§ 12.4 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Young)
My Lords, I beg to move that the House to now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Baroness Young.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD AMPTHILL in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 [Extended meaning of "the Treaties "and "the Community Treaties"]:
Lord Bruce of Donington
moved Amendment No. 20: 1036Page 3, line 13, after ("Communities)"), insert (" but not Article 23 thereof")The noble Lord said: I would ask the leave of the Committee to speak to Amendment 21 at the same time. This amendment refers to Article 23 of the Single European Act, which your Lordships' will observe seeks to enter a new title into the Treaty of Rome, a title comprising some four articles under the broad general heading of "Economic and Social Cohesion".
That description is a very broad one indeed, and speaking in general terms it conjures up the kind of activity with which most of us on this side of the Committee, and I believe in all parts of the Committee, would distinctly favour. The integrity of society, the preservation of individual freedoms, orderly progression in the enlargement of our culture, enlargement of our leisure facilities, the greater opportunities for personal serenity of life, all depend, to a greater or lesser extent, on a degree of economic and social-cohesion being established.
Therefore, in general terms I am in favour of any steps that can be taken either in the United Kingdom or within the wider context of Europe as a whole on the basis of mutual co-operation, and indeed on a worldwide basis, to achieve economic and social cohesion, bearing in mind that the one thing that shatters economic and social cohesion more than anything else is unemployment among so many individuals, not only in our own country but in Europe. Unemployment is divisive. It kills hope. It eliminates purpose, and there can be no real freedom under such conditions.
Therefore, as I have said, I am in broad and general sympathy with the concept. But it is one thing to have an agreement with the concept and it is another thing to be party to any idea that manifestly, under current circumstances, can serve very little purpose and is there merely for the gloss. When I come to examine these particular articles to see whether they are really practicable in current circumstances, I have my doubts. There is no point in putting a new title in a treaty with eloquent words and excellent intentions if one knows in the beginning that it is not possible, without considerable change of the whole structure of the Community, for it to be achieved.
The Committee will observe that Title V at Article 130A reads:In order to promote its overall harmonious development, the Community shall develop and pursue its actions leading to the strengthening of its economic and social cohesion".It continues:In particular the Community shall aim at reducing disparities between the various regions and the backwardness of the least-favoured regions".Just so. When I had the honour first of all to go to the European Parliament to represent your Lordships' House in 1975, and throughout my stay with the European Parliament, together with noble Lords and Baronesses on the other side of the Chamber, that was the aim. But the very workings of the Community system, the very operation of the markets within the Community, the very polarisations of wealth that have 1037 taken place from the least favoured regions to the most favoured regions—a feature of which we are well aware in the United Kingdom, where the South is prospering relatively more than the North, and so it has been in Europe ever since I was there in 1975—that the richer parts of the Community have been getting richer and the poorer, poorer.
Once again this section in unexceptionable, but it reiterates something that has been said from the housetops in the Community and in the United Kingdom ever since 1975—that is, for 11 years—and to my knowledge a long time before that too. It only had a douse of cold water thrown over its head when it came to the publication of the Dooge Committee report, a section of which I have already read to the Committee. That admitted a woeful failure in the whole development of the Community and pointed out specifically—and it was signed by Mr. Rifkind on behalf of the United Kingdom Government—that progress had been very disappointing indeed and it was deplorable that there should be at that time some 8 million unemployed in Europe.
I pass now to Article 130B. This is a very important article:Member States shall conduct their economic policies, and shall co-ordinate them. in such a way as, in addition, to attain the objectives set out in Article 130A".That is the one I have read to the Committee.The implementation of the common policies and of the internal market shall take into account the objectives set out in Article 130A and in Article 130C and shall contribute to their achievement. The Community shall support the achievements of these objectives by the action it takes through the structual Funds"—I ask members of the Committee to note this—European Architectural Guidance and Guarantee Fund, Guidance Section. European Social Fund, European Regional Development Fund, the European Investment Bank and the other existing financial instruments".This is completely unexceptionable. But it is quite impossible.
It is impossible because there are two types of expenditure in the European Community. The noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, will agree. He and I have spent hours and hours in the budget committee of the European Parliament. There are two kinds of expenditure. One is called compulsory expenditure. That is equivalent to what we in this country know in Treasury terms as demand-led expenditure. In other words, there is a statutory responsibility to pay out certain sums of money to individuals, companies or other bodies as long as they comply with the law itself, and they would have a right of action against the state if they did not receive that. That is what we call demand-led expenditure.
The entire European Community budget is swamped by the common agricultural policy and in particular by the guarantee fund. The guarantee fund is compulsory expenditure. As long as people have claim to the provisions contained in the regulations under it they are entitled to receive it. There is no way of controlling that, save by repeal at the unanimous instance—I underline the word "unanimous" —of members of the Council of Ministers. This is the only 1038 way it can be changed. So long as one member of the Council of Ministers objects to a change in the regulations, common agricultural policy expenditure will continue to dominate and swamp all European Community expenditure.
Without wishing to cause a rift in perfectly amiable relations or cause even a minor diplomatic incident, let me say that so long as France, for example, and Eire remain beneficial recipients under the existing common agricultural policy regulations they will not agree to a change. Indeed we had an example only last week—or was it the week before? We had the instance of the Community's decisions on the budget presented to it by the European Parliament, which considered the preliminary draft budget presented to it early in May, went all the way through it, made amendments and sent the resultant draft to the Council of Ministers. I am greatly obliged to the noble Baroness for having provided me with a photocopy of the draft budget as adopted by the Council.
In the event agricultural expenditure has not been cut at all. According to whatever value one can put upon that queer animal, the ecu, the total value is between £15 and £16 billion. This is what the expenditure is.
The Committee will have observed the report in The Times on 15th October which says this:EEC Commission officials yesterday warned agriculture ministers that their continuing failure to agree on emergency measures to prevent further increases in farm surpluses was threatening the entire basis of the Common Agriculture Policy".The article continued:A Commission spokesman said that every tonne of butter produced in the EEC was going straight into intervention—the EEC term for surplus stocks—and the butter mountain was fast approaching 1.5 million tonnes".Then it states:Officials said that because of the cost of storing surpluses—including 750,000 tonnes of beef and more than 15 million tonnes of cereals, as well as the butter and milk surpluses—the 1987 budget could be exceeded by up to £2 billion".This is on top of the budget that has already been agreed.
The expenditure which is devoted by the Community to try to eliminate regional differences by giving extra aid to regions that are disfavoured out of the regional fund, the expenditure that is made by the Community in aiding third countries (which are much more disadvantaged than any of us in Europe) and the money that is spent—and it is a very small amount—on research such as fusion and other items of that kind is all non-obligatory expenditure. Non-obligatory expenditure in the Community corresponds to expenditure which the Treasury puts cash limits on in the UK.
It follows that within a given budgetary ceiling which, as your Lordships know, was 1.4 per cent—although presently it may be going up to 1.6 per cent—within the budgetary constraints of the Community, if the compulsory expenditure on agriculture goes up, something has got to give. What has happened, among other things, as a result of the budgetary decisions made at the Council of Ministers is that the third world aid budget from the Community has been cut by £76 million, with proportionate reductions in other fields of non-compulsory expenditure. 1039 This is why there is no point in having an extra title in the Bill until we have dealt with this problem: otherwise we are building up the hopes of people, we are building up the dreams of people perhaps in some cases by giving the illusion that because we put another Title V in the Treaty of Rome, we are really going to do something about it, whereas we all know quite well that it will not happen in that way. Already, as newspaper reports will confirm, the Germans (to whom I shall have some reference to make in a later part of the Bill) have proceeded as follows. I quote again from TheTimes:lgnaz Kiechle, the West German Farm Minister, rejected Mr. Andriessen's argument that farmers' incomes could no longer be guaranteed. Bonn could not accept any drop in farm prices—by now a traditional German stand which last year blocked agreement on cereals".While I applaud the attitude taken by the British Minister of Agriculture—and I have no desire to criticise him whatsoever—in trying to bring about some reform, in trying to get a curb on common agricultural expenditure, the fact of the matter is that as long as the treaty is as it is now and, more particularly, as it is going to be amended for majority voting, it gives no chance of the aims that are put forward in Title V being realised in the interests not only of the people of the United Kingdom but of the whole of the population of the Twelve. I beg to move.
§ Lord Banks
The title of this particular section as the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, has explained, is "Economic and Social Cohesion". As the noble Lord has said, that is something with which we can all agree. He particularly instanced the subject of unemployment and personally I hope that the members of the Community will act together on the question of unemployment along the lines that have been suggested this week in a report by the Commission.
