its procedures are spelt out in various documents adopted by the countries belonging to the Community. But these documents are not binding international treaties, and political co-operation is separate from the EEC institutions as such. It is therefore the more remarkable that the Nine have been able to work together as closely as they have on so many diverse questions.
§ It is also important that relations between the Community and the United States of America have been much improved over the past months. The public quarrels of 1973 are now a thing of the past, and something which approached a crisis earlier this year has thankfully been laid to rest. The British Government played an active part in the agreement reached among the Nine and accepted by the United States on an informal procedure for consultation between the Nine and the United States. This is now being put into regular practice.
§ In conclusion, my Lords, looking back over this period—the period which began with the assumption of Office by the present Government; the period covered by the White Paper—and the subsequent developments which culminated in the Summit meeting in Paris last week, I think that we can all take a certain satisfaction in the balance sheet. The Community has in a number of ways developed in the directions which Her Majesty's Government have advocated. In our negotiations to achieve the objectives we have set ourselves to renegotiate, we are, as the Foreign Secretary has said, "on target". But I repeat that we have still some way to go, and I would warn noble Lords against any assumption that it is all "in the bag". Difficult negotiations in many 953 fields lie ahead in the next few months. Our debate today provides this House with an opportunity to express views on the many different facets of the Community's work, which Her Majesty's Government will take completely into account. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ Moved, That this House takes note of the White Paper Developments in the European Communities March-October 1974 (Cmnd. 5790).—(Lord Goronwy-Roberts.)
§ 4.25 p.m.
Lord SAINT OSWALD
My Lords, in thanking the Minister for opening this debate in a way for which I think many of us, and certainly I myself, are grateful, I think I might say that a matter of weeks ago, still less of months, I could scarcely have foreseen myself making a speech in this Parliament in a mood so pacific and benevolent towards those whom I suspected of seeking to disrupt the European aspiration. As it is, contemplating the Benches opposite and the smiling faces upon them with my habitual and compulsive amiability, at closer quarters than I have enjoyed for some time, the content of my speech may be almost soporifically anodyne. We are formally debating, as the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, has reminded us in detail, the White Paper (Cmnd. 5790) entitled Developments in the European Communities March-October 1974, printed and published only last month—and already well out of date. It is to the credit of Her Majesty's Government that this should be the case. This is only one of the compliments that I shall be joyfully paying to Ministers in the course of my words this afternoon. A Summit meeting of Prime Ministers of the European Community took place in Paris, a communiqué was issued and the consequent Statement by the Prime Minister was made this afternoon in another place and has been repeated here. There has not been much time to study the Statement, but at first sight it does not seem to depart in any important degree from what we had come to expect from the communiqué and from the Press except in one limited respect, to which I may be alluding later.
Continuing in my mood of total benignity, I can offer the personal observation, unsolicited, that the Summit in 954 Paris this month, with Britain represented by a Labour Government, produced more apparent results than the Summit in Copenhagen in December of last year, with Britain represented by a Conservative Government—and I can hardly say fairer than that. Having said so, and in expressing the hope that these putative results will be realised and implemented, I feel justified in calling for a return to candour, which Her Majesty's present Government, if they are sincere, can well afford and from which they can win greater esteem. Let them drop or set on one side, or quietly discontinue, the enjoyable, identifiable but not very dignified pretence that we and our partners have solemnly entered upon a process of "renegotiation"—and I hope that my inverted commas around the word it-self were as audible as those of Herr Helmut Schmidt when he used the term in his teasing but constructive speech at the Labour Party Conference.
What is taking place, as was said earlier by my noble friend and Leader Lord Carrington, is a continuing discussion between the partner nations of the Community as to how the system can best be maintained, adjusted and expanded to the maximum benefit of all. This process takes account of the fact, and was always intended to take account of the fact, that from time to time one or more of the partners might fall on hard times. It is then and thus, in the spirit of the whole Community, within the philosophy of the whole Community, that the currently healthier, stronger or perhaps just luckier members rally to assist. They rally with a view to putting that temporarily discomfited partner back on his feet. To fail to perceive that among the axioms of the European endeavour would be blind—and the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts. is far from blind and Mr. Harold Wilson's political eyesight is very acute. He knew, and it would be insulting to suppose otherwise, before he himself approached the negotiations, the first and second time, that a helping hand to a friend in need was part of the deal.
What he and Mr. Healey and Mr. Callaghan lately have been able to do is to persuade the other partners that we, as a nation, are well and truly up a weedy creek with one broken paddle. They have succeeded in their persuasiveness to 955 such an extent that Herr Willy Brandt, a friend indeed and a man whose international worth is beyond question, proposed a formula which would have placed Britain and Italy in a special category within the Community, a category where less demands would be made upon our performance while being sustained by the rest of the Community, of which both of us would remain Members. The rationale of his theory, as noble Lords doubtless remember who read The Times of the 22nd of last month, was quoted as follows:In view of the considerable divergence between the economic situation of the various member States of the Community, the automatic equal treatment of all members as regards their rights and obligations would at present seriously compromise the cohesion of the Nine.What he did not visualise, as The Times observed, was how the weaker brethren, Britain and Italy, once assisted, would be able to catch up and rejoin the others who had been pressing ahead at a faster rate in their integration. Perhaps because I am no economist I feel scant enthusiasm for this plan. More positively my misgivings stem from the sense, instilled during two years of working within the Community, that what our partners wish us to claim is an appropriate share of the leadership rather than an element of public assistance. But if the hard-luck story is repeated with sufficient pathos and pertinacity, the opinion of all may be one of pity, converted from admiration.
It has not reached this point and I am personally not predicting that it ever will reach this point; but I think that we can hardly leave out of account the measured words of that former Chancellor of West Germany, a Socialist Chancellor, who made emphatically plain his hope that Britain would remain a Member of the Community but who expressed equally plainly that the Community would not hold its momentum much longer, waiting upon us. He said, referring to the Community:Our survival is now at stake. That means that we must try to maintain the substance of the Treaty of Rome, even if some aspects of it temporarily cannot be applied.This means, as I read it, that Britain and Italy under this scheme would be allowed to tag along as passengers, pedestrians, or camp followers. The proposal and the prospect must have wounded 956 Ministers of this country—they wounded me in a more particular way which I will try to describe without emotion or dramatisation.
On 16th January 1973, nearly two years ago, the British delegation together with those of Ireland and Denmark joined the European Parliament. We, the British delegation, were incomplete. We missed, and have missed ever since, the presence of the British Labour Party's delegates. I speak for myself, but also I think for all my companions, when I say that there has never been a day when we did not regret their absence. There have been times beyond counting when I think we should in all probability have voted together, Labour, Conservative, Liberal and my noble friend Lord O'Hagan—voted together not for narrow, selfish, national reasons but because our view on the world, our instincts drawn from Parliamentary experience and history might have harmonised. Sometimes, together, we should have been enough to have won a Division that in the event was lost; and looking back through my files I have found cases of that. On other occasions we should have voted on opposite sides and 18 British Labour members would have made, and still would make, the Socialist group the largest single political group in the European Parliament. Our whole tradition and reasoning persuade us that noble Lords and their right honourable and honourable friends from the Party opposite should be there.
Notwithstanding this fact, the impact made by the British delegation in this Parliament from the first moment was galvanising. Remembering for the moment, looking back on it now, it somewhat amazes me to think how brash we were in our onset. We said, overtly often enough and sometimes between the lines, that this was not functioning as a Parliament in our terms; it was not using its powers. Instead of being offended, affronted by these newcomers, the old stagers said in paraphrase: "That's what we needed to hear. With your impetus we can set it to rights!"
My Lords, it would be wrong to exaggerate what has been achieved. But if noble Lords opposite and their honourable friends in another place believe that change is only now being promoted by a Labour Government, they must, I think, 957 disabuse themselves of this illusion. I am not, at least consciously, overweening when I say that the current of change induced in the previous 14 months was there for incoming Labour Ministers to launch themselves into in March of this year—if they so wished. Unfortunately, the immediate effect has been to stop the current, to damn the flow for the time being—I hope not for long.
My Lords, it seems to me now that I have spoken too much about the immediate past when we are concerned with the immediate and consequent future. I will dwell only for a moment or two more on the past. I speak as if the change, the new momentum, was created only in the European Parliament. That is not so. It was created by the two British Commissioners, Sir Christopher Soames and Mr. George Thomson, by the British civil servants joining the Commission, by some of the British Ministers who attended the Council of Ministers and by those from the other two newly-joined Members. We are apt I suppose—and I have Parliamentary colleagues in the House today, including the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and my noble friend Lord Reay—to become obsessed with our work in that Parliament, and perhaps a degree of obsession is necessary to bear the load.
If I seek to typify the kind of impact which the British delegation made in 1973, I can, for convenience and for pungency, hardly do better than quote a passage or two from the opening speech of Mr. Peter Kirk, the Leader of this delegation. That speech was based on two principal themes: first, the importance of Parliament; and, secondly, the need for change. He said:We shall have much to say, particularly on such matters as the Common Agricultural Policy—which still, rightly or wrongly, causes much concern in my country—the proposed regional policy from which so many of our people have great expectations, and the monetary and economic policy which, if it is successful, cannot fail to transform our own economic position in the world even more drastically than the Community in its present form.We shall have much to say, too, about the workings of the Parliament, for the health of this Parliament is essential to the health of the Community as a whole. The Community cannot function unless it has a base in the hearts and minds of the peoples, and Parliament is the only body which can provide that base.958 I should have thought that noble Lords opposite, however critical of the Community, would be ready to consider that these words were laying the ground for the changes that they themselves demand to see and now wish to effect.
