§ 3.17 p.m.
§ The PRINCIPAL DEPUTY CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES (Lord Greenwood of Rossendale) rose to move, That this House takes note of the Forty-fourth Report of last Session of the European Communities Committee on the Relations between the United Kingdom Parliament and the European Parliament after Direct Elections (H.L. 256, 1977–78). The noble Lord said: My Lords, in rising to call the attention of the House to our 44th Report of last Session, I hope noble Lords will share my slight sadness that the European Communities Committee of your Lordships' House is almost alone within the Community, with the exception of Denmark, in giving detailed consideration to the relations between the national Parliament and the European Parliament after direct elections.
§ Our Scrutiny Committee began its consideration of the problem in the summer of 1977, when the noble and learned Lord, Lord Diplock, who I hope will give advice on constitutional matters in the course of this debate, examined a number of noble Lords who were Members of the European Parliament. Later in the year I became chairman of an ad hoc sub-committee and we invited a number of Peers with Party political experience to join us; its membership will be found in a footnote on page 7 of the report. At our subsequent meetings we heard evidence from 37 witnesses.
§ We were especially grateful to the Members and staff of the European Parliament and of the House of Commons, not least to my opposite number, Sir John Eden, and to the Members and Officers of your Lordships' House, particularly to the Clerk of the Parliaments and Black Rod. Our report attracted a certain amount of attention, most of it favourable, and I am grateful to the usual channels for the opportunity of having this debate today. It is none too early, for direct elections start on 7th June and the new Parliament will open on 17th July. We have, therefore, less than 130 days in which to prepare. So far as 19 I can see, no preparations have been made within our Parliament to face this eventuality. Indeed, the contrast with the planning which is taking place in the case of the Scottish and Welsh Assemblies is very marked. In the case of the directly-elected European Parliament, the Sub-Committee were not able to get any expression whatsoever of Government views on the issues which will face our Parliament after direct elections. I therefore look forward with even more than my usual avid interest to hearing the views of my noble friends on the Front Bench.
§ Throughout we were careful to remember that we must not trespass on the rights and privileges of the directly-elected Members themselves, of the House of Commons, of your Lordships' House, and of the Government. We were careful, too, to avoid encroaching on the proper preserves of the political Parties. We received much evidence from all the other Parliaments, and I should perhaps emphasise that the reply from Luxembourg, which arrived too late to be included in the report, fitted in with the pattern elsewhere. We were especially grateful for the very full reply from Denmark which, like overselves, has taken membership of the Community seriously.
§ At present 36 Members of the United Kingdom Parliament are designated to represent this country in the European Parliament, and the existing very close links between the two institutions result from each Member performing the two functions. Despite the heavy burdens on the dual mandate Members, I believe that there was far more to be said for the system than has sometimes been supposed, because it ensures direct communication; and that is a point which I thought was admirably brought out in the evidence which my noble friend Lord Bruce of Donington gave to us. In this House we have maintained an excellent relationship with the European Parliament, and we believe that we have made a real contribution to the work of the Community. With the end of the dual mandate however, the institutional links between the two Parliaments will be weakened. We must therefore seek to avoid tensions and to promote a relationship between the European and Westminster Members of Parliament which will benefit the two 20 institutions and those in the United Kingdom whom they represent.
§ It is often assumed that direct elections will greatly enhance the power and effectiveness of the European Community. We do not agree; and it was the view of our committee that, although its influence may grow, there is not likely to be any formal increase in the powers of the European Parliament for some time to come. It could be that the strange affair of the December budget may well have had its effect. For the Westminster Parliament the implications are difficult to foresee. It would be a very great pity if we lost any of our awareness of the European dimension given to our debates by the interventions of noble Lords who are Members of the European Parliament, and I believe that we should place on record our appreciation of the work that has been done in the European Parliament by those Members of your Lordships' House who have worked so hard and so effectively there. If, moreover, our involvement with the Committees and with the other member countries continues to grow, our domestic policies will become increasingly interrelated with EEC policies, and this will reinforce the need for contact between the two Parliaments.
§ On the question of whether links were desirable between the two Parliaments three views were expressed to us. They are set out in paragraphs 25 to 29 of our report, and I will not rehearse them now, but as one who had been an opponent of the Community, I had no doubt that to permit tension would be irresponsible and that we had a duty to plan the right relationship between this new Assembly—the youngest Parliament in Europe—and our own venerable Parliament, around which my whole adult life has revolved. This was the general view; and I hope that the Government will share it. We agreed unanimously that everything possible should be done to prevent conflict or rivalry. Differences between the Parliaments could help only those who wish the European institutions to continue to function without democratic parliamentary control. I believe strongly that the links which have been forged over the past few years, and which are greatly valued by the Parliament and the Commission, must be consolidated after the elections.21
§ We are a little afraid that the MEP could be in danger of losing touch with political issues in his own country when he ceases to be a Member of the national Parliament. He will inevitably suffer if there is no direct contact with Ministers and, through them, with the Civil Service. I am sure, too, that the directly elected Parliament will have a value for our own. Their roles should be complementary, rather than competing. It will therefore be important for us at Westminster to know about the work of the European Parliament, and I suspect that both will have a practical interest in knowing about the work of the other.
§ I turn now to the Committee's recommendations. It is clearly important that we should not establish anything over-elaborate. We cannot disregard certain constraints: the pressure on Members' time, the need for economy, the pressure on accommodation, and the legal restraints imposed by the Community institutions. The Committee's recommendations have the merit—I think a considerable merit—of all being obtainable by procedural means without a further Act of Parliament. Having rejected suggestions that MEPs should be temporary Peers, we came down unanimously in favour of a European Grand Committee; but not, I hasten to add, one modelled on the Scottish Grand Committee, on which from time to time many of us have served.
We set out our proposals for the European Grand Committee in paragraph 54. Of course they will have to be agreed by the House of Commons and the United Kingdom Members of the European Parliament; and I hope that we shall carry them with us. We suggest that the Grand Committee should have broad terms of reference. Its main concern would be to debate EEC matters with MEPs in the presence of a Minister. A secondary function would be to hear evidence on EEC problems, perhaps from a Commissioner who might well be a non-national of this country. The Grand Committee would include all the Members of the Scrutiny Committees of either House, and their sub-committees, all the United Kingdom MEPs, and any others whom either House wanted to nominate. It would not take votes, and would not meet very often—perhaps three times a year. It would be chaired
by the chairman of either of our Select Committees or by an MEP, and we hope that a Minister would normally be present. The proposal is, I think, well summed up in paragraph 55 of the report, where we say:
The Grand Committee, with no power to vote, or to pass binding resolutions, would not present a challenge to the powers of either the United Kingdom Parliament to influence Ministers in the Council, or the European Parliament to exercise its responsibilities under the Treaty";
§ and, like our other proposals, it would not need legislation.
§ I should like to give an instance of the kind of matter in which such a Committee could help. In recent months there has been a conflict between the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers over the EEC budget for this year. The expenditure of hundreds of millions of pounds on the Regional Development Fund is at stake. I would say—and I say it very diffidently—that it would be in the interest, not only of Members of this Parliament but also of the European Parliament and of our own Government, to be able to discuss this issue with a Minister, who could put the Government's views before us. In addition to the occasional meetings of the European Grand Committee, we suggest that, following the precedent quoted to us by the Clerk of the Parliaments of the Joint Committee on Indian Constitutional Reform 1932 to 1934, MEPs should be invited to attend meetings of the Scrutiny Committee and its sub-committees and to take part in the hearing of evidence and in deliberation, but without the right to vote.
§ We hope that the Scrutiny Committees would continue the practice of hearing MEPs, as, for example, on 6th February, when Sub-Committee A will be hearing Lord Bruce and Mr. Michael Shaw on the European budget. Conversely, we hope that members of our Scrutiny Committees will be allowed to participate from time to time in European Parliament committee work—a suggestion made by the then President of the European Parliament at a conference of European Speakers at Bonn and recently reiterated by President Colombo. At present, the two Houses provide a secretariat to the delegation to the European Parliament which not only helps with administrative services but provides procedural advice. With 23 the end of the compulsory dual mandate, there will no longer be a need, or indeed authority, for services to be provided by both Houses to United Kingdom Members of the European Parliament. The services now performed by the delegation secretariat will have to be assumed by the European Parliament or provided by the Government. I should say, however, that much of the evidence given to the Committee supported the view that there should be a modest secretariat to provide liaison between the two Houses and their Scrutiny Committees with the European Parliament. This might also help in providing the MEPs with briefing. On this suggestion I would greatly welcome the views of Members of your Lordships' House.
§ The Committee recommended that MEPs—and I apologise for using the abbreviation—should be given access to the amenities of the House of Lords and should have the right to sit below the Bar. We considered carefully the views of Black Rod on the question of accommodation, but in the light of Annex C to the report, which is a table showing the sittings of the two Houses and of the European Parliament provided to us in evidence by the Clerk of the Parliaments, it seemed that the European Parliament would be sitting for longer periods following direct elections, and we came to the conclusion that the time when Members of the European Parliament would be able to use such facilities would be extremely limited. We therefore concluded that the extension of certain privileges would not create too great pressures and would give us in the early, formative days an element of good will and easy informality which would help towards co-operation. But I think it is right to say that my noble friend the Chairman of Committees has considerable and very understandable reservations about these recommendations owing to the pressure on, especially, the Library and the Refreshment Department at the present time, as brought out in Black Rod's evidence, and that is a view I think shared by the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, in respect of the Library. Recommendations on these matters will of course need to be made by the relevant Committees and will then come before your Lordships' House. That will be the next stage, and we should have made it 24 clear in the report. For that I apologise and accept full responsibility. Perhaps I should say that the relevant paragraphs for that are paragraphs 44 and 63.
§ Finally, we recommend that Government and parliamentary papers should be made available to United Kingdom Members of the European Parliament, and we hope that European Parliament papers will continue to be made available to us. The United Kingdom Members should have access to Ministers on European matters and, with their leave—and only with their leave—to their Departments, and there should be continued briefing by the Government so that MEPs could know the Government's attitude when European issues are debated or considered in committee. It is clearly not within our remit, but I would venture to suggest, too, that political Parties would be well advised to make sure that European Members are represented at the policy-making level, and that their rights and duties are clearly defined.
At the end of paragraph 30 we say:
The potential Parliamentary pressure on the Commission or the Council is not a fixed amount to be shared between the national and European Parliaments where an increase by one institution must necessarily lead to a loss by the other".
§ That is the philosophy within which we have worked, and I hope that, in that same spirit, the House will think that the working party's report is both imaginative and responsible, and will welcome it as a contribution on a problem which has had too little consideration so far. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ Moved, That this House takes note of the Forty-fourth Report of last Session of the European Communities Committee on the Relations between the United Kingdom Parliament and the European Parliament after Direct Elections (H.L. 256, 1977–78).—(Lord Greenwood of Rossendale.)
§ 3.38 p.m.
§ The LORD PRIVY SEAL (Lord Peart)
My Lords, I welcome the opportunity which this debate offers for us to consider the future relationship between the United Kingdom Parliament and the European Assembly. I would also add my support to that of my noble friend Lord Greenwood in the tribute he paid to noble Lords who have done so much work 25 in Europe. We are indebted to them. We are indebted once again, too, to the Chairman and members of the Select Committee on the European Communities for the work they have put into the preparation of their 44th Report. The question of the relationship between Parliament and the Assembly has been touched upon previously; for example, in the Select Committee's 22nd Report in 1976, and in work done in the other place in preparation for the first direct election. But I believe that the 44th Report is the first comprehensive study of the implications for this Parliament of a European Assembly elected for the first time by the people of Europe. In that sense, the 44th Report is an extremely valuable document, which I very much welcome on behalf of the Government.
The existence of a directly-elected European Assembly after June this year will be an innovation to which not only this Parliament but the Parliaments of other member States and the Community institutions will have to learn to adjust. We cannot yet predict precisely how a directly-elected Assembly will operate, nor what sort of relationship it will seek to establish with the other institutions. The process of adjustment and accommodation is bound to take some time. In that sense, I envisage that the establishment of links between the Assembly and national Parliaments will be an evolving process, for which it is difficult to lay down an exact blueprint in advance.
I should say a word about the powers of the European Assembly. The Treaty of Rome provides that the Assembly shall have "advisory and supervisory" powers, and, as is well known, it has the power to pass a motion of censure which would require the resignation of the whole Commission. The Assembly has been given further powers since the signing of the Rome Treaty in relation to budgetary procedures; for instance, it is now the Assembly which finally adopts the budget, though its power to increase the size of the budget is strictly limited by complex rules involving a maximum rate of increase and agreement with the Council of Ministers.
It has been argued that a directly-elected European Assembly will not regard these powers as sufficient, in particular the fact that the Assembly has 26 no power to initiate legislation within the Community. We do not yet know what view the directly-elected Assembly will take. But the Government position is quite clearly that there can be no question of extending the powers of the Assembly without the explicit agreement of all States to an amending Treaty to be ratified in accordance with their constitutional requirements.
It was with this in mind that the Government proposed, in the European Assembly Elections Bill, the inclusion of a clause stipulating that the United Kingdom would not agree to any Treaty extending the powers of the European Assembly without the prior consent of this Parliament, and the House agreed to incorporate this provision. This is an important safeguard of the rights of Parliament in relation to the European Assembly.
I turn now to the 44th Report which is before us today. Before considering the main recommendations of the report in greater detail, I should say a word about the Government's general approach to the question of relations between this Parliament and the Assembly. We welcome the chance to hear the views ot this House on the practical ideas about links between the two institutions which this report contains. We believe it is very useful to open up a wide-ranging discussion of the nature of the relationship between one very long-established institution, and one very new, particularly at a time when the attention of the public is being drawn more and more to the Assembly elections in June. Many people with hitherto little direct experience or knowledge of the European Community will be involved in the process of selecting candidates and organising campaigns in preparation for 7th June. I believe that it is very timely that the question of how this institution will stand in relation to Westminster should be part of the general public discussion about the Assembly and its role.
However, we must take care to avoid premature decisions. The views and wishes of this House and the other place will be very relevant to any decisions the Government may take on the establishment of formal links between Strasbourg and Westminster. Equally, the views and wishes of the 81 directly-elected Members will be an essential factor. We 27 do not know who they will be, what they themselves may want from a relationship with us, or how quickly they would like to see that relationship develop. Little would be gained by premature decisions which can only guess at what the needs of this as yet unknown group of people may be.
I should now like to touch quickly on the main recommendations of the 44th Report. As I have indicated, the Government consider it premature to take a definitive position on these recommendations until we can establish what the Members of the two institutions really want by way of a relationship. But it might be helpful if I were to indicate our broad approach to at least the main recommendations.
The report recommends the establishment of a European Grand Committee bringing together Members of the Scrutiny Committees of both Houses, the 81 directly-elected Members and other Members of the Westminster Parliament as appropriate, with the possible participation of Ministers. Its purpose would be to enhance mutual understanding of the activities of the two institutions.
I think we have to approach with some care proposals which would add to the existing committee structure of Westminster. This House will know of the consideration going on in the other place about the structure of the Select Committee system, and the handling of European matters within that structure. We do not yet know what view they will reach. But we are obliged to take their views into account, and we must be careful not to duplicate work being done in other parliamentary committees, nor to superimpose another committee on the present system without being fully persuaded that it has a special role to play.
The question of the contacts between Assembly Members and the two Scrutiny Committees is also a key element in the report. I do not envisage that the existence of a directly-elected Assembly will diminish the need for scrutiny of Community documents by both Houses of this Parliament. Indeed, in the sense that the scrutiny process is geared to influencing United Kingdom Ministers 28 in their approach to draft legislation before the Council, I believe there is a continuing and important role for the Scrutiny Committees to play. Whether or not directly-elected Assembly Members can contribute to this process is another question. Full participation in the work of the Scrutiny Committees, and regular attendance at their sessions, might be difficult for directly-elected Assembly Members with their commitments abroad. On the other hand, they could no doubt usefully give evidence to the committees in the same way as do people representing a wide range of interests But what sort of part Assembly Members might play in our scrutiny process is something on which the views of those Members will need to be established in due course. They will need, in particular, to have time to assess the commitments and obligations placed upon them by their own institution.
The report also deals in some detail with the question of premises for Assembly Members in London. I think it premature for the Government to come to a view on the question of joint or adjacent accommodation between Westminster Members of Parliament and Assembly Members without the need for such joint facilities being demonstrated. As for the possibility of premises for Assembly Members being provided close to Westminster, this is a matter for the Assembly itself; I understand that the London representatives of the Assembly have already been looking at possible accommodation in this area.
Related to this is the question of the provision of services for the Assembly Members. Under our present arrangements, this Parliament provides a secretariat for our delegation to the Assembly; but, as the report indicates, there must be a presumption that in future these administrative services will be borne by staff provided by the Assembly, given that the directly-elected Members will not for the most part have the same links with Westminster that our present delegation has. Whether there would, in addition to administrative support staff, also be a need for a joint secretariat acting as the liaison point between the Scrutiny Committees and the Assembly Members would remain to be seen. This might evolve out of contacts between the Scrutiny Committees and the Assembly, but is not something which can be prescribed before such a relationship is established.