But the objection which the noble Lord has to including these particular articles within the scope of this Bill is that he maintains that what they are aiming at cannot be achieved or will be extremely difficult to achieve. It seems to me that that is not a reason for leaving out aims if you sincerely believe in those aims and agree about them. That is not a reason for leaving them out of the Bill. Surely, if what the noble Lord says is right, this is the time for trying again. If we begin by writing it into the treaty, making it quite clear that we regard this as being more important than it has been regarded in the past, that at least is a start.
Article 130D makes a specific proposal. It proposes an initiative which would lead to an overhaul of the existing funds which are enumerated here and which deal with the question of regional imbalance. That cannot be but good and may lead to further development. In any event, we should bear in mind that, however we may have failed so far in getting rid of regional imbalances, if those organisations had not been working, had not been providing funds, the situation would have been worse than it now is.
Of course, we all realise the problem which is set by the dominance of the CAP within the budget of the EC. We understand that problem and we know that it has to be tackled, but because that problem exists, 1040 because it may make the question of disparities more difficult, in my view that is no reason for throwing up our hands and saying that there is nothing at all that we can do in order to reduce disparities and encourage economic and social cohesion.
§ Lord Nugent of Guildford
I warmly agree with the wise words of the noble Lord on the Liberal Benches. I wish to make one or two specific points to the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, who, I thought, was rather carried away by the fervour of his own arguments. Of course, we all recognise that the common agricultural policy has got completely out of control. Certainly, here in this country (perhaps with the exception of some sections of the farming community) we wish to see it brought under control. But, of course, this can be done only by, in effect, bringing down agricultural returns in one way or another—which is going to be very painful for those concerned. That is why nothing has been achieved to date.
But when the noble Lord writes off the whole effort of the Community on the grounds that the rich have been getting richer and the poor getting poorer, he completely overlooks the fact that in the agricultural world, which affects intimately each one of the members, quite the reverse has been the case. There is prosperity now throughout the agricultural communities, throughout the agricultural economies of the members of the Community. There are two countries about which I know a certain amount. In Italy, which I visit usually for a holiday, it is quite remarkable what has happened in the last 15 years. There is no doubt whatsoever that the small farms in Italy have really seen money in a way they have never seen before, and the whole standard of life has gone up accordingly. My friends tell me that a similar development has taken place in Eire and, no doubt, in other countries, too. So there has been a very considerable redistribution of wealth in the agricultural world throughout the Community—and a very welcome sight it is.
Now, in a way, we are being handicapped by our own success because the only way we can cure the appalling problem of surpluses, to which the noble Lord quite rightly referred, is by bringing down returns. This is going to restrain the economy, the improved economy, on hundreds of thousands of farms throughout the Community. This is going to be a very difficult and painful business. It is not the fault of the structure of the Community that nothing has been done; it has simply been the failure of the member countries to agree on the tough measures that have to be taken. They will be taken in the end; but the general philosophy, if I may call it such, behind this treaty which is the basis of this Bill is to make some improved progress, at least in some marginal spheres, by qualified voting. Maybe we will have to come to that in the end of the CAP. But something has to be done to reduce these appalling surpluses which cost vast sums of money and eat up resources which could be used so beneficially in other aspects of the Community. We are restrained, but do not let us fail to give credit where credit is due to the benefits which have come from the CAP. They have been very substantial. So I say to my noble friend that I hope she will resist this amendment. The declaration in Title V 1041 seems to me entirely right. However, I think the message that should go out from this Chamber is that we must all try a good deal harder and see that we live up to these line words.
§ 12.30 p.m.
§ Lord Molloy
If I may, I should like to say a few things about what the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, has said. I can well understand the fervour, as the noble Lord put it, of the submission made by my noble friend Lord Bruce. I was privileged to be elected by the British Parliament to serve in the European Parliament, and one of the major points we could always make as members of all our political parties was that if we saw things that we thought were wrong or unjust, we could always say that we would report these matters back to the British Parliament. To a great degree, that had a remarkable effect.
I am bound to say to the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, that if he really believes there has been a bigger distribution of wealth, at least in our country, there are 4 million Britons who will not agree with him: that is, those who arc on the dole and have been on the dole for a few years. People look in the Financial Times and see the increases, on the one hand, of millionaires when they have to depend on the charity of the nation by drawing dole, not for themselves—this is what the noble Lord must understand—but to pay the baker and the butcher, to pay their rent or their mortgage and to pass it on, whatever it is. That is indeed why some of them have to go and seek extra benefits—not necessarily just to live but to pass that payment on to those I have just enumerated, I sincerely hope that Members of this Committee will understand that.
It is also a terrible paradox to have to appreciate—and my noble friend Lord Bruce has spoken about the ideals of social policy and economic cohesion—that there is a tremendous imbalance in the disbursement of funds throughout the European Community, generated in the main by the CAP. One should realise that there has been an element where the European Community and the Commissioners have created employment. I shall tell your Lordships how they have done it. It has been done by having to maintain vast warehouses full of butter. When they became too full, the butter was sold off to the Russians. Then it was found that they had sold off too much and so they had to buy it hack and sell it to the European people—the French, the Britons, the Italians—and charge them more than they charged the Soviet Union. That is no ideal of socialism, nor, I believe, of good business. These are things that ordinary people cannot understand: there are these mountains of beef and butter and lakes of milk that exist and at the same time there are people in our country who have to look at every halfpenny to try to maintain a reasonable standard of life for themselves and their children.
I believe there is also another thing we must stop doing. It is very wrong of us to do it although it is probably done by all governments. I see no excuse whatsoever for making comparisons from time to time to the effect that we might have 3½ million people unemployed in our country; but if we look at other parts of the Community which we have joined we see that they have more. Was that the reason why we went into the European Community—to be able to say that 1042 things in the other countries we were joining were much worse than in the United Kingdom?
For these reasons I believe that the submissions made by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, should be dismissed as totally irrelevant and indeed dangerous. From my experience both in the European Community, as sent by this British Parliament, and as a Member of the other place, having surgeries every week-end, as members of all parties do, dealing with massive correspondence from people who read about these things in the newspapers from the Financial Times down to (if that is the level) the Sun. I can understand their anger. We have a duty and a responsibility to try to reflect some of their views in this Chamber. So I say to your Lordships, with great respect, that I think the submissions made by my noble friend Lord Bruce from his experience in the European Parliament and his service in the other place—and I have a similar experience—are not being made on purely party political lines. It would be silly so to do.
Many of us from all parties who served in the European Parliament have made in the past the same point that I am making now. The thing that frustrates and irritates us all is that not much has been done about the submissions that we made 10 or 11 years ago. That is why I beg the present Government to take steps to listen to what is being said, to accept amendments which are being submitted, which are designed to improve not only the lot of the European Community but—I shall be greedy about it—also the lot of our own British people who have suffered and given so much. We do not want always to have to be submitted to the wills of Commissioners in the European Community—not even elected, but having massive powers. I believe that we should accept the basic submissions that have been made by my noble friend Lord Bruce of Donington, and I am firmly of the opinion there are many Members of this Chamber on all sides who would agree fundamentally with the submissions which have been made.
§ Lord Tranmire
I do not share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, on this particular amendment because I believe this is an attempt by the Dooge Committee to get a genuinely free internal market in the Community. Certainly when I was opposing the accession of Britain to the Community 14 years ago it was my aim then to create a large free trading area in Europe and not to belong to a protectionist body such as the Common Market suggested. Those of us who fought the Bill 14 years ago were trying to get a wider European free trade area. Those of us who were thinking in those terms were trying to get in the North Atlantic Treaty a provision for greater economic co-operation. We were defeated. We felt that joining the Community would destroy many of the advantages and a great deal of the sovereignty of the British Parliament. But because we believed in that, when the decision was taken we accepted that decision and our efforts will always be to try to mitigate the disadvantages that have arisen to Britain and the Community from our accession.
The Dooge Report looked at some of the instances where national authorities were damaging the hopes of a generally free internal market. When lamb carcases 1043 are being destroyed because they have been exported from one member country to another, and there are members of the Community suffering, we are a long way away from a genuinely free market. When the whole of the financial discipline of the common agricultural policy is negated because certain countries, through their national parliaments and contrary to the rules of the Commission, are subventing their part-time farmers, thus frustrating the objects of the policy and creating surpluses, there is a long way to go. I believe this title will help to create greater feeling and I shall be in the Lobby supporting it if the noble Lord—I nearly said "my noble friend"—Lord Bruce, takes this amendment to a Division.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
The noble Lord, Lord Bruce, speaks to these amendments which purport to exclude, in whole or in part, Article 23. However, with respect to him, he spoke far wide of that mark. The title which is to be inhibited from inclusion in the treaty is said by the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, to be innocuous, but it has served his purpose as a launching pad for a wide-ranging attack and criticism on various aspects of the European communities, some of which, incidentally, this title would seek to improve.