In fact I would wish to take as my text, as the Epistle for the day, Mr. Wilson's own speech to the Labour mayors two days before he departed for Paris. It is a speech which has often been quoted, and which has been quoted more than once today. It set out the seven conditions, as I think he called them, that he would be laying on the table in Paris. I am bound to say that, set against some knowledge of the way the Community works and regards its future, and against the communiqué issued after the Summit, the seven points do not appear to me to create particularly grave or new problems.
Your Lordships will perhaps permit me to take them very briefly one by one. The first referred to major changes in the Common Agricultural Policy. These are being effected. The noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, said that things had changed a good deal since October. They have never stopped changing since we arrived, and that is something in which all of us, in this Parliament and in the other Parliament, may take pleasure and satisfaction. The second point was a demand for new and fairer methods of financing the Community budget, so that our contribution to Community finances is fair. I shall have more to say about this at a later stage and therefore would prefer to leave this for the present.
The third point concerned the rejection of any kind of international agreement which compelled us to accept unemployment for the sake of maintaining a fixed parity. It is true that a monetary policy was always planned and always Mr. Wilson himself spoke highly of the idea. It was, and is still, thought of as part of the normal business of the Community as it develops and evolves. There is nothing to do with renegotiation involved in this. Although it has been there as an idea, nothing has been spelled out and the important point is that if we wish to discuss it as regards the way it will affect us, we are inside and can discuss it on equal terms. If we were outside we should not be there to discuss it, however it 959 might affect us. In passing, perhaps I might observe that the only place where such a monetary system exists today is in the three Benelux countries, and this has been working since well before the formation of the European Community. This is the only case where more than one independent country has a monetary policy—and I concede that many people have some anxiety over monetary policy.
The fourth point concerned the retention of those Parliamentary powers over the British economy which are needed to effect regional and fiscal policies. In so far as regional policies are concerned, we will have a very great advantage—greater than almost any other member of the Community—from the Regional Fund which has been set up, as the noble Lord himself announced. I should like to ask him what may at first sight appear to be a very obvious question, and it is this. Emerging from a reading of the Prime Minister's points, do the Government wish to retain a right to top up and add to Community aid to a given region under the Regional Development Fund at their own will?—because I can see difficulties here, as I am sure he can.
§ Lord GORONWY-ROBERTS
My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord for giving way. Did he say that he could or could not see the difficulties involved?
Lord SAINT OSWALD
My Lords, I can see the difficulties, though they may or may not be those which the noble Lord sees. If a Government—our own or another—were to add on its own account to development funds to a particular region on top of the funds provided by Community sources, this could affect fair competition within the Community. What I think will be required when the Regional Fund is set up is not an absolute ban on national funds being sent to assist regions which are already receiving Community aid or grants, but a condition being insisted upon by the Community—perhaps by the Commission—that such additional aid should be cleared by agreement with the partner nations. I see this not as a very great difficulty, but as something which might be mentioned. I have no doubt that the Government have given thought to it, so the noble Lord may be able to give me some kind of answer today.
960 The fifth point concerned an agreement on capital movements which affects our balance of payments and full employment policies. I commend to the noble Lord the Selsdon Report, which spelled out what has happened in the two years since we joined, and which shows that there has not been a great outflow of capital from Britain. I can refer him to paragraphs 2.5, 2.6 and 2.7. The last is particularly interesting, because it refers to the disadvantages of foreign or strange bureaucracies; and this is where we, the Members of Parliament, come in, because it is really up to us to see that these disturbing bureaucratic barriers are removed. This can be done by ordinary legislation and by Community legislation, where such barriers might interfere with natural trade within the Community. My reason for raising this is that the figures so far in the past two years do not show that there has been a great capital outflow as a result of our membership.
The sixth point was that the economic interests of the Commonwealth and of developing countries must be better safeguarded. It really amazes me that this should have been put in. The old Commonwealth has benefited to an extraordinary degree and it is benefiting more and more by our membership of the Community. I hope the noble Lord will be able to meet Mr. Cheysson one day, if he has not done so already. He will find a man who is totally dedicated and who puts the whole of his soul into these matters. Also, as the noble Lord will know, a new agreement bringing in all the Commonwealth countries is about to be signed within a matter of a week or two, so I do not believe that this represents a serious problem, or indeed a serious barrier.
The seventh and last point raises a reference to a demand which was made that there should be no harmonisation of value added tax which would require us to tax necessities. I should like to know exactly what this means, because if it means a resistance on the part of the Government to total uniformity of structure and levels, then really such resistance is part of a general resistance. No country wants it and no Government wants it; nor does the Commission want it. In fact, the Commission produced a document only the other day which has not yet been published, but which has been 961 passed to the committees and to member Governments, setting out its reasons against such uniformity.
In what I have said—and I will not say a great deal more—I wonder whether I have seemed somewhat starry-eyed. I have not mentioned the failures, and I am not pretending there have been no failures. The most notable and distressing is the failure to create a European energy policy. I wish the best of fortune to the Ministers who are going tomorrow to the meeting on energy policy. I wish them better fortune than our Ministers had before them. I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, a question which he will probably not be able to answer, but I understand from the Press today there was some kind of agreement between M. Giscard d'Estaing and President Ford on the beginnings of an energy policy. It may or may not be true. I am not seriously asking the Minister to give me an absolutely authoritative, cut and dried answer. I believe that we must have a European energy policy. We must either have that policy or revert to a Gadarene stampede not into a foaming rock-strewn torrent, but into a lagoon of hydro-carbon sludge. If I draw attention to the fact that not all has been monotonous triumph, there have been gains in which it has been wonderful to play a part. I will not continue boring your Lordships by saying how much I wish that others had shared that satisfaction with us. However, there have been gains.
The Summit, from what an outsider can see, ended on a happy and hopeful note. The most helpful opportunity was given to us in the European Parliament when on Wednesday the acting President in office of the Council came to speak to us and to report directly, the day after the Summit itself. Dr. Garret FitzGerald was in fact taking the place of M. Sauvagnargues, who was unable to come. But Dr. FitzGerald had himself come straight from the Summit meeting which he had attended throughout. As Foreign Minister of Ireland, he will take his turn as President of the Council for the first six months of next year, so that he was anticipating his office by only a few days. From what we saw, it will be a very stimulating six months coming next year. I should like to repeat a few phrases in a 962 disconnected fashion from his speech and replies to questions:There has been a firm commitment to maintain economic growth, a commitment now shared by all countries. And there has been a commitment by the surplus countries to undertake their duties in this respect. The atmosphere of the discussions and the outcome have encouraged all of us who are concerned that this should remain a Community of Nine and that the United Kingdom should find it easy to maintain its membership. There was also the reaffirmation of the determination of Heads of State or Government—gradually to adopt common positions and to co-ordinate the diplomatic activities in all areas of international affairs, which affect the interests of the European Community. There is also the decision, important from the point of view of this Assembly, that the European Parliament must be more closely associated with the work of the Presidency ".Another observation which won applause was:May I say, without any breach in confidence, that in our discussion there was a very clear recognition of the undesirability, even impracticability, of having direct elections from a Parliament which has inadequate power.That was a recognition by the Council that Parliament's powers are inadequate and must be strengthened, and there is a determination upon this from one wing to the other of the whole Parliament. It has been supported for a long time by the Commission, and now we are ensured of support by the Council.
Noble Lords opposite might have been touched to hear M. Radoux express joy over the paragraph relative to Great Britain's adherence to the Community, the impression that a rapprochement had been achieved. He ended:We socialists have never wished for a Community without Great Britain.From my Strasbourg Hansard I see that this won applause from the extreme Left, but in fact there was no section which did not provide such applause.
There was another piece of illumination from Dr. FitzGerald referring to Paragraphs 34 to 37 of the Communiqué, seeking to meet the British case. He confirmed, when requested, that this reassurance was entirely within the framework of the Treaty of Rome. He said it was set out to guide the Community, if unacceptable situations arise.
The paragraphs are in fact concerned with Articles 108 and 109 of the Treaty of Rome and are easily discovered by anybody who seeks a copy of the Treaty 963 in the Library or Printed Paper Office. They deal with the possibilities of Member States helping each other. Article 108 begins:Where a Member State is in difficulties or is seriously threatened with difficulties as regards its balance of payments as a result either of the overall disequilibrium of its balance of payments or of the type of currency at its disposal"—then action will be taken. This is the source of the co-operation which the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, described in part of his speech. What Dr. FitzGerald said was:What is proposed now is that the question will be studied to see what mechanism might best be adopted should such situations arise, and this is being done in what one might describe as very good time, before they do arise".On these occasions of challenge and difficulty my mind goes back to a declaration made five years ago which gives encouragement:The economic and political integration of Europe are both essential as experience has shown, neither can go forward without the other. The European Communities remain the basis of European unity. … Europe must increasingly develop a common foreign policy so that she can act with growing effectiveness in internal affairs … In order to enhance its functions of guaranteeing security and stability, and within the other organisations to which we belong, the development of an European identity is a positive step in the process which is intended to lead to the creation of a united Europe".I have to admit—and the House is always generous to admissions of honest misjudgment—that of late a teasing suspicion had entered my mind that the co-author of those fortifying words was beginning to lose his own conviction. They were issued on the 28th April 1969 as a joint declaration by Mr. Harold Wilson, the Prime Minister for Britain, and the President of Italy during the State visit of the latter to this country.
