HL Deb 06 March 1980 vol 406 cc463-511

6.17 p.m.

Baroness WHITE rose to move, That this House takes note of the Report on European Institutions (the Three Wise Men) and the Spierenburg Report (9732/79). The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I should like to start by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, upon the debate which preceded this one. I think we all agree that he initiated a most interesting and valuable discussion.

I hope to speak briefly, both out of regard for the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, whose business follows ours, and also because a clinical thermometer indicates that I perhaps might be better off elsewhere. I speak in this debate with perhaps more diffidence than usual, as it is only a short time since I had the privilege of succeeding the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, to whose services as Chairman of the Select Committee of the European Communities I would pay a warm tribute. For myself, I know that I still have a great deal to learn.

The two reports which we wish to draw to the attention of the House are both —I think noble Lords would agree—lucidly and really admirably written, and for this reason, among others, the Select Committee concluded that it was preferable to publish only the evidence taken, without adding a commentary. Those interested would, we thought, do better to consult the original texts. But we were also concerned to provide a fairly early opportunity for Her Majesty's Government to state their views on the two reports and to indicate how far the recommendations fit in with the Government's concept of how Great Britain can best contribute to the work of the European institutions and, in turn, benefit from them.

The evidence taken by the Select Committee, and contained in the reports which are available to your Lordships, is well worthy of attention, including not only the views of senior United Kingdom officials, but also the testimony of Mr. Edmund Dell, one of the Three Wise Men responsible for the major report on the whole range of Community institutions and their interrelationships, and the testimony of Mr. Dick Taverne, one of the five-member Independent Review Body under the chairmanship of Ambassador Spierenburg, which reported to the Commission on its own particular organisation and effectiveness.

Coincidentally with these reports there has recently been re-issued an up-dated version of the most illuminating booklet on the European Community and how it works, from the pen of the greatest authority of them all, M. Emile Noel, the Secretary-General, who was good enough to receive us when my colleagues and myself visited Brussels. I would warmly commend this short treatise to all those who perhaps remain somewhat baffled, as I think I still do, by the institutions of the Community and all their works. As M. Noel rightly points out, the Community is unique. It is not supranational;nor is it a federal government;nor simply an intergovernmental organisation. It cannot, indeed, be adequately described in conventional terms.

Both these reports deal primarily with matters of organisation and of procedure, and also with political or administrative interrelationships. The Three Wise Men are rightly at pains to point out that the concern which is currently widespread as to whether the Community can function adequately in the face of its present problems cannot be met simply by procedural or mechanical adjustments. The gravity of the difficulties likely to face the Community in the economic as well as the political field during the 1980s will defy even major adaptations of machinery. None the less, only harm can ensue from unnecessary frustration and irritation caused by the sometimes ill-adapted procedures of what is surely the most complex political-cum-bureaucratic organisation yet devised by man.

If one may start at the top, at the European Council, the Three Wise Men recognise the vital political impetus which may flow from meetings of Heads of State and Prime Ministers. But so far in our discussions we have found little support for the major proposition in the report of the Three Wise Men that the European Council should, work out an explicit scheme for Community action in the next few years". There seems to be a consensus that this is not the true function of such top political leaders, and that the work which would be involved in preparation for such a task would simply not be worth the candle. On the other hand, there has been much sympathy for the emphasis on the need to improve the working of the Council of Ministers, the membership of which varies, as we know, according to the subject matter under discussion, sometimes with junior Ministers representing their national interests and with agendas containing items of a technical complexity which may make wise judgments extremely difficult, as many of us on the subcommittees of the Select Committee know only too well.

Suggestions for delegating work now done in the Council to Coreper, the meeting of the permanent presentatives—in other words, the ambassadors of the Member States in Brussels, and their staffs—would of course provide far better continuity, but it would retain the thorny question of voting. Should the unanimity rules be more frequently set aside in favour of decisions by weighted majority? If this is attempted will not the Member States who believe themselves to be disadvantaged resort regularly to the so-called Luxembourg compromise, whereby a State will insist that a vital interest is at stake and reassert the need for unanimity? In the opinion of David Marquand, one-time chef de cabinet to Mr. Roy Jenkins, expressed in his recent book on A Parliament for Europe, the Luxembourg compromise, which was pushed through by General de Gaulle in 1966, destroyed one of the central elements of the Treaty system".

Admittedly Mr. Marquand writes as an integrationist who accepts the proposition that a prior commitment to putting the Community interest first is necessary for the true health of the organisation. The need to search for solutions which will meet with unanimous approval, however, slows down Community decisions, sometimes almost indefinitely, and always to the pace of the slowest, and it makes the Council of Ministers less of a Community institution than a forum for inter-State haggling and bargaining. I shall be very interested to hear the views on this matter of Members of your Lordships' House who have had much greater experience in Brussels and Strasbourg than I have.

Consideration is given by the Three Wise Men to the role of the President of the Council. Is it wise that the period of office should be as short as six months? Because no sooner has the person concerned played himself in than he has to be thinking of how to re-establish himself in the politics of his own country, taking his staff and furniture with him from Brussels. The disadvantages of changing from the six months to a longer period seem, nevertheless, to outweigh the benefits;but the consequential changes of staff and committee chairmanships undoubtedly add to the problems of bureaucracy and illustrate vividly how hard it is to reconcile political necessities with efficiency. When one comes to the Commission, as opposed to the European Council and the Council of Ministers, one turns from the Three Wise Men to Spierenburg, as the three sages (as they are called) accept most of the recommendations in the latter report. Here again, the role of the President, this time the President of the Commission, is crucial. Should his powers be increased, in particular in the choice of his fellow Commissioners and in the allocation of their portfolios? Even someone of strong personality and great experience must find it hard to run an efficient team without the kind of power base enjoyed by national Ministers.

In our consultations we found almost universal agreement with the view that, with the second enlargement of the Community in sight, the number of Commissioners should he diminished rather than increased. We also found, however, much scepticism as to whether this would, in the event, prove possible. As noble Lords will be aware, the larger States in the Community enjoy two Commissioners, which has certain great attractions. So far as the United Kingdom is concerned, it has been the tradition that one Commissioner to whom we are entitled should be from the Government side of the House and the other from the Opposition side, and some of our colleagues in Europe who are accustomed to working with coalitions also find it extremely helpful if they can accommodate more than one party in the coalition by allowing them to represent their country in Brussels. When we discussed this with those who were good enough to receive us in Brussels, the more philosophical observers remarked that, while it would be very difficult in practice to reduce the number of Commissioners—they all agreed, I think, that it would be more efficient—nevertheless they thought there would be plenty of representational opportunities at the European Parliament to keep the Commissioners engaged whenever there might seem to be too little for them to do in Brussels.

As an army marches on its stomach, so an administration depends on its civil servants. We are reminded in these reports that Brussels, and indeed Strasbourg too, suffer from certain serious staff rigidities. In addition, there are the problems caused by the need to keep an acceptable balance between the staff coming from the different Member States —a balance in which, in some areas, Great Britain does not seem to do too well. It was encouraging, however, to learn that Mr. Roy Jenkins, as President of the Commission, has asked his immediate predecessor as President, now Vice-President Ortoli, to take charge of the implementation of as many as practicable of the Spierenburg recommendations in Part III of their report, concerning staff. There has been considerable tension and dissatisfaction in Brussels on such matters as promotion prospects, and we hope very much that a more satisfactory arrangement can be made.

A subject on which I think it is fair to say we failed to obtain a satisfyingly coherent reply was the extent to which the Commission was carrying out the proposals agreed on by the Commission itself in 1978 when they considered the matter at Comblain-la-Tour, by which suggestions for harmonisation should be judged by certain criteria to test their importance, and indeed their necessity. I think I am speaking for all Members of the Select Committee and most Members of the Sub-Committee when I say that in our experience nothing causes more irritation or puts the Commission as a whole in a worse light than proposals which do not seem to the ordinary citizen, consumer or industrialist, to make sense;and there are some areas where people feel that they should be allowed to take their own decisions.

Some of those we consulted said that they had noted a marked decrease in harmonisation proposals at Comblain-la-Tour, but were far less convinced. I cannot pretend that we were in a position to obtain authoritative information on this. Most of us who work on the scrutiny sub-committees would agree, I think, that too many proposals emanate from Brussels. If I may quote Mr Marquand again: Community Europe is overwhelmingly a technocrats' Europe. Brussels seethes with committee meetings, at which civil servants talk to other civil servants about policies suggested by yet more civil servants …When the Commission has finally hammered out its proposals, they are considered at yet more meetings, under the aegis of the Council of Ministers, at which the same national and Commission officials battle formally over the points which they have previously discussed informally". To be fair, once it is settled that a proposal is to go forward, much of this is essential if it is to attempt to reconcile as many interests as possible. All the more important, therefore, actively to apply the criteria of necessity laid down at Comblain-la-Tour.

Finally, over all our discussions and consultations has hung the question mark: How much difference will the elected Parliament make? The rejection of the budget seems to have been accepted philosophically in Brussels;and one very senior official revealed that he was considering taking bets on the likelihood of Parliament using its other major power, that of sacking all the Commissioners. As the Commission will be dissolved anyway at the end of this year, such a gesture would not perhaps be too damaging some time in the autumn, provided that the issue chosen was an appropriate one and not one that would only serve to debase the parliamentary currency.