29 Finally, I should say a word about briefing arrangements for Assembly Members, and possible access to Government Ministers. The House may be aware of the arrangements which now exist for briefing our Assembly Members. Departments provide written briefs at the request of the secretary to the Assembly delegation on matters coming before the Assembly. I would envisage that these arrangements might continue, as the report suggests, for the directly-elected Members, if that is what they would wish. There are obvious benefits to the Government in having their approach to particular proposals clearly understood by the Assembly Members, and we would hope the arrangements would be of benefit equally to them. As to the question of access to Ministers and their Departments, this is something which the Government will look at sympathetically if Assembly Members in due course see benefit in having direct contact between themselves and Whitehall. We shall also consider the provision of Government publications on the lines envisaged in the report, if this too would be of benefit to our Assembly Members.
My Lords, I regard today's debate very much as an opportunity to explore ideas rather than to reach firm conclusions about the relationship which may develop between this Parliament and the directly-elected Assembly Members. I have not attempted to give a detailed Government view on all recommendations in the report. It would in any case be premature to do so, in two senses; first, because the Government wish to hear what this House has to say on the proposals in the report (and will also wish in due course to take account of the views of the other place); second, because it would be wrong for us to reach hard and fast conclusions on these issues before the views of the directly-elected Members themselves can be known.
I envisage that in the first instance the relationship between Members of this Parliament and the Assembly Members will be an essentially informal one, which may evolve into a more formal one as the needs of both sides become clearer. The Government will be ready to respond where they can to the needs of Westminster Members and the Assembly Members, but not to try to prescribe their exact requirements in advance. For that reason, I hope that my speech has not 30 been too long and this will enable other colleagues in the House to express their views which we shall study carefully.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ Baroness ELLES
My Lords, I should like to thank on behalf of my noble friends the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, for his most lucid and helpful introduction to the 44th Report of the Select Committee on European Communities. Thanks are also due to the members of the Committee and to those who gave evidence to the Committee, both oral and written. The evidence contained in Volume II certainly makes most stimulating reading, even though one may not always agree with what is said, either with some of the premises on which the arguments were based or indeed some of the conclusions. Nevertheless, the contents of Volume II are very valuable to those who are studying this question. I should like to thank most warmly whoever actually wrote the report because it has retained the usual high academic standard that we now expect from this particular Select Committee of your Lordships' House, and has both the benefits of brevity and clarity. For that we can truly be grateful. This is the kind of report which the late Lady Tweedsmuir would have been indeed extremely proud and very pleased to have debated with us today on this particular subject.
Coming now to the contents of the report and the evidence, it is clear that the evidence reflected the views of those who were giving it and their ideas on the European Community, how it would develop, and their ideas of what the institutions would be. There was a very genuinely expressed fear that the new MEPs would seek to extend their existing powers referred to by the noble Lords, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale and Lord Peart. I do not think they will; I do not think there is any question of them trying to extend their powers. For one thing we all know the legal constitutional position both in this Parliament and the French Parliament. I believe, on the other hand, they will try and use, quite rightly, the powers that are already available to them and which they can use if they so wish.
Also, the view was expressed that after all the European Parliament is 31 only a consultative body and the MEPs will not be of any particular political strength because they will no longer be Members of the Houses of Parliament. Here again, I think that is not exactly what will happen. My view is very much more on the lines expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, and contained in the report, that the roles of both Parliaments will be complementary; that the complementary force which is to be exerted on the Council of Ministers by the National Westminster Parliamentarians will be complemented by the European Members of Parliament exerting their influence on the Commission and on the Council of Ministers as represented in that body.
So long as the Council of Ministers remains as it is, and so long as it is composed of Ministers responsible to the national Parliament, I do not see any change in the balance of power between the two bodies. I believe they could both be used effectively for our benefit. The report has included a number of recommendations based on the inevitable change that there will be giving a new MEP directly elected from a geographical election base rather than, as at the moment, a nominated delegation which comes from different parts of the Kingdom.
While it is true to say that nothing is predictable in politics, there can be two expected changes relating to the relationship of the MEP, Parliament here and indeed the electorate. The MEP now being identified in his Euro-constituency as a representative by an electorate, will be the recipient of correspondence which at the present time goes to the MP. I do not think, as some have asserted in evidence, that the MEPs will still be occupied with group interests and pressure groups as MPs are today. I believe it is merely because ordinary citizens have nobody to go to that they write to their MP. I believe very much that they will now be able to turn to their MEP for help and a solution of what one might term their "Euro-problem". For this reason alone it should be emphasised how essential it will be for the MEP to keep in the closest co-operation with the MP within the Euro-constituency. I hope that, regardless of Party, any MP who is not of the same Party as the Euro-constituency MEP will be co-operative and not be obstructive in 32 any normal assistance that an MP could expect from another MP in another constituency. This will greatly help to avoid any kind of conflicts.
Secondly, contrary to the fears expressed by some that the European Parliament will snatch away powers from the national Parliament, I believe that the reverse might well happen. I believe that the Westminster Parliament has a great opportunity to increase its interest and participation in European affairs. Instead of having debates in the middle of the night when only the present MEPs take part, apart from the traditional anti-Marketeers, the proper time will be given at the proper time of day when matters concerning the United Kingdom in the European context will be debated on the Floor of the House. If these people fear that power will be taken from the Westminster Parliament, the responsibility lies on their own shoulders. If the Westminster Parliament loses its sovereignty, it will be through apathy and indifference to European matters.
Thirdly, the recommendations must be considered in relation to the time scale before us. There are one or two matters which the Lord Privy Seal raised which it would be sensible should be decided as soon as possible. I hope that the Government will listen sympathetically to this particular point. Some can only be worked out—as he rightly said—when, for instance, the composition of the delegation is seen: whether it is comprised of Members of Parliament, whether there will be some Peers and how many there will be out of a total group of 81.
However, there are practical details such as the question of the delegation services: who is going to look after the travel and accommodation arrangements for the first group of MEPs who go out? I should have thought it would be a courtesy extended by this Government to continue the arrangements at least for the first six months until some more permanent satisfactory arrangement can be made. I think it would be churlish of any Government to withdraw their services from a group of 81 people going from this country to serve the best interests of the United Kingdom in Europe, and just to withdraw those services on the 7th June. I hope very much that the Government will agree to this modest 33 proposal for a temporary period until such time as the financial implications can be worked out.
Other unknown factors will come to light eventually; for example, we do not know what the timetable of the European Parliament will be. There is a certain amount of conflict in the evidence concerning this. Some people said, "They will be away for three weeks" and others said, "No, they thought they might be away certainly for one week in the month and for the other two weeks they might only be away a couple of days". So I would have thought this is something on which no decision can be taken as to the time available for which the MEP will be in this country to do a job within the Westminster context. He will, of course, also have to visit his Euro-constituency.
There is another aspect which nobody has raised with any strength of voice so far, and that is the question of finance. As we all know, due to the Government's influence in reducing the salary of MEPs, I would not put it on the level of MPs serving in another place but at the level of the part-time chairman of the Eggs Authority—and then you have to pay United Kingdom income tax on it and, should you be a woman, the salary is added to your husband's income so that you would be left with about £3,000 a year. Who is actually going to pay the fares and the subsistence allowance for those MEPs who want to, and should, attend at Westminster meetings? I do not think this would probably fall on the European Parliament if it were a question of attendance in this particular building: I do not mean in the Chamber but in the building. That is something which should also be considered.
The report raises a number of issues affecting the new situation. As I regard it, it is really a question of slotting in at different levels so there is the minimum of friction at all levels of the meeting, the place of contact. Perhaps I should say that in my own Party we have not come to final conclusions on the recommendations, although we accept and admire the work done by the Committee in this report, and so anything that I may say I am saying entirely on my own account.
At the top of the tree, obviously the relations between the Speaker and the President will be, as was rightly suggested, 34 purely ceremonial; and possibly there will be an annual meeting in the context of the Speaker's Conference such as is already happening. At the next level, that of Government, MEPs will not be in any way forming a Government or indeed forming part of a Government, although I imagine it would be possible for an MEP to be made a Minister in one House or another by the Party in power. That remains to be seen. However, I agree very much with the remarks of both the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, and the noble Lord, Lord Peart, that access to Ministers should be allowed to MEPs in order to represent the best interests of the United Kingdom abroad; otherwise it would be impossible for the MEP to do a proper job of work, either for his constituency or for the country.
I certainly welcome the fact that briefing material will be available to MEPs, because obviously they cannot work without that. I also welcome the proposal that Government publications should be available to the MEP. Those are part of the tools of his job and I hope that the Government will recognise the need. We might ask in this connection what is to happen in respect of the Printed Paper Office dealing with European documents: for example, would that be accessible to MEPs? Also, I should have thought that the computer services available in your Lordships' House would be extremely beneficial, certainly until such time as the accommodation has been finally arranged for European Parliamentarians.
In relation to the Parties, which is a matter rightly emphasised both in the report and by those who have spoken before me, I think it would be helpful for MEPs to attend Back-Bench committees of their own Parties. I would very much hope this would be an automatic right accorded to any MEPs, so that at least they would be able to take part in, and listen to, the development of policy within their own Parties and to be able to keep in contact with the feeling of the Parties in this country. They would also be able to report to such committees the attitude of their European partners. I think that sort of arrangement would be essential if we are to get effective political working together between the two institutions. But, of course, just being a member of a Back-Bench committee will not be sufficient because, as 35 we have said, an MEP may be away for three weeks out of four and therefore, if this theory is correct, he would be able to attend only some eight Back-Bench committees in the course of a year, which clearly is not sufficient on its own.
I agree very much with what appears to be the majority view of the evidence contained in paragraph 52 of the report; namely, that MEPs should not become Members of either House. I think it was generally agreed that this would not be a sensible thing to do. I must say that the idea of having 81 MEPs in your Lordships' Library in any one week is something which should be contemplated with a certain amount of doubt before this pleasure and benefit is accorded to them. I would think this is very much something that should be played by ear. My whole approach to this report is that it is full of excellent ideas, but I do not think that some of them, except for the essential ones concerned with organisation, should be rushed into before we see exactly what happens, who is in the delegation, how it can be worked out and how much time the MEPs have in this country.
Certainly, so far as the offices are concerned, I would very much hope that the European Parliament Information Office and the European Commission Office will move from their handsome building so far away—or at least it appears far away when one needs to get a document—and will come nearer to this House. I think it would be a great benefit for the European Parliament, and indeed for the Members' of your Lordships' House and another place, because it would mean that when they needed European information they need, hopefully, go only across a road.
With regard to the MEPs' accommodation, I should have thought that a suitable building could be found, and indeed that they might possibly be able to be housed in the same building as the offices. I do not know if such a thing would be physically possible, but although I did not see it recommended anywhere in the evidence given by Members, I would certainly recommend that the accommodation should be arranged according to the political group rather as it is now in Saint Stephen's House. The Conservative MEPs would have their 36 own group secretariat and so would the Socialist MEPs. I think that is probably the most sensible way of doing it, so that they automatically have their Party links when they come to Westminster and can find their documents and so on. I would have thought that is probably the best way of dealing with the matter. I do not know whether there is any further accommodation available for them in Saint Stephen's House but no doubt that is something the Department of the Environment might look into.
With regard to the European Grand Committee, this is an idea which has been floated for some time and I believe that we debated it about two years ago in your Lordships' House. Certainly it has its attractions, but I wonder, now that we are getting nearer to the actual happening of the European Parliament with elected Members, whether it would work in practice. Already it is said that MEPs do now attend Select Committees of your Lordships' House whenever they can. But there have been many times when we should like to have been there but could not come because we were in Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg. This position will be even worse with a constituency to visit, and those members of political Parties who are seeking selection by Euro-constituencies will be only too well aware that one of the first questions they are asked is: "How much time will you spend in our constituency?" Clearly, nobody can answer that question truthfully at this stage because nobody will know, but certainly there is a demand by the electorate that their Euro-MP should be seen in the constituency and be ready to deal with their problems. So I imagine that the opportunites for attendance at Westminster will be fewer than they are now.
Certainly attendance at the Select Committee of your Lordships' House and its sub-committees, as well as the Scrutiny Committee in another place, would be an invaluable contribution to the work of those committees. No doubt the Scrutiny Committee in another place would welcome the attendance of MEPs, but, obviously, that is for them to decide. However, when the Scrutiny Committee of another place and the Select Committee of this House meet from time to time, as they have done in the past, it may be the beginning of the basis of some kind of 37 committee which would draw together both Houses, and which MEPs could attend to discuss some matter of vital interest.
This kind of idea would be in accordance with the words of caution which came from so many of those who gave evidence, who, I think rightly, require maximum flexibility at the beginning and do not want to set up some machinery which will not be used, and which by its disuse will fall into decline, and perhaps give an opportunity for denigration. We should hope that the system would work well and smoothly. But if you set up a formal body before people are ready for it, it might lead more to disadvantage than to the advantage we should hope would accrue to that body.
These are just some of the thoughts that have occurred from reading through the report and the evidence. I shall certainly not take up the time of your Lordships in going through all the items in the report, but I think I have given an indication of our kind of philosophy towards this new adventure. We are starting on a new institution, with the MEPs having direct communication with the electorate and representing an identifiable group of people in the European Parliament. Therefore, I believe that the MEPs will be able to play a more effective and useful role. As I and others have already said, we envisage the European Parliament as being complementary and influencing the Commission and the Council within the European Parliament, while the role of the MP in another place should also be increased by influencing the Minister within his national Parliament.
I believe that Mr. Prescott, in his evidence at page 81, put it very well. He said, halfway down the first column:In evolving policy in the Community the pressures inside the European Assembly"—that is the only point on which I quarrel with him—can be equally as effective on the decision making process as the national parliamentary pressure on the Council of Ministers".He put it very well, and that is how I envisage the development going forward. So that with both of these institutions working together, they might at last be able to serve the people whom they represent, which might be as good for 38 Europe as, hopefully, I believe it will be good for Britain.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ Lord GLADWYN
My Lords, I should just like to add one or two points of a more general nature to what has already been said so eloquently by the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, to whose able chairmanship our Sub-Committee owes so much, and to the remarks already made by the Leader of the House and by the noble Baroness, Lady Elles. There is a great deal in the remarks of the noble Baroness with which I agree. I can understand that the Government cannot pronounce on this matter at this stage, more particularly since the whole matter of the elections is such a hot potato in the noble Lord's own Party that, before the elections, I gather he will not be able to say anything at all on this subject which is of much use to this House or anyone else.
But I do not think even the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, would suggest that our proposals, even if they are universally accepted in principle by the Government, should be laid down as proposals which should be formally accepted or rejected before the European elections take place. Of course, we also have to wait and see what the new Members of the European Parliament themselves want. But it is surely useful for this House, in a general way, if it can, to come to some general idea of the kind of connections there might be—I think that even the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, will agree with that—even though we may naturally differ in minor respects as to how they should be applied.
On the general question, therefore, I would say, first, that the great majority of those who gave evidence before our Committee felt that relations between our Houses of Parliament here and the new European Parliament would be of very considerable importance. Only a few felt that they could be disregarded, with nobody paying very much attention to what is being said or done in Strasbourg, and the whole thing having just as much political importance as the Assemblies of the Council of Europe or the Western European Union. So why did the majority of our witnesses believe that relations would be important?
39 I think the answer to that is because of the likely influence on events that the directly elected Parliament might, in the course of time, exert. Most welcomed this possibility, but some deplored and even feared it. Indeed, those who deployed or feared it were the most convinced that the directly elected European Parliament would gradually go from strength to strength. One or two even said that, in their view, it would inevitably pave the way for some kind of Federation from which they hoped that the United Kingdom would eventually withdraw. Therefore, for one reason or another, the consensus among our witnesses was that the directly-elected Parliament would probably become increasingly important as time went on.
Evidently, if only for the fact that any additional powers of a formal character, before coming into force, would have to run the gauntlet of acceptance and ratification by the nine Parliaments, the European Parliament will not be able or likely to impose itself as a body of equal weight to the Council of Ministers, the European Court or even the Commission. That is agreed. But what it will be able to do, if it so desires, is so to utilise its existing powers over the budget, to which reference has already been made, as to cause considerable embarrassment to Ministers, who may well find it more difficult to disregard pressure from a body representing the entire public opinion of the Community than that exerted by a nominated assembly, which is still under some form of direct national control. Not only that, but if, by a considerable majority—that is one which would presumably contain some Members from different groups—and after prolonged and expert discussion with the Commission it passes resolutions, for example, in regard to the Common Agricultural Policy, the Regional Fund or monetary policy, embodying suitable concessions by everybody in order to arrive at a consensus in the long-term interests of all, those Members who voted in favour will, as I see it, undoubtedly come back to their constituencies and make propagands for such a solution, even if it may be opposed by the Government of the day. The same kind of thing might happen even if the new Parliament passed some kind of resolution on European defence, which did not appeal to one of the Governments concerned.