Because I feel that Mr. Wilson, and some close colleagues, have now reaffirmed in a somewhat lower key those earlier and most admirable sentiments, despite the understandably cautious words that we heard today from the noble Lord the Leader of the House, and the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, my heart warms even more spontaneously towards the noble Lord opposite than it might have done a week or even a month ago. 964 I welcome this debate and thank the noble Lord for his speech.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Lord GLADWYN
My Lords, we have now been members of the European Economic Community for nearly two years. For the last seven months we have had a Government who say that they cannot make up their mind whether we should stay in the Community until they have consulted the British people by referendum or by some other means. So the Government's view, as we understand it, is that it is now the people and not Parliament which is sovereign; until the people have pronounced we must therefore presumably regard our membership of the Community as in some way sub judice. We are at once members and non-members: in other words we are in a state of limbo. It is in this rather schizophrenic frame of mind, apparently, that the Government have been handling Community matters for no less than seven months. On the whole, as we think on these Benches, the result has been perhaps less unfortunate than might have been supposed. That is perhaps only because the Dr. Jekylls in the Cabinet have usually prevailed over the Mr. Hydes. With this in mind, I should like to deal with the White Paper section by section.
We start off with what for some reason is called renegotiation. Of course, this is a process which would have occurred whatever Government had been in Power since 1972. For instance, it was agreed— this is a point that was mentioned by the noble Lord who has just spoken— that the British contribution to the central budget should be reviewed effectively when any member, and notably, the United Kingdom, encounters any really serious difficulties in regard to its balance of payments. It is certainly now the case that we in this country are in such difficulties; nobody can deny that. Apart from that, the actual net contribution which we shall in theory be obliged to make in 1978 or 1980 is unpredictable. It depends on how much we can, for instance, step up agricultural production in this country, in which case the levies on our agricultural imports, which we have to hand over to the budget, will be diminished and we shall pay less into the central fund, just as the total of 965 import duties which have to be handed over to the fund will be less the more we trade with the Community; and the tendency at the moment is for us to trade more and more with the Community.
However, it now looks, happily, as if the Government have at the Summit agreed in principle on a formula which, in addition to all these possibilities, would apparently achieve what I think is known by the experts as, "gross equity". This will certainly be welcome. Taking everything into consideration, it is rather difficult to see what genuine apprehensions the Government can now have in this regard. In other words, what the Government have always declared as the main obstacle in the way of our continuing membership of the Community has now in practice been surmounted or nearly surmounted. Besides, even if we do not achieve complete satisfaction on this point, it is surely impossible to maintain that we should for that reason alone tear up our Treaty obligations and leave the Community. For after all these precautions have been taken it could then only be, at the most, a question of adding a few million pounds to our national trading deficit in 1978, if indeed there is one, whereas if we abandon the Community we are certain to lose far more than that across the exchanges—this resulting no doubt, as has often been pointed out, in a closed economy or in widespread unemployment, or probably in both. Surely we must on this matter still preserve some sense of proportion.
So we come to the Common Agriculture Policy. The White Paper deals with this and we seem, I must admit, to have kept our end up quite well. We think that Mr. Peart is broadly speaking to be praised for his efforts. But it must be admitted that, for instance, as regards beef, if the Government had gone over to the intervention price system as soon as they came into power, instead of repudiating it, as is pointed out in paragraph 13, we might have had many fewer difficulties than we did have with our farming community. With regard to sugar, it has undoubtedly been the Community which has come to our rescue and has also made it possible for us to honour our commitment to the sugar-producing underdeveloped countries of the Commonwealth, although no doubt, I am afraid, at appalling cost. Finally, if we had not 966 been members of the Community we should have had to suffer a heavy additional increase in the price of bread and, indeed, of other comestibles, this adding substantially to our cost of living.
As we all know, the Common Agriculture Policy is not an ideal system; nobody would pretend that. Our own policy of deficiency payments would have suited us much better. But it was simply not possible to impose the deficiency payment system on our partners in 1971–72. To have insisted on it would have meant a collapse of the negotiations, and our then Government, very properly, took the decision to swallow the CAP and to try to modify it as time went on, rather than accept the alternative—exclusion from the European Community, probably for ever. This policy was incidentally approved by those members of the Labour Government then in Opposition who had been given responsibility, before the previous Labour Government fell, for initiating the negotiations at the beginning of 1970. It was entirely comprehensible and there is no reason at all why it should be held against the Tories at the present time. In any case, the Commission, as we all know, are re-examining the whole CAP—I think reference was made to that by the last speaker—and when they report early in February we may well be able to agree on some salutary reforms. Let us hope so.
So we come to Chapter IV which is called, "External relations: Trade and Aid". Here we can all approve of the final five of the six objectives set out in paragraph 18. We have all read the Report, my Lords, but the final five deal largely with the developing countries and with the liberal Community attitude to multilateral trade negotiations and so on. We can all agree with those objectives, but I cannot see that they are renegotiation objectives. They are, rather, objectives that were in any case inherent in our membership of the European Economic Community from the start. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Saint Oswald, would agree with that. All of them, happily, seem either to have been achieved or to be well on the way to achievement. If that is not so, perhaps the noble Lord who winds up will tell us that it is not so; but so far as I can see, if one looks through these five objectives carefully and 967 objectively one sees that in practice they all seem to have been achieved as it is.
However, why put as objective No. 1 "improved access for agricultural products from developed"—I repeat, developed—"Commonwealth countries"? Why put that as objective No. 1? Why, indeed, put it as an objective at all? It seems to represent a kind of ancestral urge to return to a blissful state of affairs in which the Commonwealth, which now accounts for only about 14 per cent. of our exports, was our chief trading partner and in which it was possible for us to obtain the cheap food which in the old days was so helpful in our trading generally. Today there is no cheap food in Commonwealth countries, developed or underdeveloped; nor is there likely to be, I am afraid, in the future. All the chances are against it. In any event, the developed countries do not even fill their quotas of cheese and butter which we fought so hard to obtain for them in 1971. To a large and increasing degree they now sell their food in other markets. They have no overriding need for the United Kingdom as, of course, they used to have in the days gone by. Besides, why should we take from these countries scarce food that might otherwise go to feed the starving millions of the Fourth World? Would not it be much better to aim at self-sufficiency in food for the European Economic Community—in other words, to step up the proportion of home-grown food from the present 50 per cent. to 65 or 70 per cent. or more, which the experts tell me could easily be done over the years, and ourselves to consume more and more of the agricultural surpluses of that huge and, agriculturally-speaking, largely underdeveloped country, France?
Chapter V, which deals with economic and monetary questions, regional matters and so on, is interesting and I think we all agree that on the whole it is encouraging. It shows what can be done by co-operation within the European Economic Community machine. Although it is not as large as we should have liked, the recently agreed Regional Development Fund has now actually been established, and there is no reason to suppose that if the Community develops satisfactorily—and we must all hope that it will—we shall not be able to benefit from it even 968 more fully when the present three-year period is up.
While we are on that point, may I ask the noble Lord to answer the question which I put to the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal on the Summit Statement but which he did not answer. The question was this: on the face of it, the gross amount of the fund which will come to the United Kingdom is, on average, about £47 million a year—28 per cent. of the total amount. However, we understand from the Summit that the Government think that it could be—I say "could" in inverted commas—as little as £20 million a year. Why is there such a large discrepancy? Of course, I understand that we must contribute something to the Fund, but I think that it is only 9 per cent.? However, if one deducts that 9 per cent., I think one finds that the net amount comes to considerably more than £20 million a year. My suspicion is that, for some reason best known to themselves, the Government want to play down the Regional Fund at this particular moment and do not wish to represent it as a great achievement. I may be wrong and perhaps the noble Lord will be able to reassure me.
§ Lord GLADWYN
My Lords, even anti-marketeers must welcome the loans which are referred to in paragraph 42. It is rather depressing to think that this, and, indeed, all the obviously beneficent activity which is referred to in this Chapter, would come to an abrupt end if the Government, at the instigation of perhaps 20 per cent. of the British people, are so extraordinarily ill-advised as to denounce the Treaties. The same naturally applies to the substantial receipts from the Social Fund which are referred to in paragraph 44 and to all prospects of arriving at a common energy policy which are dealt with in paragraph 45. Of course, if we left the Communities there would not be a common energy policy.
Therefore, my Lords, I turn to institutional matters and political co-operation. Here to a considerable extent, the Government have been hoist with their own petard, owing to the extraordinary decision not to be represented in the 969 European Parliament, which they seem to think that they can diminish in importance by calling it by its original appellation of "Assembly". The Labour Party has had no part to play in the vital and extremely encouraging debates which went on at Strasbourg regarding the European Parliament's role in the approval of the European budget, which now amounts, as is noted in paragraph 32, to no less than £2,400 million. If it is ratified, I believe that the final arrangement will come into operation in about a year's time from now, and it will give the European Parliament very considerable powers over a considerable part of the budget. If it comes into operation, as I am sure that it will, then the importance of the European Parliament will be increased, and it will be evident that if we are to continue in the Community the European Parliament will have to be directly elected. It seems evident that, if the Government decide to remain in the Community, they will have to go along with that.
I do not know whether noble Lords have yet had time to read the Patijn Report which is likely to be approved by the plenary of the European Parliament in January. If they have not done so, noble Lords may find it well worth doing so. Mr. Patijn is a young Dutch Socialist of great energy and intelligence, and what he says in his report ought, one imagines, to make a strong appeal to social democrats in this contry, in so far as they are not blinded by anti-Market prejudice.