But as it is the day-to-day relationship between Council, Commission and Parliament which really matters, and not just the occasional dramatic moves, it is clearly too soon to pass judgment. Nevertheless, the difference between the present Parliament and its non-elected predecessor is surely profound, not least in the United Kingdom, where our Members of the European Parliament have been elected on a constituency basis, not as in most other Member States on the list system, with its much less specific local responsibilities. The Commission admitted that the elected Members at Strasbourg added considerably to the burden of work but also added greatly to its interest.

My Lords, the two reports we are considering are models of their kind. I hope this brief debate may lead Members of the House who are not on the Select Committee or its sub-committees, as well as those who are, to consider them and so bring about a better understanding of the way in which the organisation to which we belong really moves. We look forward to the Government's response and to the contribution of several speakers with, as I have said, considerably greater personal experience in these matters than that on which I, myself, can draw. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House takes note of the Report on European Institutions (the Three Wise Men) and the Spierenburg Report (9732/79)—(Baroness White.)

6.35 p.m.


My Lords, the trouble with these splendid reports—and there are not many copies available;this one is very bulky and has been duplicated but not printed—rather like the mountainous productions of Royal Commissions, is that Governments rarely pay much attention to them. In saying this, I am not referring to Spierenburg, the adoption of which (or otherwise) is almost entirely the affair of the Commission itself rather than of Governments, beyond saying that Spierenburg's recommendations, all of them appear to me to be very reasonable and I do not propose (except in one respect) to comment on them further. What normally gives rise to these wide-ranging reports is that Governments —in this case the nine Governments of the Community—get into difficulties. The machine clearly does not work;vital decisions cannot be taken;there is much public disgust about the functioning of the Community as a whole;and the Ministers feel that, by having recourse to a report, they can put off the fatal moment when something really must be done if the Community is not to break up or become a sort of badly-working Customs union.

The report which appeared before the major one which we are considering today was the work of one man only, M. Tindemans, then and subsequently Prime Minister of Belgium. It was published as long ago as December 1975. It contained a large number of constructive proposals. The most notable of them, I remind your Lordships, were as follows: that co-ordination of external policies should make way gradually for common policies, but the Community should speak with one voice in external affairs. To achieve this, the minority should rally to the views of the majority at the conclusion of the debate. A substantial part of national appropriations for development or co-operation should be transferred gradually to the Community;there should be a greater degree if unanimity in the field of defence supply and in the encouragement of joint and co-ordinated research.

To this end, there should be periodical meetings of the Community Ministers of Defence. The traditional distinction in ministerial meetings between the Community's foreign policy and related defence questions and economic and development aid relations should end. There should be early adoption of a common economic and monetary policy in the Community and a convergence of economic policies generally. Regional policies should expand in step with progress on economic and monetary union. The European Council, whose president, as the president of the Council of Ministers, should be appointed for one year—and this is Tindemans—should act not only in accordance with the Treaty but take decisions outside the Treaty as well. The president of the Commission should be appointed by the European Council and himself appoint the remaining Commissioners in consultation with the Council. The European Parliament should be able to discuss all questions within the competence of the Union whether or not they are covered by the Treaties.

Tindemans, himself a convinced federalist, believed that these broad proposals were entirely pragmatical and based simply on what might be done to improve the working of the existing machinery. Nevertheless, as your Lordships will observe, scarcely any of the proposals that I have read out have yet proved to be acceptable to the Ministers. Impressed, no doubt, by the lamentable failure of Tindemans, the report of the Three Wise Men is more pragmatical still. The proposals that they submit represent simply ways and means, all within the existing Treaty obligations, whereby the functioning of the Community machine can be made rather more efficient.

Thus the European Council—which, of course, operates outside the Treaty of Rome—should adopt before 1981, in collaboration with the Commission, "priorities "for the Community as a whole. This was also something which in principle was favoured by Tindemans. Its president should appear every six months before the European Parliament. For its part the Ministerial Council should lighten its work load and devolve some decision-making from Ministers. The Coreper, the permanent representatives in Brussels, should strengthen its already strong position as a co-ordinating centre. All decisions, save where otherwise provided for in the Treaty, should increasingly be taken by majority vote—and this, of course, is Tindemans in a milder form. The President must define objectives and insist on rules being abided by. The Council's secretariat should, if possible, play a more important part in the organisation of the Council's work and might even assist the European Council. Generally speaking, political co-operation should be intensified which, after Afghanistan, I should have thought was only common sense.

These and many other pieces of good advice are submitted, and the whole report is full of suggestions which, one might imagine, would be accepted with alacrity in toto by all the nine Governments. But none, save one, is likely, if adopted, to have in itself any very profound effect. For that, as Mr. Dell and his colleagues would be the first to admit, and do admit, there will have to be some major political impulse which still is lacking.

The one exception is the proposal that, before the arrival of Greece in under a year's time from now the Commission (as regards the reform of which the Three Wise Men agree with Spierenburg) should consist of one Commissioner from each Member country;in other words that, after the Greek accession, it should be reduced from a potential 17 to 10.

The case for this particular reform, in spite of what we have heard from some witnesses, is unanswerable. The Commission, as opposed to the Council or even the Parliament, is not a body in which national interests should play any part at all. Every member of it has to take an oath to be loyal only to the Community in the sense of not taking any orders or instructions from his own Government. In principle it should not matter where he comes from.

Apart from that, there would obviously not be sufficient work for 17 portfolios, and some Commissioners would perforce have to play a subordinate role which politically speaking, might be very difficult. Anyway, with all 17 sitting round a table, the whole machine would become top heavy and almost impossible to operate. This is consequently the one major proposal and it will be interesting to see whether the Ministers, including our own Government, accept. All the betting is that French opposition will prevent their doing so. In that case, and if the majority of the other less important suggestions are brushed aside—as is only too likely—we may, indeed, I fear, expect the EEC to become a sort of dinosaur after 1981, a colossal body with the brain the size of an egg.

This is clearly what the report expects unless its various recommendations are approved and applied within only nine months from now. It appears, for instance, that in such an event tendencies in the directon of a "two-tier "membership—that is, first- and second-class members—will become too strong to be resisted, even though the report believes that this solution—disguised as it might be by the extension of "compensating devices "—should be "rejected outright ", as of course must be all kinds of protectionist measures.

Then there is the final obstacle of an additional language—and no doubt three additional languages—which may in itself be so formidable as to prevent further progress towards any kind of European political union, which, as Hugh Gaitskell said on a famous occasion—with magnificent meisois—would be a pity.

The report is, however, eloquent and convincing in its closing passages on the possibility of arriving at European union and what we might expect from such union, if ever achieved. Convincing, that is, for any intelligent person looking at the problems confronting our nine democracies objectively and, as it were, from the outside looking in. Whether such a formulation will seem convincing to our rulers is quite another matter. They have to cope with the immediate political effects of any step in this direction which may adversely affect particular interests and hence their chances of being returned to Parliament. But perhaps when they contemplate the likely results of any collapse of the EEC they will be able to weather a few political storms.

The report's final words (in its annexes) on harmonisation and the conciliation procedure for arriving at agreement on the budget between the Ministers and the Parliament are really admirable and, one would have thought, likely to be of real assistance to all the institutions concerned In particular, the conception of "the triangle "—that is, the relationship between Council, Commission and Parliament—as the essential motive force behind the whole Community strikes me as excellent.

Might I just say in conclusion that since a think-piece by one man is usually, in the nature of things, more immediately impressive than one composed by several persons, I warmly recommend to your Lordships the subsequent lecture by Mr. Edmund Dell delivered at a meeting organised by Mr. Goodison, chairman of the Stock Exchange on 24th January of this year. With your Lordships' leave, I will quote one short extract from the lecture which was illuminating on all aspects of the present situation. After saying that everybody now recognised that the British contribution to the EEC budget constituted a problem, Mr. Dell continued: The other members of the Community are almost certainly prepared to do something effective about the British contribution problem because they realise that politically no British Government can accept the present situation. As, looking to a longer future, they probably still prefer Britain to remain a member, they will be prepared to bend the rules to create a situation which is politically intolerable for British Governments and people. I hope we will not handle this problem in a way which leaves us with exit from the Community as the only dignified step left. We will then look rather stupid when we do not in fact leave". I do not feel that these words of wisdom require comment from anyone who still believes in the necessity of forming some sort of European political community. And lest I should appear unduly pessimistic, let me say in conclusion that I still share such a belief. For it seems to me that the darker the external scene becomes, the more likely we shall arrive at the moment when Governments will have to make the fatal jump—the saltus mortalis—towards a genuine political association in the direction of which we appear to be being pushed still by the logic of history.

6.48 p.m.


My Lords, the House will be grateful to my noble friend Lady White for the admirable way in which she initiated this useful and timely debate. We also are very well aware of the fact that, although she has not been in the chair of the Select Committee for a very long time, she has already given ample evidence of her great capabilities. Today's speech—like its predecessor—was an example of what I mean.

It is obvious that at this stage none of us would wish to press the Government to be at all conclusive about the tentative proposals contained in either report. The status of both reports, I take it, is that Governments are busily considering their recommendations—including our own—and that the European Council will, as soon as possible, deliberate over them. It was hoped—was it not?—that the Council might consider them at the February meeting, but that proved impracticable. Perhaps the Minister can tell us whether they look like being discussed at the next meeting, which I believe will be in May or June. These are both very important reports and need fairly urgent consideration by Governments so that the needed reforms and restructuring can proceed. The independent review body, as we have heard, was asked to examine how the Commission's work could best be organised to meet future needs, and a large part of the future is on our doorstep already, with the imminent expansion of membership to 10 and its expansion to 12 by 1983, with the accession of Spain and Portugal;so there is not much time to be lost before considering the major point raised by both these reports.