40 Such a Government would not necessarily be the United Kingdom Government; it could equally well be the French or German Governments. But the point is that under pressure from what would certainly be an expression of European public opinion, the Government concerned might well feel obliged to temper opposition to the measure before the Council of Ministers and, after further debate, perhaps go along with the majority point of view. After all, it is not only conceivable, it is even possible, that MEPs of whatever political persuasion may even come to the conclusion, after long and detailed discussion of events at Strasbourg, Luxembourg or wherever the European Parliament finally comes to rest, that the views of their own Party in the national Parliament are to some extent misguided, and may seek to influence the electorate in their own constituencies accordingly.
Thus, the debate undoubtedly will enter the national sphere. For if the specific recommendations of Lord Greenwood's Sub-Committee, or something like them, are eventually accepted and come into force (namely, direct contact with the Scrutiny Committee and with its equivalent in the House of Commons as the European debate progresses—and the idea is that, if the rapporteur of one of these great committees in Strasbourg came along to give evidence occasionally, this would not be difficult to arrange—and also that the proposed Grand Committee should meet very occasionally) the views of the national Government and indeed of the Opposition may well be modified and the stage set for an agreement on those great compromises, without which it is impossible to see how the Community can function over the years. It is, I am afraid, just no good believing, as some do, that all this can be accomplished by simple national bargaining between national bureaucrats in COREPER—the Committee of Permanent Representatives in Brussels—and ultimately by intensive argument in the Council of Ministers, each Minister accompanied by a phalanx of national officials intent on seeing to it that the interests of their country, to say nothing of their own Ministry, prevail. For in the nature of things, nobody in such tough discussions can be animated by anything but narrow national interests and the debate, however necessary it may be, 41 simply cannot be conducted on the basis of any common European or Community point of view.
There are those who fear—and this has been said today by one speaker—that if things work out like this there will be "tension" between the Westminster Parliament and British MEPs and that this must be avoided at all costs. But why should this be so? It is surely likely that whatever the MEP says or does in the, as I myself think, comparatively rare periods when he will be in this country will probably be acceptable at least to some Members of the Houses of Parliament here. He will scarcely be able to irritate all Parliamentarians all the time! Nor need there be much jealousy, unless MEPs are paid in real terms much more than their national colleagues, which seems to be unlikely as things are now going, since it may well be that our own MPs will feel it necessary to pay themselves rather more than lorry drivers after a while.
Besides, I believe that it will soon become clear—and again this is a point which has been touched on—what the respective and very different roles of MPs and MEPs are going to be. Broadly speaking, I believe that any alleged grievances or difficulties in respect of what might be called "European" projects will be, or should be, normally taken up with the local national MPs who are best qualified to press national Ministers for action in the Council of Ministers, where the Minister has a veto, whereas benefits to be arrived at by common European action—the Regional Fund or whatever it may be—can best be discussed or taken up with the local MEP. I do not say that this distinction will always be entirely clear, but I believe that it will work out along those general lines.
It is not even now absolutely clear that elections will take place on 7th June. The Italian Government seems about to disappear and go to the country, with perhaps unpredictable results. For their part, the French Gaullists and Communists, but more particularly the Gaullists, are working themselves, largely for local electoral purposes, into a kind of anti-European frenzy. It is conceivable, although perhaps not likely, that, together with a few rebel Socialists and Independents, they may still be able, 42 on a vote of confidence, to prevent the French electoral law from coming into force. Even if they do not succeed in this they may possibly, if I read Le Figaro correctly, gain Parliamentary approval for the absurd idea that the 81 French MEPs, although elected for five years in accordance with that law, could somehow be obliged to resign after one year and be replaced by another on the same list, thereby making any coherent action by the European Parliament considerably more difficult. But it is hard to see how the whole French delegation of 81, or even the 20 or 30 Gaullist and Communist MEPs, could actually carry out this threat; and if by any chance they did, then one thing is certain: none would have the slightest prospect of achieving any office in the European Parliament. That might be a considerable deterrent to any such action.
At this point, may I say that the recommendations of the Sub-Committee were, as noble Lords are aware, based on the no doubt legitimate assumption that if the MEP is to take his or her duties seriously he or she will be expected to spend about three weeks in every month, save August, attending meetings: plenaries, committees, and group meetings, and so on, nearly all of which will take place outside this country, thus leaving at most only a week for visits to the constituency and to Westminster as well.
§ Lord O'HAGAN
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether it is the policy of the Liberal Party that Members of the European Parliament should be in their constituencies for only one week in each month? Is the noble Lord seriously advancing that opinion? I ask him in a purely friendly fashion.
§ Lord GLADWYN
No, my Lords, that is not the policy of the Liberal Party. However, it was the assumption upon which we worked: that if MEPs are to take their duties seriously and attend the plenaries for at least one week in every month, while the committees in Brussels will take up another week or ten days, and group meetings as well, which take place all over Europe, this is likely to mean that they will spend something like three weeks out of every month on their European duties. Consequently, they will not have much more than one week in each month 43 to deal with their constituencies and attend committee meetings here.
I see that the noble Lord shakes his head, but I believe that this is quite likely. Of course, it may well be that the MEPs will not take their duties seriously. Some of them may prefer to spend half of their time here and not attend committees, but in that event the European Parliament would be well advised to relate attendance to salary, in the same way as at present. If MEPs want to sacrifice their salaries they could even come and spend three weeks every month in this country. However, if they do so they will lose their name in Europe. Anyhow, that was the assumption upon which we worked: that MEPs would have to spend a very considerable time each month in Strasbourg, Luxembourg, or wherever it may be,
Generally speaking, I have little doubt—I think that most of us may agree on this—that when the new Parliament settles down it will play an invaluable part in the whole development of the Community. The European Parliament will not, however, inaugurate any kind of federal system. I may be a heretic on this from some people's point of view, but I never have believed that we in Europe shall be able to agree on a formal constitution based upon the American model, involving a President of Europe, or even that it would be a very good thing if we did. A great deal of the opposition in this country to continued membership of the Community is, however, based on this fear, unjustified though it is. This is a point which is difficult to get across, but it is something quite original which we shall be seeking to construct: democratic in essence and suited to our histories and to the times in which we live.
Frankly, it is impossible to see how exactly it will all work out, but what we can all understand is how much worse the situation will be if the experiment fails and we revert, consequently and inevitably, to ordinary, simple, economic nationalism. It does not require much imagination to see what would happen to us then. Only those who really believe in a directed or war-time economy—and I admit that some members of the Party opposite naturally do believe in such a solution— 44 can rejoice at such a prospect. And not only the Party opposite, for extremes meet and Mr. Enoch Powell's latest vision, as I understand it, is of an isolated Britain in alliance with the Soviet Union, a prospect which he seems to regard with considerable satisfaction.
That in any case is one of the reasons why the Party opposite is going to face considerable difficulties in the forthcoming elections. How can all those British Socialists who still believe in some kind of democratic, or even social-democratic Community of a political nature—and there are still a good many; I see at least one opposite—vote for a Labour candidate who is violently opposed to any such conception, even if he does not want us to withdraw from the present Community as soon as we can? And how can Labour's "antis", now seemingly in a majority, possibly vote for a "pro"? I venture to suggest that the same situation presents itself, though admittedly in a modified form, in the Tory Party. Perhaps therefore the best hope is that all people who, in a general way, believe in the emergence of some kind of democratic political entity in Europe will vote, irrespective of Party, for the candidate who best represents this point of view.
My Lords, I repeat that the coming elections will be of the greatest importance to everybody in this country, and I believe that before long the electorate will wake up to this fact. It only needs a stimulus to evoke the spirit that resulted in a vote of two-thirds in favour of our remaining in the Community; and if this atmosphere—this "referendum" atmosphere—is created by the media, as it very well may be, then I think we shall get a British delegation with a majority determined to make the Community work who will, by their dedication, not only have a profound influence in Strasbourg but also a victory over obscurantists in this country anxious for us to go on as we are now—an object of pity to our friends across the Channel and a source of hope for less friendly people much further East!
My Lords, I hope that for these and many other reasons you will in general approve—even if the Government cannot do so—the main lines of the report and, if you can find the time, also glance 45 through the evidence. It is certainly high time that we made up our minds what sort of political community we seek to set up in Europe and the part that our own country should play in this great business.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ Viscount AMORY
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, gave such a lucid exposition of our report that fortunately there is very little left for a humble member of his committee to say, and he did it in a remarkably short space of time. However, there is one thing that I should like to say that he did not feel able to say, and that is to pay a tribute to the tremendous skill with which he presided over our deliberations. I know that he would like me also to add my quota of tribute for the excellent services we received from our secretariat.
Our biggest difficulty was an obvious one, namely, that we were not able to consult the MEPs because they have not yet been elected. It means that all our recommendations must be of a tentative nature. So we were really only able to sketch out alternative arrangements which seemed to us to be worthy of consideration. I think it is significant, as mentioned in paragraph 43 of our report and in Annex D, that the United Kingdom Parliament sits more days and longer hours than any other Parliament in the EEC. I believe that the other place actually spends three times as many hours in session and this House twice as many as any other European Assembly.
I thought that the attitude of my noble friend Lady Elles in the welcome she gave to the report was particularlyhelpful, speaking as she did from very wide experience in these matters. As I think the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, said, we were surprised to find that at the time of our studies little thought appeared to have been given by the other countries in the EEC to the problems that would arise after the dual mandate was substantially at an end. It will be seen from the report that we considered from the evidence that close and intimate contact between MEPs and MPs in both Houses of Parliament would be a good thing, and we have proposed various ways in which such contacts could be facilitated and encouraged. There were one or two indi- 46 viduals who expressed a view to us that inevitably there would be friction and conflict between the Members of our national Parliament here and the MEPs. We could not take that view at all. We did not feel that it was in the least inevitable and, as my noble friend Lady Elles said, the roles of the two bodies are complementary and not, in our view, competitive. We accepted the danger of attempting to make too formal arrangements, which was a point made by the noble Lord the Leader of the House; but substantially the end of dual mandate will in some ways bring an obvious loss, and I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, paid a well deserved tribute to the work that the many Members of this House have performed in the present European Assembly. Again, I think the noble Lord the Leader of the House said the same thing.
We were impressed with how little time MEPs are likely to have for Westminster contacts, bearing in mind their commitments at the EEC in several places, as it looks at present, and to a lesser extent in their own huge constituencies. We came out firmly against integration of MEPs and MPs with either House, because although chosen by the same electorate they are elected for completely different responsibilities, and it seems to me that if an attempt were made to integrate them into either House it would be a recipe for crossed wires and possible conflict.
When amenities are considered the position is very different. I am sure that if amenities were sought which could be provided, we should be anxious to play our part, although I hope we shall defer the question of the extent to which it would be possible or desirable until the MEPs have been elected and we get some idea as to whether we are likely to like them or not. Also, we shall be interested to know what their remuneration will be. If they are going to be immensely rich, then of course we shall welcome them into our dining rooms and our bars in order to help us to meet the overhead expenses!
The European Grand Committee is an illustration of one method of keeping contact between MEPs and MPs through discussion and debate, which we believe, if sensibly used, might prove very valuable. If any frictions were developing it might indeed act as a sort of safety valve, so we 47 hope that proposal will receive careful consideration, not now but when the MEPs have been elected and arrangements have to be made.
As the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood said, we were very grateful for the trouble that so many took to provide us with evidence of their opinions, based on much practical experience of the existing system. The noble Lord the Leader of the House gave a general welcome to the report. He emphasised that any arrangements made must be an evolving process. I think we all agree with that. He stressed the continuing role there would be for the Scrutiny Committees. Again, we entirely agree. The noble Lord, Lord Peart, said it would be wrong to reach hard, firm decisions as to what will be wanted until MEPs are elected. We agree again.
This report will, we hope, be welcomed by noble Lords as a contribution to thought as to what is likely to be required to suit MEPs and Members of both Houses. We hope it will be found useful when they come to choose the methods that they think best for maintaining a close and intimate contact, an aim which we hope they will desire.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ Lord ARDWICK
My Lords, the noble Viscount referred to the possible affluence of the new MEPs. I think the arrangements are very different from that. They are going to be the paupers of the new Parliament. I shall not be surprised if almost the first contact we have with them is when they are forming a picket line around the Palace of Westminster saying that we are unfair to them.
§ Viscount AMORY
My Lords, if they are paupers we shall have to think again about the extent of the amenities we can offer them, I agree.
§ Lord ARDWICK
My Lords, I am quite serious about it. To pay them less than the wages of the ushers and the typists does seem to me a remarkable thing. If there were any career in this, if there was any possibility of office, or if it were a job that was going to lead anywhere, then there might be some justification for paying them the beggarly salaries paid to people in the other place. But they have no opportunities; it is a dead-end 48 job—a very interesting one, but still a dead-end job. I think the Government have been very unwise in fixing this very low limit. I say this as one who is not going to participate in this. I am thinking particularly of young men with families who are trying to make a career in politics who are going to be condemned to this rather poor existence, unless, of course, the expenses are overloaded, which will be a scandal of a different kind.
I have spent the morning re-reading the evidence of the Select Committee and I tried to formulate ideas before I read the final version. I was very pleased when I did read the conclusive document that my views of what ought to be done were not idiosyncratic. Before then, I had been wondering whether much of our concern about our relationship with the new Parliament was not motivated by the fact that we are losing our smallholding on the Continent, and we do not believe that our successors can cultivate it properly without our help. I am beginning to think that it would be better—I am more or less in accord with what noble Lords have said before me—if we left the European Parliament time to find out what facilities the Members need in the capitals of the Member States and then prepared to receive sympathetically any requests that they might make for our co-operation and our facilities. It will be some months before they know who they are, what they are, what they are doing and what they need.
Those of us who have served in the Parliament know how bewildering it was in our early days, although we had a number of useful mentors there. We know what awful gaffes we made. We know the strange new language we had to learn—the English language. We wondered what on earth people were talking about when they spoke of the transparency of the conjunctural situation. Perhaps the noble Viscount who preceded me and who occupied a very distinguished office may not be aware of what the transparency of the conjunctural situation means, but all those of us who have served in the European Parliament are familiar with this kind of jargon. MEPs have got to learn to come to grips with MCAs. They are going to have a very hard time.
The new Parliament is going to have a rather small proportion of veterans, 49 perhaps one-sixth of the total number of Members, and probably the proportion of British Members with European experience will be lower than that. What happens depends largely, I gather, on whether the selection committees in winnable constituencies which are now meeting have the good sense to avail themselves of some Members of this House who are offering their valuable and experienced services. I can say this all the more boldly because I am myself not one of the aspirants. What it means is that the new Parliament will not merely be short of European experience but of Parliamentary experience too. I think it will be many months before it is in a position to exercise any real collective weight. A great deal is going to depend on the wisdom of the staffs of the professional groups.
I am not one of those who are concerned about this Parliament gaining power. I do not see any British Government, whatever its political constitution, nor any French or Danish Government, transferring powers from their national Parliament, depriving their national Parliament of the powers it now enjoys and conferring those powers on the European Parliament. This is a federalist dream and an anti-federalist nightmare and it has no reality. But, if I am one of those not concerned about the new Parliament gaining powers, I sometimes have worries about it losing prestige. It starts with the tremendous advantage of having been directly elected, but its influence will depend not only on its legitimacy but also on its conduct. Will a sufficient number of Members have the knowledge and the skills to lead the specialist committees and the assiduity to study the avalanche of documents? Will they be willing to spend day after day, as the present delegation has done—I think the attendance record is about 80 per cent. of possibility—in committee, out of view of the Press, out of view of the media, engaged in deep and detailed studies of the Commission's proposals? Will they bring well-informed minds to bear on these questions?
It is this last question with which we should be concerned. It is here, surely, that we have responsibility, not as one Parliament to another, but as all British institutions should have to our representatives in the European Parliament, to 50 let the British Members know what is in our minds and where we conceive the British interest to lie. If the new Members are to be well informed about British views and interests they have several prime sources. The first will be their own political sponsors in their own constituencies. The next are the firms and the industries and the local authorities in their own constituencies. But, of course, Members of this new Parliament will not have just one constituency—that is, the territorial region in which the votes for them were cast. They will have another constituency that is the whole United Kingdom, and the United Kingdom's interests are defined in Whitehall and Westminster. Its particular interests are defined by bodies such as the TUC, the CBI and a myriad of lesser interest groups. In other words, they will need to be in contact with these bodies if they are to be well informed.
We as a Parliament should make it clear to the British Members that, although we shall not thrust any help upon them, we will give them what help we can in response to the requests that they make to us. We might, for example, give them access to our libraries, the right of presence in the Members' Lobby in another place, and, of course, a place in the public galleries of both Houses. We could also invite them to participate, if they would, in a Grand Committee. I do not think we should choose them as Members of the Grand Committee; I think that is trying to drag them into our orbit too much. We should say that this Grand Committee will meet perhaps twice a year and we invite them to come and join in the discussions. It would be very useful if that Grand Committee could discuss, not the detailed work done by our own Committee, but the strategy of what is happening in general in Europe.