The noble Lord, Lord Bruce, says that he supports the concept but that it serves little purpose, is only a gloss, is cosmetic and raises false hopes. I agree with everything the noble Lord, Lord Banks, has said. Furthermore, the provisions which the amendments propose to exclude have been agreed as requisite and appropriate by the Council of Ministers to complete the internal market by 1992. This is the very aim on which, as I understand it, the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, and I are at one; it is common ground that the internal market should be completed by 1992.
It is therefore more than fortuitous that this Committee stage was adjourned to enable the debate to take place on 10th October on the EC internal market, because noble Lords who have read Hansard will be left in no doubt whatever that, with the exception of the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, the Select Committee of your Lordships' House and all the noble Lords who spoke in that debate had no reservations whatever about the new approach of the Commission in its White Paper of 1985 to complete the internal market. That is the purpose of the SEA and indeed of this article. It is fair to say, however, that the Select Committee of your Lordships' House questioned the form of certain proposed directives.
As it stands the SEA, which the Bill seeks to implement, reflects the acceptance of the Council of Ministers of the Commission's new approach and the need for it. It is idle to seek to excise these provisions or indeed to criticise them without at least advancing some alternative method of achieving completion of the internal market. Alternative provisions, with some objective examination, could be shown to be preferable, more valuable, better phrased or better drafted than the title which it is sought to exclude. These might be alternative provisions which the Committee could endorse for consideration in another place; if accepted in another place, they could be put before the 1044 other member states for consideration as amendments to the SEA. However, that is not the position with these amendments, which demand excision without offering any alternative proposal whatsoever by which the internal market may be achieved.
If carried, these amendments (though, as I understand it, such is not the intention) will be seen as wrecking amendments by the governments of all member states. For those reasons, and for the reasons given by other noble Lords who have spoken, I hope that my noble friend the Minister will resist these amendments.
§ 12.45 p.m.
§ Baroness Young
Not for the first time in the course of this Committee stage I have myself been very surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, should have put down these particular amendments. This is especially true in this case because he began by saying that he was in broad and general sympathy with the objectives. Indeed, the particular quotation he read from Article 130A is clearly something to which all your Lordships would subscribe, and I am very pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, does as well. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Banks, clearly pointed out, if we in fact accepted his amendments, this would make these objectives less likely to be achieved, not more likely.
Let me set out the purpose of the text on economic and social cohesion. What is it? It is, first, intended to formalise the operation of the existing structural funds to the extent that they are not explicitly covered by the existing treaty provisions; and, secondly, to provide for a review leading to rationalisation and better coordination of the funds. As the Committee will be aware, the social and agricultural guidance funds are already provided in the Treaty of Rome but the regional fund is not. The Single European Act fills this gap and, indeed at our insistence, refers to the regional fund's role in helping areas of industrial decline. This is surely of major importance to the United Kingdom. There will be qualified majority voting on some matters affecting the regional fund, such as amendments to the basic regulation and to the framework for the Community programmes. There is already majority voting on similar matters affecting the social fund and agricultural guidance fund. However, it is important to note that decisions on fund allocations will continue to lie with the Commission as at present.
As the new Article 130D makes clear, the Commission will be required to propose amendments to the structure and operational rules of all three structural funds—that is, regional, social and agricultural guidance. The intention is to clarify and rationalise their tasks, increase their efficiency and improve the co-ordination of their activities. The Council will decide unanimously on what changes are to be made.
These are helpful provisions. The structural funds are of major importance to the United Kingdom. We have received over £2,700 million from the regional and social funds since 1981. In future, all three structural funds will have a clear and sound treaty basis and it will be possible to cut down on duplication and conflict of effort by improving co-ordination 1045 between the different funds' activities. This is a development which I should have thought the Committee would want to welcome.
Perhaps I may just say a word about the CAP, as it was almost inevitable that this should come up in the debate. Although it is not strictly relevant, it might be helpful if I say a few words about the prospects for reform. Before doing so, may I say to my noble friend Lord Nugent that I very much welcome his remarks. I thought the point that he made about the benefits which the CAP has unquestionably brought to a number of poor farmers was a very real one. Having grown up in the war years and having seen what a shortage of food did in Europe, may I also add on the CAP that there really is something to be said for a policy which provides a more than adequate amount of food in Europe itself. It may now be creating great problems for us, but the reason that lay behind it was, I think, a good one, and we should not forget the history that lies behind it.
The Government put the reform of the CAP high on their list of priorities and we have actively taken a number of measures to deal with it. As the Committee will know, the problems of agricultural oversupply are growing world-wide. The Community cereal surplus of some 17 million tonnes is bad enough, but it is dwarfed by the United States cereal surplus, which currently stands at some 80 million tonnes. The global nature of the problem was recognised at the Tokyo economic summit, where all participants agreed that,When there are surpluses action is needed to redirect policies and adjust the structure of agricultural production in the light of world demand".The European Council in June shared that view. International negotiations on agriculture are now to be pursued in the new GATT round. Indeed, changes at the international level must be accompanied by continuing reform within the Community. This year's price fixing was the fourth successive price cut in real terms and included measures to curb cereals production through the introduction of a 3 per cent. co-responsibility levy and agreement to reduce dairy quotas by 3 per cent. over three years. Of the three key sectors of cereals, milk and beef, targeted by the Commission for reforms this year, we hope that decisions on the remaining sector of beef will be taken during the year and during our presidency. As your Lordships will know, my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture—and I was pleased to hear the support of the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, for his work in this regard—has also put forward proposals for tackling cereals surpluses through a set-aside scheme and is discussing the idea with his agricultural colleagues.
It would be quite wrong to pretend that there is some simple solution which exists to this global problem. There has been a world revolution in agriculture. Countries that were net importers, like India, are now exporters. Our own yields continue to rise. These are not problems of the Community alone. Nor, indeed—and I think this is important—are they problems that we could avoid on our own. Britian could not stand alone in a world of surpluses. The right course for Britain is to pursue reform from within, and progress is being made. Already, even before the effects of this year's reform packages are felt the 1046 Commission have estimated that the measures in place since 1984, including milk quotas, have saved 1 billion ecu in 1984, almost 3 billion ecu in 1985 and 4 billion ecu this year. It is the Government's policy to see that this trend continues.
The noble Lord, Lord Bruce, also said that non-obligatory spending was being swamped by agricultural spending. This Government have led the way in seeking and achieving reform. It was this Government which secured the new budget discipline arrangements for agriculture which have been respected in the draft budget for 1987 as established by the Council. If I may say so to him, the noble Lord is wrong to suggest that the regional and social fund is declining. It rose by over 20 per cent. this year and it will rise again in real terms next year. I agree that the balance of spending is not yet right but, as the noble Lord, Lord Banks, pointed out, these new treaty provisions will help to redress the balance. I am surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, wishes to throw away the chance of writing into the treaty for the first time the provisions of the regional fund, which bring million of pounds to needy regions of our own country this year.
I hope that I have answered the points that have been made in the course of the debate on these amendments. I am indeed grateful to my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway for the important points that he made in support of the Single European Act. I was also very pleased indeed to hear from my noble friend Lord Tranmire that he is fully supportive of these parts of the Single European Act and of this Bill, because he has believed that we should build on what the Dooge Committee has said and looks to see that we can get in place a large free internal trading area. For these reasons I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
§ Lord Monson
Before the noble Baroness sits down, if I understand her rightly she defended the principles inspiring the CAP, even if not the way it works in practice. Does she agree that those who devised the CAP admitted quite openly that its purpose was not economic but social? In other words, its purpose was not the formation of an efficient European agriculture, but the artificial preservation of a peasant culture. How can one defend spending vast sums of money on the artificial preservation of a peasant culture, but not the artificial preservation of, for example, a coalmining culture?
§ Baroness Young
What I was seeking to explain were some of the reasons which I believe led those countries when they came together to form the European Community to take the view that they did about the importance of agriculture. What I think is important to note is that we as a Government—and it is a view shared from all parts of your Lordships' House—wish to see reform of the effect of that, which is now worse because of the world's over-supply of agricultural products. That is something that could not have been foreseen 30 years ago but is a fact today, and something we are working very hard to deal with.
I have heard nothing from any other part of the Chamber of either practical or realistic suggestions as to how we might do it. It is easy to complain; it is much more difficult to find a solution. But of one thing I am 1047 certain. It is that those who support the general objective of Article 130A that,in particular the Community shall aim at reducing disparities between the various regions and the backwardness of the least favoured regions",will not do it by supporting the amendments to this Bill, and I hope that they will not.