Finally, we must understand from what is said under the heading of "Political Co-operation" in paragraph 50, that the Government are pleased, on the whole, with the efforts which have been made since March to harmonise the foreign policy of the Nine. It has not been as successful as it might have been, owing to the inability of the Ministers to provide themselves with a secretariat which is situated in one place and also with an influential Secretary-General. If NATO have such an institution and such an officer, why should the Community not have them, too? But I admit that there has been some constructive endeavour. The so-called d'Avignon procedure works after a fashion and, very slowly, is being improved.
970 As is known, the Conference of Foreign Ministers is a separate institution from the Council of Ministers of the European Economic Community. This is rather absurd, because certain aspects of common foreign policy, notably negotiations for Community treaties, aid to underdeveloped countries and so on, are handled already by the Commission. Theoretically, the Conference of Foreign Ministers of the Nine could continue to function even if the Community collapsed or even if the United Kingdom left the Community. In practice, however, the two machines—that is to say, the foreign policy machine and the Community machine—are interlocking, and one day they will be merged if the Community continues to exist throughout the ages.
My Lords, that brings me to my final point. In Chapter VII the Government say that there is now apparently a pretty general feeling in the Council of Ministers that economic and monetary union cannot be achieved by 1980 and that therefore there is no longer any need to examine this possibility. If that is not what they say, perhaps the Minister will correct me. That may be the mood at the present time, but I suggest that we have only got to wait until the full force of the coming "economic hurricane"—to borrow the vivid phrase of the Leader of the Opposition—hits us to see this attitude change; for either the hurricane will drive us all apart, which is quite possible, and the whole Community will dissolve or we shall all have to take cover in the same dugout.
In the meantime, why cannot British Ministers at least consider such interim measures for a European reserve currency as are proposed in the excellent work of Signor Magnifico which has just been awarded the Bentinck Prize in Paris for the work which has done most in the past year to encourage the European idea? And what is inherent in this idea? What is inherent in it is evidently some kind of democratic European union of a new and modern type, otherwise it makes no sense. On this point the Government say—I think in paragraph 55—that they have absolutely no notion what the Heads of Government meant when they launched this objective in October 1972; they have absolutely 971 no idea. But have not they any ideas of their own? They could say, for instance, that in principle they are in favour not so much of a federation in the old-fashioned sense or of a federation based upon the classical model but of the gradual development of the Council of Ministers, now, as we know, happily to be largely superseded by a kind of super-Council which will meet three or four times a year—a kind of supreme Council of Heads of Government, advised by the Commission, which will become the European Government of the future itself controlled by an elected Parliament.
There is no reason why they should not describe the kind of objective to which they are trying to move, even if progress may be slow. If they did, they would surely be only one step away from attempting to convince the British people—and this is what we ought to do, otherwise it is not much good going on—that it really is not a question of diminishing or limiting their sovereignty; that is to say, control over their destinies, but rather of expanding and extending it, so that their future lies in some close democratic association with their immediate neighbours and not in a most unsplendid and provincial isolation uninspired by any coherent political philosophy unless it be that propounded by the latter day disciples of Karl Marx or Trotsky or even conceivably Mao Tse Tung.
I repeat that I am nevertheless encouraged personally by the White Paper, which seems to show that the Government appreciate some of the benefits that flow from membership of the Market even though they cannot apparently emphasise this at the present time. We must hope and pray, however, that it will not be too long before they can do so in the context of what they will no doubt represent as a highly successful "renegotiation". If they do. I have no doubt whatever that, irrespective of Party, the vast majority of this House, which we like to think contains some of the best brains in this country, will give them, on this issue at any rate, what is known as fullhearted support.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Baroness TWEEDSMUIR of BEL-HELVIE
My Lords, I should like to 972 add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, for the way in which he introduced this White Paper and, above all, for the fact that he brought us up to date in consequent negotiations from the end of October, when this Paper ends. This debate has also given an opportunity to my noble friend Lord Saint Oswald to give us a most vivid account of his experiences in the European Parliament, which makes me want to visit it even more than I do already. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, that this White Paper is an encouraging document. I feel I must mention the fact that as a Scot, while I congratulate the Government on at last achieving agreement over a regional fund, I wish the amount involved had been a great deal more.
This is the first speech that I have dared to make since being appointed, on 7th November. Chairman of the Select Committee of the European Communities. As the House knows, noble Lords of all political Parties take part in the work of the sub-committees, and many who are co-opted to the Committee. We have noble Lords who have voted against membership of the Market and those who have voted for it. Therefore, before I go on to other matters, I should like to draw the attention of the Government to some of the problems that I have already found confronting our Committee, because I think they are relevant to some parts of the White Paper.
The White Paper describes the function of the Select Committee, and I should like to thank the Government for the assurance that they have given, which was repeated today, that this House will be given the opportunity to debate matters of interest when a Report is made. Of course the reason why so many noble Lords give of their time and talent to this work is because, whether they are for or against the Market, they feel it is a British interest to try to make Parliamentary scrutiny work. May I take this opportunity of thanking the Government Departments and the Cabinet unit for the very large efforts they have made to try to keep us informed so far. However, I am going to refer to the problems—not to all the things that have gone right.
973 The Maybray-King Report rather forecast a problem which might arise. In paragraph 120 it said:There is the problem that some important Commission proposals are substantially modified by the Council".In paragraph 49 of the White Paper we are discussing today it is said:Improvements have been introduced in the working procedures in the Council of Ministers.May I ask the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, whether he will define these improvements in the working procedures? For example, our sub-committees often find that they are considering EEC proposals on the basis of Papers and explanatory memoranda from Government Departments which, by the time the Scrutiny Committee considers them, are long out of date. This is not due to a backlog of proposals. Because of the great work done by my predecessor, the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, during the Parliamentary Recess, I think we shall have achieved the end of the backlog by the end of the Christmas Recess. I am speaking of up-to-date documents as they should be. Indeed, only last week I received a letter from the noble Lord, Lord Walston, who is chairman of Sub-Committee D which considers agriculture and consumers affairs. It said this:Two draft Instruments have been examined by the sub-committee and on each occasion the proposal was discovered to have been replaced—for all practical purposes—by a Ministry re-draft. The comments submitted at our invitation by various trade and consumer associations have all referred to the redrafted Instrument, which is of course a Council working document and, as such, not available for scrutiny. Indeed, in the evidence received from the Consumers' Association it was suggested that—and I quote—'to put it bluntly, we would be wasting their Lordships' time and ours if we were to consider what is now an historical document'.The House will appreciate that, as Chairman, I find myself embarrassed at having invited so many noble Lords who have much else to do, to come and give of their time, unless the documents before us really are up to date. I would therefore suggest to the Government that there should be a regular procedure whereby Parliament is informed of any important modifications made in the Council's working parties or in the Commission's proposals.
Then of course it is well known that procedures in the Council are unsatis- 974 factory so far as fast-moving proposals are concerned, when agendas are altered at the last moment. I again suggest that the Government should press with their colleagues for changes in the working procedures, which they appear to have done but without expanding on them in the document before us today.
I feel also that I must refer to certain proposals on improving the working procedures of the Council as described in the Communiqué from the Heads of Government on which a Statement was made today. It is relevant to refer to it since the noble Lord who opened the debate referred to it himself and it makes one's own remarks more relevant. In the first paragraph on page 4 we have the statement about limiting the use of the veto. This is very important and it carries further the procedures which were envisaged in the Treaty of Rome. But I would ask how the Government, represented in the Council, are going to make sure that debates will take place in this House and in another House on proposals before the Council if they have to take a decision by majority vote. It is very important that the assurance given on debates should be undertaken in this new procedure.
Then on the same page the second paragraph says:Greater latitude will be given to the permanent representatives so that only the most important political problems need be discussed in the Council".It goes on to say that it will benecessary to strengthen the role of the permanent representatives and involve them in preparing national positions on European affairs".Documents will go from the Commission to COREPER, which is really an intergovernmental negotiating body. If amendments are made there (and decisions are likely to be made by the permanent representatives) will these amendments be available to the Scrutiny Committee before decisions are taken on them? If mandates are to be prepared for negotiating positions I would suggest to the House that mandates are not in fact confidential. I remember that when I was on the Bench opposite and was speaking as a Minister for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, was on this Bench, he waved a negotiating mandate before me. Trade negotiations are within the 975 terms of reference of the Scrutiny Committee.
In paragraph 3, again on page 4 of the Communiqué the Heads of Government—agree on the advantage of making use of the provisions of the Treaty of Rome whereby the powers of implementation and management arising out of Community rules may be conferred on the Commission".We do not, of course, study the administrative Acts of the Commission. But I suggest that we should be informed of politically sensitive matters which come before the Commission's Management Committee, and I give an example which is well-known, the "butter mountain". That is the kind of thing on which I believe the House should have had an opportunity to express its views before decisions were taken. I am really asking the Government to give us more information, to give it early and at the right time.
But if the Select Committee itself finds it difficult to keep up to date with information coming from the Community, how much more difficult it must be for members of the public. I suggest that it is the responsibility of the Government to inform the public how the Community works. Information is very badly needed, not least because there is a division of opinion on the merits of membership. I think instant information about the Council is an absolute necessity. I regret to say that this has not been done for the public either by the present Government or by their Conservative predecessors. The House knows that a great deal of work was done to inform the public about the Community, notably by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, at the time of negotiation and of British entry. But after entry—and then the Government was a Conservative Government—it was thought more suitable to have a Cabinet unit responsible for this information, in order to draw together the domestic departments. Personally I think we made a mistake. The task is so huge, and in a swift-moving situation I believe that information is better dealt with by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office which, at the time of entry, had a very experienced team.