The Community is changing a great deal. It has changed a great deal in the four years for which I have been a Member. It has developed, for example, an industrial policy which it did not have previously. There has been enormous development as regards regional policy and towards the EMS and the idea of co-ordinating economies. Great things are happening. Our Select Committee looks at those matters analytically, but there is no grand sweep. People are not aware of the way in which Europe is developing and one of 51 the things that the Grand Committee could do would be to give a review twice a year of where Europe was going.
We might find the time and recognise the need to organise a professional information service for Members of the new Parliament dealing with events in this Parliament which would be of interest to all Members or of interest to Members serving on a particular committee. However, we must avoid at all costs showering them with paper. Paper is the curse of the European Parliament. There is not only a butter mountain, and a dried-milk mountain, but a paper mountain too and chunks of it are cluttering up my home and the home of every other Member of the delegation. One of the weaknesses of the European Parliament is that it has found no way of diminishing this mountain. I suspect that consciously or unconsciously the Parliament has mutliplied its work to make an elected Parliament inevitable and the present system come to an end.
I am pretty sure that the work of the Parliament could have been rationalised and made more efficient so that the delegated Parliament could have continued. But the old Federalists, really the leaders of the thought, were victims of the fallacy that because a federal Europe must create an elected Parliament, an elected Parliament would create a federal government. That fallacy produced two minorities: those who are fanatically for an elected Parliament and those who are fanatically against it.
The task of the new Members will be the problem of reconciling national interests with the general interest of Europe in which we, as a member nation, have an important stake. The danger is that the multi-constituency Party behind these new Members will expect from them a display of intransigent hostility to anything which is not what they conceive to be Britain's immediate self-interest. Indeed, the relationships with the other Members of Parliament in the constituency might be more difficult, because they will make their own demands to British Ministers on constituency matters, and expect those demands to be echoed by the Member at Strasbourg. But, the pressure on him, in his political group, will be to seek a consensus with his Party colleagues from the other eight nations.
52 This has already happened. One Member who took a co-operative line on a rather fraught issue with his European political group was accused by a colleague at Westminster from a neighbouring constituency of behaving like a statesman instead of an irreconcilable, last ditch defender of the local interests. That is the type of conflict that will arise.
So, I advocate that we do nothing until the MEPs have had a look at their problems and until they consult us, and then we should act swiftly and as generously as our limited and overworked facilities will allow. I ask your Lordships' to excuse me if I cannot remain much longer to listen to this debate, but I have a committee meeting over which I must preside upstairs.
§ 4.54 p.m.
§ Lord DIPLOCK
My Lords, as my Parliamentary experience has been limited to service in this House as a Law Lord, it does not seem to me that there is anything that I could assist this House on so far as the machinery of co-operation between European Parliament and national Parliaments is concerned. However, it seemed to me that, as a lawyer, it was possible for me to try to foresee the constitutional consequences of direct elections and the shifting in the power structure of the Community institutions which was likely to follow that power structure, at the moment being firmly in the Council, with some possible doubts as to the powers over the budget.
The result of such examination as I have been able to give to this subject leads me to the conclusion that it is imperative to forge new links between the Members of the European Parliament and the Members of the Westminster Parliament. Under the dual mandate when they were Members of both Parliaments, this created an automatic link of a most intimate character. It had also the constitutional consequence that the majority of MEPs were supporters of the Government in power in the member States, reflected the political views of the Ministers who were exercising in Council the legislative powers of the Communities, and had access to those Ministers. That reduces the likelihood of conflicts between Parliament and the Council and assists in the conciliation 53 procedure which has been devised in recent years where there are differences on budgetary matters.
The result of direct elections and the virtual disappearance of the dual mandate will mean—and it is true, as the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, said, that for the time being they will be lacking in experience—that the Members of the European Parliament will have much more time to devote to the business of that body, will have no other power base from which to influence affairs and, because of the five-year period for which they serve, during a considerable proportion of their service they are likely to reflect the political views of the Opposition in the national Parliament instead of the political views of the majority.
It is true that there will be no formal increase in the legal powers and functions of the European Parliament resulting from direct elections. That would require an amendment of the Treaty ratified by all the member States, and it is apparent from what the noble Lord the Leader of the House has said, that there is no likelihood of the present Government at any rate being willing that that course should be adopted. However, to think that the way that the Community institutions operate is determined by the formal legal powers, and to think that by reading the Treaty with a lawyer's eye one has a true impression of what goes on and where power lies, is false. Experience has shown that constitutional conventions—nothing that is written in the Treaty—and sometimes conventions that are contrary to the text of the Treaty, play a major part in the way in which the whole thing works. I mention the Luxembourg Accord, which is quite contrary to the Treaty; the European Council or Summits, which play no part in the Treaty of Rome; and the conciliation procedure itself, for not a word about it is to be found anywhere in the texts.
With the creation of a new type of Member, with more time on his hands and with no other power base, I would predict that those constitutional conventions—which have grown quite rapidly during the last few years—will grow still more rapidly in the future. It is no good adopting the attitude of King Canute or Mrs. Partington, because on the 54 experience of the past one can say with confidence that this is bound to continue and to increase.
What are the fields in which it is most likely to increase? First, one has illustrations of this in the proposals concurrently to extend the control of the Parliament over the Community budget; secondly, and perhaps more importantly, to increase the powers or the practice of the Parliament in initiating and amending legislation proposed—as it will have formally to be—by the Commission.
Control of budget is the classical means by which a Parliament has exercised and gained control of government. Already under the Brussels Treaty of 1975 the Parliament has considerable but very vaguely expressed powers to control the budget or part of the budget. What part of the budget is a matter about which anyone can argue. But it is already clear from what has happened that there is plenty of room for extending control over the expenditure of the Community. Interestingly enough, whereas the classic way by which Parliaments have gained control of Governments has been by refusing supply, it looks likely that in the European Parliament the impulse will be to increase expenditure, regional development funds and the like, rather than to economise. For with their own resources, custom duties, agricultural levies and VAT up to 1 per cent., so their influence over that will, I venture to think, seem so remote to their constituents that increase of taxation will be blamed upon the national Parliament and the national Government, whereas the goodies coming from increased expenditure on regional funds will be attributed to them.
However, more important than that is the extent to which the Parliament is likely to assume the initiative in legislation which is proposed by the Commission to the Council for its consideration. Already, under what is called the "own initiative" procedure, the Parliament recommends to the Commission legislation which it should introduce. With the committee structure of the European Parliament, the additional time and the opportunities that those committees will have to take evidence and to make their own investigations, will enable them to promote legislation, as Members of Parliament such as ours are not able to do. In 55 the proposal of legislation they have the machinery to take the place of the Commission. I venture to think that this "own initiative" procedure is one that will grow. True, the Parliament's function is advisory only, but the Parliament recommends amendments to the Commission and the Commission has power—if it accepts those amendments and puts them to the Council—to change a unanimous decision to a qualified minority decision.
What else will happen? Perhaps most important from the point of view of national Parliaments, being the power base—the only power base from which affairs can be influenced—the tendency will be to extend the field of legislation which is taken over by the Community from the national Parliaments, for which the weapon lies to hand in Article 100 concerning the harmonisation of laws. It is not uninteresting to remember that some of those provisions of harmonisation of laws on environmental matters and matters which seem somewhat remote from the Common Market have come up under the "own initiative" procedure of the Parliament.
In this expansion of the power it is inevitable that the Commission and the Parliament are likely to make common cause. It is in the interest of both to expand the field in which the Community operates in a legislative form. If you get this combination, then—for this is how constitutions in practice work—there will be a significant transfer of power from the Council to the European Parliament and the Commission. I express no view as to whether that is a good thing or a bad thing, but it seems to me, looking at it as a constitutional lawyer, that it is an inevitable thing as soon as the new Parliament has gained the political experience that the Members of the old possess.
With this transfer of power, be it a good thing or be it a bad thing, the influence which national Parliaments can exercise upon Community legislation, which plays an ever-growing part in the control of our activities here, is bound in some degree, and perhaps in a large degree, to diminish. When that happens there will be greater potentialities for misunderstanding and for friction between national Parliaments and the European 56 Parliament, between MEPs and MPs. This possibility, this potentiality, emphasises the need for effective links between MEPs and MPs, between national Parliaments and the European Parliament, for this is essential if misunderstanding and friction are to be avoided.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Lord MURRAY of GRAVESEND
My Lords, unlike my noble friend Lord Ardwick who declared a non-interest, I should like to declare an interest, and would hope to be a candidate in the forthcoming European elections. I should like to welcome this report and to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, and his Committee, and particularly the wide range of witnesses that they obtained to give evidence in front of them. I think it says in paragraph 3 that they were concerned about the lack of public and parliamentary discussion on matters that affect us all, particularly within the European Community. I am sorry that in the list of witnesses the names of the Labour Party and the Conservative Party were not mentioned, because I think that they have, or ought to have, something to say about the relationships between Members of the European Parliament and Members of the Houses at Westminster.
§ Baroness ELLES
My Lords, will the noble Lord allow me to intervene to ask him to clarify what he has said? There are quite a few members of the Conservative Party who gave evidence to the Committee. I am not sure I understand what he said.
§ Lord MURRAY of GRAVESEND
My Lords, what I meant was the Central Office of the Conservative Party and Transport House. I should have liked to have seen both of those organisations on the list of witnesses. There were various groupings of Conservatives, various individual Members, but I think I read it correctly that neither the Conservative Party Central Office nor the Labour Party headquarters at Smith Square gave evidence as Party organisations.
§ Baroness ELLES
My Lords, I am sorry to pursue this. I think the noble Lord will find in one of the footnotes that the evidence given by Mr. Douglas Hurd, a 57 Member of another place, was endorsed by our Party Chairman, Lord Thorney-croft. I think that nobody would then expect Lord Thorneycroft to appear before a Committee when somebody had already said what he also believed.
§ Lord MURRAY of GRAVESEND
My Lords, it has not been unknown for Conservative politicians to repeat each other's words in the same way as Labour politicians, but certainly I did not see them as such. I accept the explanation that the noble Baroness has given.
§ Lord SANDFORD
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord once more? That was not because the headquarters of the Labour Party were not asked to give evidence.
§ Lord MURRAY of GRAVESEND
My Lords, I am saying that they did not give evidence. I regret that the Labour and Conservatives Parties did not give evidence. I am not going to have a great row over that. All I say is that I think they ought to have given evidence, because it is important that the political Parties should be involved in what happens between the Members of the European Parliament and both Houses at Westminster. Since my own group delegation to the European Parliament went to Europe as a group, they have issued two reports. They have been discussed (and this is on the point of paragraph 3) by the Parliamentary Labour Party. On the last occasion we discussed our annual report, and, when we were discussing it, some members of the delegation nearly got killed in the rush—but that was to get out of the room. One of the problems is that people—particularly the national Parties and my own Party—are not discussing these matters.
Another of the problems that we have—and it has been raised here on several occasions during this debate—is that the argument still goes on about our membership of the Community. We are still asking, "To be or not to be?" rather than discussing what we should be doing in 58 Europe, and the role that the British people should play through their representatives in the European Parliament. We have had several noble Lords talking about federalism, and whether the will of the Parliaments will decide that we should take a greater part in a federal Europe. It might not be that this Parliament will so decide. It might be that the will of the people will decide, as it did in the referendum in June 1975. It was not the politicians who decided that. They decided that there should be a referendum, but they did not take the decision as to whether we should stay in or not.
I believe that that 17 million vote was a commitment for our staying in Europe and playing a larger part. It may be that that will be the answer, because the analogy I use is that if you had come out of an air raid shelter in London in 1940—and I was in one—and said to the first person you met, "Within thirty-odd years we shall be in alliance with Germany and Italy, and buying Datsun cars", you might well have been incarcerated in the Tower for treason. Things change. Public opinion changes. It may not be that we shall decide in this House, or that I shall decide. It may be that my children, or my children's children, will decide that they want a closer liaison in federal terms with Europe rather than having just a variety of nations in Europe searching for their own national interest.
I have always been concerned about the dual mandate, and I have dual thoughts on it. It is important in lots of ways that we should have people from Westminster, or, with Parliamentary experience, in the European Parliament. I also think that, apart from the physical problem which that sometimes involves for people—which presents a difficulty—the bigger problem is knowing which should come first. I have seen in Strasbourg and Luxembourg that, when there is a three-line Whip in the other place, unless the Members have some adequate pairing arrangement, the decision is that they come back to Westminster. There are many occasions when it is a vote of confidence, or the Leader of the Opposition or the Government need the votes, so that all pairs are off. In my view that relegates Luxembourg or Strasbourg to second-class citizenship.
There may be some people who say that that is fair enough, and they should not be above the Westminster Parliament.
59 So, on that view, we have to get rid of the dual mandate. If somebody is elected there—and I know the Conservative Party is allowing the dual mandate—you will come back to the same difficulty, except that the difficulty may be strengthened because you may get a situation where you have many Conservative Westminster Members elected to Strasbourg and Luxembourg who are going to have difficulty in finding pairs. There would be no pairing arrangement because there would not be any Westminster MPs from the Labour Party.
§ Baroness ELLES
My Lords, I wonder whether any consideration has been given in the noble Lord's Party to looking at the method of voting in another place? Many other national Parliaments have systems under which people do not have to attend to put their vote, and that would remove a lot of the difficulty.
§ Lord MURRAY of GRAVESEND
My Lords, the Government have enough difficulties at the moment without searching for others in terms of how they arrange their voting system. As an aside, I would say that I disagree with the system where sick people must be dragged in, and we may at some future time, in a quieter political atmosphere, look at the voting system in the other place.
In the new Parliament we shall, in political terms, have many inexperienced people. Certainly for the Conservative Party there are many people throwing their hats in the ring who, while they have had vast experience in other spheres, have had no parliamentary experience. I am not too worried about that and some of my older noble friends may confirm that that was how the 1945 Parliament was constituted; many people came out of the Services and, without even having been on a local council, suddenly found themselves selected as candidates and then elected in a landslide victory. Thus, the lack of experience point does not concern me overmuch.
However, there will be other difficulties. We may find, as I say, many people with vast experience in other areas and they may treat the Strasbourg, Luxembourg or Brussels Parliament—wherever it is located—as a sort of sounding board. As Mr. Mitchell, a Member of the other 60 place, said in his evidence, we may find people like Willy Brandt and Mitterand using the "big national occasion" but not being prepared to do the nuts and bolts of committee work; yet those who have served on the European Parliament will know that we spend much more time on committees doing the donkey work than making grand speeches in the Assembly on, say, national or constituency points.
Another point to bear in mind—the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, touched on this—is the commitment to time and the necessity to travel to Europe week in and week out, and I am not certain everybody is aware of this aspect. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn (who I regret is not in his place), said there were still arguments in the Conservative and Labour Parties about the European commitment. If the noble Lord's Party had as many Members as both of the other national Parties, they would probably find themselves faced with more arguments about Europe and the problem of our membership.
Another problem that Members will find concerns the "base" of the Parliament itself. The European Members are bound to get a great deal of lobbying Where will those who wish to lobby go, and will there be the same sort of atmosphere that we have in the Westminster Parliament for those who wish to lobby? There is an atmosphere in this respect—coming to see one's MP or, in some cases, Members of your Lordships' House—and I fear that difficulty could arise over this. We must solve the problem of how people lobby, write to and otherwise get in touch with their European Parliament Members. Unfortunately, this seems to have been glossed over a little. I hope the Government will be firmer in their action. Even in the report it is said that we were slow in setting up committees or were not as aware as we should have been in the necessary Scrutiny Committees in that it took 16 months after our accession to set anything up.
Members will face many problems. Consider, for example, travelling. Noble Lords may think these are simple issues, but we on the European delegation at present are very well serviced by the European Office in both Houses and by the travel office downstairs. Who will 61 make sure that Members are fully aware of these facilities? These may seem small issues, but if a Member who may have to travel from somewhere in the North or from Scotland or Wales suddenly finds himself in the European Parliament, he will need a great deal of help in the initial stages because he will have political problems as well as those involving travel and all the other arrangements, including hotels, that must be made. It looks as though the British delegation of 81 Members will in Parliamentary terms be the least experienced, and it seems that that delegation will need to spend much of its time dealing with many issues as well as the political aspects.
I am in favour of setting up a Grand Committee. There must be some liaison, even if it means the individual Member meeting once a month or at convenient week-ends with the Members of his seven or eight constituencies because they will have problems too. They will be saying, "We want more money from the Regional Fund for the roads", or, "We want more money fron the Social Fund for particular areas of poverty with which we must deal", and so on. As I say, there must be a base and I should have thought that a base like a Grand Committee would at least be a start.
I am not concerned about what has been said concerning the use of the facilities of this place. In theoretical terms, at least, they have no base here and they have no right here; they are in no way elected to this place. It does not matter to me whether they have research and library facilities here, but I know there will be Members in the other place—possibly even some Members here—who, when they want some research or library work done, will say, "Who elected him?" or "What right does he have in this place?" or, "Why should he get served before I?" Those are the sort of problems we should be considering very carefully and I hope that, after this debate, the Government will give an early opinion on the way in which these matters should be handled, and will not leave it to chance. We must not just see how things work out and say, "It'll be all right on the night". I hope that by 8th June we shall have some idea of the relationship that will exist between the Westminster Parliament and the Parliament at Strasbourg, Luxembourg or wherever it meets.