Lord Bruce of Donington
I am most grateful to the noble Baroness and to all those noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. In the interests of time, I certainly do not intend to prolong the argument concerning the merits or demerits of the CAP or to deal with various other remarks that have fallen from the lips of the noble Baroness. However, I am bound to say this in defence of the view that I ventured to lay before your Lordships. The right honourable Member for the Hillhead division of Glasgow, when he left the presidency of the Commission, expressed the view that as he saw it the European Community was the CAP with a few peripherals, and I do not think anything that has happened since would make the description any less cogent.
If I may say so, the noble Baroness was entirely wrong, as was the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, in saying that I offered no constructive suggestion. I did. Make the financing of the common agricultural policy subject to cash limits. That is the answer. If you do that you will have sufficient funds to enable you to achieve those acts of social cohesion which have featured in these articles. That is the way it can be done.
I hope that this debate has enabled Her Majesty's Government to face up squarely to that position, instead of pretending that it does not exist. If they go away and do that it will have been well worthwhile ventilating this matter in the Chamber. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 21 not moved.]
§ 1 p.m.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
moved Amendment No. 22:Page 3, line 13, after ("Communities)"), insert ("but not Article 24 thereof".The noble Lord said: It may be for the convienience of the Committee if we take also Amendments Nos. 23, 24 and 26. I have to complain again about the manner in which we are forced to deal with this Bill. The Bill itself is a flimsy piece of paper consisting of only four clauses and one schedule. It in no way, however, informs the House of the implications of the measures which are of vital and enormous proportions for the future of our country and the sovereignty of Her Majesty and Parliament. To deal adequately with these amendments, I ought to go through each of the provisions of Articles 24 and 25. I ought to spell them out and discuss them thoroughly. However, the provisions themselves run to 1,700 words and to refer to each of them at my rate of speaking would take at least 12 minutes. Therefore, due to time restraint, I clearly cannot do these amendments justice and I shall have to deal with them in most cursory manner.
We see from Article 24 of the Single European Act 1048 that 11 provisions are to be added to the EC treaty. They all deal with research and technical development, and so far as I can see people can read into them what they may. But that is not good enough and I hope that the noble Baroness when she replies will be able to tell us what the sum total of the meaning of the provisions of Article 24 is.
Nobody in his right mind is opposed to research and technological co-operation with another country or a group of countries where it suits Britain's interests to embark upon such co-operation. We already cooperate successfully with countries outside the EC such as the United States and Japan, as well as with countries within the European Community itself. The Rover Group co-operation with Honda is not only beneficial to Britain as a whole but, as I well know, it is of particular benefit to Swindon, my old constituency. Then there is the co-operation on the European Airbus which is of benefit not only to ourselves but to other European countries. The joint European Torus project, which, I was glad to note, is having significant success, is another example of co-operation among a group of countries. I am only sorry to learn that the budget for JET has been cut by some £7 million. I can only hope that that will not impair the work and effort of the many skilled and dedicated people on the project.
This co-operation has been achieved without any institutionalised procedure. My fear is that by institutionalising research and technological co-operation barriers and delays will occur which would not do so if the arrangements remained on an informal basis. My other fear is that these institutionalised arrangements may debar, impair or obstruct Britain's ablility to embark unilaterally on co-operation with third countries. That would be quite unacceptable. It would be unacceptable to me and I believe it would be unacceptable to your Lordships; indeed, it would be damaging to the country's interest. I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to set my fears to rest when she replies.
I must now turn to Amendment No. 23, which seeks to exclude from the Bill Article 25 of the Single European Act. Article 25 deals with amendments to the European Community treaty regarding the environment. Again, I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to explain in simple terms the implications of the provisions to be added to the treaty. But there are some specific comments I should like to make and questions I should like to ask. Paragraph 1 of Article 130R in Article 25 reads:Action by the Community relating to the environment shall have the following objectives: —to preserve, protect and improve the quality of the environment; —to contribute towards protecting human health; —to ensure a prudent and rational utilization of natural resources".In the first place the article seeks,to preserve, protect and improve the quality of the environment".I feel sure that everyone will give a loud "Hear, hear" to that, and that includes me. Having agreed to the sentiments of that part of Article 25 I must point out that some of the greatest damage caused to our environment has resulted from the common agricultural policy. Hedgerows have been wantonly ripped out; scrubland, the haven for a rich variety of flora and 1049 fauna, has been destroyed; trees have been felled with utter abandon; crops have been grown on unsuitable soil, and nitrates heaped on our countryside to the great profit of ICI but to the detriment of the long-term good of the soil itself and of the rivers into which excess nitrates are washed, harming fish and plant life and additionally polluting some human water supplies—all this to increase yields and produce mountains of food, much of which cannot be consumed. Is it intended that this madness should cease, or is the CAP to be sacrosanct as hitherto and its baleful effects on the environment allowed to continue unabated? We need an answer to that question. I was pleased that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, referred to the CAP when she replied to the previous amendment.
I turn now to the sentence in paragraph 1 of Article 25, which reads:to ensure a prudent and rational utilisation of natural resources".Britain's major natural resources are coal, the forests and oil. Is it intended that the EC should become involved in coal mining? Will it have a greater say in production levels, pit closures and the opening of new coalfields? What about oil? The EC has long believed that North Sea oil is a Community resource and not purely a British resource. Are we through Article 25 to concede that oil is indeed a Community resource? Will the Community in future have a say in what new North Sea blocks are to be explored and exploited? Will it be able to influence depletion policy? I feel sure that noble Lords in every part of the Committee will listen with interest to the answers to those questions in particular.
Finally—and this takes in Amendment No. 24—I should like to refer to paragraph 2 of Article 130R, which reads as follows:Action by the Community relating to the environment shall be based on the principles that preventive action should be taken, that environmental damage should as a priority be rectified at source, and that the polluter should pay. Environmental protection requirements shall be a component of the Community's other policies".This paragraph appears to imply that the principle that the polluter pays is to be enshrined in European Community law. It is not enshrined in British law but according to this article it is to be enshrined in European law. When the noble Baroness replies perhaps she will confirm that this is so.
Can the noble Baroness also enlighten the Committee as to how the principle of "the polluter pays" is to be translated into practice? I have already mentioned nitrate pollution on the land. When the nitrates reach the rivers, poison plant and fish life and pollute the public water supply, who is to pay for restocking the rivers and removing excess nitrogen from the public water supply? The polluter is clearly not the water board. Is it then the farmer who uses an excess of nitrogen on his fields; or is it ICI, which through high pressure salesmanship encourages farmers to use nitrogen in excess and in situations where organic fertilisers would be safer and preferable? Let us take the Central Electricity Generating Board and acid rain. If deforestation or damage to lake fish stocks are proved to be the result of acid rain from power station smoke stacks, will the CEGB be required to pay for the replanting of forests and the 1050 lime treatment and restocking of lakes? Bearing in mind that this principle is apparently to be enshrined in European law, I think that we need answers to those questions.
I have tried to be as brief as possible in dealing with these amendments, and I have to emphasise that, given the time, there is much more to discuss and many additional questions to be asked. However, I hope that the noble Baroness can answer the questions that I have been able to put and can provide the reassurance that I have requested. I beg to move.
The Earl of Bessborough
I was indeed with the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, on the Budget Committee of the European Parliament, and was more especially concerned, being also a member of the Research and Technological Development Committee, with the matters covered in Article 24 of the Single European Act. I stress the point that the Community is already involved in research and development, but in my view, and certainly in the view of the 12 governments, the absence of a specific treaty base for this work meant that the criteria for the Community's action in research and development were not clearly laid down and that such R & D which is vital to the Community's ability to compete with the United States and Japan was something of a poor relation in comparison with the policies already covered by the Treaty of Rome. As I emphasised during the Second Reading debate, the new treaty articles stress that Community R & D must meet the needs of European industry by improving its technological base and its international competitiveness. This is in line with United Kingdom policy.
As I see it, the Single European Act establishes a unanimously agreed multiannual framework programme as a binding instrument for Community R & D. This will indeed lead to better planning and better coordination of programmes. The new provisions do not mean that Community R & D replaces our national effort. They mean, as is increasingly the case, that where we want to co-operate with other member states, we have a clear framework for such action. United Kingdom firms are already extensively involved in major Community programmes. Over 50 United Kingdom firms participate in ESPRIT (research on information technology) and 39 are involved with BRITE which is the use of advanced technology in traditional industries. This is encouraging and good for the country. I should not like to see omitted this article which seeks to strengthen the scientific and technological basis of European industry, and which in my view will greatly help in the completion of a true internal market.
§ 1.15 p.m.