May I make one firm basic comment at this point? It is absolutely imperative that, whatever proposals are accepted, the essential paramountcy of the Council of Ministers should be retained on all matters relating to policy as well as on questions of structure and of staff which are not clearly for internal decision by the Commission itself. I will return to that matter later because I feel we have not as yet given sufficient attention to the chain of authority and the clarity of the operation of the Community. In seeking such clarity, which will commend the Community more and more to public opinion, I think the role of the Council of Ministers, as the paramount authority on policy making, must be clearly accepted and retained.

The expansion of which I spoke will indeed present the Commission and the Community with new challenges in, I would have thought, at least three ways;and both reports refer to this. First, the workload itself will naturally increase;secondly, the need to make the best use of staff will become more urgent and, as we heard from my noble friend Lady White, this urgency is being increasingly felt and voiced in Brussels these days. It refers to career structure, to frustration arising from the difficulty of effective interchange of view and the concerting of action, and it is an important aspect of the Spierenburg Report, and almost as much so of the report of the Three Wise Men. Thirdly, the organisation of the Commission will become more difficult as a result of expansion in respect of this thorny problem on the distribution and number of Commissionerships.

My first comment, therefore, will be on the extremely difficult question of the Commissionerships and, related to it, of the Directorates General—what is called in the reports, "the imbalance of portfolios". By "portfolio "is meant an area of departmental activity, and we in this country would probably use the word "department". This problem will certainly not become smaller as membership expands. The Spierenburg Report proposes that the number of vertical, that is departmental, Commissionerships should be increased to eight, plus, of course, the Presidency and the single Vice-Presidency. That is essentially 10;and suggests they are looking to the possibility of giving one Commissioner-ship, in one way or another or of one sort or another, to each of the Member States.

Similarly, as the expansion proceeds to 12 Member States, so it is more than the implication of both reports that the number of commissionerships, inclusive again of the Presidency and the single Vice-Presidency, which is proposed, will be 12. We all know what the pressures of nationalism can be but I think that, while a readjustment of administrative areas is from time to time necessary and beneficial, nevertheless the operation must be carried on for the right reasons;that is, improved administrative and executive efficiency. But one wonders sometimes whether the proposals of either report in regard to the Commissionerships are based on the right reasons or whether they are still wedded to the assumption that everyone must have a prize and that if at all possible each country shall boast a commissionership, even if no country may boast two any more.

I am sure that in a Community of nation-States, which is what we have and what we are likely to have for some considerable time, the political direction of the Commission's work must rest in the Council of Ministers on the principle of "one country, one Member". No matter how many Members there may prove to be in five, 10 or 15 years, it is perfectly possible to give them all an equal voice in the political gathering, in the Council of Ministers. The principle fits the purpose and that surely defers sufficiently and effectively to both national pride and national interest, and at the appropriate level.

But is it necessary to apply the same procedure to the fields of administrative and executive action? That is, after all, what the Commissionerships are about. There are, of course, persistent attempts to make them into quasi-ministerial functions, but I do not think that is part of our purpose in the Community. There would be confusion and an absence of hierarchical clarity—an absence of the chain of authority without which a mature democracy like ours and that of others will be lost for ever in Europe. Possibly, too, Europe will be lost with it, because there is not this emergence of clarity of the chain of authority based on the vital distinction between ministerial and administrative functions. To put it in another way, while the principle of automatic unit representation in the Council is politically appropriate, and it works, give or take some argument about the majority rule question, which is negotiable—it has proved to be negotiable and has been amended and there is no reason why there should not be more talk about it and an expansion of the toleration or liberalisation we have already achieved—does it apply to appointments to administrative posts?

Once more I agree that the pressures of nationalism and national interest are very great indeed, but surely the Council is the proper and adequate response to them. Can we get the best administrative and executive officers, including the Commissioners themselves and the Directors-General, on such a basis? I think you can get the right Ministers by political criteria, but there is very grave danger when you appoint executives on political criteria. That seems to me to be a dichotomy of movement from the very beginning of the Community.

The report itself confirms to some extent what I have just said, at least in relation to the staff. I have no time to quote from paragraph 64 of the Spierenburg Report, but I do commend it to your Lordships because it says there that the staff—presumably everybody below the levels I have just described—should of course be recruited on a broad geographical basis of balance, but that this should not be the finally deciding principle. I think that the same view should be taken of all appointments, from the very top downwards. It would enable the Community to recruit across the board for these vital administrative and executive functions, without constantly having a quick think about, "What will happen if we appoint him and do not appoint anybody from that country? "This has no place in administration. It has a place in political guidance, but not in administrative and executive appointments.

I stop at that point to ask: are the two reports on this question of the organisation of the Commissionerships in danger of tying the Community up in a too rigid way, looking to the future? I think it is paragraph 46 which states that the arrangement which they propose first as to 10 and then, presumably, as to a maximum of 12 "must be permanent". I believe that those are the words used. What happens if the Community, as so very many of us hope will happen, expands further northward, southward and possibly eastward? "Must be permanent "is far too permanent a phrase to use in that connection.

It may well be, of course, that they have in mind the possibility of an enlarged membership beyond 1983 and beyond the number of 12, but retaining a maximum of 12 portfolios which will then be operated by whatever number of member countries there may be. That is going to be a very difficult business to arrange. Far better, I think, to emphasise the political basis of the Council of Europe and the Parliament and to cut loose and try to achieve a non-political, non-national basis of recruitment for all members of staff from the top downwards.

I hurry on, because there are a number of noble Lords whom I wish to hear on these questions. I have referred to the question of majority rule, which my noble friend raised. I see no reason why constant discussion as to the amendment of this rule should not proceed, so that in an orderly fashion categories of subjects can be advanced into the majority section, as it were, while care is taken that we do not overdo it too quickly, and arouse profound and proper national apprehensions about the future of interests vital to them.

A further point which I should like to make is this. I have referred to the need for a definition of the chain of authority, with a clearer picture of how the whole thing works. My noble friend was so right when she said that this must be the most complex governmental organisation ever invented by man. I thought that she put it in that way with a faint implicaton that no woman would ever have invented it. I rather think that she was right. There is a case for being simplistic about the processes of government, so that those who are governed can see how the thing works.

Part of the reason why democracy in some parts of the world and to some extent in our country, has lost ground in the hearts of the people is that they cannot see a simple logicality, but only the machinery. "Whom do we see? There is nobody when you ring them up. "This is the beginning of it. No system will survive a lack of clarity. Indeed, democracy must proceed by faith, hope and clarity—above all, this new form of democracy in Europe.

I hope that the very brilliant minds which have contributed so sincerely to both these reports, and which have worked so hard on both of them, will go on to a further examination which is necessary;that is, examination of the hierarchy of power and also the vitality of the institutions. There are a number of institutions in Europe—a number of communities—one of which is the European Court. In any democracy, the validity of its court is fundamental to that democracy's health. I should like to see an examinaton of the working of the several institutions, including, as I have said, the European Court.

I do not want to raise again the question of British lamb, but it is very important indeed that we in this country and our partners understand that the continued flouting of the very purpose and spirit of the Treaty of Rome and the Community, and, indeed, defiance of its own courts in this instance—and it is not the only instance—must lead to a deterioration in the respect of everybody for that institution and, indeed, for the parent institution itself.

Like a great many in this House, in the other place and indeed in the country, I have always been a federalist. I know that we are in a substantial minority. I want to see us moving in Europe—or, I hope, in a still wider area—to very close union indeed, primarily for political reasons. The great prize is, of course, stability and peace. To achieve that, it is right that we should fashion economic structures, but the purpose is political. Peace is the great prize. It is a greater prize than the achievement of a high standard of living. Any standard of life is more important than any standard of living.

The political purpose of peace was really the inducement for many people like me to support what we regarded as somewhat doubtful economic contrivances. But we swallowed our objections, as many noble Lords know, in order to go after the political union. But there is no hope for political union in Europe, or beyond Europe, unless the economics and the governmental arrangements behind it make sense to the people. It is important, therefore, that we should negotiate a better economic system and, also, a firmer system of legal sanctions in Europe. Some things must be negotiated. I freely agree with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister that what we contribute is a matter for negotiation. There is no rule, tariff or schedule about that. It is a matter of argument, and I very much hope that we will carry our partners with us. But other matters are for legal rulings and legal injunctions, which are not only laid down but obeyed. Otherwise, there is no real future for the Community.

I was glad that my noble friend Lord Gladwyn mentioned what to some people may be a minor problem;namely, languages—the burden of babble which threatens to clog up the channels of communication and negotiation. We have at the moment nine Member States and six languages. Soon we shall have 12, and nine languages. One of the reports tells us that the Commission employs, apart from its research staff, 8,300 people—not excessive, having regard to governmental organisations both nationally and internationally. But the extraordinary fact is that fully 40 per cent. of that 8,300, working in Brussels, is engaged directly or indirectly on linguistic activity—essential, of course. I spoke of having clarity, and language should be a means of clarity. But in the further examination of the various institutions and of their unity, I think there should be room for a special look at this question of language.

Language, of course, is sensitive. No one knows that better than 1, and my noble friend. And perhaps it would come better from a Welsh speaking Welshman, who is at the moment speaking a language which is not entirely native to him, to make the suggestion that the people of Europe, who have magnificent languages and literatures, should agree that for the purpose of the governmental business of Europe they should choose one, possibly two, perhaps three languages so that the task of translation and of negotiating translation is made easier. How often have I spent hours negotiating the translation into some other language of a document which had been agreed, say, in English or perhaps in French! It is going to be extremely difficult, but I think it is worth while starting to get our European partners thinking along these lines. It would make a certain contribution to the effectiveness and clarity of which I have spoken.