62 This is a good report because it gives us an opportunity to think more about some of the problems that will be faced by Members of the European Parliament. Those members are going to need a lot of luck and much goodwill from this place. I hope that, as a result of this report, the Government and Opposition will give them that goodwill.
§ 5.27 p.m.
The Earl of BESSBOROUGH
My Lords, I am happy to speak following my colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Gravesend, who I am certain is a most promising aspirant to the European Parliament. I wish him the very best of luck and hope that he will be sitting on those Benches in Strasbourg and Luxembourg with the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, who is quite near to him, and that there will be some representation in a sense from your Lordships' House.
I wish at the outset to repeat what I have said before in these debates, namely that your Lordships' reports on European Community questions are recognised throughout the Community as being the most useful, profound, imaginative and responsible of any of those published by any other House of Parliament in the other eight members States. This 44th Report, for which we are most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, and his colleagues, running with its Volume 2 to 242 pages, is a particularly significant example of the manner in which a Select Committee of this House goes into these problems in depth and consults what I might call a crowd of witnesses. Both volumes should be compulsory reading for any present Member of the European Parliament and for any of those, like Lord Murray, who aspire to be candidates.
I have a comment to make on the submission I made at page 230 of Volume 2, when I said that following direct elections it could be that Members might sit on one committee only instead of two or three as at present. I then thought that, while the length of plenary sessions might be extended after direct elections, perhaps to a fortnight or, say, ten days a month, doubling the number of Members would mean that an individual Member would not have to spend as much time in committee. After considerable reflection, I should like to revise my view 63 since making that submission two years ago. At present, apart from the existing committees which now number 14, as noble Lords opposite know, there is the Bureau of the Parliament as well as other committees concerned with Greece and Turkey. There are also the meetings of the Lomé Convention, the ACP/EP meetings, and there will no doubt be other committees concerned with Spain and Portugal, as well as the various interparliamentary delegations, and of course the political group meetings, which the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, mentioned.
Moreover, if, as seems likely, the Committee on Regional Affairs and Transport is divided into two and energy is detached from research, then after direct elections there might be 20 Parliamentary bodies altogether; and if there are to be 40 Members on each, then each Member might have to sit on two committees, rather than on one only, which I originally suggested in my submission. Both I and my colleague and honourable friend Mr. Scott-Hopkins, who succeeded me as a Vice-President of the Parliament, have had over periods of time to sit on four committees, thus making membership of the Parliament very nearly, if not totally, a whole-time job.
Moreover, the load will also increase if the recommendation in paragraph 58 on page 20 is acceptable. Paragraph 58 states:The Lords Scrutiny Committees could also invite MEPs (whether from the United Kingdom or from other Member States) to attend and give evidence. This might be particularly appropriate in the case of rapporteurs of European Parliament specialist Committees, when a Sub-Committee was preparing a draft report on a draft EEC instrument which was also under study in a Committee of the European Parliament".That would involve attendance at still further committee meetings in this country. Therefore, the load may be considerable for those Members who accept it and who decide that they should play their full part and attend all the committees that they are requested to attend.
An entirely different matter which disturbs me is the point, already made in the debate, that no offices seem to have been allocated in Westminster for Members of European political groups or their staffs. My noble friend Lady Elles 64 mentioned this. I am not clear how this matter is to be handled. If, as I understand from the Statement made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, to this House on 6th December, that it is now to be the responsibility of national Governments, or national exchequers, to pay the salaries of Members of the European Parliament, should not Her Majesty's Government also be responsible for providing offices for research and secretarial assistance? I think that my noble friend Lady Elles agrees with me here; and someone has to undertake this. I should emphasise that if MEPs are to be paid by national exchequers, it appears essential that Westminster should also provide those facilities to make liaison between the Parliaments—which is the whole object of the report—workable. I should be grateful if the Government would give their views on this point.
In so far as your Lordships' Select Committee is concerned, I am particularly attracted by the method of co-option to specialised sub-committees. It is this system which has resulted in the excellence and the comprehensiveness of your Lordships' Reports. I do not know whether or when it will be possible, but if one joint Select Committee of both Houses is established, I hope that it might create working parties or sub-committees, as has been done by your Lordships.
I agree very strongly with what my honourable friends Mr. Scott-Hopkins and Mr. Douglas Hurd have said in their evidence to the committee, and I note that, as my noble friend Lady Elles has already stated, Mr. Hurd's evidence was endorsed by the chairman of our Party, my noble friend Lord Thorneycroft. I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Diplock—who I am glad to see is back in the Chamber—that we must forge new links. However, first of all, I am not very enamoured of the term "Grand" Committee. I do not think that Grand Committees have in fact proved very successful, and I am not sure that the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, did not slightly indicate this view in his introductory remarks. As I believe I have already indicated, I should prefer to think in terms of a joint select committee, or a joint committee of both Houses, with the kind of working parties I have mentioned, which might conceivably correspond, more or less, with the probable 65 20 or so specialised committees in the European Parliament. I like Mr. Hurd's ideas about having meetings of such a European Communities Committee both in Westminster and wherever the European Parliament or its committees might happen to be sitting at any given moment. At any rate, as I say at the end of the penultimate paragraph of my submission on page 231, I should like to see get-togethers arranged, perhaps fairly informally, on the basis of a possibly open-ended House of Lords/ House of Commons/European Parliament Committee.
Furthermore, as I also say in my submission, it might be useful to establish an informal system of what one might call "pairing" of Members of similar Parties in the two Parliaments—or, as I actually describe it in my submission, "twinning", because the term "pairing" might be misinterpreted—so that Members of the directly elected European Parliament might be invited by the chairman, or chairmen, of the relevant Sub-Committees of this House, or of the Scrutiny Committee in the Commons, to establish a fairly regular reporting back relationship with the Sub-Committee or Sub-Committees concerned with the corresponding sectoral activities.
I like the idea that the overall committee should be more "select" than "grand", and that it should meet, as suggested, perhaps three times a year, but that the working groups or sub-committees would sit more or less frequently on an ad hoc basis as necessary, according to the volume of Commission proposals which come forward for consideration on matters relevant to each sub-committee's terms of reference.
I also wonder, contrary to the conclusion of the 44th Report—and I think that this is the only point on which I differ from the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood—whether voting in the overall committee might not sometimes be desirable. We certainly find it necessary in the European Parliament's committees.
There is one particular comment I should like to make on paragraph 61 in Part VIII of the opinions and recommendations. If a modest secretariat is charged with the task of providing liaison between the two Houses in Westminster and their Scrutiny Committees, and the European Parliament, I should certainly agree that 66 this secretariat could well assist in providing MEPs with briefs on EEC proposals from governmental departmental sources. However, I should not think it appropriate—and I think that my noble friends on this side might agree on this—for that secretariat also to provide briefs from political Party or independent sources. I believe that this should definitely be done by the secretariats of the political groups in the European Parliament, or indeed the research departments of national Parties. I agree very strongly with the conclusion in paragraph 59, that:Members of the Scrutiny Committee or Sub-Committees (or the Scrutiny Committees of the two Houses meeting concurrently if both Committees so desired) should be prepared, if invited, to take part in European Parliament Committee meetings in Brussels or elsewhere, whether as observers or to give formal or informal evidence, or to attend formal joint sittings …as was proposed to the Committee by President Georges Spénale. That, I think, is an excellent idea which I hope the Government might follow up.
There is another point I should like to emphasise. I do not think it is desirable that the Grand Committee or the Select Committee, whatever it is, should have the kind of powers that the Danish Market Relations Committee has. These are described on page 28 of the report. This gives no latitude to Members of the European Parliament, and even less to members of the Danish Government, since it means that members of the Government and some Members of Parliament are not able to take up a position on any given Commission proposal without the authority to do so from the Committee or their Government at home. This, I think, is an impossible position in which to put a Minister, or, indeed, a Member of the European Parliament.
In concluding on this topic, I would none the less stress perhaps the impracticability of laying down in advance detailed provision for liaison. As the noble Lord the Leader of the House said, the arrangements may well have to be informal, certainly at the outset. I think arrangements will grow out of the new circumstances and will grow, quite possibly, on the lines—I hope so—I have adumbrated. In general, after over six years as an MEP, and seeing what is going on now in Luxembourg in preparation for meetings of the new Parliament, I doubt whether there will be great changes in 67 Parliament's methods of work and procedures after direct elections. However, the fact that, as far as the United Kingdom is concerned, there will clearly be very few dual mandates makes the suggestions in the report highly relevant, but considerably less relevant in countries where a considerable number of Members will continue to hold such dual mandates. In Denmark, for example, all will in fact do so, in contradistinction to the Labour Party in this country. In those cases liaison is bound to be automatically closer, and the sort of arrangements that we are outlining may not be necessary.
Then, finally, I should like to draw your Lordships' attention—I think all your Lordships should read this—to a first-class article by Mr. Robert Jackson, who worked for my noble friend Lord Soames in Brussels. This article is contained in the January/February edition of Europe, which is the magazine of the European Community but which is published in the United States. In this article Mr. Robert Jackson discusses the two schools of thought: one, that the directly elected Parliament will be an anachronism inasmuch as it is bound to lack real powers while there are national governmental vetoes on their expansion; the other, that direct elections will be a major step forward to European union, whether of the federal or some other new type. My own comment on this excellent piece of work is that possibly both schools may prove to be partially true. However, my guess is that, while the Council of Ministers have the final say, at least two major Governments will not agree for some years on any appreciable increase in Parliament's present minimal powers. The Leader of the House certainly seemed to confirm this.
Moreover, while Parliament continues to meet in Strasbourg and Luxembourg, MEPs will continue to feel somewhat remote from the principal seats of power, which lie in the capitals of the Nine, where the major final decisions are effectively made. I do not doubt that the European Parliament powers over the budget may increase, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Diplock, has indicated—and I was most interested to listen to the whole passage in his speech on the possibilities of the transfer of power. Yes, I think that the powers over 68 the budget may increase; and I should like to mention here, perhaps, the existence of the fairly newly-created court of auditors, which is in continual consultation with the Budget Committee of the European Parliament. I think they have an important role to play post facto. But I think that Select Committees, such as your Lordships', will continue to have a very important role to play in discussing these matters with British Ministers and their officials and other interested parties in this country.
Therefore, I should again like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, and his colleagues, and the services, on the excellence and usefulness of this report. Either tonight or at crack of dawn tomorrow morning I shall be flying over to the Budget Committee in Brussels, when I shall see whether we can indeed begin to increase our powers!
§ Baroness PHILLIPS
My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, may I ask him whether he would not agree that, while it is admirable to talk about liaison at this time, we have no liaison at the moment between the two Houses of Parliament other than that which we gain through our political Parties or by any informal means? Those of us who have not been fortunate enough to sit in the Commons are not even allowed to buy a meal in the Commons' Dining Room, or indeed to use the facilities of their Library. So it seems to me that, before we get close liaison with the European representatives, with which I would wholly agree, we have a lot to do to put both our Houses in order so that we have some liaison with one another and, indeed, with the Press.
The Earl of BESSBOROUGH
My Lords, I think the noble Baroness makes a very good point. I would agree with her; but I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, in his report, is resolving some of these problems, and I think they will be resolved in an informal manner. I hope there will not be too many delays in creating the sort of informal machinery which is suggested; but I think we are going to do it, even if it is not altogether satisfactory at the moment—except, perhaps, in your Lordships' House, where I think it has been satisfactory, with the noble Lord, Lord 69 Kennet, behind the noble Baroness, who comes back and attends the Select Committee here, as your humble servant also does from time to time. There is some sort of liaison here, but perhaps it is not quite as good as it should be with another place.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ Lord WALSTON
My Lords, I have listened to all the speeches that we have had this afternoon, and with the majority of what has been said by most speakers I find myself in complete agreement. With some points in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, I disagree, and I shall come to them in a moment. But I must say (and I am sorry that he has had to leave the Chamber) that I was profoundly disappointed by the speech of my noble friend the Leader of the House. I hope I misunderstood him, and, if I did, I hope that my noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts will correct me.
I had hoped that my noble friend would have said in general terms: "We like this report; we think the general tenor of it is correct. We shall study it; we shall listen to the views expressed today and the views expressed in due time in another place, and, as Her Majesty's Government, we shall make our proposals in the light of all those things". But as I understood it he did not say that. He said, in effect: "We are not going to do anything; it is not for us to do anything. We must wait and see who is in fact selected and who is in fact elected to be members of the European Parliament, and after they have gone out to Luxembourg and Strasbourg, and after they have decided what sort of connection and contact they would like with us, we will then discuss it with them and we shall then see what we are going to do." I do not believe that that is good enough. I believe that this is a recipe for disaster.
The noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, quite rightly said that the majority of the new Members of the European Parliament will never have been there before; they will have to learn, as he said, the language, the English language; they will have to learn the methods, the ways, of reacting and of acting; they will have to learn also, because a very large number of them will never have been Members of Parliament at Westminster either, the techniques of 70 keeping in touch with their own huge constituencies. They are going to have an extremely busy, time-consuming and engrossing time. They will be elected at the beginning of June, they will take their seats towards the end of June. Towards the end of July, the European Parliament adjourns for the Summer Recess and they will reassemble at the end of September. They will then have their several months of playing themselves in. Possibly in about one year from now, possibly next Easter, they will have got some idea, if they work quickly and really give their minds to it.
Then they may—and I underline "may"—come back to Westminster and say to both Houses, to the Government: "This is what we would like. We would like such and such." Then the Government will discuss it and think about it, there will be debates in both Houses and it will drag on and on; and, at the very earliest, it will be 18 months before there is any form of contact or liaison between the European Members of Parliament and ourselves.
That is not good enough because by that time they will have got into their own ways. Will they want any liaison with us? This is the second point that we must bear in mind. We sit here, somewhat smugly—the Mother of Parliaments, the great Westminster, the legislative body of the United Kingdom. Of course, everybody wants to have contact with us, of course, they all want to have the privilege of listening to our debates, of coming to our committees and of rubbing shoulders with the great and the good in both Chambers. But is that going to be the fact? Is that what these people are going to do—these very busy people starting on an exciting new job, learning the job, getting engrossed in all the interests of the committees in Brussels, of the manoeuvrings there, of the ways of influencing the Commission and its officials, of the journeyings to the Lomé countries, to Turkey, to the new member countries, to Greece, going over to talk to important people in Washington? It is a very busy life, as those who have been Members of the European Parliament, even in the earlier days, will know.
When they come back they will have the half-million people (or whatever number it is) of their constituencies with whom 71 they will have to keep in contact; they will have their local trade union organisation, their local CBI, their teachers, pressure groups and interests, all anxious to see them. Will they really want to come and talk to us? Will they really be bothered at that time? I do not believe that they will unless we hold out our hands to them and say; "Please, we want you. It is important for us doing our job here that you should be close to us and that we should keep contact".
Somebody said—I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn—that it is not inevitable that there would be conflicts between the European Parliament Members and the Members at Westminster. No, it is not inevitable. But there are the seeds of conflict between us. There will always be the struggle for power. Each Parliament, the European Parliament and Westminster, the national Parliament, trying to retain their power or increase their power. That is a recipe for some conflict, some misunderstanding. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Diplock, reminded us, it will frequently happen that the majority of the Members of the European Parliament will belong to the Party which is not in power in Westminster. That, too, is a seed for conflict. Unless we take steps now, we shall never be able to prevent those seeds burgeoning into full plants. But if we take steps now, if, as soon as they are elected, we say to them: "This is what we would like you to do; this is what we invite you to do. Let us discuss it now. These are our proposals "—then, I believe, we can avoid all these conflicts.
I am not suggesting that we should here and now lay down what should be done and in what form the contacts should be, although I believe that this report of the Committee so ably chaired by my noble friend Lord Greenwood, puts forward some realistic proposals with which I am in virtually complete agreement. But they are only proposals, they are only suggestions. If, for instance, the European Members of Parliament do not like the idea of becoming Members of a Joint Grand Committee, they have only to say so. But far better for us to say: "This is what we propose"; for the Government to say: "This is what we endorse; this is what we offer you. If you do not like it, do not take it up.
72 If you would like it modified, then let us talk about it and we will see what we can do."—rather than to take this attitude, which appears to be the attitude of my noble friend the Leader of the House, that we can do nothing; that we must sit and wait. Let us see who they are; let them come to us, let them ask what they wish for; and we shall see how much of it we shall offer them. That cannot be right.
My Lords, I need say no more. I hope that I have made my point. With the rest of the report I am in complete agreement and I very much hope that my noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts, when he comes to reply, will show that I have misunderstood what I take to be the attitude of the Government, and that, after due consultation, after listening to all the arguments, of course there will be positive proposals coming from Her Majesty's Government so that at the very moment that the European Members of Parliament are elected they will be told what is is that Westminster will offer them. In that way, we can get the contact, the liaison, the understanding and the cooperation which is absolutely essential if this new venture is to succeed.