§ Lord Nugent of Guildford
I should like to say a brief word about the noble Lord's Amendments Nos. 23 and 24 with regard to his proposal that Article 25 and parts of it in particular should be omitted. I think that since they have come into existence the Community and especially the Commission have a good deal to their credit with regard to improvements in the environment. I had the privilege of sitting on the relevant sub-committee of the Select Committee for some years and therefore I have been able to observe 1051 in detail what has been done. The noble Lord spoke about the difficulty of enacting in our legislation the principle that the polluter pays,
The debate in the Select Committee has been a long and interesting one. In this country we have proceeded by a different philosophy of establishing environmental quality objectives. When I was chairman of the National Water Council it was my privilege to introduce the principle to the water industry—not without resistance in some quarters—because it seemed to me that to establish objectives for all fresh water throughout the country was the right course to take. That has now been done effectively by all the water authorities for the last eight years not only as regards fresh water but also for the estuaries and around the coast. That action implies that the polluter pays, but in rather a different way from that which the Commission had in mind: the polluter pays because the water authority requires the discharger of an effluent to apply certain processes in order to make that effluent acceptable according to the condition of the river into which it is to be discharged.
It is a matter of great satisfaction to me that during the course of some years of this debate between ourselves and the Commission which sometimes has become rather heated, the Commission has at last agreed that environmental quality objectives are a very proper way of proceeding. This perhaps throws some light on the part that we can usefully play within the Community. We have ideas and initiatives and can make an input into the thinking of Europe, just as Europe can contribute to ours. This was something on which they gradually absorbed the logic of our approach, and so now we have both. There are emission standards (which was the basis of the polluter pays principle) but we have never put a price on the toxicity standard of the effluent that is being discharged, because that always seemed to us to be the wrong way to proceed. We caused the price to bite on the producer of the toxicity by requiring him to remove it, which costs him quite a lot of money according to how toxic it is. The noble Lord need have no anxiety on that point. By a process of give and take we are gradually making a valuable contribution in this field to European thinking, while learning a lot ourselves.
As regards the noble Lord's anxieties about the application of nitrogen, I think that there is some cause for concern over the weight of nitrogen application employed by farmers. It is a major part of modern technology and causes a special anxiety, which is not so much about what washes into the rivers but about what soaks into the groundwater, where it may be creating long-term problems. However, this is something which we can deal with ourselves, come the day when we have a clear appreciation of just what needs to be done, but our state of knowledge in this field is still far from complete.
The position is the same as regards acid rain, which was another point made by the noble Lord. That is another subject that the Select Committee examined. Undoubtedly the CEGB's power stations make some contribution to acid rain but it is not clear just how much. Undoubtedly a major contributor is the exhaust from motor cars and lorries and we are dealing 1052 with that by a programme of progressively eliminating the lead in petrol, so that over the next few years the special toxicity which is causing acid rain will gradually be eliminated. That is happening throughout Europe.
I have made these few points to illustrate that the environmental policy at times causes us a certain amount of anxiety because we think that the Commission has it wrong. However, to some extent we have been able to modify its views, as it has modified ours, and on the whole the picture is one in which there has been steady progress in a number of valuable fields to achieve the ends which are set out in Article 25. I hope that Members opposite will not feel that this is an amendment that they should press.
§ Lord Broxbourne
I rise only to add a brief word, although unfortunately without the technical expertise and authority which my noble friend Lord Nugent can bring to these matters. Article 25 is widely drawn and its phraseology is generalised. There is nothing remarkable about that because, of course, the vocabulary and language of not only Community law but continental law generally differs from English law, in that it proceeds upon the basis of a statement of general principles, leaving the details to be worked out, whereas our statute law has a rather different approach, seeking to specify with more particularity.
The Committee will appreciate that Article 25, which specifies the principles with which the Community approaches environmental questions —these are of great importance as the Committee appreciates—is limited under paragraph 4 to the extent to which the objectives referred to in paragraph 1—improving the quality of the environment and so on—can be attained better at Community level than at the level of the individual member states.
If an individual member state can show that its system of law is competent to deal with such matters nationally then cadit quaestio, and Community action is not required or called for under the article.
Paragraph 2 defines the principles. Again, in conformity with the norm to which I have just referred, they are cast in fairly general terms but are specific to this extent:preventive action should be taken, hat environmental damage should as a priority be rectified at source",and the third principle is the one to which reference has been made by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, and my noble friend Lord Nugent, "the polluter should pay". That is specified as a principle without condescending to detail the method by which it should be done.
In this country, that principle could be given effect to in one or both of two areas; that is to say, by statute law, making specific provision for the implementation of that principle, and without the necessity of resorting to statute law: the common law has of course a part to play in this matter. Under the common law, in various ways, the polluter is probably liable to pay in any event. It is a principle of the common law sic utere tuo, etc.
§ Lord Broxbourne
Yes, certainly. It is a Latin maxim, like so many of our legal maxims. I was sparing the House the specific Latin, but, translated, that means,So use what is yours as not to harm what is another's".That principle gives rise to the right of civil action and damages for the tort of nuisance and so on.
Even as things stand, the polluter can by no means count on getting away with his pollution, even without the addition of specific statutory remedies or introducing the collective action suggested by Article 25. Without over praising Article 25, I think that it serves a useful purpose and I hope that it can be retained in the Bill.
§ Baroness Hooper
In view of the convincing arguments advanced against this group of amendments by all my noble friends who have contributed to the discussion, it seems almost unnecessary for me to add anything. I find the thinking behind these amendments hard to understand. If these were areas in which the Community had hitherto no involvement, there might just be reason for hesitation, but the Community has long been involved in these two areas. No extension of Community competence is involved. On the contrary, what is achieved by the new treaty articles is a much needed rationalisation of activity hitherto carried out on an ad hoc basis. Moreover, it is an area in which the United Kingdom has long urged rationalisation.
My noble friend Lord Bessborough made most helpful factual points on research and development. The European Community is currently undertaking a range of programmes worth £2 billion over four years. Many of those programmes are important to this country. They are important for jobs and for the future development of our industry.
The best known example, which has been quoted, is perhaps the ESPRIT programme in information technology. It represents a true partnership between the Community and industry, and 90 British companies and research centres, many in our universities, are involved in it.
Until now, Community decisions have been taken on a case-by-case basis with no overall criteria for Community activity, and no clearly mapped framework in which individual programmes could be set. That situation has now been put right by the Single European Act. The new treaty provisions stipulate that the Community's aim in undertaking research in technological development:shall be to strengthen the scientific and technological basis of European industry and to encourage it to become more competitive at an international level.Community activity is to aim at enabling undertakings to exploit the Community's internal market potential to the full, in particular, through the opening up of national public contracts, the definition of common standards and the removal of legal and political barriers to co-operation.
In future, instead of a series of unco-ordinated programmes, there will be an overall framework programme agreed by unanimity, in which individual projects will take place. The advantage of that kind of framework approach is that it enables member states 1054 to agree where their overall priorities lie, to establish the main thrust of future activity and to set an overall financial ceiling. The fact that the framework programme has to be agreed by unanimity gives us the protection we need, if indeed we need any. The fact that individual programmes within it will be established by qualified majority will be to our advantage. It will mean that programmes which are of value to the Community as a whole, cannot be held up by one member state for extraneous reasons.
For every 10 personal computers sold within the European Community in 1983, eight were manufactured in the United States; for every 10 video recorders sold within the European Community, nine were made in Japan. In the information technology industry as a whole, the European Community supplies only 10 per cent. of the world market and 40 per cent of its own market, which accounts for about one-third of world sales. Our future prosperity depends upon transforming that picture.
Part of that process of transformation must be completion of the internal market. Another part must be equipping ourselves to exploit world markets opened up by the new industrial revolution. That requires improved research and development linked to the needs of the market place. That is what the Single European Act provides.
Turning to the environment, I was happy to hear the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, read out paragraph 1 of Article 130R, which I had intended to read out myself. I was even happier to hear him say, "Hear, hear" to it. I do not think that anything he said subsequently detracted from that main point of agreement.
It is self-evident that the problems of the environment are not confined by geographical boundaries. Therefore it makes sense to have action on a Community-wide scale and for that action to be governed by clear principles so that we all know where we are.
Community action on the environment is already well established in practice and Members of this place have contributed substantially to that through the excellent and thoughtful reports produced on a number of these topics by Sub-Committee G. Numerous Community instruments have been adopted covering areas such as water quality and atmospheric pollution. In the past, these have been based on Article 235 of the treaty that provides for action to achieve the Community's objectives where the necessary specific powers do not exist under other articles.
The Single European Act will lay down general principles for Community action. These are similar to the principles underlying our own domestic legislation; namely, that preventive action is better than retrospective action, that action by the communty must take account of differing environmental conditions in various regions of the Community—the needs of the Mediterranean are, after all, not the same as those of the North Sea; a point on which British Members of the European Parliament have had ample opportunity to make their case—that the potential costs as well as the benefits of action must be weighed, and, finally, that the Community should act only to the extent to which 1055 environmental objectives can be attained better at Community level than at the level of individual member states.