I join with my noble friend Lord Gladwyn and my noble friend Lady White in thanking those who arc responsible for these two reports for their work. I would also suggest that we should not relinquish these two teams too soon but should ask either one or possibly both of them to look a bit further, and perhaps a little bit deeper, into the implications for the future.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down may I ask him, with respect, whether he has any sympathy for the device which they enjoy at the Council of Europe, in which there are 21 nation-States but only two official languages;namely, English and French? Bearing in mind that the Council of Europe has been in existence—and highly succesfully—since 1949, does he not think that due consideration should be given to this particular point by the European Economic Community?


My Lords, the noble Lord has quoted what was on the tip of my tongue to quote, but one does not want to put one organisation against another. However, it is perfectly true. Many members in the middle echelons of the Commission, I am sure, because I know a few who have said this to me point to that example. It works extremely well. Those of us who deal with documentation either in Government or in Opposition know that it works. Indeed, with a few more languages—I believe four—the United Nations Organisation has shown that it can get along with fewer than nine. I am most grateful to the noble Lord.

7.15 p.m.


My Lords, many subjects are discussed in the two reports which we are considering today and the noble Baroness, Lady White, has with clarity extracted from the reports the most important points from what are long documents. The House is indebted to her.

I will concentrate on a few of the principal points concerning the EEC Commission, after a word or two of comment on the Council of Ministers. This will supplement the subjects which have been raised by previous speakers. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, has raised interesting matters on other subjects. On the one subject upon which I shall be overlapping with him, I agree wholeheartedly with him on the future size of the Commission.

On the Council of Ministers, which of course is dealt with in the report of the Three Wise Men, I think the suggestion that there should be less separation of the Councils working on different subjects is one that should be seriously considered by Governments. For example, the Agriculture Ministers hold their meetings, apparently quite separately, and without co-ordination with Ministers of Finance. There are other examples. I give that example because those who participated in one way or another in our domestic price reviews of the kind which we used to have before we became members of the EEC will remember that the Chancellors of the Exchequer had just as much say (if not more) about what was done as the Agriculture Ministers. This is one of the troubles which the EEC has been running into.

Another recommendation is that there should be more delegation of activity from the Council elsewhere. I would support that recommendation and suggest that more could be delegated to the permanent representatives, to Coreper. That course is the one which is most likely to contribute to improvement. When say "the permanent representatives "of countries, under their supervision a number of technical subjects could be dealt with. This would mean that more of the important political issues could be handled by the Council of Ministers. They would be dealing with them and would be less bogged down with other matters.

Before coming to the Commission, I would draw attention to the recommendations of the Three Wise Men, that the Commission's performance would benefit if there were more general guidance and outline planning of subjects to be tackled over future periods—indicating priorities, if possible—from the European Council and from the Council of Foreign Ministers. Such authoritative direction certainly would help the Commission in planning and organising its activities.

The Committee, chaired by Ambassador Spierenburg, which submitted the report on the EEC Commission only, has made some valuable recommendations. The principal ones were endorsed by the Three Wise Men in their report which was published a few weeks later. I should like to draw attention to the criticism which the Spierenburg Report makes of the Commission. It is summarised in paragraph 16 of the report where they say that they found a certain lack of cohesion in the College of Commissioners, an imbalance between portfolios, insufficient co-ordination among senior officials, a maldistribution of staff between departments and shortcomings in the career structure of the civil servants of the Commission. That is a summary and it sounds highly critical. The rest of the report indicates that they do not recommend drastic changes in the structure, but they are blunt in that criticism.

Perhaps the most important recommendation, and at the same time the most difficult one to carry out, is the one which has already been raised about reducing the number of commissioners. This requires a concession to be made by the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy because the obvious way of doing it would be for the countries which have two commissioners at present—the larger countries—to dispense with one, otherwise when the three applicant nations join, as is expected during the next five years, there will be 16 or indeed 17 commissioners. Seventeen are expected because at the present time it is anticipated that Spain would have two. The Spierenburg Report suggests that from 1st January—in less than 10 months' time, when Greece is due to join—there should be 12 members of the Commission, and the four Members of the Community who now have two commissioners should have only one. This is the most urgent of the recommendations because the most practical time to make the change will be on 1st January when the new Commission is appointed for four years and when Greece joins the Community.

It is of course linked to portfolios, as the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, pointed out. It is linked to the division of subjects. If there are to be 16 or 17 commissioners in the future the Member countries would be artificially separating subjects or searching for additional ones and looking for extra activities for the commissioners. I agree with what has been said earlier, that no doubt activity could be found for the commissioners, in accordance with Parkinson's Law hut, it is inimical to good co-ordination in the departments of the Commission—an area in which both reports state that improvement is required. In the event some of the commissioners would probably have to double up, one acting as a deputy for another in handling a portfolio. To manufacture four additional portfolios simply to reflect the size and prestige of the larger countries would be a formula for inefficiency. So if in practice there is to be a "second eleven of commissioners then why not dispense with the "second eleven ", as proposed in both reports?

The internal weaknesses which are described in the reports and which I summarised just now will not he put right if the Commission itself is top-heavy and inefficient in the arrangements at commissioner level, patently pandering to certain national claims. The commissioners are not representatives. During their four years they serve the EEC as a whole and there is no doubt that their allegiance is to the best interests of the EEC. Hitherto the record in this respect has been a reassuring one. So I urge the British Government to make a supreme effort to persuade the other countries concerned—especially France and Italy—to agree to a reduction in the numbers of the Commission in future.

The noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, went further, following up the point I made about the commissioners not being representatives of their countries but being international while they are doing the job. I agree with him and I hope that in days to come a country would be happy not to have a commissioner of their own nationality at all. But I think that is in the future, and I would suggest that for the moment we must take this one step at a time. Clearly if one is going to make progress in this direction, with good organisation, the first step is that the second commissioners should be dropped.

It is not a surprise, when we come to the shortcomings reported in the Spierenburg Report of the Commission, to read that the workload is unevenly spread. Nor is it news to some of us that the initiation of schemes, draft directives and regulations is somewhat haphazard. We have been aware of some proposals from the Commission which did not appear necessary or of value to Members or to the Community as a whole. Much time and energy have been expended on such schemes of harmonisation where there was no reason to change a system which was already operating successfully and in harmony and was not in need of confusing or disruptive changes.

To improve the internal working I support the suggestion that more must be expected of the President of the Commission. It does not seem that any change in the Treaty of Rome is required for this. One of the recommendations which has been mentioned is that there should he a single vice-president to assist him in these particular functions. Together they would promote internal co-ordination and better distribution of work.

It has been suggested that in future the President should be appointed six months before what was the normal time in the past. Whether or not that finds favour, the proposal that he should be more closely involved in choosing the rest of the team of commissioners has much to commend it. After all, he has to combine the qualities of a chief executive and the conductor of an orchestra and he ought to be given the chance to choose his team and then the authority to improve the efficiency of the Commission as a whole. I believe that improvement in the organisation and methods of working will best be carried out by the Commission itself and not by some outside body. Of course, the Commission can call in consultants, and indeed that is really what it has done in commissioning the Spierenburg Report. I believe that the most effective improvements will be made if the Commission can do the job itself. So that means that this is a task which should be given to the new President when he starts in January 1981 and he must have the necessary authority and support. However, this is not a blank cheque for increasing staff and I agree with the reports that there must be a safeguard against expanding bureaucracy, and that where that is proposed, then it must be considered from outside the Commission.

There is one last point I should like to make, arising from the language point which has been raised by the two previous speakers. It has been pointed out that 40 per cent. of the staff of the Commission are involved, directly or indirectly, in language work. When the enlargement is completed there will be three more new languages. There must be some rationalisation and I support those proposals, but I should like to put in a word of caution. My noble friend Lord Morris mentioned the similar situation of the Council of Europe but I think there is a difference because the EEC has to consider, amend, approve, publish and then apply direct, regulations in the Member countries and a regulation which has to apply as law in one of the Member countries must be in the language of that country. It must also be expertly drafted. I will not go into the work of the Council of Europe. It has drawn up various declarations and international documents, but I do not think it has the same problem of having to produce documents which have direct legal application in the Member countries. So I think there is no short cut to economy there, but it is clearly something that must he looked at very carefully.

Baroness WHITE

My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but would he not perhaps agree that the distinction between an official language and a working language is a valid one? We might get by with two or maybe three working languages, but of course the documentation must be in all the official languages.


My Lords indeed I do, and that of course is the way in which the United Nations operates because there are so many languages there: a number of working languages and a number of official languages: and there have been a number of arguments about that. I sat behind the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, 30 years ago in the Security Council when I was a diplomat—we were dealing with Korea in 1950. The problems of language were arising then because there were only about 50 members of the United Nations at that time, whereas my latest count is nearly 160 now. They have been through all this, but again they do not have the problems of legal application in Member countries.

My Lords, I was just concluding by saying that I believe the two reports are helpful and can be useful because they are practical. I hope the Government will consider the recommendations in them, not only with care but also with some urgency, because some of them will need to be carried out and agreed this year if they are to be effective when the new Commission is appointed.

7.30 p.m.