I submit to the House that it is essential that the Government should follow through their work now by informing 976 public opinion on all these matters, particularly as the noble Lord said from that Bench this afternoon that it was hoped to finish negotiations by the end of March. That means that some form of consultation with the public will be essential before October of next year. I would agree with my noble friend Lord Saint Oswald that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary seem to have found how flexible and constructive the Community can be, not least in the paragraph quoted by the noble Lord that… prices of a number of important products, notably cereals and sugar, are now substantially below those on the word market.If the Government decide in the end that they wish to recommend that Britain should stay in the Community, they will surely need a long period for providing information for the public, before the people decide through the ballot box, either by a referendum or a General Election.
It is constructive to recall the Danish experience before their referendum on the advantages of membership. In 1971 the Danish Government produced concise pamphlets for the Danish public on the European Community's activities and on the most important questions connected with Denmark's accession to an extended Community. There were 12 large and altogether separate subjects. In each pamphlet existing legislation within the Community was commented upon, as well as plans for the years ahead. A popular version of the Rome Treaty was issued (I think that it was quite good to be able to do it) and distributed to all Danish households—I hasten to say free of charge—and the Danish Parliament granted the equivalent of £1½ million for information alone. Of course they had an information office for the benefit of the public.
So far as consultation with the British public is concerned, it would be interesting to know at this stage whether the Government will give more information about how they propose to consult the people on EEC membership. For example, if it is decided to produce legislation enabling a referendum to be held, will the Government first issue a Green Paper on the mechanics of the question to encourage public discussion? Has consideration been given to the form of the question? It is surely important that it 977 should be easily understood. Your Lord-ships will recall the Italian divorce referendum, where confusion was caused by the voters being asked to vote "Yes" if they were against divorce, and "No" if they were in favour. I should like to ask whether the result of a referendum would be announced on a national, regional or constituency basis? In view of the extreme importance of the issue, have the Government given consideration to insisting on a certain minimum percentage of votes recorded, and a certain minimum majority in favour, for example, of leaving the EEC?
My Lords, whatever happens the time has come for us to hear the Government's views on the alternative to membership of the Community, because their thinking has never been defined. Is it thought, for example, that we could conclude free trade agreements with the Community, counting on the generosity of the Eight just after we have left it and with our own economy and circumstances so different from those of Norway? Is it thought that Denmark and Ireland would leave with us when by all accounts they are well satisfied with their own membership? Is it thought that we could develop trading links with the Commonwealth when so many members are trying to do just that with the Community? Is it thought that we could have greater influence on our own? The world has moved on a great deal since 1971. I suggest that it is now a prime British interest that as much information as possible is given to Parliament and the public, so that they can know how the Community works, and we can do our best to make it work.
§ 5.39 p.m.
§ Lord REAY
My Lords, I should like to follow the example of the previous speakers in not confining my remarks to events which occurred before the end of October this year, but in referring to events which have occurred since and, equally, in looking to the future. I doubt whether there is anyone, whatever the horrors which he imagines would flow from the conclusion being the conclusion that he does not want, who will not be relieved when the Government's protest of renegotiation is officially announced to have come to an end. Despite the fascination of watching some of the skills, and 978 even more some of the complexities, which are at times demonstrated in the process, the prevailing impression is one of waiting. I would not deny that during the period of renegotiation there may be—there will be—an accrual of advantages within the Community in Britain's favour. But the magnitude of those advantages, earned in honest negotiation, do not compare with the magnitude of the opportunities and dangers which are presented to us by events in the world at large. The protraction of renegotiation distracts the attention, diverts the energies, postpones the concentration of effort which Europe as a whole, in unity, needs to devote to the defence of its civilisation.
I do not intend today to enter into details of the Government's process of renegotiation. For one thing, we have discussed some of them recently. I have particularly in mind the very full debate we had on the Community's relations with developing countries. Incidentally, it has given me satisfaction to see it reported that the Prime Minister currently agrees with my conclusion on that matter; namely, that in that quarter Community and British policies are converging satisfactorily. Another reason why I do not wish to enter into detail is the perplexing matter of how many points of renegotiation are actually at issue at any one moment, and the equally perplexing problem of knowing on how many of these points the Government at any one time consider they have got satisfaction.
In a normal world, particularly since most members of the Government do not disguise their belief that events are unrolling favourably, one would expect the number of points at issue to decline progressively in number. On the other hand, when he spoke at the annual dinner of the Labour Lord Mayors, the Prime Minister appears to have contrived to increase them in number. The fact is that we proceed not by ticking-off items on an agenda, but by subtle variations in emphasis, in the reservations and qualifications which fill the official announcements. For those outside the Labour Party, this is more a spectacle than an opportunity for debate. I doubt if my noble friend Lord Saint Oswald is right when he supposes that Her Majesty's Government could afford to respond to 979 his appeal for more candour in the way he requested.
My Lords, after renegotiation, God willing, comes the referendum. Of course, God may not be willing. So filled is the future with the possibilities of crisis that, whether or not such a crisis precipitated a General Election, events might so turn out that to hold a referendum would be an unthinkable irresponsibility. But let us suppose, as we must, that there is a referendum. In such a case, if the Government, in recommending the new terms to the British people, exaggerate the advantages, the great concessions they will claim to have won on the Continent, if the Prime Minister presents himself like Nelson to the British people I, for one, will not cavil too much. For the referendum was always bound to be a test, not of the terms, provided they were not exceptionally harsh—and they never were, contrary to what the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, implied today—but of the willingness of the British people to volunteer to remain members of the Community as such. The anti-Marketeers have seen it as that. It was they who demanded it, and for them, in conflict with their protestations of faith in the doctrine of the sovereignty of Parliament, the referendum is just the last possibility of securing Britain's withdrawal.
There are two obstacles to the certainty that those who wish the United Kingdom to remain in the Community will win the referendum—the official position of the majority of the trade unions, and the pessimism of the British people. The unions have the problem of the continuity of their positions on this matter. The first opportunity for a change in attitude would be the moment of conclusion of renegotiation, supposing this to have been done to the publicly expressed satisfaction of the Government. The preponderant antagonism of the Labour movement to the EEC is based—and I believe the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, was right when he talked of xenophobia—on the compensation which the working-class found in the past for their deprivations, in the reflection that, after all, they were British. But attitudes outlast the situations for which they were suitable. It is now obvious that for 20 years, British class attitudes have prevented the economic regeneration which 980 would have rendered such compensation unnecessary. Therefore, it is a vicious circle. As for the solution to this problem, I am not qualied to offer an answer. Any remark I made which was addressed directly to the unions would be brushed off as impudence. I will limit myself to this basis for an argument.
The trade union movement is not exclusively a national movement. There are international and regional groupings. British trade union leaders have shown themselves to be both wanted and willing to occupy senior functions in these confederations, as the example of the noble Lord, Lord Feather, demonstrates. He was the first President of the now rapidly expanding Trade Union Confederation, which itself grew from the coming together of the EFTA and the ECFTU unions in the early 'seventies, partly in anticipation of the enlargement of the Community. The importance of these confederations, of an integration of trade union movements across national frontiers, must increase in response to the ever expanding phenomenon of the multinational company, and in recognition of other developments, such as the increasing internationalisation of the approach of the unions in various matters—for example, worker participation—and as a method of organising the growing links between unions in different member States, which is now undertaken on an individual basis. The British Government should support the ambitions of such movements, and the claims which the United Kingdom trade union movement makes upon such movements.
As for the pessimism of the British people, I would say this—which is much that I would have said, and did say, three years ago, although I say it now more urgently. The British people need and deserve a situation in which they can have the sensation of being free to create. Despite economic expansion, the last 20 years—to speak only of the last 20 years—have been years of decline for Britain, because the fate of nations is more a comparative than an absolute matter. Every society would survive if none were to challenge it from outside. A society would change its character, but it would survive. The economic experience of Britain over the last quarter of a century has been a failure, not in absolute terms but because others with resources which were not superior—indeed, with resources which 981 were for historical reasons initially inferior—have used them better. However much the people give the impression of ignoring the outside world, they are conscious of failure. The experience is frustrating.