Again, decisions on environmental measures will continue to be adopted by unanimity unless the Council of Ministers decides unanimously that decisions on particular defined matters can be made by qualified majority. This reflects the Community's existing practice under which technical adaptations to existing Community measures are often carried out under specifically agreed majority voting arrangements. These are all practical changes which do not enlarge Community competence. Instead, they bring the Treaty of Rome up to date and include within it provisions reflecting current needs in response to widely voiced demands resulting from a developing awareness of the importance of environmental controls and considerations of the quality of life. Even the most diehard opponents of Community membership in another place, I must inform the Committee, concluded that their amendments on this subject should not be pressed to a Division.
The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, asked me, I believe, three specific questions on agricultural policy and its environmental effects. I believe that my noble friend Lord Nugent helped to provide the answers. We believe that the provisions of the Single European Act will help to overcome the problems that the noble Lord outlined. On the question of national utilisation of natural resources, I believe that the noble Lord will be reassured by the conference declaration on page 26 of the Single European Act, which states:The Conference confirms that the Community's activities in the sphere of the environment may not interfere with national policies regarding the exploitation of energy resources".Coal is, of course, covered by the European coal and steel Community treaty which is unaffected. On the question that polluters should pay, I can again reassure the noble Lord that, although it is an aim of Government policy, the polluter pays principle is not formally included in United Kingdom law, as already stated. But this Bill will not change that situation, since paragraph 2 of the proposed new Article 130R refers to action by the community and not by individual member states.
I have endeavoured to explain as simply as possible the effect of these amendments. I trust that I have complied adequately with the request of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart. Apart from all these considerations, I feel that I must say yet again that the purpose of the provisions in the Single European Act, which would be annulled by the amendments, is to strengthen and to advance the completion of the internal market which the Government see as being so important to our future prosperity and wellbeing. I hope that noble Lords will feel able to withdraw the amendments. Failing that, I hope that the Committee will reject them.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
There appeared to be some implied criticism of our putting down these amendments. I must point out that the only way in which we could have had the learned discussions that we have just had was by putting down these amendments. There was no other way of having these 1056 issues discussed. I hope therefore that noble Lords who have taken part, rather than criticising us for putting down the amendments, will welcome the fact that we did so. These are important matters. They are important for this country; indeed, they are important for Europe. We have had a great deal of information and some very useful information from all sides of the Committee from people with experience. The Committee should, I feel, welcome the discussion that has taken place.
The noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, was able to give us the benefit of his vast experience in the field of research and technological development. The Committee was pleased to hear his historical account of what has been achieved and what is likely to be achieved in the future. Certainly, I have no quarrel with what the noble Earl said or what he seeks to achieve. We are at one in wishing to achieve the same things. Similarly, the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, has a lifetime's wealth of experience, particularly of the water industry and of the environment. I am sure that the Committee was fascinated to learn of the manner in which the water industry, which has an excellent record, has been able over the years to improve the condition not only of the water itself but also of the water environment. Indeed, over the last few years it has improved immeasurably. If the Article means—we have had the assurance that it does so mean—that we can assist Europe to achieve the same standards, then, of course, that is to be welcomed.
I was obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Broxbourne, for his translation. It was, if I may say so, a very good one. Everyone understood. As soon as he gave it, we knew exactly what he was about. And all of us agreed with it. It was also useful for the Committee to know that the polluter is in danger at present, without any legislation, from the common law. I hope that this message goes out from the Committee to the polluters themselves.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, has given me the assurances I want—that the Community has long been involved in these matters and that Articles 24 and 25 do not involve any extension of competence. I am obliged for that assurance. The noble Baroness has, I believe, answered satisfactorily the questions that I asked, particularly about the fact that control of our natural resources will not be affected and that we shall not lose control of our oil supplies. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 23 to 26A not moved.]
§ The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness White)
I have to inform the Committee that if Amendment No. 27 should be accepted by the Committee, then Amendments Nos. 28 to 32 inclusive could not be considered.
Lord Bruce of Donington
moved Amendment No. 27:Page 3, line 15, leave out ("the preamble and Titles I (Common provisions) and") and insert ("Title").The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 27 seeks to take out of the Single European Act the preambles that 1057 are recited on page 1 of Cmnd. 9758, which is the text of the Single European Act. There is a reason for this. The preambles in Community law have a special significance which does not apply to United Kingdom law.
Perhaps I may read from a note from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the Select Committee in another place. I refer to page 19, which is headed "The legal significance of the Preamble to the Single Act". It says:The Preamble of a treaty is an integral part of it but neither confers rights nor creates obligations. It typically recites the purpose of the treaty and the background against which agreement was reached. Its principle significance is as part of the context of the treaty for the purposes of its interpretation".I should like to emphasise those last words to the Committee. The note from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office concludes:The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (on Article 31) on (2) says: 'The context for the purpose of the interpretation of the treaty shall comprise, in addition to the text, including its preambles and annexes".Your Lordships may have reason to be a little apprehensive about preambles because the matter arose yesterday at Question Time. In answer to a Question put on my behalf by my noble friend Lord Stoddart of Swindon the noble Lord, Lord Young of Graffham, confirmed that the pleadings before the European Court at the present time are confidential and it was in accordance with the rules of the European Court that the pleadings should not be made public. I do not wish to embark on that at the moment save to say that that question will be returned to later on a special occasion, because we on this side of the Chamber believe that that contention is entirely incorrect.
However, this case has been brought by the Commission under the Sixth Council Directive, which like all other directives has a large preamble to it. Therefore, the verdict of the European Court of Justice on this case, whichever way it goes, must take account not only of the text of the Sixth VAT Directive but also of its preambles. I invite the Committee's attention to some preambles of which the court may have to take account of when it deals with that case.
One preamble says:Whereas further progress should be made in the effective removal of restrictions on the movement of persons, goods, services and capital and the integration of national economies".Another preamble states:Whereas the concepts of chargeable event and of the change to tax must be harmonized if the introduction and any subsequent alterations of the Community rate are to become operative at the same time in all Member States".Yet another states:Whereas a common list of exemptions should be drawn up so that the Communities' own resources may be collected in an uniform manner in all the Member States".Those are some of the parts of the preamble of which the European Court is bound to take account in interpreting the text of the Sixth Directive and the merits of the case which are being put forward by Her Majesty's Government. There is therefore a significance to the preamble.
1058 The present preamble in the Single European Act to which I desire to draw the Committee's attention is this. It says:Moved by the will to continue the word undertaken on the basis of the Treaties establishing the European Community and to transform relations as a whole among their States into a European Union, in accordance with the Solemn Declaration of Stuttgart of 19th June 1983".There is there stated the direct intention—the direct purpose—of establishing a federal state in Europe. There are many Members of the Committee who would support a federal state. I make no complaint about that. But the Government say "no".
I should therefore like to draw the further attention of Members of the Committee to the text of the Stuttgart Declaration made on 19th June 1983, which is headed "Solemn Declaration on European Union". It does not say "European unity", with a little "u", but "European Union" with a capital "E" and a capital "U". I ought perhaps to mention that this solemn declaration on European Union made in Stuttgart on 19th June 1983, although it was solemn, which, as I understand it, implies a degree of importance, was never published by Her Majesty's Government as a document. After some pressure it was put in the Library of the other place and I understand that it is in the Library in this House. One would have thought that a solemn declaration made on behalf of the United Kingdom would merit some publication so that everybody could know about it, so that it could be discussed and so that the people might be aware of it, but it was not.
This is what the Stuttgart Declaration says. It is already quoted in the preamble, because there is another preamble in front of the Stuttgart Declaration. It says:determined to achieve a comprehensive and coherent common political approach and reaffirming their will to transform the whole complex of relations between their states into a European Union".There can be no doubt or equivocation as to exactly what that means. The whole complex of relations between the states comprises that complex created by the Treaty of Rome. Article I states:By this Treaty, the High Contracting Parties set up among themselves a European Economic Community".This complex is now transformed as a purpose, as a principle of objective, into a European union. I know that the noble Baroness, with whom I have been in correspondence on these and other matters, will immediately say that it is not the intention of Her Majesty's Government to agree to the establishment of a Federal Europe. But the Government signed the treaty and consented to the preamble. It is true enough that the noble Baroness could say that her stance was more correctly put in Article I of Title 1 of the Single European Act. That reads:The European Communities and European Political Cooperation shall have as their objective to contribute together to making concrete progress towards European unity".That is a different question. That is not European Union.