My Lords, I have very little right to be imposing myself on your Lordships this evening. I am, I think, the newest member of the Select Committee and I think the most recently appointed chairman of a sub-committee. I am, therefore, and I know it, an utter novice. As part of my education or initiation or indoctrination or whatever, I had the privilege and pleasure—and it was, I assure your Lordships, both—of accompanying the noble Baroness, Lady White, on a one-day visit to Brussels just a fortnight ago. It was a very full day, in the course of which we had five conversations with different groups or individuals, and I should like, if your Lordships will allow me, to report very briefly indeed my first virginal impressions. Without exception of any kind, all those whom we saw were friendly, welcoming and forthcoming, and they ranged across the board from a vice-president and other high officials of the Commission to a couple of our own United Kingdom representatives. Nowhere was there any sign of holding hack or keeping us at a distance. Further, without exception of any kind, they struck me, at least, as being, all of them in their various ways, able, hardworking, thoughtful and anxious to make the whole thing work. So far as the personnel of the Commission are concerned my impression was wholly favourable.

What was not so favourable, my Lords, was my first naive impression of the machine which these first-rate people have to work. Put as briefly as possible, the input of high-powered time and thought is considerably greater than the outcome. Put another way, the system of checks and balances, which would delight the heart of a Bagehot, seems to me to he in such beautiful equilibrium that momentum, impetus, results, if so crude a word may be allowed, tend to get lost on the way. I do not mean that the Brussels staff are idle, far from it. There is an endless flow of documents, briefs, appreciations, drafts. We all know how many draft directives reach our own long-suffering, sub-committees in the course of a year. But what, in the end, does it all add up to or result in?

I must not attribute opinions to those who talked to us, but my own impression was that many of them felt frustrated and even discouraged—" disillusioned "I think would be too strong a word—by their inability to make the impact, "punch "is perhaps too crude a word, that they would wish to make within their own various spheres of activity, and that is sad. This sort of thing is, if I understand them, the kind of thing the two reports we are considering this evening would wish to cure or at least to alleviate. These reports come from people deeply experienced in the ways of Brussels and familiar with all the procedures of its constituent instruments and elements. My own knowledge is by contrast ludicrously inexpert.

I can only say that, on the basis of this one-day visit, I would plead with Her Majesty's Government to do everything in their power to support and reinforce the positive, constructive, productive measures which these reports propose. I would make that plea, first, for the sake of an appropriately forceful impact by the Communities on the problems our world faces;secondly, for the sake of the men and women who are working so hard to bring this about: and even, thirdly, for the sake of our own Select Committee and its subcommittees so that we may all make our modest contributions to the final outcome.

7.35 p.m.


My Lords. I am sorry that this debate is taking place on a Thursday night, when it is not very usual for us to have a full House here. should have liked to see a bigger attendance. Although we have got three of the old guard from Brussels here, it would have been nice if some of the new Members of the European Parliament who are also Members of this House had been able to come to this debate tonight.

I hope. my Lords, that this report will be studied and discussed by all Members of this House, but particularly by those Members who opted for British membership of the Community some years ago but have since become disillusioned because the results, far from living up to the expectations of the most ardent Europhiles, have been bitterly disappointing. The situation, as the disillusioned see it, is that we are compelled to bear an unfair share of the costs of running the Community, and we are not able to enjoy full industrial reward as predicted, simply because businessmen across the Channel find it easier to sell their goods to us than we do to sell our goods to them.

I share that disappointment. I share the resentment at the gross unfairness which the financial arrangements have proved unexpectedly to have. But I do not share the disillusionment and despair. I still have faith that the European experiment will succeed, and I still hold the belief that it must succeed.

The four years that I spent in the European Parliament, four years discussing the problems of Europe and the world with men and women of eight other nations, gave me a rather different perspective from that of my colleagues who were pro-European but who did not share that experience. As I go around today I meet a good deal of rather small-minded nationalism. I find one-time Europeans, former Europeanists, who fulminate about fish or utter lamentations about lamb or get apoplectic at the thought of Bolsheviks gorging themselves on subsidised Community butter. These complaints are often just. But the critics of these inequities give them, I think, far too much importance, and fail to give the thought that is needed to the much deeper problems which afflict Europe and indeed the Western World today.

I would hope, my Lords, that the disillusioned will study particularly the opening and closing pages of this report. It is not an onerous task, for it is written with grace and clarity, and the recommendations of the Three Wise Men are indeed full of conspicuous wisdom. As they point out, their brief was a narrow one;to consider adjustments to the machinery and procedures of the Community institutions. But they have in their wisdom permitted themselves some wider reflections. And they say at the outset that the concern which is felt about he slowness of progress towards the European goal and about the failures and inadequacies of the Community performance is because they are not due, as the noble Baroness pointed out, to mechanical or procedural faults but to deeper causes. All the Community can do by correcting the mechanics is to remove one gratuitous obstacle to progress. That obstacle is perhaps bigger than it appears. To make progress the Community must command goodwill among the citizens and some enthusiasm among the leaders of public opinion, and it cannot do that if people suspect bureacratic ineptitude, or are aware of a Commission which lacks the collegiate spirit, a Council of Ministers to which senior Ministers do not always turn up, or a European Council of Heads of State and Government which issues perfunctory, hasty, rather ill-written communiques. I think that perceived inefficiency can easily sap political will.

The analysis that the committee of three make of the shortcomings of the institutions, and the remedies they propose, strike me as accurate and sensible when they are dealing with things that I was able to observe from my ringside seat in Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxembourg. Perhaps they do not give enough credit to members of the Commission for their long and frequent appearances before the Parliament's committees.

In the Economic Committee, for example, I found Messrs. Ortoli and Davignan unsparing of their time and even of their patience with Members who had clearly not read their papers, and perhaps with the majority of us who were never able to penetrate fully the mysteries of the EMS. But, for most of us, I think, the body of the report serves mainly to show how difficult it is to run this kind of organisation with Ministers from nine countries, heavily burdened by their duties in the departments and parliaments of their national States and often preoccupied by a national, political or economic crisis.

The report does a useful service when, in dealing with the state of the Community, it presents the positive side. "A major new entity "they remind us "has taken its place on the world negotiating scene". Indeed, outside the confines of a national State no comparable attempt has been made to establish a homogeneous economic area with uniform conditions for competition. With all its imperfections the Community has become one of the most important single trading blocs in the world. I do not think that we have to resent the mass of paper work that the achievements of such a trading bloc must generate.

Perhaps the most important boast the Community could make in the 1970s was that it survived. It was plunged into a world economic crisis of great severity before it had evolved a common economic or monetary system on which to base a united European front. And at that moment it had the additional task of absorbing three new Member States. Of course, in the 1960s, when Europe was being built, there was sustained economic growth and stable money. In those days Governments were able to make some sacrifice for the common good and Governments were strong because their countries were doing pretty well. But, in the 1970s slow growth and monetary disturbance have made the Member States defensive and reluctant to experiment. Governments have often been insecure, based on fragile coalitions with very small majorities and very often lacking in authority. It is not remarkable that the tempo of the European construction has slowed down;rather it is a wonder that the Nine have stayed together and resisted the temptation to adopt any really significant protectionism.

But what about the future? The task of the European Council is now, as this Committee sees it, to lay down the priorities for advance. I cannot see why there is so much objection to that;I cannot see from where else the initiative could come. The Commission does not have the type of status today to do it and the Council is, after all, a rather ragged body. What the Commission could do, would be to inspire the European Council with some rough outline of the sensible priorities that the Community could decide to follow in the forthcoming years.

Of course, Britain had the ill luck to join the Community in 1973, the very year, as the committee points out, which saw the end of a 25-year epoch of growth and relative monetary stability. The committee believe that in the foreseeable future we shall not see a return of those conditions. Even the hopes which I remember were engendered in 1978 by M. Ortoli with his plan for concerted growth, investment in new industries and the reconstruction of the old ones, can no longer be sustained, at least not for the short term. As the committee see it, several years must pass before inflationary expectations are effectively discouraged, and not until price rises slow down considerably is there real hope of substantially speeding up economic growth in Europe.

There is also the terrible question of energy. Last year we experienced the second oil crisis in a decade and that is not the last crisis of its kind that we shall see, given the precarious balance of supply and demand. So, the Community must face more difficult years, particularly as an increasing work population struggles for jobs in a period of low growth. It will be a period of severe competition among exporters and the Community will face the danger of protectionist measures—measures which, of course, could threaten its very basis. What the Community does about its relations with developing countries striving to be industrial would be another important question. What will the Community do about the problems of adjustment as these Mediterranean countries are recruited? And what of the continuing problem of the dollar?

So, as far as the Three Wise Men—and not they alone—see it, the Community's first problem will be to keep what, we learned when we were in Europe to call the acquis—to keep its heritage, to keep its achievement. But, keeping its achievement does not mean that the CAP, for example, is not in dire need of reform. That must be carried out. Most of the great problems that the European Community will have to face are world problems and they will require negotiation at world level or with other great economic units throughout the world. So, the continued unity of the Community will be essential—this is the message of the Three Wise Men—and nothing will be more essential than political co-operation, for the economic problems are inseparable from the political ones. I think that in a way the Three Wise Men have shown infinite wisdom not by following M. Tindemans, who presented not what was possible but what he wanted and hoped to have but by presenting what is possible —the way the Community can go forward. They see union not as a federal goal, nor as a nothing, as some people imagine union to be, but as a process of working together whenever it is possible to work together and that is particularly true of political co-operation. The current crisis over Afghanistan reveals the need for Europe, whenever it can, to speak with one firm voice and to be, as M. Genscher put it, not standing between the United States and the Soviet Union, but standing side by side with the United States.

7.49 p.m.


My Lords, I am very happy to follow my colleague the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick. He was a very good companion during the four years that we served together in the European Parliament. I should like to say that I think he is the only Member of your Lordships' House who can write verse in French in the style of almost any famous French poet. That relieved the situation after perhaps a modest dinner in Brussels. They were arduous years, but he made them a little less arduous.