But frustration has become pessimism because, while internal attitudes have not changed decisively, new and formidable external dangers have arisen. Therefore, it is not simply sterile to retain attitudes that have lingered on from the time when Britain could control, command and summon to her service the reserves of an empire; it is also dangerous. This longing for the isolation which was possible in the past is expressed by various arguments, of which the argument about the sovereignty of Parliament is most certainly one. But the past does not exist. Subjected continents have risen to dispute the predominance of Western power. Relationships of dependence have been equalised, if not reversed. We are now a vulnerable and dependent island. Europe must unite to defend its civilisation. And we will serve the people's aspiration to create, and the fundamental consideration of its safety, if we unite with Europe in that vital task.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Lord RHODES
My Lords, on this subject we have had a lot of high sounding phrases and speeches in the past, probably a lot too many. If it was a question of remaining in or not I reflect that the wool trade could probably give a better reason in five minutes for remaining in the Common Market than any speech I have heard, either in this House or out of it. May I say at the outset that I support and congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir, on her speech and on having put so clearly the feelings of many of us on the Scrutiny Committee of the House of Lords. It is the first time many of us have really come to grips with any of the practical mechanisms of the Common Market institutions. I heartily endorse her point that if you need two Select Committees, one here and one in the Commons, to alert Members as to what is going on, how on earth do we expect people in the country to know enough about it to vote in a referendum? I drew attention to this last July, and I do not retract one word of what I said then. 982 My contribution this afternoon is one which stems from practicalities. I am jealous that our Scrutiny Committees shall work; it is important that they be seen to work and seen to work well. Again, I support the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir, in the plea for more information. It was good to see from this report that our Ministers have been fully committed, as is said in paragraph 6, in the deliberations and decision making of the Community. United Kingdom Ministers have attended 28 times. This is good, and being able to identify Ministers who were present when EEC decisions were made will be very useful to the Scrutiny Committee of both Houses. I will try to explain why. We shall be able to get more information and be able to apportion responsibility to a particular Minister who was present when decisions were reached in the Council of Ministers. This matter of responsibility for decisions taken cannot be regarded too highly.
We may be able to look forward to the Council of Ministers having a proper agenda to work on at some time, because we have never had one up to date. I have rarely seen so much slapdash business coming from the Council of Ministers and the Commission. If they have a proper agenda to work on it will help the Scrutiny Committee, and it will help them enormously. This need for a realistic agenda is highlighted in the Special Reports which were submitted to our Government by the two Scrutiny Committees during the course of the summer.
I want to refer to what the Commons said, because it is very important that we up here should know what the Commons are thinking about this. I am not going to paraphrase. I quote from paragraph 16 of their Second Special Report which is applicable:… the agenda of each meeting of the Council of Ministers is finalised only days (or even hours) before the meeting takes place".I go on:Scrutiny of the backlog has necessarily involved the taking at every meeting of items due to be considered by the Council later the same month, or in some cases the same week. In particular, problems have been caused by the inability of the Government departments primarily involved …. "—these are our Government departments—to advise with certainty exactly what was on the agenda for the next meeting and (at least 983 for several days afterwards) what had been agreed at the last.I quote again:In some cases also the summary procedure by which matters are agreed at the level of the Permanent Representatives (or equivalent) … (commonly called the 'A' point procedure) has caused comparable problems. The Committee is aware of the difficulties of the Government in these matters, which sometimes results from current Community practice.That is what the Commons have said.
Let me draw attention to some of the dangers of this summary type of instant legislation. Members will remember that we debated on 7th November certain items that needed scrutiny by this Committee. They had to do with the packaging of liquids and of other types of goods. This came under the category of shotgun legislation. We had to act on these, and act quickly. We did our best with them, but I believe they were decided on before they were discussed in this House. It so happens that there was no harm done by the shotgun practice in that instance, but I am going to draw attention to something that might have more serious consequences.
Let us suppose that similiar measures were applied to other industries. Most of our export industries of any size have committed themselves to freight containers. There is a huge investment in containers and ships constructed to International Standards Organisation dimensions. I am delighted to see the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, in her place, as she is the Chairman of the British Standards Institute, because I am going to refer to the British Standards Institute in a moment. It so happens that the EEC, the Commission, is proposing dimensions for certain packaged goods based on the continental module which fits the European railway pallet, but does not fit the International Standards Organisation. As the noble Baroness knows, the organisation which dealt with standards are the International Standards Organisation, the CEN—which is the European Standards Organisation—and our own British Standards Institute. I understand that the EEC Commission intends to adopt the CEN standards.
If legislation of a shotgun nature is brought to us with the same speed as 984 the packaging legislation was brought to us on 7th November, large sections of industry will be seriously damaged, to say the least. What I suggest—and the Government should take notice of it—is that strong representations must be made on both the CEN (the European organisation) and the ISO (the International Standards Oraganisation). If the British Standards Institute is starved of the funds so that they cannot do it well on our behalf, we shall be the losers. I make a plea that the Government should see to it that the British Standards Institute is backed to the hilt.
My next example of the inadequacy of the general control is a document that we discussed last week on the Scrutiny Committee. It was called the Regulation of the Council on Control of Concentrations between Undertakings; in other words, it meant mergers. We know that as a country we were 50 years behind the Americans in legislation covering monopolies (the Sherman Act of 1896; ours was in 1947) and that covering mergers (the Clayton Act in 1940, and ours was in 1965). This is a document setting out the pros and cons of the possibility of legislating on mergers. I do not want to refer to its merits, because it would take too long and I am not qualified to do it although I put the Bill covering mergers through Parliament in 1965, but I should think that it has precious little chance of ever seeing the light of day in its present state. That is by the way.
What I want to relate is how the document came into existence. This is fundamentally important, because we must know the antecedents of a document that comes to be examined by us. During the course of questioning, this sort of information came out. The Council of Ministers requested the appropriate member of the Commission to prepare a draft, which he did, but we do not know at this juncture who was the person who prepared it, or whether it was a junior who thought out a kind of White Paper for discussion.
A working party of civil servants was formed. We sent our quota over to Brussels, I presume, at regular intervals. We found that there was a difference of opinion on the working party as to the validity of a lot of the things in the paper, and no wonder, because of the nine countries in Europe only two have any merger 985 legislation whatever. Are the other seven countries asking the EEC to legislate for them? What philosophy lies behind the activities of the working parties that are set up to consider these proposals? Do the United Kingdom representatives have instructions from the home Government? These are the questions I should like answered. Who regulates the speed of the progress in these committees, and are they left to do as they like?
§ Lord GEORGE-BROWN
My Lords, before my noble friend goes on—and he, like me, takes time—in the countries of the EEC we have, maybe, two who are complementary and seven competitors. We have to face real competition from the Far East, and some of it from areas for whom we still have responsibility. Is my noble friend really arguing that we could do it better alone, or that we could do it better as a member of the Nine?
§ Lord RHODES
No, my Lords, I am not. What I am doing, if the noble Lord will listen, is setting out some of the practicalities. I say without any fear of contradiction that by stopping in the Common Market we could do better in the way of having a defence against cheap imports of textiles than by going out. I will give the noble Lord that, if that is the answer that he wants.
Before the document comes to the Scrutiny Committee its origins should be stated—who was responsible for starting it, who wrote it, what working parties have considered it, and how far towards finality has the document reached—so that we do not need to waste time. It should also be stated which of our Ministers is accountable, so that we can question him. Personally, I do not think that any logical decision-making is practicable at the Council of Ministers, until they adopt a system of introducing a programme of legislation on the lines or the Queen's Speech. If from where we sit in our committees we knew what we could expect in the next twelve months in the way of proposed legislation from the EEC it would help everybody. Let us be able to identify which are White Papers, and which are Directives. Much of the argument that I heard last week on energy was fruitless, because of the nature of the documents from the EEC, which are not in the 986 nature of White Papers to discuss. I would make a plea on these lines, which may not be entirely workable. We must have an agenda for what we are doing. Otherwise, we shall be wasting time through not being able to get down to real business which is what many of us desire. We must be seen to be making these institutions work, and soon.
§ 6.11 p.m.
The Earl of DUDLEY
My Lords, it is a pleasure and a challenge to follow the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, especially as we are both colleagues on the European Communities Committee. I gladly join him in his warm tribute to our Chairman, the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, for her excellent work as Chairman and for her constructive, informative and thoughtful speech. That will be the last of my compliments. I must tell noble Lords that my remarks are likely to be less anodyne than the remarks of the noble Lord who replied to the Motion and those of other noble Lords. I hope that as the holiday season draws near my colleagues on the sub-committee will be indulgent if I find it necessary to depart from the strict standards of neutrality, which I set myself on that sub-committee, in order to make a few points which will be unpopular with noble Lords opposite.
As the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, said, the White Paper is the first of the Reports which the Government undertook to submit periodically on developments in the Community. They did not go along with another suggestion that they should furnish European agendas. A comparison between the White Paper and the Communiqué shows that this decision is in line with the Government's normal European posture of looking forward in Brussels and looking back at Westminster. Perhaps that will indicate that I felt less complimentary about the White Paper than do other noble Lords.
The White Paper may have some encouraging features, but it also has some very bad ones, not least that it contradicts itself on a number of important points. For instance, in paragraph 9 it is stated:The Report deals with decisions reached by the Community. In general it does not deal with matters which are still under discussion on which in many cases substantial progress has been made since March.987 This said, the Paper then goes on to deal with no less than 16 paragraphs, with some 21 matters still under discussion where no decision has been reached by the Community. How much of this backlog was caused by the active participation of Her Majesty's Government in Community affairs or by renegotiation the Paper does not say. But as there are important policy areas affected by renegotiation—namely, the Budget, CAP, Community policies towards the Commonwealth, trade and aid with developing countries, and, finally regional and industrial policy—it is fair to assume that progress in these areas has been delayed by the decision to renegotiate.