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ Baroness SEEAR
My Lords, may I first apologise in that when I have finished speaking I shall have to leave the Chamber for nearly an hour to attend a committee. I should have been there an hour ago. When I explain that it is a committee to do with electoral reform, your Lordships may understand that I am anxious not to be absent from it. Listening to this afternoon's debate, the keynote running through many, though not all, of the speeches was a policy of "wait and see." Of course, a policy of "wait and see" has a highly respectable parentage but, at the same time, it can be interpreted in two different ways, It may mean nothing more than a policy of drift; it may mean a policy of sponsoring organic development, watching that development carefully and shaping event sand institutions as the development grows. If it is in the latter sense that the policy of "wait and see" is being advocated in this House today, then I should be much in favour of it.
But like the noble Lord, Lord Walston, I detected, certainly in the speech of the 73 noble Lord the Leader of the House, much more a policy of drift, a policy in which the Mother of Parliaments appeared to be behaving much more in the character of a step-mother or a mother-in-law than in the character of the traditional mother. That does not seem to me to be an appropriate way in which to approach the very important institutional and parliamentary development which is going on this year.
For my part it seems to me that it is of the greatest importance that we should work out clearly—not rigidly, but clearly and determinedly—the kind of relationship that needs to be established between Westminster and the Parliament of Europe, and the kind of institutions which we need to forge in order that that relationship can be of the best possible order. There are, it seems to me, two reasons why that relationship and those institutions are important both to Westminster and for the development of the kind of Europe that we wish to see. Whether we belong to the group that wishes that Europe to be a union de patrie, as I believe many Members in your Lordships' House on both sides quite understandably do wish, or whether, with those on the Benches here, we are wishing to move towards something more in the nature of European Union—and I use that phrase deliberately rather than a federation—something which is not altogether fully understood but we know the direction in which we wish to go, the development of institutions to connect the Parliament of Westminster with the Parliament of Europe is surely of the greatest importance. First, the work of the Scrutiny Committees—of which I have the honour to be a Member—as many people have said this afternoon in your Lordships' House, will continue to be even more important with the developments in Europe than they have been before.
But it is no disrespect to the Scrutiny Committees, and to the work that they do, to say that those of us who take part in them must be aware that they are far from perfect at the present time, and that we in the Scrutiny Committees operate under very considerable handicaps. For my part, I am often conscious of a feeling that I am working in a vacuum, that I do not know the context adequately in which discussions we undertake are being carried on. We have documents sent to us but we do not know the discussions 74 which lie behind those documents. We do not know what other very important interested parties are thinking and saying about them, and all too often we do not know what happens to the documents after they have left us.
This is surely working in a vacuum, and that cannot be a satisfactory way to work. To the extent that the European Parliament grows in influence if not in power—and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Diplock, has suggested in a way highly persuasive that it will grow in power as well as in influence, even though the changes in the Treaty will be fairly slow to come—it is increasingly important that the Scrutiny Committees should not act in a vacuum. They should know what is going on and understand the thinking of the people in Europe, the European Parliament and the Commission who are responsible for the genesis of the documents, for their subsequent development and final implementation.
We need to have close contact with the members in the European Parliament so that they can give us this much needed dimension of European thinking and European discussion about the papers which come before us. In our own immediate and short-term interests we need institutions which will draw us closer together. But the second reason is the reason which was put so powerfully by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Diplock. Up to that point, I had begun to feel that what I had intended to say this afternoon might be the voice of one crying in the wilderness. I am enormously encouraged by having heard the noble and learned Lord make the speech that he did, for it surely is true that there is potential conflict. In the 44th Report which we are discussing today, it is quoted that one of the objectives is to be to see that there is no conflict. We are surely fooling ourselves if we believe that there will be no conflict. Of course, there will be many areas of agreement; but conflict is built in to the very existence of a European Parliament, whether its powers extend greatly or whether they do not.
Let us think of one or two of the ways in which that conflict is very likely to develop. In the first place, it does not appear to be fully accepted but it surely is true that although the elected Members are certainly elected to represent their 75 constituents, they are not representing the United Kingdom. They are representing their constituents and they will be Members—certainly in the case of the Party to which I belong, perhaps on the rather optimistic assumption that some of us will be in Strasbourg to take part there—organised on a European basis. I know it is not the good fortune of all members of all Parties in this country to be able to say that, but surely that will develop. My Party is organised on a European basis and those elected Members representing their constituents will be working as Members of a European Party.
They will not be there as representatives of the United Kingdom pushing a United Kingdom point of view. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Diplock, and other noble Lords have said, it is almost certain that in a five-year period members in Strasbourg will be of a different political persuasion from the Government in this country, whichever Party or Parties are in power in Westminster. There again are the seeds of conflict. It may even be that if after the first round the United Kingdom is persuaded that not everybody is out of step except themselves, and that they resort to a position of proportional representation for the election of members to the European Parliament, people in the European Parliament will in fact be more representative of the people of the United Kingdom than will the people of Westminster still elected on a first-past-the-post basis. That being so, conflict is well and truly built into the relations between the Parliament in Strasbourg and the Parliament in Westminster.
As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Diplock, said, surely we must assume that elected representatives, with all the strength of voters behind them in this country, are going to sit down and quietly accept the very limited role which has been allowed to the existing members of a nominated Parliament in Strasbourg. They will find a variety of ways in which to extend their influence and their power and it is very likely that in conjunction with the Commission this will bring the elected representatives into conflict with the Council of Ministers, for the Council of Ministers will continue surely to represent Westminster and national interests.
76 The clash between national interests and European interests will be focussed on the relations between the Commission of the Parliament on the one hand and the Council of Ministers on the other. If we want to avoid unnecessary conflict—for some conflict is inevitable—then we need well-organised institutions so that the representatives of Westminster and Strasbourg can come together and sort out their differences so far as it is possible to do so and at least to understand and know what those differences are about. No doubt many conflicts can in that way be averted. Some will not be averted but at least it is surely better that they should have been threshed out in formal discussion, in well-organised institutions, than that they should emerge unexpected, the cause unknown. My Lords, let us not delay; let us begin now. With the elections coming in five months' time, it is by no means too soon to start. Let us lay the foundations of the institutions that we are so certainly going to need. Let us make them flexible, but let us make them strong.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Lord KENNET
My Lords, the directly elected Members of the European Assembly are going to be, there is no question about it, that constitutionally, philosophically and socially tremendous creature, the directly elected representatives of the people. At the moment there is only one such class of persons in this country, and those persons the Members of the House of Commons, who are directly elected by the whole people and not merely by a district or county. They are now going to be joined by a second class of persons directly elected by the whole people. When we think of them in that light they are obviously of the utmost importance and worthy of everything that can possibly be done for them by the State.
Then we have to say: "But elected for what purpose?" The people elected as representatives, historically and in practice, I think, have two main purposes: first, to make laws and secondly, to shape and control public expenditure. The MEPs are not going to make the laws and they are only going to shape and control 2 per cent. of public expenditure. Let us not get this thing out of proportion, my Lords: the Community budget is 77 2 per cent. or less of public spending in the Community as a whole. So what these people are going to be sent out there to do on our behalf in this country is to take hold of 2 per cent. of all our public expenditure and to shape and control it according to different criteria from those used in any national Legislature; namely, as part of a European whole.
What then would be the expedient relations between them and us?—"us" meaning Members of both Houses of this Parliament. I find myself somewhere between my noble friends Lord Walston and the Leader of the House. I think the noble Lord the Leader of the House is absolutely right, both in form and in substance, in saying that we must not face these new people with a fait accompli and say, "This is what is going to be done for you. Kindly fit into this shape and behave yourselves according to the rules which we hereby propose to you." On the other hand, I think it would be a mistake to do absolutely nothing and wait until they come to us in Westminster and ask us for something.
Although it is true we must not bounce them into anything—indeed, we cannot bounce them into anything; it is only they who will settle what they want—yet it is perfectly certain that they will want certain things. Those are the practical, administrative and down-to-earth things. They are bound to want rooms and telephones somewhere, and it would be eccentric to have them anywhere except very close to this building. They are bound to want help with their fares and hotels—a great deal of help in point of fact. Every hotel in Strasbourg for some four months now has been booked out for the first session of the directly elected Parliament. I do not know whether anybody has thought of a block booking for our Members; I doubt it. They will certainly want an easy flow of papers and certainly they will want access to Ministers. I think it is easy to see that they will very likely want, if not a Grand Committee arrangement with sub-committees, at least something like it. I draw a distinction there. I think that is only likely, but the other things I regard as virtually certain.
So I agree with those who have said it would be rash for the Government not to be preparing, if necessary quite quietly and unobtrusively, some practical arrange- 78 ments which they could quite quietly and unobtrusively offer to the directly-elected Members of the European Assembly when they exist. It would, of course, only be an offer in the form of saying: "Here is the sort of thing we could supply you with if you wanted it. Take your time and, according to procedures which you will settle for yourselves, discuss the matter and let us know". I think to do less than that would be unwise. It would be unwise because there are so many ways—are there not?—in which Members of the national Parliament and Members of the new European Assembly could get across to each other. There would be the tendency—stronger, I think, in this Party than in the Opposition Party—to say, "We have sent these exotic and questionable characters off to their doom. Now let us forget about them, and the less we hear about them from now on the better".
There may be a tendency among the directly elected Members to fall into the way of life which my noble friend Lord Walston described so aptly—they will be dashing off to Turkey and to Washington. They will be meeting the Secretary of State, the President of the Organisation of African Unity, and so on. They may get to feel that they are tremendously important and they may fizz around in a sort of jet-set champagne cocktail frame of mind, preening themselves and entirely losing touch with their own electorate. They will not have to pay for it for five year, because, let us not forget, it is a set term. From both points of view, then, it would be expedient for it to be made easy for them to remain in touch so that a kind of surly rancour—a kind of: "if you want me, come and get me"—does not grow up on both sides, as it so easily might.
I am glad to have derived from the speech of the noble Lord the Leader of the House the impression that the Government are at least not determined to sit on their hands and do absolutely nothing at all from now until June, until they are asked or not asked by the new Members. To repeat myself, I hope that quiet preparations, which may or may not be accepted by those new Members, will be going on between now and then.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Lord SANDFORD
My Lords, it is such a strong convention to start by 79 congratulating the authors of a report that it is difficult to remember not to do so when one is one of the authors! Nevertheless, I think it is a good report. The point I would stress is that it is tentative in the proposals it makes but not as tentative as Her Majesty's Government seem to be. I am glad that the noble Lord the Leader of the House has just returned, because we are in a very quaint situation where the Government are saying that it is not sensible to make any preparations for European Members of Parliament until they have been elected, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, said, they are prepared to spend about £3 million of our money building an Advance Assembly in Edinburgh—when not only have the members not been elected but we have not yet had the referendum which will confirm whether there is to be an Assembly at all. I find that, to say the least of it, inconsistent.
However, I should like to start with the Grand Committee, stressing once again that it is a tentative suggestion but one that seemed to find favour among those who gave evidence; and not stressing so much the "grand" element of the Grand Committee as putting special emphasis on an integral part of it; namely, the little bureau or secretariat or steering group, as it is variously described, which operates within it. I think it is that which, if it is well developed, can play the biggest part in bringing about fruitful and complementary relationships between the two Parliaments and the Members who make up the three Assemblies.
The grand occasions of the Grand Committee, the plenary sessions, will probably have a role to play, particularly if we do not have too many of them. Nevertheless, I share the scepticism expressed about that aspect. In contrast, I pin very strong hopes on the small steering group, the bureau. I should like to call it the "bridging bureau" because I think that its main job will be to bridge the gaps and conflicts between the various Assemblies. I think probably the nearest equivalent we have here in Westminster are our "usual channels" in both Houses. Anybody who has been a Member of either House for any length of time will easily realise how vital a part they play.
It seems to me this small group, secretariat or bureau which is recom- 80 mended in our report cannot have an independent existence of its own. At the present moment it exists by virtue of the fact that it is serving Members of this House or of the other place, but in the future it must derive fresh authority from someone. It must have a formal official framework in which to operate, and that is the Grand Committee. The Grand Committee provides that framework and, in my view, that is almost its most significant role.
May I now turn for a moment to the role which I see being played by this new bureau? It is that of building and maintaining bridges between the Westminster and European Parliaments. Almost every speaker has stressed the importance of that. In sum, it is to help to preserve for us as much of the benefits of the dual mandate as is practical, after the direct elections. These benefits, I should like to suggest to your Lordships, have largely been taken for granted so far, because they have arisen naturally from each European Member of Parliament also being a national Member of Parliament, and this convenient arrangement will, as my noble friend Lord Bessborough has said, be continued in a very considerable degree in most other assemblies among the Member nations that make up the Community.
Their MPs, for the most part, have the time and the financial resources to take it all in their stride. Members of the Commons, on the other hand, spend so much of their time in debate—three times as much as the average for the rest of the Community—that the dual mandate for them is, I think rightly by both Parties, considered to be generally impracticable. I think that I should correct the impression which the noble Lord, Lord Murray, may have left, that the dual mandate is being allowed by my own Party. In fact, it is being strongly discouraged. We shall soon see whether the European selection committees agree, but I believe that they do.
But, clearly, we must arrange matters here in this country, so as not to be too greatly disadvantaged by having greater difficulties, which we do have, than the other countries of the EEC, in maintaining good and easy relationships between the Parliaments by means of the dual mandate, because that is, in respect of the Commons, 81 closed to us, though not in respect of the Lords. Fortunately, as Annex B of our report shows, Members of the Lords keep roughly similar hours to Members of other European Assemblies and, with the extra advantage of not having a Westminster constituency to look after, we perhaps have the possibility of some of us exercising this dual mandate. So that one role of increased importance for this so-called bridging bureau is the one already provided by the staff of our two Westminster Houses of Parliament, of servicing Members of the European Parliament. That is the role described in our report at paragraphs 61 and 62. But there are other roles, and I should like just to run through them.
The second role is to contribute to the quality of legislative scrutiny and European policy review by each of the Westminster Houses of Parliament Scrutiny Committees—a point that has already been mentioned by several noble Lords—and to do that particularly by facilitating contributions from European MPs, which need not be in person, or participation by European MPs in the work of the Scrutiny Committees and Sub-Committees. That is covered in paragraph 58.
The third role is to help to contribute to the European Parliamentary Committees by facilitating, or arranging, the occasional involvement of Members of the Westminster Scrutiny Committees in their deliberations. That is covered in paragraph 59. The fourth role for this bureau is to facilitate and sustain links between, on the one hand, both Westminster and European MPs, and, on the other, British groups with special interests in draft or current European legislation. That is not something that is mentioned in our report, but I was very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, mentioned it, because there is another commitment to be met there. There are a whole lot of British groups with special interests in European legislation, who do not naturally develop, or have not yet so far developed, their proper links with European legislation and it is our job to help them in that.
Fifthly, there is the role of facilitating links for European MPs with the British Parliamentary Press Lobby, and for Westminster MPs with European Press agencies. I know that, more than once, 82 the Select Committee and one of the sub-committees with which I am concerned, has had occasion to invite the Press to come and see us. But it is clear that the Press representatives in Brussels are not sufficiently briefed and au fait with Parliamentary procedure to pick up points with the accuracy of the Lobby here at Westminster, and that aspect needs to be developed.
Sixthly, this bureau has a role to play in facilitating links between European MPs and Ministers and Government Departments—a point that has already been mentioned—and in arranging exchanges of papers, correspondence, meetings, interviews et cetera.We cover that in paragraphs 65 and 66. Lastly—and not, in my view, so important, but nevertheless it has to be done—the bureau has the role of proposing and preparing the business for the plenary sessions of the Grand Committee.
This bridging bureau, with the roles that I have described—most of which are in the report, but I have suggested a few others—would, as my noble friend Lord Bessborough suggested, combine the role of providing services in Westminster and Whitehall for European MPs, with that of providing links or bridges between Westminster and European Parliamentarians. It would have an extremely complex task to perform and, to guide it, would require very skilled statesmanship from the leaders of the European delegation and from the chairmen of the Scrutiny Committees in each of our Houses. Some will say that that is too complex a task; it is too involved.
Certainly, there is a simpler way; that is, that the European Commission and the European Parliament together, or together and with the help of the Property Services Agency on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, eventually seek to provide all the services which they judge their European MPs need in the general area of Whitehall and Westminster, and go ahead in making appropriate provision in the general Whitehall-Westminster area, wherever they can buy or rent the floor space that they need. In doing that, they will leave the Westminster-European links to take care of themselves. I understand—and the noble Lord the Leader of the House has just confirmed it in his remarks—that inquiries 83 from Europe along these lines have already been made for space for the European MPs here in this Westminster-Whitehall area; space which would also accommodate the offices of the European Commission and the European Parliament, which are at present so inconveniently placed in Kensington.
I suggest that to step out along that route would be easy and the obvious thing to do, but I believe that it would be fatal. I suggest that that would be a fatal step for the future relationships between the two Parliaments. It would do everything that was needed to accommodate and provide services for the European Members of Parliament. But it would do nothing to resolve the delicate and intricate pattern of relationships that need to be built up between Westminster and Europe and would in itself, make the future resolution of those intricate problems more difficult, if not impossible.