I should like, too, to thank the noble Baroness, Lady White, for having introduced this debate. We are all so very happy that she should be our new chairman. I congratulate her on the appointment. It is an excellent appointment and it is a very good idea to have in some "new boys ", like my old friend the noble Lord, Lord Wolfenden, to give a new picture because first impressions are so often right. I very much agreed with what he said about the frustration that exists among officials, whether national or international, and also even among Ministers, which I think is distressing, but which I noticed very clearly in the relations that I have had with some of them and which I still have with them.

In view of the time, I should like to confine my brief remarks to the importance of strengthening political co-operation. Therefore, these remarks arise more from the report of the Three Wise Men than from that of Ambassador Dirk Spierenburg, who confined himself to the Commission. With others, I think that both reports are excellent and most useful, and I hope that the Government will look at them with very great care. I very much agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, said about the admirable recommendations of Prime Minister Tindemans and how sad it is that these have not been realised.

However, the importance of strengthening political co-operation is stated very clearly on page 106 of the Wise Men's report, where they say that all the great problems facing a united Europe today—and the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, mentioned this—whether it is monetary stability, energy supplies or the new international division of labour, are world problems which frequently require negotiations and agreements at world level, or with particular economic units outside the Community—United States, Japan, EFTA, Eastern Asia, the oil producers and the non-oil producing developing countries. In these cases I am glad to see that the Wise Men consider it desirable that the Community and the Nine should, in these various relationships, act as a united body, and I assume, of course, that that applies in such dire situations as the invasion of Afghanistan.

The question is: how should, or can, the elaborate machinery for the Foreign Ministers acting in political co-operation—perhaps outside the Council and the Treaties—be effectively strengthened. That is the main question which I put to my noble friend this evening who will answer on behalf of my noble friend the Foreign Secretary. How can this machinery be effectively strengthened?

According to Mr. Arrigo Levi's article published in The Times on 28th February, the Foreign Secretary is reported to have suggested a significant improvement in this mechanism in a case of emergency, and that COREU—that is to say, the assistants of the political directors in the Member States who are described as "European correspondents "and who are in constant direct communication with each other, but, not through embassies—has been asked to produce a report on the matter. I hope that that is true, and that it produces some useful suggestions.

I recognise that from the start political co-operation was founded on consensus, which means that each one of the Nine maintains a veto power. It would be most interesting if my noble friend was able to elaborate or comment on that article by Mr. Levi, especially when he speaks of Britain now setting up what is described as some "unclenching mechanism" which would automatically lead to a meeting of the Nine in a crisis, so that they might produce a common reaction.

I was glad to read Mr. Edmund Dell's answer to a question which I put to him in the Select Committee—it is page 30 of the Minutes of Evidence—where he agreed that the political co-operation machinery ought to be strengthened. It will be seen, too, that Mr. Hannay of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office agreed that there was a feeling that at least some modest improvements ought to be made to ensure that the conclusions of the European Council should be rapidly known and worked on. But when I mentioned to Mr. Dell the idea of establishing a permanent, international political secretariat—an idea which the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and I know was much talked about some years ago—Mr. Dell said that the word "secretariat "had, for certain historical reasons, got a bad name and he did not, therefore, think it desirable to use that expression. But he did think that if political co-operation was to be developed more fully, some machinery would be necessary to do it—more effective machinery than can be provided by the individual Member State during its six months' tenure of the presidency.

I believe that I may be right in saying that some strengthening has come about by allowing members of the secretariats of the previous and following Member States which held and will hold the presidency, to overlap to a certain extent. I was interested to learn that the other day, and it is certainly a step in the right direction. However, I should be grateful if my noble friend could comment on this whole question.

I think that it is excellent that the Nine Foreign Ministers should meet formally in political co-operation four times a year;that is to say, twice in every presidency. It is also excellent that a political committee exists which is composed of the "political directors "of the Nine or their equivalents. I am glad, too, to learn that a considerable number of ad hoc working groups on specific subjects outside the Treaties have been established, and what an important role the European correspondents, as they are called, themselves play.

However, all this machinery seems to me to be somewhat heavy and unwieldy. As the noble Baroness, Lady White, indicated in perhaps a somewhat different context, as soon as the Nine seem to get together, they must have a great deal of very heavy machinery around them, which does not always advance decisions. I hope that my noble friend the Foreign Secretary is successful in persuading his eight colleagues that the mechanism needs improving, especially in cases of dire emergency.

I recognise, of course, that whatever the machinery, differences of national pride, even on questions in which the common interest is obvious, can be very deep-seated, and that whereas the adoption of a common attitude may often be achieved, agreement on common action is a very different matter. However, I am glad to learn that even if political cooperation is still in a fairly primitive stage, none the less it seems to have been considerably successful in the General Assembly of the United Nations, where a high percentage of issues have achieved common votes.

Taking into account the somewhat unwieldy existing machinery, it is certainly a great achievement that the Nine have been able to stand together so continuously on so many issues. However, I hope that my noble friend will say that he believes that, specifically for political co-operation, the presidency of the Council should be strengthened by the establishment of a permanent international political staff which would be able to act more effectively than would the secretariat of the Council in Brussels, whose activities are technically circumscribed by the treaties, or the secretariats of individual Member States which change with the six-month presidency, even if—as I say—some beneficial, if minimal, secretarial overlapping has now been decided upon.

All this may well involve formal institutional development, and I believe that only thus will a common foreign policy over a larger number of issues be achieved. It may well be that only a major world crisis will compel the Nine—and soon the Twelve—to consolidate more effectively in this way. However, I should hope that the machinery might be improved before we have to face another world crisis.

I was very interested to re-read an article on strengthening the presidency which appeared in the New Europe in 1976. It was written by a group of European officials of different nationalities and emphasised the fact that it is the president-in-office of the Council who is at any given time the single most important and influential person in the Community and who wields, in effect, more responsibility for the running of the Community on a day-to-day basis than anyone else, even the president of the Commission, or the president of the Parliament—whose influence I think is increasing. I might note here in regard to the Parliament that it never did, nor does it now, confine itself to dealing with questions arising purely from the treaties. As the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, knows, they concern themselves with all matters of foreign and defence policy.

I was looking back at the Fouchet proposals, initiated by the French Government in 1961 and 1962. They envisaged the creation of a European political union. I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, speak about this and speak about this ultimate aim in sympathetic terms. Those Fouchet proposals envisaged the creation of this European political union which would be serviced by a political secretariat. However, as the New Europe article points out, the creation of a political secretariat in the near future seems no more likely now perhaps than in the 1960s in view of the wrangling over its site, competences, and institutional role. But, in my view, possibly a small secretariat, a kind of "think-tank ", could he created—and, speaking entirely personally, I wonder why this should not be in Paris which, especially in view of enlargement, would be geographically an appropriate site. This "think-tank "would provide the presidency with policy input studies and prepare background papers for following presidencies.

I was also interested to note the recent proposal of the German Minister of State for ForeignAffairs, Dr. von Dohnanyi. He suggested that the role—this is just a suggestion on which I should be interested to hear my noble friend's comments;I am not certain whether it is a good suggestion or not—of the Secretary General of the Council of Ministers might be upgraded and that he might take the chair at some meetings of the Council, in the same way as the Secretary General of NATO does. As I say, I should be glad to know the views of my noble friend on these various proposals. I hope that the Government will press hard for an improvement in present procedures.

Just one word about languages. I agreed very much with what my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy said on this. It is going to be difficult to reduce the number of languages in the European Parliament, for example, because that is a directly elected body. Even with the delegated body, the indirectly elected body, of which some of us were members, it was noticeable that if a Danish farmer has been delegated by the Danish Parliament to go to the European Parliament, he might not necessarily speak any other language, and so Danish was always insisted on. I remember many occasions when the Danes walked out if there was not a Danish interpreter there.

It is going to be extremely difficult with a directly elected Parliament, with people who have not been brought up in the ambience of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or as delegates to the United Nations. They are different kinds of people. But when they are directly elected I think they more often like to speak their own language. That is all I have to say, except again to congratulate the authors of the report and to hope that the Government will take them seriously.

8.5 p.m.


My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Wolfenden, I am a new member of the noble Baroness's committee, and I look forward to working under her chairmanship. I enjoyed working with her in the Foreign Office a few years ago, and I am sure this pleasure will be continued. I am not going to detain your Lordships more than a few moments. In my opinion the report of the Three Wise Men and the Spierenburg Report reveal a disturbing and disappointing state of affairs. It is no good denying that. A state of affairs in great contrast to the expectations which were raised at the time of the referendum. The fact that both reports were so well written softened the blow but did not entirely eliminate it.

I asked a friend of mine who was familiar with the workings of Brussels—not himself a strong European—what he thought about the recommendations of the reports. He replied that in his view they had merely tried to part the hair on the head of the corpse. That of course is a harsh judgment, but there is an element of truth in it. Multilateral diplomacy, even among friends, is a difficult job. If the impetus and political will is lacking, as it now is in Brussels, no amount of tinkering with procedures, however sensible, is going to revive the corpse. Not only is multilateral diplomacy difficult but international bureaucracies, like the Commission's staff, have never in my experience been other than hard to organise and hard to manage. The staff of the United Nations is the supreme example, as the noble Lords, Lord Gladwyn and Lord Campbell of Croy, know. Promotion often goes by nationality rather than by merit, and there is an endless attempt to manipulate the service on the basis of national loyalties. Things are of course much better in Brussels than they are in New York, but there are many of the same inherent difficulties, and we must take realistic account of them.