Turning to another piece of careless phraseology in paragraph 6 of the White Paper, noble Lords may read that theUnited Kingdom has played a full part in the deliberations and discussions of the Community in the period under review.Your Lordships and Members of another place who are in favour of Britain's membership, would say that this was her right and obligation under the Treaties and that the Government have no freedom of choice. They would, I think, regard the statement as superfluous; but the claim to haveplayed a full partis something else. What about the Labour Parliamentary delegation, as the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, said? Where were they? We have not heard of them. But perhaps the White Paper is right and they do exist and are stranded looking for Maplin, or the entrance to the Channel Tunnel, or in a HS 146! "Full part" will be still less true of the current period. The communiqué reveals that the Government have withdrawn from discussions about the election to the European Assembly, but the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal confirmed this in his Statement to the House. I would have thought that many noble Lords would be dismayed by that decision and would expect that the Mother of Parliaments would bring her wisdom and experience to bear upon the developments of the Assembly, as it is her right to do. The Government have already shown their disregard for Parliament by their decision to appeal direct to the people over the heads of their elected representatives in 988 order to settle their own Party dispute over membership; and now they show their further disfavour by this high-handed and authoritarian decision taken without any regard for the will of Parliament.
The Report also claims that Ministers attended 28 meetings of the Council of Ministers up to the end of October. There must also have been innumerable meetings at official level, meetings of COREPER and the various committees of council, although the Paper does not mention this. I said that despite the Paper's disclaimer there are many matters in it other than Council decisions. That period of intense activity (and I do not dispute the activity, although I doubt the progress) has been followed by the Summit. Noble Lords would not, I think, argue with the proposition that at the Summit there were considered matters of major importance to the Community; nor would they dispute that there must have been many weeks, if not months, of official preparation for it. the communiqué sets out what these matters are and I shall list them in the order in which they appear.
First, there is the important decision that the President of the Council in Office will be spokesman for the Nine and will set out their views in international diplomacy. Secondly, there is the agreement that the European Assembly must be more closely associated with the work of political co-operation in the construction of Europe. Thirdly, there is the intention to renounce the practice whereby agreement to a proposal is conditional upon a unanimous vote in Council. That proposal is there despite the qualifications put upon it by the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal. Fourthly, there is the agreement to confer powers of implementation and management upon the Commission. Fifthly, there is the decision to provide for harmonisation of legislation affecting aliens and the abolition of passport control within the Community. Sixth, there is the instruction to a Working Party to study conditions and timing for citizens of the Nine member States to be given special rights as members of the Community. Seventh, there is the intention to achieve election of the European Assembly by universal suffrage as soon as possible and at any 989 time in or after 1978. Eighth, there is the extension of the Assembly's powers in the Community's legislative process.
My Lords, there are others, but first I should like to deal with those eight subjects. It is beyond the bounds of reason that these weighty matters did not form part of the pre-arranged agenda of the Summit meeting and that much previous study and consideration was not given to them. Yet what does the White Paper have to say about them? What do we find? Nothing! Silence! Omerta! as is said by the Mafiosi, using a word from that part of Europe which is to receive the largest part of the Regional Development Fund. Of course, my Lords, these matters are all strong meat for the anti-Marketeers. They are not the string of tasty sausages brandished by the White Paper—uncontroversial subjects such as GATT, Convention of Association, policies towards Mediterranean and State trading countries and the like. I am not disparaging the importance of these: I am merely mentioning their controversiality.
However, there are three other policy areas which the Government evidently considered of such moment as to be unavoidable for mention—European union, Economic and Monetary union and the Regional Development Fund. So they floated them gently in the air like coloured balloons, no doubt hoping that they would drift there for some time; but unfortunately they immediately exploded on the sharp points of the communiqué. On European union, I quote from the White Paper:The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the nine member Governments discussed this question at an informal meeting at Schloss Gymnich"—no doubt pronounced "gimmick" by some members of the Cabinet—on 20th-21st April. Widely differing views were expressed at that meeting on meaning and content of European union, and it was clear that there was no common understanding of what was envisaged by the October 1972 communiqué".Now the communiqué:The Heads of Government note that the process of transforming the whole complex of relations between the Member States in accordance with the decision taken in Paris in October 1972 has already started. They are determined to make further progress in that direction. In this connection they consider that the time has come for the Nine to 990 agree as far as possible an overall concept of European Union".On Economic and Monetary co-operation, the White Paper says:There has in recent months been a major change of attitude on the part of other Member States on the practicability of an early move to permanently fixed parities between EEC countries, and the concept of attaining economic and monetary union by 1980. The Council of Ministers has discontinued the discussion of a draft resolution on the implementation of a second stage in the move towards EMU".Now the communiqué:The Heads of Government having noted that internal and international difficulties have prevented in 1973 and 1974 the accomplishment of expected progress on the road to EMU affirm that in this field their will has not weakened and that their objective has not changed since the Paris conference".On the Regional Development Fund the White Paper says:The Community has made no further progress in agreeing to the establishment of a Community Regional Development".The communiqué:The Heads of Government decide that the European Regional Development Fund will be put into operation by the institutions of the Community with effect from 1st January 1975".I think the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, will be disappointed by the replies to his and my question. I had in fact worked out on the information available that, due to the contribution and also our share of the payment to Ireland, which Italy does not share, I am sure we do not receive in the first year much more than £16 million.
My Lords, where have been the thoughts of Ministers and officials during these past months? Were they listening? Were they deliberating? Were they discussing? Were they playing a full part? Did they realise that the elections in Germany and then France brought to power men of vision concerned to make progress in the development of a new Europe and in the securing of a fuller and better life for their peoples? I listened, my Lords, to the BBC's interview with the Prime Minister last Wednesday, on his return from Paris, when he said in reply to questions about the commitment to economic and monetary union—and his words were very little different from what I am going to say:There is absolutely no commitment; but I did not want to take away their vision".991 My Lords, it is past time for Britain to make up her mind about Europe, about the Europe from which we all sprang or emigrated—Celts, Romans, Jutes, Angles, Saxons, Danes, Normans, Jews and even the Ancient Britons, who must have come here from the Continent with the retreat of the ice. Their descendants have finally established, after centuries of struggle and war, here and in other Western European countries, a society which is democratic, radical and free. I urge that we stay in it, apply our minds to it, grow with it and unite it. We must decide soon, because we have it in our power and competence to take away the vision and to destroy Europe's future. What do those so minded intend to put in its place? A socialist Utopia? I do not need to point out to noble Lords opposite the distinction between international and national socialism; and a narrow isolationist socialist society would bring back the Ice Age quicker than any climatic change. Nor do I need to remind my noble friends of the difference between conservatism and jingoism. When "Land of Hope and Glory" is sung and if tears flow, they are shed not only for Britain but for lost hopes and past glories. But hope can be revived and glory shared with the other peoples of Europe, if their leaders will give them faith in the Community's future and not take the vision away.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Lord AUCKLAND
My Lords, not being a member of the European Parliament, and not having been to any of the EEC countries except for having been to Brussels, I do not take part in this debate as an acknowledged expert on this matter. But like most of your Lordships, I am in business as well as in politics, and there is a great deal of anxiety in the commercial and industrial field about Britain's future role in the EEC and any impending decision on it. The White Paper is an interesting document, but I for one find it extremely difficult to follow. How any member of the public who tried to follow it managed, I do not know; but it seemed to me to have many inconclusive adjuncts to it as well as any which may have been conclusive. However, my Lords, the one vital aspect of what we are discussing today seems to me to be whether or not 992 there is to be a referendum and what the result of such a referendum will be. As my noble friend Lady Tweedsmuir, who has great experience of these matters, rightly said, what of the future of this country if the people, through a referendum, give a negative vote?
My Lords, I speak primarily because I was recently in the Eastern Caribbean on business, and there is a good deal of anxiety in that part of the world, particularly in the dependent territories. They are particularly worried, for example, if Britain comes out of the EEC—and this may well be a hypothetical question at this stage—what will be the position of their produce. I am thinking particularly of bananas, for example, from St. Lucia, where I spent one week on business. That is a territory which has been very loyal to this country and where bananas represent 80 per cent. of their exports. There are also the other dependent territories which have special reasons for concern about their produce, which they are particularly keen to export to this country. Whereas France has made arrangements with the Cameroons and so on for much of their produce, what have we done in this particular connection? Denmark was mentioned by my noble friend Lady Tweedsmuir. Denmark is a country which has been one of our greatest allies and she is, of course, one of the newest members of the EEC. I have paid only one visit to that country, but I have met a number of Danish businessmen and they too are particularly concerned about our situation here.
In the Financial Times on 2nd December last there was a supplement on Europe in which there was an article from their Copenhagen correspondent from which I quote the final words:If Britain leaves the EEC there will be a new referendum in Denmark and recent polls suggest that there will be a substantial majority against continued membership.This is, of course, from the electorate, although in both Houses of Parliament there continues to be a large majority for membership. It would be a very great pity if this country and Denmark became separated on this particular issue. I think that what is really needed is for the public to be taken fully into the con" fidence of Her Majesty's Government. One noble Lord suggested that a Green Paper might be published before any 993 final decision was taken. I think that this is very necessary; because I think that any referendum which is taken ought to be preceded, chapter and verse, by some very much more convincing reasons than we have had from this or any other Government up till now as to why this tremendous departure from our Constitution should be made.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ Lord GORONWY-ROBERTS
My Lords, I rise briefly to reply to as many points as I can which have been raised in this debate. Though linked to the White Paper on Developments in the European Communities from March to October this year, the debate has covered very much more and, some may feel, more diffuse fields, and perhaps this is right. In agreeing to provide six-monthly reports it was part of the Government's intention to provide the opportunity for wide-ranging debate on European questions, which would add to Parliament's being more in-informed on the considerations involved, and help it to bring its influence to bear on the Government on EEC matters generally. I think that this kind of debate will yield perhaps more on reading and studying it in that respect rather than in simply listening to it. It is important that the debates in this House, if I may say so without disrespect to any other place, should be fully studied after the debate itself. Our reports, I would say, invariably are rewarding in that sense.