This is an extremely important principle that we have to decide. Even though the noble Baroness may say that it is not her intention, her signature is there. Moreover, I am bound to point out that the European Parliament itself is in favour of this. As was pointed 1059 out by the Select Committee in another place, they referred to the overt federalist provisions of a draft treaty establishing the European union, known as the Spinelli Treaty, which was approved by the European Assembly in February 1984.
Moreover, whatever the noble Baroness may say about the intentions of her Government, I am bound to tell her that no fewer than 16 Conservative European Members of Parliament voted for the federalist solution. I do not know what influenced those 16 Members of the Conservative Party, and the European party called the European Democrats; however, we all know that it is mainly composed of European Conservatives. Certainly there was a powerful punch among the Conservative Members who were part of the 237 that voted for the proposition. With the new powers granted to the European Parliament under this Single Act, the European Parliament is bound to have far more infleuence and far more power.
Lord Bruce of Donington
If the noble Baroness will forgive me, she may, or may not have been intervening on this point. I should point out that Mr. de Ferranti; the Baroness Elles, the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, Mr. Hutton and Mr. Marshall voted against it. There were four Members of the European Democrats belonging to the British Conservative Party who voted against it.
§ Baroness Elles
I thank the noble Lord for giving way. He mentioned that 16 conservative members of the European Parliament voted in favour of the draft treaty. I should point out that that was fewer than 50 per cent. of the British Conservative members of the European Parliament. We had a free vote and everyone was allowed to vote as they thought fit. Perhaps the noble Lord would allow me to say that the draft treaty bears no relation to the Single European act. I am most grateful to the noble Lord.
Lord Bruce of Donington
I am most grateful to the noble Baroness. I note there was not all that much enthusiasm to oppose the federal solution because such a large number of her colleagues abstained from voting. The fact of the matter is only four or five members of the Conservative Party, as represented in the European Parliament, dissented from that proposition. I should have thought it would have been much higher.
I object—and many of my colleagues object—to any notion of European union, the federalist solution. Let that be made quite clear. It ought not to be in any legislation that automatically following the passage of this Bill becomes part of British law. Members must do exactly as they please. I know there are very many of your Lordships who may feel, for perfectly justifiable reasons, that we are such a poor little country, which for some reason or other must attach itself to a greater land mass of other countries. It would not survive on its own. There is that view. If that view conditions the minds of noble Lords, I cannot help it. I deplore it, but I cannot help it.
1060 I remember once taking part in a debate on European affairs in your Lordships' House and a noble Lord from the Alliance Benches—it was the noble Lord, Lord Walston, I believe —told a story which he thought would answer the points I was putting. He told the story which I think he said was apocryphal. Someone was standing on the English coast, and the fog came down on the Channel and obscured the other side. The reaction of the person was: "Now the fog has come, the Continent is cut off from us." He was trying to interpolate that attitude to me. I said, "Hear, hear" because I have regard for the power and influence—very often by example, and certainly by tradition—of the United Kingdom, whose influence throughout the world has been enormous. The system of language; the system of law; and the system of administration. I do not take kindly to any suggestion that somehow we have no future unless we go in with other countries in Europe. I believe that Britain's role is within a wider context than that. I want to be friendly with everybody, if possible; I want to co-operate with everybody, if possible.
Perhaps I can tell a story that is not apocryphal; but actually happened to me while I was a Member of the European Parliament. One day we were in Committee and I had been standing up for what I thought were the legitimate interests of the United Kingdom. That is what your Lordships did me the honour of sending me there for. So, a German Lieutenant Commander rose to his feet and turned round to me—somewhat spitefully I thought—and said, "The whole trouble with you British is that you do not know how we on the Continent work. You, on the other side of the Channel, have no concept." To which my reply was: "And if it had not been for that Channel, none of you would be sitting round this table today". There was a deathly hush. And with that hush, I shall leave the matter. I beg to move.
§ 2 p.m.
§ Lord Denning
Perhaps I may say a word on this amendment because it involves very important constitutional issues. I shall first say a little regarding our own constitutional law. A treaty is made by the Crown or the executive, but it is in no way binding upon Parliament or the people of England. It only becomes binding in England, or any part of it, in so far as it is made law by our Parliament—by a statute to that end. That being so, perhaps I may say that in the Treaty of Rome that was done and in it in our European Communities Act of 1972 not only was it done explicitly, but in Section 2 of that Act it made it clear that all rights, obligations, or whatever, under the treaty are without further enactment to be given legal effect or used in the United Kingdom and recognised and available in law. In other words, every right and obligation in that Treaty of Rome was brought into our statute by Parliament by Section 2(1).
The proposal is that we should add to those provisions. I do not mind the first part in which we bring in Title II as an amendment to the treaties. I have not supported any of those amendments which have been put forward because I would support the principle of completing the internal market entirely, and the provisions in Title II do just that. That is all that has been discussed. We must complete the 1061 internal market because that is a right and desirable objective.
At present the statute contains the obscure words:so far as they relate to any of the Communities or any Community institution, the preamble and Titles I (common provisions) and IV (general and final provisions".If this goes through with the whole of the 1972 Act behind it then all those provisions in the preamble and elsewhere become part of our English law approved by Parliament and required to be recognised by the courts of law. Therefore, I ask: is it right that Parliament—the Crown cannot do it alone—should accept and burden us, the people, with this preamble?
Let me say if a few words about preambles. We used to have them at length in our English law but we do not have them now. As regards points of law and interpretation, we take little notice of them; the enacting part of our statutes is the important part. We refer to the preamble only in the case of real doubt or difficulty. We usually look only to the enacting part of a statute. On the Continent of Europe and in the European Court of Justice the principle is different; they look not only at the preamble but at its objectives and seek to enforce its policy. They also look at what is called the travaux preparatoire or the preceding discussions. They can look at the Stuttgart declaration and so on. How different is the interpretation of the European Court from ours.
Therefore, let us look at the preamble to this Bill. The preamble is to become part of our law if we pass the Bill. I shall read it as an English lawyer will read it and, I am afraid, as many continental people wish to do so. It says:Moved by the will to continue the work undertaken on the basis of the Treaties … and to transform relations as a whole among their States into a European Union, in accordance with the Solemn Declaration of Stuttgart of June 1983 …".It is to combine and to transform relations into a European Union. In the course of my time I have often had to consider federal constitutions. I have considered the constitutions of Canada and of Australia, the United States, South Africa and the like. The word which is always used when a number of single independent states combine into a whole is "union" or "united" or whatever. The United States of America forms a union. The British North America Act 1867 did not include the word "union" but used the words "Dominion of Canada". Australia went away from the word "states" and became the Commonwealth of Australia. Whatever word one uses, whether it is "single"—as in this Bill—"commonwealth", "dominion" or "union", the whole concept of a federation is that it is a union of states hitherto independent and separate, but in future to combine together. There must be a written constitution; every one of them is written. In that written constitution one will find how the legislative power, the executive power and the judicial power are distributed. It is all done succinctly.
Let me apply it to the very European Union about which we are speaking. If your Lordships' read all the provisions, all the reports of our Select Committees, you will see that legislative power in Europe as a whole is vested in its main legislative body—the Council of Ministers. A proposal is made by the executive, by the 1062 Commission, with its 10,000 servants. However, the great bulk of the legislation is done by the Council of Ministers in Brussels. There is one Minister from each country. They make the laws. In the old days they had to be unanimous. However, now in many cases they can do it by a majority. They are the legislative body and they have already developed and are developing a large and expanding law which they call "Community Law". That is the legislative power in what I think is this new federation.
What of the judicial power? We know that all other countries in federations have their supreme court. The European Court of Justice are supreme overall. They claim that Community Law is supreme over all national laws and can be enforced through them. They are the supreme body; they are the judicial power in the federation. The people who exercise the executive power are rather similar to our executive here. The commission makes the proposals to be considered for legislation. It draws up all the documents and directives making the law. It is the executive. I suggest that at the moment we are very near to a federation of Europe. That point has never been put to the people of England.
Are we to be just one state in a federation of Europe? The answer to that will be found by many saying, "Well, our own Parliament has endorsed the preamble and made it part of our law". Is that right? I use the words,to transform relations as a whole among their States into a European UnionYou cannot find better words in any of the confederations made throughout the centuries. The word "union" is always used. The Union of South Africa, the union of Germany or the United States; the word "union" is always used when forming a federation. That is what our Act for Canada said: the union of Canada. The word "union" is symbolic of a federation.
I am pretty sure that if the European Court of Justice has to interpret this preamble, knowing its past record, it will have no hesitation in so interpreting it, and before we know where we are we shall be in a federation of Europe. Some people may say, "No, this does not commit us to a federation". They do not know. I go by the law. I go by the treaty as expressed by the European Court of Justice, which goes by the principles and not by the letter.