I understand that there is every indication that the Commission intends to take the Spierenburg Report seriously. It is in my view Her Majesty's Government's duty to encourage them to put their house in order, especially with the complicating prospects of enlargement and the emergence of the Parliament as a stronger factor. Clearly one of the greatest weaknesses is the lack of co-ordination, and the reports' proposals for improving this need sympathetic endorsement. It would involve a special vice-president with a co-ordinating responsibility. That seems right to me.

I do not feel able to express a view on some of the more detailed recommendations of the Spierenburg Report, but on the question of the commissioners I have no doubt in my own mind that a reduction would be desirable. But I do not believe that it is politically possible to make any significant reduction in the numbers when the Commission, or when the Community, is enlarged. I have been disturbed by the reports of hostility between the Commission and Parliament. Speaking to some foreign members of the European Parliament I have noticed their anxiety and willingness to enter into conflict with the Commission. I hope that our own Members of the European Parliament will use their influence to try to prevent this wrangle developing to the detriment of the progress of the whole Community.

I revert briefly to a few of the other observations of the Three Wise Men. As has been pointed out, their most striking suggestion is that the European Council should set the course for the Community by stating clearly, annually I believe, priorities and objectives. This has of course a compelling logic, but at the moment I believe it is beyond the wit of the members of the council to do so. As an experiment, I tried to draft such a document myself and found it was either immediately unacceptable politically or what I believe the present Prime Minister would call "wet". Mr. Dell, in the evidence he gave, was more optimistic, but I do not think his optimism is sufficiently justified.

As has been rightly pointed out, the Council of Ministers is the key body in the Community set-up and the report's proposals for the improvement of it are very straightforward. They amount really to urging people to accept responsibility at the lowest practical level, thereby keeping from the council itself the vast volume of business which presently overwhelms it. This is a very elementary system of administration which is as valuable in business as it is in the Civil Service, and if all the members of the organisations in Brussels just observed the simple rule of taking responsibility when they could, a great leap forward would have been made.

There is an interesting section in the report on the responsibility of national capitals. Do they prepare adequately for the council meetings, are Ministers properly briefed, are national departments adequately co-ordinated? From all the inquiries I have made, I believe our people in Whitehall come out very well in this, and that is something to be applauded.

The Three Wise Men attempt at the end of their report to comment on the outlook from 1980 to 1985. They are not encouraging. Inter alia, they emphasise strongly the need for a Community energy policy. We know how difficult this is, and I believe we shall be debating it shortly in this House. There is one thing however, that we could do now, and I cannot understand why we do not proceed to do it at once, and that is to increase the rate of exploration in the North Sea. I emphasise "exploration", not necessarily development. Let us first find out what our potential resources are, and then we can see if they can be fitted into the very difficult equation which is manifestly coming up in Brussels about an energy policy.

8.13 p.m.


My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to debate these two reports, and once again your Lordships are in debt to the Select Committee on the European Communities, under the chairmanship of the noble Baroness, for undertaking this study. The committee has produced a number of notable reports in the past. The Government will want to take account of views expressed in this debate and of any conclusions that the Select Committee may reach on these matters.

As several noble Lords' have observed, there is an important distinction between the two reports we are now considering. The report of the Wise Men, which originated in an initiative by the French President, who was concerned that the Community should be properly equipped to meet the challenge of enlargement, was commissioned by the European Council in December 1978. Its terms of reference embraced all the institutions of the Community. The European Council was looking for practical ways of improving the operation of the Community rather than wholesale reform;Treaty amendment was ruled out.

The origins of the Spierenburg Report are rather different. Following their informal meeting at Comblain-la-Tour in September 1978, the Commission invited a group of five independent experts to examine how the Commission's organisation and staff resources could best be adjusted to meet future needs. The Speirenburg Review Body was thus concerned with the internal workings of the Commission rather than with the operation of the Community as a whole. The initiative came from the Commission itself and its recommendations are, therefore, for the Commission alone.

The Community was fortunate in being able to call on Mr. Barendt Biesheuvel from the Netherlands, Mr. Robert Marjolin from France, and Mr. Edmund Dell from this country, to be the Wise Men. Each member of the committee was of course a most distinguished person in his own right. Their report was submitted to the European Council in November last year. The Commission Review Body was appointed in January 1979 under the chairmanship of Ambassador Spierenburg and, as several noble Lords have mentioned, Mr. Dick Taverne was one of the members. They presented their report to the Commission last September and it was made public at the same time.

I will deal with each report in turn. The House will wish me to say a word first on the timing of consideration of the Wise Men's Report, which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts. At its meeting in Dublin, the European Council agreed that Foreign Ministers should examine the report with a view to preparing discussion at the next European Council. An informal meeting of Ministers was held at Varese in Italy on 8th February and there may be another informal meeting before the European Council at present planned for the end of March. It seems possible, however—perhaps it is more probable than possible—that substantive decisions may have to wait for the June European Council. I should emphasise here that it will of course be for the members of the European Council to take the final decisions.

I come to the Government's general approach to the Wise Men's Report. In their introduction the Wise Men expressed the hope that the European Community will be able to deepen and extend cooperation among its members. The Government's wholehearted commitment to the Community means that we share this hope. And it follows from this approach that we should like to see the institutions of the Community working as efficiently as possible. We accept that the Community's shortcomings cannot be rectified by mere improvements to its institutions and machinery. We also believe, however, that there is scope for useful procedural improvements. We believe that the report contains valuable suggestions on which we hope action will be taken. It is important that it should not be allowed to gather dust or get lost in the Brussels machinery, and the same is true of the Spierenburg Report.

So much for the Government's general approach. As far as the Wise Men's specific proposals are concerned, the Government have not yet reached final conclusions. The vast majority we broadly welcome as being thoroughly practical and workmanlike suggestions. On a few, however, we have some reservations, and I shall come to them shortly. But we certainly have not yet reached the point of finally turning down any of the recommendations. We want to see what our partners think, for example, before coming to any definite conclusion. It may well be possible to resolve some of our doubts in the course of discussion. We shall also want to consider what has been said in your Lordhsips' House this evening and to hear whatever may be said in due course in another place. I am, therefore, not in a position to do more now than to give your Lordships an account of the Government's preliminary views.

The Wise Men make a number of specific proposals affecting the European Council. For example, they recommend limited agendas, limited attendance, careful preparation and follow up, early circulatiion of documents, and clear presidency responsibility for drafting conclusions. Their two most important proposals are that the Council should, in collaboration with the Commission, adopt a master plan of priorities for the Community as a whole;and that the President of the European Council should appear once every six months before the Parliament so as to achieve a direct dialogue at the highest level.

It must of course be for the Members of the European Council themselves, in our case of course my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, to make up their minds on how they wish to organise their own meetings and to give effect, if at all, to the recommendations of the Wise Men in this area. The Government certainly agree in general on the advantages of a clear definition of priorities for Community work. But there may be dangers in seeking agreement on too rigid a plan. Equally, if the plan is too flexible, it may be so generalised as to be meaningless.

The Government also agree on the need to establish a constructive relationship between the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. The appearance of the President at the Parliament might be one way of furthering that objective. But I cannot anticipate what decision the European Council will take on this question. As far as the Wise Men's procedural recommendations are concerned, many of them are little more than recommendations for the implementation of what has already been agreed in the past.

The Wise Men have made a number of valuable proposals affecting the Council of Ministers, which they believe produces too few results for too much work. This point has been referred to more than once already this evening. There is obviously much to be said for the clearer definition and the more efficient execution of the responsibilities of the presidency. Much of course depends on the attitude of the presidency itself. Here again, whatever rules are agreed will have little value unless the presidency is in practice guided by them. The Wise Men have drawn attention to the value of the presidency informing the Parliament of its objectives at the beginning of its term of office, and of presenting an "end of term report." This would strengthen the dialogue between the institutions, and act as a useful discipline in the presidency's monitoring of its own progress. The Government see considerable attraction in these proposals.

On the other hand, we have some reservation about the proposal that the presidency should have discretion to share its burdens with other Member States: for example, the preceding presidency. This, we believe, could lead to confusion, if different Member States were handling overlapping dossiers. We believe that the advantages of unity of control should not lightly be set aside. We certainly do not want to rule the idea out entirely, however. One possibility might be to decide each case on its merits. But we believe that a better way to lighten the President's burden would be to implement another of the Wise Men's proposals;namely, that the resources of the Council secretariat should be more fully and regularly used.

The Wise Men argue that the Council must be free to concentrate on genuinely political issues. They therefore recommend making wider use of delegation to the Commission, and giving more room for manoeuvre to the Committee of Permanent Representatives—COREPER—and the lower level bodies. The Wise Men's objective is clearly right. It may, however, be difficult to decide on criteria that should govern the delegation of work to the Commission. One possibility would simply be to reach agreement on a case by case basis on issues related to accepted areas of Community activity.

The Government are also prepared to consider sympathetically the Wise Men's recommendation that more use should be made in practice of majority voting where the Treaty of Rome provides for it, it being understood that this would represent no departure from existing principles and would not affect Member States' ability in the last resort to insist on a decision being reached by unanimity where their own vital interests are concerned. But it could considerably speed and simplify the decision taking process.