The debate has come at rather a good time. In the few weeks since the publication of the White Paper much has happened in the Community of high importance to this country in particular, and in introducing this debate I tried to bring the House up to date with the majority of developments which have taken place. Neither my noble friend Lord Shepherd nor I were able to produce immediate answers on specific financial and statistical questions, which I recognise that noble Lords wish to have, so far as we can provide them. I will later address myself to the RDF point made by more than one noble Lord, but I am not sure whether I have been able wholly to satisfy the quite proper questions on this score which have been addressed to me during the debate.
My Lords, I do not want to go over the same ground again, but perhaps the 994 House will bear with me if I address myself to one or two of the major questions which have been raised. First, I would refer to the political question. I think that there was fair agreement that political co-operation between the countries of the Nine has proceeded satisfactorily and encouragingly so This at least is part of the report that was not damned with faint praise by noble Lords speaking opposite. There has indeed been rather a striking development in co-operation politically among the Nine and I think that the present Government are entitled to some credit for that advance in that very important field. On the question of European union, the aim to which the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and others would wish this country to move more briskly, since the present Government came to power last March we have been asking our partners in Europe the meaning of the commitment to European union taken on by the Community Heads of Government at their meeting in Paris in October 1972. We have never had an answer.
I think it was the noble Earl, Lord Dudley, who referred to the seminar at Schloss Gymnich, and quite rightly so. It was partly our initiative; and it is no secret that it was disturbingly unproductive of any practical suggestions. For that reason, I think it is less appropriate to upbraid the present Government, who have been in power since March, for not having done more on this important aspect of European co-operation and union, than it is to praise the Nine for having placed the examination of this massive and complex question in the very capable hands of M. Tindemans, the Belgian Prime Minister.
§ Lord GLADWYN
My Lords, the noble Lord has said that there was an interchange of views at Schloss Gymnich, but there was apparently no common view. Nobody knew what was meant; but everybody expressed some view. Could the noble Lord not tell us the view that the British Government expressed at this meeting?
§ Lord GORONWY-ROBERTS
My Lords, it was a British initiative to seek to discover whether there was any European view about this often advocated and, I am sure, most important objective, and we took part in the discussion. It was not 995 a discussion which showed that much thinking had been going on in Europe about the practicalities of the matter. I am sure the House will forgive me if I refer it to a speech I made in reply to a debate initiated by the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, on this matter. Now there has been a movement forward by the delegation to the Belgium Prime Minister of this study of the whole question in consultation with the institutions.
We may now hope to have something placed not only before this country but before the other countries concerned describing what is feasible, the alternatives; and until we get something of that sort I do not think it is up to anybody to demand that the United Kingdom alone should make the running and produce proposals. These are extremely important proposals which must be produced in relation to the alternatives. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, rightly pointed to the need to be a little untraditional in these matters. There are proposals for federalism, confederalism and so on. There are other possibilities of union in a political sense which may match better the concept of three Communities operating together in three economic and social fields. So the British contribution to examining the question of political union has been substantial and genuine.
The noble Lord, Lord Saint Oswald, as well as the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, once more raised the question of the non-inclusion or non-attendance of Labour Party members in the European Parliament. I recognise the strong feelings of noble Lords and of others in this country on the point, but very many people, not all of them members of my own Party, feel equally strongly that we should await the outcome of renegotiation before deciding whether or not to send members to this body. We cannot get away from this. The reservations, not only in the Labour Party but in the country as a whole, are deep-seated and substantial. Therefore it is no good going on and demanding that the Labour Party should fill this gap. A substantial majority of the Labour Party, in Parliament and in the country, have genuine reservations about this. Those of us who want to see a coherent Europe want also to carry with us this numerically 996 important section, together with other equally important sections, of British public opinion.
This brings me to the quite excellent speech given by the noble Baroness—my noble friend, perhaps I might be permitted to call her—who enabled us to take a new and searching look at our arrangements in Parliament to examine what it is proposed that our Government should agree to in Brussels. This is an extremely difficult technical arrangement to perfect and I do not need to explain to the noble Baroness, of all people, who has such distinguished Ministerial experience, how difficult this is going to be. It is perhaps early days yet to decide whether what has so far been achieved is satisfactory. Clearly it is not satisfactory in some respects. We had detailed examples of how it does not work—not to put too fine a point on it—and I refer in this connection to the speech made by my noble friend Lord Rhodes, to whom we listened with interest because of his industrial as well as Parliamentary experience of how these mechanics do and do not work.
What I would say to the House today is this: we have in this country—and I appeal to the experience of the noble Baroness, which is similar and perhaps superior to my own—a system of placing before Parliament policies in one form or another, and the Government of the day give mandates to Ministers, it may be in discussing with our friends the Icelanders, to give an acceptable example. In my own case, in my previous incarnation at the Foreign Office, we discussed fascinating subjects such as science and technology, but when we were mandated as Ministers—and going to councils is not very much different—we were mandated within certain parameters which the Government of the day framed for us, having regard to what the Government thought was public opinion or Parliamentary opinion. I do not recall, from my experience of three or four Departments, ever proceeding to any such meeting as a blissful plenipotentiary. One was always very heavily briefed, both horizontally and vertically, with a vast diversity of alternatives and things called "fallback situations". I will not detain the House, particularly as a former Permanent Secretary of that outstanding Department is present, with more jargon of the same depressing 997 character. Nevertheless, the nub is that in this country we have evolved a system of sending Ministers into international councils, not bound hand and foot but with a keen sense of the possibilities within which they must take decisions.
Perhaps we can add to the EEC system—I am thinking aloud for the moment and hope I shall not be trounced depart-mentally for joining the noble Baroness in thinking about these things—some system of referendum. It may or may not be possible. These are matters for continuing thought. I know they are constantly being studied with a view to improving the system, so that a document does not come before the Committee over which the noble Baroness presides so ably, or before one of its Sub-Committees, and is then suddenly overtaken by a change which happens in Brussels without their knowledge, so that by the time they have done their work a completely new document is extant. The point is taken: whether the solution is as easily assessed, I do not know; but I do know we need to work hard at this and get closer to the effectiveness which the noble Baroness so eloquently described as being necessary.
The noble Baroness also referred to the methods of consultation, and was joined in some of her suggestions by the noble Lord, Lord Auckland. We shall take very careful note of all that the noble Baroness said on how consultation might be conducted. The method will be announced in January. My right honourable friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has recently said that we hope to come to a decision as to the form of consultation. It certainly will be by ballot but the precise form will be announced in January. It is therefore important that full information should be available to the people. The noble Baroness made a number of valuable suggestions, not least the one which suggested that her Department and my own should take the lead in this matter. I find this a very gratifying suggestion and I hasten to agree with her. Whether everybody else will agree with us that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office should take this on, I do not know; but I am sure that there is much force in what she says about the experience of these matters which is available in the FCO. The noble Baroness and other speakers also raised the question of 998 Denmark, Norway and Ireland in more than one connection. No doubt a study is proceeding as to how those countries conducted their consultations.
As to the very interesting question of alternatives, I want to say this. The Government hope and expect that the terms which they will finally be enabled to place before the people of this country will be acceptable. It is a genuine renegotiation—if the word "renegotiation" does not give offence—which has been conducted since 1st April. It has yielded results. Whether those are entirely due to the virtues of a Labour Government does not really matter; it is the end result that matters. Tangible results have flowed during this past period of six months or so. We believe that the way that we have gone about it has at least helped. However, whatever the outcome we must, in precise but understandable terms, put the position fully to the people, and must also put the question precisely and clearly. A great deal of hard thinking and hard work is going ahead on these questions. I am sure the noble Baroness is glad to have that assurance from me.
I do not wish to detain the House unduly, but there are one or two more points that were raised; in particular, about the Regional Development Fund—the RDF. I have in the course of the debate endeavoured to get the precise figures. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and the noble Earl, Lord Dudley, asked for them. I do not think I have the complete figures. The position is that we should get about £150 million on a gross basis, but we have to contribute to the Fund through the budget, and the net gain to us over three years looks like being £60 million, which is about £20 million a year, although I take the point that in the first year it will not be £20 million and, therefore, in the second and third years it will be so much the more. The difference—and I should like to look into this further—of £90 million would seem to me to be represented by our contribution. But I hasten to say that our contributions and receipts may not be as large. It is fair to say that I will seek to set this out a little more fully, if the noble Lords wish to have further information.
The figures I have given are as follows: £150 million, minus £90 999 million, equals £60 million which, divided by three, is £20 million per annum. I should like to look at the figure of £47 million which I know the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, will raise now, and see how this squares with the calculation.
§ Lord GLADWYN
My Lords, is the difference entirely composed of what we pay in and what we get out, and is there nothing else at all in the calculation?
§ Lord GORONWY-ROBERTS
My Lords, the only answer I can give is "probably". But I want to look at that £90 million more closely. The noble Lord has a point about the difference between £47 million and £20 million, which I have not yet been able to track down.
My Lords, this debate has been useful. I could, of course, wish that certain noble Lords had spoken in a way which ascribed to the unworthy Government which I represent at this Box some of the credit for the undoubted success that has flown from the renegotiations of the past few months. As I said on one of the first occasions on which I spoke from this Box, the renegotiation was meant to be geninue, and was set in motion in the hope of being able to stay in—not as an excuse to come out. The trend of events and, above all, the results, however we qualify them, which have so far been secured justify what I then said.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.