The 81 European MPs being elected next June will, of course, need proper services and accommodation in Whitehall. They will need it urgently and this must somehow be provided somewhere, at some time. But the prior, and much the most important, issue is to decide how best to maintain the present servicing of the delegation, now being provided by the small secretariat and office in Bridge Street, and also how to maintain the good links between the two Parliaments, which happen naturally and are therefore taken for granted, as a result of the dual mandate. My hope—and that of my noble friend Lady Elles, because she has already expressed it—is that pro tem these roles could be continued from the tiny office at Bridge Street, until something better, or, at least, something as conveniently integrated with the Palace of Westminster, can be found.
The longer term matter is to decide on a proper, permanent home in Westminster and Whitehall for the 81 European MPs and, if necessary, for the European Commission Office, the European Parliamentary Office and the bureau of the Grand Committee that I have been describing, that services them all and links them to Westminster. Clearly, this bid for space in this important area cannot be met at the expense of Westminster Members of the Commons, who are already short enough 84 of space, and to try to snatch some from them would, certainly, very effectively, sour relationships between the two Parliaments. But it certainly ought to be provided as close as possible, if not adjacent to accommodation and services used by Westminster MPs. In that way, the social, personal and all the other links between the two groups of MPs representing the same electorate can develop easily and fruitfully as the years go by. If our report does anything to make that possible, I think it will have served the country well.
§ 6.30 p.m.
Lord PAGET or NORTHAMPTON
My Lords, first may I join the many other noble Lords who have spoken in expressing my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, for his report and for the admirable way in which he presented it.
I should like to say something as to the nature of European organisations. They are international. That is, they are made up of sovereign nations. They are treaty organisations—organisations arising out of treaties come to by sovereign nations. We have a defence community with a command structure under Ministerial control. We have the Economic Community, run by the Council of Ministers and by the Commission, who are civil servants—servants of the Council of Ministers. Parliament has no place in that kind of organisation. Treaty organisations cannot have Parliaments to take their decisions for them. Parliament is a quite inappropriate decision-making organisation within a treaty organisation.
Democracy does not have a place here. European organisations are made up of Governments, not individuals. Individuals make up the Governments, but Governments make up the European organisations. Democracy, however, is such a fashionable word today that somehow it has to be dragged in. It seems to me that the Assembly was brought in with that kind of idea. I have never regarded its function as other than cosmetic. It does not legislate and it cannot legislate. It does not control funds. It does not control members. It does nothing except talk.
Lord PAGET of NORTHAMPTON
It has no powers, my Lords, and it is not going to be given any powers. If it were to be given powers, it would require the agreement of nine member Governments and Parliaments, and that is not going to happen.
If I may turn to the, as always, most interesting speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Diplock, there is no noble Lord with whom I disagree with greater hesitation. However, I do disagree with the noble and learned Lord on this occasion when he says that powers will grow of themselves. The noble and learned Lord agrees that those powers will not be given to the Parliament but he says that they will grow from it. I agree with him that this is something which can happen. When decisions are required to be taken and people require those decisions, then ways and means of taking the decision grow up and are respected. But nobody requires decision from the Parliament of Europe. All the decision-making organisations exist already. They exist here in Westminster for us. At Brussels they exist within the Commission and within the Council. Neither of those organisations is going to surrender those decision-making powers to some other body. They think that they are perfectly capable of making them and that they are the appropriate bodies to make them. This is a body of Governments: the Ministers of the Governments form the Council and their appointees are the Commission. There is no room for a Parliament, so no decision-making power will emerge from it.
There are certain other points on which I do not find myself in disagreement with the report. The report says that when the members of the Assembly are elected they will have more influence and more authority. I believe that to be precisely the opposite of the truth. I have been a Member of this Assembly. I think that we were influential, but we were influential solely because we were Members of Parliament. We had a Parliament to come back to. There we could create trouble; we could make our voice heard; we could be effective; but we could be effective only because we were Members of Parliament. I was vice-chairman of the Legal and Judicial Group. In that capacity, I think I did quite a lot to enable noble Lords to take their cars abroad when they go touring without 86 having to obtain a tryptique, which some noble Lords may remember from the old days. That was simply because I could go to the Ministries here; I had the ability to put pressure on the Treasury and get it through. Again, I was concerned with various things with regard to Iceland, over the fisheries, and with regard to Turkey, over Cyprus. Again, anything we could do was entirely dependent upon the fact that it was MP talking to MP. And now we are going to be elected.
The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, said that Governments will pay more attention to elected members. I think that is totally opposite to the truth. If they are concerned with the elected Members, they are concerned with the nine or ten Members from that constituency who are elected in their Parliament and are there to ask them questions and there to put pressure on them, not with the one who perhaps has got the 10 per cent. of the electorate—and I doubt whether it is more—who take the trouble to turn out in a European election. My view is that the effect of making this an elected Chamber will be to remove the influence and the effectiveness that it once had.
Another suggestion with which I do not agree concerns the Grand Committee. Here you have a body which cannot decide anything, which cannot do anything, which cannot even pass a Resolution or vote on what it decides. If I succeed in getting elected to this Assembly and we have this Grand Committee, I can only say that I hope it will meet on non-hunting days because, so far as I am concerned, it will have a very low priority in terms of my attendance.
Another thing which rather horrifies me in this report is the suggestion that this European Parliament should provide a career structure so that people could aspire to be recruited from it to the Civil Service, for that is what the Commission is. I should regard that as quite appalling. If a Parliament has any right at all, it is because it is a Parliament of the people and sits on civil servants and stops bureaucracy from becoming intolerable. To have a Parliament whose ambition is to join the bureaucracy seems to me to be odd. I enjoyed my period as a Member at Strasbourg. It was a very pleasant visit and sometimes I thought that I was 87 perhaps mildly justifying my expenses, but it never occurred to me that it was something which I ought to be paid for. Now we are going to have not only full-time Members but pretty lavishly paid Members, which is new. It seems to me that this is going to be a perfect laboratory in which to examine the workings of Parkinson's Law. You have the people, the labour; you have the money, you have the mounting expenses which can be drawn and everybody will be inventing work to fill the necessary time and, above all, to spend the available money. I believe that this will become an ever more expensive nonsense.
Now, as to a few practical suggestions, I gather that no pay has yet been settled for the members of this organisation. I would suggest that the appropriate salary is that paid to your Lordships—nil. I believe that we do far more useful and responsible work here than any member of the European Parliament is likely to do. Indeed, the more you pay, the more you provide the sort of obligation to make it full-time, the more the Parkinson machinery will work and the more useless work will be done for more and more money.
I would say personally that if, with my somewhat special views, I succeed in appealing to that 7 per cent. of my constituency which I am satisfied will be enough to elect any Member—because very few will bother to vote—and if I find myself a Member of the European Assembly I shall certainly devote myself to watching the taxpayers' interest and confining the nuisance as strictly as I can.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Lord DRUMALBYN
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Paget of Northampton, has a reputation as a realist. I think most of what he said was realistic, except possibly what he said about the salary. I suppose the opposite view could be taken, that as the Member of the European Parliament will represent 500,000 constituents he should be proportionately better paid for more productivity than the Member of the British Parliament who represents 60,000 or 70,000. But I wonder whether that is quite what we are considering today? The noble Lord, Lord Paget, and other noble Lords have considered the future, the constitutional 88 issues and so forth. Before I continue I should like to congratulate the ad hoc Sub-Committee—of which I was not a member, nor was I even a member of the Select Committee at that time; I am again now, for a second innings after an interval—the terms of reference of which were the relations between the United Kingdom Parliament and the European Parliament after direct elections.
In most of our talk today we are really considering the relationships, not so much between the Parliaments as between the Members of the Parliaments. I think that is absolutely right. After all, what is a Parliament without its Members? If I have correctly interpreted what has been said in the main today it has dwelt on the withdrawal, the virtual disappearance, of the dual mandate and the appropriate means of replacing it. For what purpose? The purpose of course must be to ensure that the new Members of the new European Assembly will be as well informed and as fully informed as is possible, and that they in turn—and this is also very important—will be able to inform their constituencies of what is going on, as well as keeping informed the Scrutiny Committee and other organisations in Westminster. So I would agree with the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Walston, that we should now be making clear what we here in Westminster can offer. Unless we do it soon I do not think that we shall get off to anything like a flying start.
Let us always remember—and I am sure that Members of the present Assembly in Strasbourg will confirm this—that whatever Europeans may dislike or disapprove of, they still look to this Parliament at Westminster for inspiration. Therefore it seems to me that this is a very good opportunity and an opportunity well taken by the Select Committee, if I may say so, of showing what we can offer. The noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, in his excellent opening speech made it clear that it is remarkable how far ahead we, in the Scrutiny Committee and the like, are in dealing with European Directives and other instruments. With the exception of Denmark there seems to be little counterpart and I think this will mean that it will be rather more difficult than it otherwise would have been to get any common plan of relationship between Members of the various Parliaments and 89 Members of the European Assembly. It may be in the future that the European Community Assembly will copy what we have been doing in this country and I hope very much that they will. For my part I am wholly in sympathy with the recommendations of the Sub-Committee, and there are only some ancillary points that I should like to stress.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Diplock, looked far into the distance, although perhaps not so far as all that, but it was a look to the time when many of the powers of the national Parliaments will have been taken over by the European Assembly, and whether to a certain extent there will be parallel legislative powers. I would suggest to him that there are political reactions which could occur in that sort of framework. If it were the case that national Parliaments felt that they were losing powers which they ought to retain, what would happen? Surely the tendency would be to go for some discussion of either a federal or a confederation solution so that the national Parliament could retain determining powers and that the division of powers between the European Assembly and the national Parliaments would be made absolutely clear.
I feel sure that this would happen. There would not be a continual process vaguely going on towards the absorption by the European Assembly of the powers of the national Assemblies, because I do not think the national Assemblies would allow it. What we surely need to consider is how the virtual disappearance of the dual mandate can be replaced. How can we ensure that the newly elected Members will be able adequately to inform themselves? How can we in Westminster be adequately informed of what the Assembly Members have done, are doing and want to do?
It is of course, in theory, true that every newly elected Member will be representing his constituency—a huge constituency of roughly half a million constituents—and that there is nothing between him, so to speak, and the European Assembly. But in fact we all know that even if we did not follow that, other countries would; they would all be in national groupings. Can anyone imagine France not having a national grouping of their MPs? There is bound to be the need for a national 90 organisation to some extent of the European Parliament Members, at any rate in the early stages, and this is really what the Government ought to be planning at the present time, so that this can get off to a good start.
I need not go over the suggestions made in the report because I think they are excellent, and I very much admired what my noble friend Lord Sandford had to say on this subject. I do not think I would go all the way with him. Like others, I doubt whether you could set up a Grand Committee straight away, but I am quite certain that the sooner the members of the Scrutiny Committee and the Members of the European Parliament get to know each other the better for all concerned and the more help they will be able to give to each other.
Before I conclude I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, who is to wind up, how he sees the challenge, as it really was, that was written into paragraph 46 of the 44th Report of the Select Committee. It says this:The decision of 25 September 1976, Article 4, lays down that members of the Parliament shall vote on an individual and personal basis. They shall not be bound by any instructions and shall not receive a binding mandate '.This does not contradict what I said about the need for national groupings. The question is: Who is going to influence the national groupings? Taken at its face value, that means no Party Whips as we know them, and for that matter no instructions by Government in any shape or form.
Then the next sentence goes on:Rule 39(iii) of the present Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament lays down: It is not desirable that Chairmen or members of Committees should enter into direct contact, as members of the European Parliament, with governmental or other national authorities '.I take it that Parliament is not a national authority, that we are talking about bodies with executive powers. But surely this cannot really be the doctrine which is being accepted, because certainly it will not happen. Even if we were to observe it with the strictest conformity to its terms, I am certain it would not happen abroad. Surely there must be contacts with the Government. How can Members, certainly of the Government Party, who are elected at the coming 91 elections in June, be adequately informed if they do not know what the Government's view is of where the British interest lies?
§ Lord ARDWICK
My Lords, it is very briefly phrased, "it is not desirable"; but it has been explained to us on one or two occasions that what they really want to do is to preserve separation of powers. What they really do not want is Ministers coming into the committees, as the Commission does, and the Council of Ministers fighting for their case in the committees. I think this is the idea, but it is so weakly phrased that I do not think anybody ought to take it too seriously.
§ Lord DRUMALBYN
My Lords, I am much obliged. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, will confirm that, because it really is a very important aspect. I am quite certain that it is necessary for us to ensure that all possible contacts in this country are available to Members of the European Parliament, whether they are industrial contacts with the CBI and the TUC, whether they are with the educational system, whether they are parliamentary contacts, and no doubt of course there will be Party contacts as well. I hope the noble Lord will be able to tell us what the Government's attitude is to this and how they see it operating in the future, because, with great respect to the noble Lord, what has happened in the past will not necessarily happen in the future. There might be a stricter interpretation of this decision after we go to direct elections.
May I suggest one other thing. I think that, as far as possible, we have to get the very closest links between the Members of the European Parliament and the six, seven, eight or nine Members of the British constituencies that are represented by the same area. As the Sub-Committee Report itself says, they will have common interests and it is necessary that they should try to get a common line, whatever their politics may be. It may even be that as time goes on we shall move on some subjects, those subjects where there are shared interests, from the purely constituency to the regional, and build up contacts in that way. This constant contact between European Members and the Members of Parliament 92 will enable the constituents to know much better, through their Members of Parliament and through the European Members, what is happening, and this is very important for the future development of the European Parliament itself and for our relations with it and the other member States.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ Lord O'HAGAN
My Lords, I have written in my diary, to keep me on the right track,All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing".That was written by Burke, but I hope that noble Lords opposite and on the Cross-Benches, and on the Liberal Benches, will share those sentiments, because today's debate has not been a Party political debate; nor should it be. We may have differences of a Party nature, but we must so far as possible submerge them for the purposes of this debate, even though that may be extremely difficult for me when I listen to the noble and absent Lord, Lord Paget of Northampton. I can safely say that there was almost no sentiment that he expressed with which I agreed, except that he found it difficult to disagree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Diplock. I am going to share that diffidence in disagreeing with the noble and learned Lord in a minute or two, but not on everything, I hasten to add.
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil "; well, I am not sure whether we all agree with what would be evil in this case. I think we mostly agree that the evil that should be avoided is conflict and distrust, lack of faith between different types of Parliamentarian, both trying to serve their Parties and countries but in a different forum. If that is the evil that we are trying to avoid and whose triumph we are trying to prevent, then I think that the customary tributes which people like my noble friend Lord Sandford and I find difficulty in paying to ourselves—because we were both members of this Committee, although I am afraid he was a more regular attender than I was—must be overcome; just as with the initial dangers of membership, when your Lordships, under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King, set up a procedure for examining the scrutiny of legislation in a way that—let me put it tactfully—bore comparison with that set up by another 93 place, so I think on this occasion, under the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, with that vigour and sprightliness and youth-fulness of mind that characterises your Lordships, we have done it again, and on this subject we have shown the way forward. So when I am criticising the noble Lord the Leader of the House I am not doing so because I want to find fault with what he said. I would differ from the tone rather than the content, but I shall wait until he returns before I enlarge on that particular argument. Rather than go through the whole report, I should like to discuss the difference between the constitutional anxieties that many of us have and the need to evolve—and evolve rapidly—effective and workable machinery.
Those of us who are profound, in the sense of convinced, Parliamentarians are bound to have anxiety about the effect of a new Parliament on our own. It does not matter whether we are in favour of the Community or against it, those of us who are deeply attached to and fond of this House and the other place will always be anxious for its welfare. Therefore, from a constitutional point of view, I shared the main thrust of the anxieties of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Diplock. We must all take account of where this new development is taking us.
However, those anxieties should not prevent us from being practical or thorough or from making preparations. From looking at the way the European Parliament may work I was fascinated by what my noble friend Lord Bessborough had to say on the basis of his detailed thought about the way in which the new European Parliament might work and the extension of the committees there. I was tempted to think that, with the efficiency and thoroughness with which he had mapped out the situation, it was a great pity that he might not be applying for the post of Chief Whip for the Tory Group, because he had obviously got it all worked out.
Joking apart, we must look at the situation seriously and see how the two bodies can co-operate. In that connection I should like to make a personal plea to the noble Lord, the Leader of the House, who is a Member of the Cabinet. The question is not the same question of whether, we, in this House, should develop more specialist Committees. It is 94 a question of the standing of this country, the relationship of its Parliamentarians, who would be working in this Parliament, with those in the other Parliament. It goes beyond Party and it goes beyond the purely technical and procedural questions that are bound up with the run of the mill Select Committees, however important.
Although the noble Lord, Lord Walston, may have erred on the side of enthusiasm in his lack of praise of his own Party, I agree with the urgency behind his comments. This is not a matter that can wait. We must begin to set up the machine because if, as he seriously thought was a possibility and I agree with him, the new European Parliamentarians involved in this difficult, time-consuming and utterly exhausing task involving 60 to 80 plane journeys a year and regular meetings in constituencies as well as in Europe, become set in their ways, without Westminster holding out a friendly hand, then we may be in for serious trouble. I point out to the noble Lord, the Leader of the House, that there is some urgency about this matter. Whichever Government are in power—and I hope that they will be a different Government—after the elections to a European Parliament, there must be some preparation in Whitehall, there must be rules worked out in the Departments for helping these European Parliamentarians to keep in touch with their own country and to understand what is going on in Whitehall and Westminster.