I come now to a proposal made both by the Wise Men and the Commission Review Body. Indeed, it is perhaps the single most important specific proposal to emerge. I refer to the reduction in the size of the Commission to one per Member State. I should like to say a word about the Government's attitude to this recommendation. We recognise the case for one commissioner per Member State on grounds of efficiency. Particularly after enlargement, this change could substantially facilitate the day-to-day work of the Commission. On the other hand, the ability of the larger Member States to appoint two commissioners has enabled the larger countries, ourselves included, to appoint commissioners from different parties—an arrangement which they have found valuable. It is of course also the case that the present arrangement reflects to some extent the relative weight of Members States in the Community. On the other hand, the Treaty of Rome itself guarantees that the members of the Commission shall, in the general interest of the Communities, be completely independent in the performance of their duties. These are the various factors which will determine the Government's final view on this recommendation in due course;but we have not yet come to a decision.

The Wise Men and the Spierenburg Committee have also made parallel proposals on the appointment of the President of the Commission and other members of the Commission. Both recommend that the President should be named six months before he takes office and should he consulted on the latter's appointment by the Member States. The Wise Men further recommend that the President should have the last word on the allocation of portfolios. This is clearly a sensitive subject. The Government are not likely to have any difficulty with the principle of the early appointment of the President, nor in giving him the right to be consulted over other Commission nominations. But there are clear difficulties for Governments about giving the President the last word over such nominations or in the allocation of portfolios.

The Wise Men rightly attach importance to relations between the Parliament and the other institutions. So far as relations with the Council are concerned, the Government agree that the Council should take Parliament's resolutions seriously and are ready to play their part in working out practical improvements to tackle the difficulties arising in the implementation of the "conciliation "procedure.

May I now turn to some of the points specifically put to me this evening. The noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, first of all asked about the paramountcy of the Council. If the proposals in the Wise Men's report are adopted, they will make no difference to the institutional balance within the Community. The Council of Ministers will continue to have the last word on all Community legislation, working under the political guidance of the Heads of State or the Heads of Government in the European Council.

My noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy asked me about the Commission's proposal for harmonisation and some of the difficulties that we have had there. May I say that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has emphasised that we will support only harmonisation proposals which are really necessary to improve the functioning of the Common Market. Many of the directives which have been implemented under Article 100 have been useful in reducing barriers to trade, and the Government intend to ensure that all future proposals meet this criteria.

I wish to return now to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts;and I am sorry that I am taking these points a little out of sequence, but perhaps they are better dealt with this way. The noble Lord made a number of points, and he referred especially and most importantly, to the need for respect particularly for the decisions of the European Court and the other institutions, with particular reference to the vexed sheep meat problem, which has been so long before us.

It is for the Commission, as guardians of the Treaties, to bring to an end this illegal situation—which is what it is. They obtained the original judgment from the European Court of Justice in September last year. They initiated a second case against French quantitative restrictions on 14th January, and I am glad to see that they have now decided to lay a third case before the court against the levy and licensing system which the French have imposed, and are imposing, at various times;and they—that is the Commission—will apply simultaneously for an interim injunction in both these cases. So your Lordships will appreciate that the Commission is not allowing the grass to grow under its feet.


My Lords, will all this get us anywhere? Do we go on having these injunctions, these judgments, with nothing at all, in effect, happening?


My Lords, I cannot hide from your Lordships our regret that, so far, that seems to be the case. However, we have high hopes that the French will comply with the forthcoming judgments when and if we get them, as I believe we shall, and perhaps then this unhappy matter can be brought to a close.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy, the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and indeed my noble friend Lord Morris raised the question of languages, and I think that at least one other noble Lord did as well. Since Community legislation is directly applicable in Member States, it is inconceivable that each Member State should not be able to read it in the Official Journal in his own language. But, that said, a large part of the financial and administrative burden of the proliferation of languages is incurred by the need for interpretation at meetings—and this point has been made by several noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Bessborough. We hope it will be possible for pragmatic solutions, already much practised, to be extended.

I think it was my noble friend Lord Bessborough who raised the remarks of the German junior Foreign Minister about the need for a powerful political Secretary-General (if that is the right word) to the Council of Ministers, who might, for example, take the chair at meetings of the committee of permanent representatives. We have much sympathy with the Wise Men's view that an effective and efficient Council secretariat can play a part in support of the presidency and in the handling of Community business. Strengthening of the role of the Secretary-General could be one way of doing this, and will be one of the considerations we shall take into account in reaching our conclusion.

Finally, now, the important point raised by my noble friend Lord Bessborough about political co-operation. The esssence of political co-operation is well expressed, I think, in the words of my noble friend the Foreign Secretary, It is better to sing in harmony than in unison". Divergence among the Nine is a source of democratic strength, perhaps, though it is often represented as a weakness. My noble friend Lord Bessborough referred to the machinery of political co-operation as elaborate and unwieldy. It is in fact quite simple, and provides a maximum direct contact between Ministers and officials at all levels with a minimum of bureaucracy. On the need for an emergency procedure, referred to by my noble friend, the machinery of political co-operation is certainly under constant review, and, indeed, the invasion of Afghanistan has highlighted the need to look in particular at mechanisms for organising urgent meetings. If political co-operation is to develop further, it will require stronger administrative back-up, and the United Kingdom is therefore prepared to consider anything practical upon which the Nine can agree.

A system of secondments from past and future presidencies was initiated by the United Kingdom in 1977, and has proved a useful way of providing experienced staff for the presidency. The current system is not too expensive, it has no inordinate international administration, and it provides valuable direct contact at all levels. Furthermore, it provides what is referred to as a renewal of enthusiasm every six months. A new and special secretariat might prove to be very expensive, and might indeed be at risk of losing touch with political opinion within the Nine. But, having said that, we do not wish to be inflexible in these matters, and will keep any sensible proposal under careful consideration.

May I now say just a few words about the Spierenburg Report. I have already explained that it is for the Commission itself rather than the Council to decide on the handling of this report. I gather that the Commission has already put in considerable work, although they have not yet formally announced any internal reforms, nor made any proposals to the Council concerning those recommendations which would require approval of the budgetary authority. At a Press conference which he gave in October, the President of the Commission, Mr. Jenkins, said that the Commission welcomed the report and had decided to deal urgently with the detailed proposals on staffing changes, which they had already broadly endorsed. They also set in motion a major review of the basic administrative units of the Commission's services, possibly leading to a reduction in their numbers.

Against this background, it is not for Her Majesty's Government to take any decisions at this stage. We have nevertheless studied the report with great interest, and consider that it is an excellent analysis with a number of very sensible proposals. The Commission has an important role defined under the treaties. It is in the Community's interest, and therefore in our interest, that the Commission should operate as efficiently and effectively as possible. Taken as a whole, the Spierenburg proposals, if adopted, would make a useful contribution to this. We await with interest an indication of what specific action the Commission will take or propose. We have naturally discussed this question informally with the Commission, who are aware of our broad views.

I have dealt earlier with the question of a reduction in the size of the Commission. Whether or not this is eventually agreed, I think many of the Spierenburg recommendations can stand on their own merits, and would lead to an improvement in the operational effectiveness of the Commission. For example, Spierenburg pointed out the need for greater coordination of policy proposals. This is right. It would be an even more pertinent recommendation if it were decided to retain a large Commission. Increased mobility of staff is another factor which, in our view, will contribute to an improved morale of the personnel and an improved capability for the Commission to respond flexibly to changing policy priorities. Finally, I should like to suggest that the Spierenburg recommendations for reducing the number of Directorates General and rejuggling the composition of portfolios is not one which is ineluctably dependent on reducing the size of the Commission itself. After 20 years of Community activity, it is natural that the focus of policy priorities will have shifted, and some recognition that the structure of the organisation should follow these changes seems to me both self-evident and necessary.

In conclusion, I should like to leave your Lordships with two thoughts. The first is the Government's belief that the functions of the Community's institutions depend not only on the right procedures but on the right attitude of mind at every level in the Community. The Government hope that firm decisions will be taken on both the Wise Men's report and the report of the Commission Review Body to provide the right procedural and organisational framework. But if those decisions are ever to be translated effectively into action, it is vital that all concerned, both Ministers and officials, should bear in mind that in the last resort institutions and procedures are only as effective as the men who operate them. Rules alone are not enough: they must be observed.

The second thought with which I should like to leave your Lordships comes from the final chapter of the Wise Men's report, which speaks of two unwritten Community rules of an importance comparable with that of the Treaties themselves. The Wise Men define the first rule as follows: If a Member State finds itself in serious difficulty, whether as a result of circumstances, or of the application of certain Community rules, or of its own mistakes, it is a question both of duty and of self-interest for the other Community countries to help it find solutions or to give assistance, by all the means in their power, within a programme aimed at correcting the situation". The second rule is defined as follows: Every Member State should refrain, so far as is at all possible, from any act which might directly or indirectly make life more difficult for other Member States and for the Community as a whole …Every Member State should bear in mind, in all its important decisions, the possible consequences of its actions for the Community and the other Member States". The Wise Men call these rules the rules of active and passive solidarity. Her Majesty's Government believe that the healthy development of the Community, in which we firmly believe, does indeed depend upon the observance by all the Member States of these two rules.

8.40 p.m.

Baroness WHITE

My Lords, my sympathy for the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, and his team has been mounting. This is no reflection whatsoever on any noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, for every speech tonight has been extremely constructive. We also are grateful to the Minister for having given us such a careful and detailed reply—better than I expected, frankly;and, of course, needless to say,.I mean the details. We are very grateful. It only remains for me once again to thank all noble Lords who have taken part, and to thank noble Lords for some generous references to myself: they are deeply appreciated. As all that we are doing in this Motion is to ask noble Lords to "take note "of two significant and interesting reports, I have no wish to withdraw the Motion;and I hope that it will be accepted.

On Question, Motion agreed to.