I should like to devote the remainder of my few remarks to asking Her Majesty's Government to be a little more forthcoming than they have been about their plans. Are we to have a Green Paper on this matter showing Government thoughts or perhaps even a White Paper? Is there to be a decision regarding the views of Her Majesty's Government on the siting of the offices that the European Parliamentarians might need? Just as the House now has the opportunity to react to this report from the Select Committee, and the Government are given the opportunity to comment on it, shall we be given a chance to comment on the Government's thoughts in a debate on the publication of their views? I believe that we should have a chance of doing so before the election campaign gets under way, so that the people of all 95 Parties who have been chosen as candidates have a chance to see what is already in preparation and can take it into account when making their own plans.
Your Lordships have made many detailed comments about the particular proposals laid out in the report. I do not want to go through them all and comment on each one because your Lordships will be more interested, I suspect, in hearing what the Government have to say. However, whether or not the title "Grand Committee" is the right one, and whether or not the concept itself is appropriate—that is something we should suspend judgment on—I hope that we can all agree that there must be different plans ready and waiting for when the European Parliamentarians want to get in touch with Members of both Houses. There must be not necessarily a blueprint, but a series of alternatives that are known to work, for which room has been provided, which will have the necessary means to service them and which will have somewhere in order to carry out their different activities.
I point out to my noble friends and the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, that we should not—and I say this with humility—preen ourselves that we are the only Parliament that is making preparation in this area, that we are the only ones looking at the relationship between our national Parliament and the European Parliament. We have done it very well and thoroughly, of course, in this report, but we expect more conflict than they do. We are more frightened that the two democratically-elected bodies may go against each other. We are more suspicious, maybe rightly so, than some of the other nations and other Parliaments.
Just as we must recognise that our own tradition of Parliament has given us a great standing in the world and in the Community in these matters and provides something that is deep-rooted in our political traditions, so it sometimes has its handicaps. It has been there so long that we do not have as much faith in what will be the servant of the people—this new Parliament—as some other nations.
The noble Lord, Lord Paget of Northampton, who has returned, may feel that 96 no faith can be placed in this body at all, that it is beyond trust and beyond hope even before it is started. If I may say so, he displayed all the lack of enthusiasm for the extension of the franchise that characterised my ancestor the Marquess of Salisbury who was Prime Minister before the turn of the century. However, the difference between my great great grandfather and the noble Lord is that my great great grandfather recognised that he was wrong and when the votes came he made them work and he had an endless succession—or it seemed endless to many others—of Tory Governments. However, I shall not develop that vein. Faith and hope are needed. We must have trust as well as getting down to the hard practical side of the arrangements. We cannot treat these European Parliamentarians as if they are bound to be a crowd of irresponsible people who are not to be trusted. From Westminster we must make sure that they are prepared to respond to our trust, and that they feel that they need to come here—yes, but are also welcome here.
When the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, replies to the debate I hope that he can satisfy your Lordships, those in Brussels and in the rest of the Community, that this Government—with all the difficulties that they find in expressing enthusiasm (wholehearted or otherwise) for many of the activities of the Community—will not be curmudgeonly about this precious relationship between the two Parliaments. For if over there it is felt that we are still not prepared to take this new advance in the democratic theory of government seriously, it will be a sorry epitaph. I have spoken for long enough. We need more information about Government plans, but we also need a solid expression of Government intention that they will do their best to make this relationship a success. I now hope that we shall get that information from my noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Lord GORONWY-ROBERTS
My Lords, I think that we have all found this a thoroughly useful and at times quite fascinating debate. We have had a number of very worthwhile speeches. Indeed, I would say that this debate will be among the most important of the elements that go to frame the Government's decisions 97 and approach to this very important question of building up the right sort of relationship and facility link between the two Parliaments.
However, my first pleasure and duty is, of course, to join so many of your Lordships in paying a very warm tribute of gratitude and admiration to my noble friend Lord Greenwood of Rossendale for the way in which he has guided the committee which produced this excellent report and for the way in which he presented it to the House this afternoon. We, who have had the privilege of working in a Parliamentary and ministerial capacity with my noble friend, expected that the work he took in hand would result in a product of grace, clarity and conviction. We have been confirmed in our expectations.
Before attempting to comment on some of the points and suggestions which noble Lords have raised tonight, it is right that I should remind the House that whatever shortcomings there may be in this country—and this Government have been applying themselves to these questions of providing for the proper links between the two Parliaments—we are by no means unique in this. I wish that some noble Lords who have made rather acerbic comments on the British performance might have looked at the very useful addendum annexed to the report where we find that some of our nearest and dearest in Europe have done less work than we have on studying these very important questions. No, my Lords, Her Majesty's Government are fully seized of the importance of the matters that we have discussed tonight and are addressing themselves to them—and will be—in the light of the debate this evening and, of course, of the discussion which is still to come in the other place, and of contributions of thought and suggestion from other quarters.
As my noble friend the Leader of the House said, we shall study with great care what has been said and what will be said. Indeed, it will be our joint duty to draw attention—on the basis of the Official Report tomorrow—to the points of emphasis in this excellent debate. With your Lordships' permission, I propose to recapitulate them briefly in my remarks. Fortified by the record, my noble friend and I shall be drawing attention to the general feeling that the 98 Government should say as soon as possible what is their attitude on these matters. It is clear—is it not?—that on some of these questions the Government can fairly soon say, "This is how we think it should be done". But is it not equally clear—and this has been said by a number of speakers this evening—that there are a great many questions and solutions which can only be satisfactorily framed in the light of what both Houses here say and feel, what the new directly-elected Parliament has to say about it, and what the individual Members, both of this Parliament and of the directly-elected European Assembly, will have to say?
I recognise that the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, ruled out the need for a blueprint, but even in a generalised statement one has to come to cases, one has to talk about typists, tintacks, premises and provisions. Do we do it without having a fairly clear idea what the new Parliamentarian feels he needs and what the old Parliamentarian feels he can cooperate in? There are practical questions of both psychology and space involved here. On the whole, I think that the Government are right to select for their own immediate suggestion those points which in any case need to be settled, but to hold their judgment until consultation with those who will have to operate the new provisions is available. I see no difficulty here.
In fact, this evening we have very fairly examined four—possibly five—areas on which the relationship turns—and I agree that it is a question of relationship. I believe it was the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, who said that it was a relationship of both Parliaments and Parliamentarians. He went on to remind us that there is also a question of relationship between groups, whether national or ideological, and Governments. Indeed, I shall have something to say about the September decision to which he referred before I sit down. It is a question of relationships. Let me make it absolutely clear at once that we wish to see the best and fullest relationship between the two Assemblies.
Of course, there are important questions of propriety and, indeed, of constitution. Here I would pay tribute to the speech made by my noble friend Lord Paget. I hope that my noble friend will not display 99 his incredulity as well as his pleasure. I thoroughly enjoyed his speech, and he will be amazed, if not alarmed, to hear that I agreed with a great deal of it. It is of extreme importance that we identify the point of constitutional responsibility. I do not wish to detain the House, but surely we have all thought, have we not? about the point of hierarchical responsibility; whether the system evolving in Europe has a coherence, or is in danger of becoming unclear, confused, cloudy.
I confess as a man somewhat of the Left that I found myself on these matters somewhat more hierarchical than most Members on that side of the House. On structure, clarity is all. To noble Lords who have faith and hope, I would say faith, hope and clarity, otherwise there is no meaningful Europe if it is a jumble of put together ideas and slogans. It must make sense economically as well as politically to the people of Europe, and every part of Europe. This is our task. It is a much bigger task than deciding whether there is a building on either side of Westminister Bridge for these purposes, important as they are.
Those of us who wish to see Europe effective as a political community, and we hope an economic community, must think very hard indeed about the structure, the coherence of the parliamentary system that we are now trying to advance. We are considering relationships very carefully. We shall give close attention to what has been said tonight.
Among the suggestions made to link the thinking, the knowledge, the work of the two Parliaments—the Assembly and the Parliament—was some form of Joint Committee in which Members of both Assemblies came together from time to time. I put it in general terms because it has been so variously described. Nevertheless, the heart and centre of it could be summed up by the designation Grand Committee. This is worth looking at. Certainly we shall be looking at the Grand Committee type of joint study, exchange of experience and ideas, and indeed the raising of questions which, in part, may well prove at the end of a session of the Grand Committee a matter for decision, action by the national Parliament, and in part maybe for the European Assembly.
100 The third aspect of relationship is facilities, accommodation. This is important. As a fairly old hand, I was going to say that our own Parliament has suffered for generations. It seems to me that for generations until fairly recently the other place operated with remarkable efficiency literally on the shoe-string of facilities. It was only when some of us had left the other place that suddenly it galvanised itself to action and provided a vast range of facilities for its Members. I wish I were starting again.
We must make a good job of this. It is not a question of providing palatial, expensive, excessive facilities: it is a question of efficiency. If, in so doing, we take a good look once more at the facilities, indeed accommodation, of the various services in this and another place, all the better. Let us make a good parliamentary job all round. We have done a good deal for parts of it from time to time in the last few years. It may be time now to do a really good job on this.
Here I should like to refer specifically to the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford. I appreciate the analysis he made of the two possible ways of going about this. I cannot say that I personally agree with him. It may be that he is right that the simpler, uncluttered approach is not the best. I do not know. It is a matter for consideration, and if I spend no more time on those suggestions than I have already done, it is not because I do not appreciate very much the importance of what he said I am sure my colleagues will appreciate it too.
Then of course there is the always pressing and popular question of emoluments and allowances. Here I have 45 minutes with I hope a powerful note, but I shall not detain your Lordships by reading it all out.
§ A noble Lord: Shame!
§ Lord GORONWY-ROBERTS
I am always ready to rise to a challenge. It comes to this, does it not: it is an agreed decision that there shall be parity of payment to both types of Parliamentarian. Anything else as to payment would not be wearable, hence we do it that way. However, to those who speak of our own Euro-parliamentarians as 101 being likely to be parliamentary paupers, I have this word of reassurance: while we shall pay the going rate for Parliamentarians to them as well as to our own, there will of course be the going rate of allowances payable to them by, I assume, the European Assembly, which will protect them certainly from the worst excesses of costs and prices in Europe.
My noble friend Lord Ardwick rightly said that the danger with allowances topping up, as it were, salaries is that they get out of hand. I am informed by the Inland Revenue Board that they do not intend that this should happen in this case. If in fact allowances go beyond a certain point, then the cautionary intervention of the taxman will see to it that our Parliamentarians abroad are not excessively paid in one way or the other, very much as our own provision will see that they are not excessively underpaid.
§ Baroness SEEAR
My Lords, would not the noble Lord agree that the intervention of the Inland Revenue has not always prevented the abuse of allowances in other circles?
§ Lord GORONWY-ROBERTS
My Lords, I very much agree, but as so many total solutions appear to be anticipated from the European Assembly it may well be that this difficult chestnut will be solved in that locale. But seriously this is true, and the noble Baroness of course knows perhaps better than anybody how difficult a field this is. The assurance I have is that the British salary, which in terms of European prices would be totally inadequate of course, will be rescued from its excessive smallness by the allowances, which in turn are unlikely to become a source of blatant gain because of the intervention of our tax laws.
§ Lord DRUMALBYN
My Lords, the noble Lord mentioned expenses in Europe. I am sure he must realise, coming from where he does, that there will be a great many more and heavier expenses for European Members in this country because of the size of their constituencies; in some cases, for example in the very far North, they will be astronomical. They will have to be met and there will have to be access, not only going round the constituencies but, when necessary, coming to London as well.
§ Lord GORONWY-ROBERTS
Certainly, my Lords, and this is a separate part of the same problem. I was addressing myself exclusively to the—I will not say "much vexed"—question of emoluments and how to deal with that when one cannot have a marked discrepancy between two sets of Parliamentarians in the same country. I was dealing with that side, but I am aware of the point the noble Lord made. Indeed, those of us who served in the other place know that one of the reforms that was introduced slowly but very effectively as the years went by was to take into account the territorial demands, financial as well as psychological, on Members, and financially I think that has been reasonably solved. I imagine that a Euro-Parliamentarian representing the whole of North Wales, which is the most beautiful but not the most accessible of constituencies offered in this new election, will find that the demands on him and his car will be met financially.
At the end of his speech, the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, asked me whether, when we have considered what has been said tonight and what undoubtedly will be said in the other place, and other representations to us on these questions, we will make available to Parliament the results of the Government's consideration. I cannot answer that because it is possible that the specific gravity of the Government's thinking will be based on what the new Assembly has to say. We must face the fact that a great many of these questions can be answered satisfactorily only when we know the shape, size, attitude and needs of the new Parliamentarians, if I may call them that.
§ Lord GLADWYN
Is it not conceivable, my Lords, that the Government could, after the debate in this House and in the other House, circulate a Green Paper in which, as a result of this debate, they would, so far simply as facilities are concerned, lay down what they are prepared to offer as a matter for discussion possibly in agreement with the European Parliamentarians when they are elected?
§ Lord GORONWY-ROBERTS
My Lords, I will put that point in the way the noble Lord has put it to me. I cannot tonight give any indication that there will be such a publication, but I shall certainly 103 draw attention to what has been said by a number of noble Lords on this matter. My noble friend Lord Ardwick said among many good points be made that paper was the curse of the European Community. It is a general curse affecting all institutions, so far as I can see. He said, I thought wisely, that we should do nothing of substance until the MEAs—Members of the European Assembly—have had a good look at their position and needs, and we should then act quickly. That was the meaning of what he said, and I agree; we shall act quickly as soon as we have a realistic picture of what is necessary, and that covers all the points raised.
The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, reminded us that there will inevitably be competition and conflict. That is inevitable, and of course very effort will be made to keep such competition and conflict to the mimimum and to its appropriate purpose. There is room for it as between institutions, but so long as there is clarity of purpose, with everybody knowing what he is there for—functional clarity—I think that kind of conflict will be reduced to the minimum.
Several noble Lords reminded us of a point on which I feel deeply—namely, that there is now and always will be a danger that nationalism will take over. Precisely in perhaps the most significant experiment in intranational, or international, government, the fires of nationalism somehow get stoked afresh. As I listened to some remarks, I wondered whether we were not thinking, for all our international and European outlook, in terms of the British group and access to the British Parliament as a group. Nationalism is a permanent condition of life and a permanent threat of death. It may well be, unless we are careful, that a co-operative Europe will, unless it is properly led, give new life to the worst kind of obscrurantist nationalism.
The British are probably the ones to give the best example in this, and regarding the institutions themselves—the Assembly, the premises, the bureaux, the provisions—while we are conscious of the need to link Britain and its representatives in Europe, it is important not to build up a quite new system of nine nationalist Parties. It is always possible that that may happen, and what is the antidote? Cutting across national lines and forming parties of 104 ideology? That, too, is anathema to some people. We are only beginning to think out the real implications of what we are trying to do in Europe, but this debate is a useful contribution to that thinking.
§ Baroness ELLES
My Lords, perhaps I may ask a short question on a matter which I raised at the beginning of my speech, and it is a matter to be decided before direct elections. It is whether it could be agreed that the service which is given to the United Kingdom delegation should be continued for a provisional period of six months before something permanent is set up. I say that because the new MEPs should have some office to which they can go to make their travel arrangements and so on. It is a small point but an important one at this stage.
§ Lord GORONWY-ROBERTS
My Lords, I am sure that in one way or another—I think I can take a flier on this one—the assistance now given to the 36 delegated members would be a sensible way of carrying on until there is a permanent arrangement, which may be better than the excellent service which is now given.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Lord GREENWOOD of ROSSEN-DALE
My Lords, when my noble friend Lord Paget of Northampton, whose speech I greatly enjoyed, was telling us about his hunting priorities I was reminded of a great county council in the Midlands before local government reorganisation which used to issue hints for the guidance of new county councillors. The first was, "Hunting pink is acceptable at committee meetings, but not at the meetings of the full council." If they were prepared to make that concession, I have no doubt that my noble friend's magic tongue would have its effect on whatever committee he decided to boycott if it was meeting at the wrong time.
I should like to say how much I have appreciated the speeches which have been made in the debate; they have been helpful and constructive. I am in a little difficulty about my noble friends on the Front Bench. There are no two members of my Party for whom I have a warmer affection or a deeper respect, and it would choke me to say anything which might sound unhelpful or in any way critical. I 105 am prepared to say that today they have, I think, edged just a few millimetres forward. I am hoping that they will be giving increasing attention to these problems, and that the outcome will be a happy one. I suggest tonight that we should dismiss them with a caution, on one condition; namely, before they turn the light out tonight they will read aloud paragraph 3 of our report, and that they will greet the dawn tomorrow determined not to repeat the mistakes of other Governments.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.