I go by all those, and I would say—and this is the importance of the preamble—you can go on with the treaty, the internal market or whatever you like, and I agree with all that. But do not let us be taken into a federation of Europe without it being put to the people or, at all events, put plainly to Parliament so that we all know it. Meanwhile, let us keep our own sovereignty over England.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
Let me seek to deal on the merits with the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, to show that these fears of federalism are based upon a total misconception. May I start with three points of common ground? I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, that there should not be a federalist solution, and I agree with him that it would be wholly inappropriate. 1063 Secondly, I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, that the treaty, unlike in the other member states, can be made part of law only by the decision of Parliament. Thirdly, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, that the word "preamble" in Community law has a special significance. Although it creates no rights and no obligations, it is relevant on issues of interpretation.
The reference in the preamble of the SEA to European union, which is included by Clause 1, is to be interpreted—and this is the vital concept—in the light of the Stuttgart declaration as restated at Milan. I do not take the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, to task over this because economy of time is important, especially on a Friday, but there are eight provisions of the Stuttgart declaration and the noble Lord referred only to the eighth. As I construe the Stuttgart declaration (which is not difficult to obtain because I have obtained it), it is no more than an affirmation of European identity to meet the exigencies of the world situation; a common political approach to transform complex relations among states into a European union in that sense and no more.
As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, pointed out, it is the Council of Ministers which retains the last word and not the views of the MEPs as expressed in the European Parliament or elsewhere. The fact that Spinelli was affirmed by the European Parliament or was not—and in fact it was—is neither here nor there. It is totally irrelevant. It is the view of governments, as expressed through ministers, which determines the meaning of this term "European union" in the preamble to the SEA, which is cooperation on foreign policy in accordance with Title III, which involves no surrender of sovereignty whatever; economic integration in the sense that I have sought to indicate from the preamble at Stuttgart which involves a measure of surrender of sovereignty already surrendered under Section 2 and a further measure proposed by the SEA; and political cooperation, which again involves no surrender of sovereignty whatsoever.
None of these three treaties is federalist, and the SEA which amends these treaties cannot open as a matter of construction the back door to a united states of Europe or any indissoluble union of states. It just is not possible; it is not on. It is a chimera, a wild fear without base. There have always been federalists among all parties (I gather, alas, among my own) and among all citizens of all the member states. I suppose there always will be, but the treaties and the SEA reflect no such aspirations. In this respect each member state remains totally uncommitted and retains total sovereignty. That is the essence of the retention of residual sovereignty.
The question raised by the noble and learned Lord as to the Court of Justice being called upon to interpret European union as meaning a federal union binding on each member state cannot arise. There is no federal constitution. The intentions of Her Majesty's Government in this regard have been made totally plain by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, and it is not conceivable that any government could take this country into a federation 1064 without at least a two-thirds majority on a referendum. No government could do it. Let us not forget, if I may say so without any hint of disrespect, the position of Her Majesty the Queen; that would be of crucial consequence. I remind the Committee that we are not the only member state that enjoys government under a constitutional monarchy.
Since the Messina Conference in 1955, when the Ministers of the six ECSC states set up this committee under Henri Spaak to pave the way for the EC Treaty, and indeed long before that, there were the federalists. This Spinelli Report which was approved by the European Parliament in 1984—
§ 2.15 p.m.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
The noble will correct me if I am wrong, but my memory takes me to the fact that it was annexed to the Spinelli Report. One read the Spinelli Report; I may have it wrong, but I seem to remember that the draft treaty was annexed to the report.
Lord Bruce of Donington
But is was the Spinelli draft treaty that was voted upon and discussed in the European Parliament.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
We must not waste time, but I cannot believe, if I am right about the report being annexed to the treaty, that members of the European Parliament, however curious or idiosyncratic they may have been, would not have had the report drawn to their attention.
What I was trying to say was that there have always been federalists. The fact that the Spinelli treaty and the report in 1984 was approved is neither here nor there. I concede that that report, with the treaty annexed, was overtly federalist. So indeed was the Dooge Report of 1985. It is—and there is no one better to know this than the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, from his experience—not for the MEPs to do other than talk about federation. They have no legislative power to create a federation or any such system. That power lies within the exclusive province of each member state retaining, as is essential, residual sovereignty. I trust I shall not be alone in expressing the view in this Committee that my hope is that that power should never ever arise and that this country should never become part of a federal structure, and that on the basis of the arguments advanced to your Lordships' Committee today there is no such fear.
§ Lord Monson
Much as I share the deep disquiet of the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, and my noble and learned friend Lord Denning about the implications of paragraph 2 of the preamble, which seems to open the door to a federal European union—although the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, disputes this—I should like to concentrate for the moment upon paragraph 3 of the preamble which paves the way for a common foreign policy whether within the framework of a European federal union or within some more loosely-structured arrangement. 1065 Speaking to Amendment No. 2 last week, the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone—and I am sorry that he is not in his place—made a remark which made me sit up. The noble Lord said in so many words that the chief purpose of this Bill was to oil the wheels of trade. Of course, the noble Lord put it far more elegantly than that but that was the gist of what he was saying. The problem is that, while this may be one of the purposes of the Bill, it is certainly not the whole purpose. Whereas we can all agree that facilitating free movement of goods and services within the Community is of economic benefit to almost everybody and is therefore desirable, assuming that everybody plays the game and does not destroy lamb shipments coming in from other Community countries—and that is a big assumption, I think—a common foreign policy is a very different matter indeed.
A common foreign policy—and "convergence" is the term used in the Single European Act—is by no means of automatic benefit to all of the member states or even to most of them. Take, for example, the current butt of so much indignation, whether synthetic or otherwise, the Republic of South Africa. The interests of the various member states of the EC by no means coincide on this matter. The United Kingdom and Portugal have very large numbers of citizens and passport holders residing in that country. The Republic of Ireland and that of Greece have smaller but still significant numbers of passport holders living there.
In contrast, there are really very few French, Germans, Belgians, Dutch, Luxembourgers or Spaniards living in South Africa, and practically no Danes living there at all. Moreover, those member states of the EC which border the Mediterranean are generally large-scale producers of fruit, wine and vegetables and are therefore in direct competition with South Africa in this world of wine lakes and worldwide general agricultural surpluses. The interests of net exporters of fruit, wine and vegetables are obviously very different from those of the net importers of these products. So, for these considerations alone, there is every reason for different member states of the EC to have differing policies in respect of South Africa.
Then we come to the inherently different attitudes in different European countries towards English-speaking countries such as the United States. We have ties of blood and of language and, to a considerable extent, ties of culture with the Americans which are never going to be shared by the continentals; by the French, for example, whatever the help given by Lafayette during the American War of Independence. This mental gulf is even more marked in the case of attitudes towards Australia and New Zealand.
Those of your Lordships who know France well will have been struck by the irritation, to put it no stronger, felt by the French at the close sentimental ties between the United Kingdom and Australia and particularly by those between the United Kingdom and New Zealand; and this antedates the Green Peace affair by many years. I was amazed recently at the fierce indignation of my French friends whom I had not seen for 10 or 15 years at the fact that the British by and large seemed to prefer the New Zealanders to the French. In their eyes 1066 this attitude was not only hurtful but branded us as bad Europeans. All the same, I had to expain as tactfully as possible that British attitudes are most unlikely to change in the foreseeable future for obvious reasons of kinship and common language.
To take the case of Turkey, most member states in the European Community would very much like to establish closer links with that country. However, Greece—for historical reasons which one can understand up to a point—is very much opposed to that. But why should the rest of us be inhibited from developing closer ties with Turkey merely because Mr. Papandreou does not wish us to do so? On those matters where convergence may be generally desirable, it will automatically come about on a spontaneous, ad hoc basis whenever common interests are percieved by all parties to be common interests. In other areas I do not think a common foreign policy is either workable or indeed desirable.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
I do not know whether taking part in this debate helps or hinders the progress of business, but if other Members of the Committee feel they must support the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, I feel I must rise to oppose him. I am beginning to feel that way, which is a bit of a pity. But I do not feel that we can be overborne, if I may say so, by legal arguments all the time on a debate which is attempting to find the direction of the nation for the future. If we have a common purpose, we ought to unite in trying to find the way of pursuing it and accomplishing it.
There are too many criticisms on detail and impediments on constitutional grounds that are put to your Lordships' Chamber by people who are against the progress or against the course which the Bill hopes to advance a little further, and it is only a little further. There is no federalist accomplishment here, nor anything like it. In any case the preamble, the introduction to the Single European Act, uses terms which are not reproduced in the Act itself. I think that we are probably taking fright at a description and it is not a matter of an established change of title. The European Communities Act will still be on the statute book as it is, and all the provisions regarding the Community will still be there.
What the Single European Act proposes to do is to further the powers of the Community and to expand the area of closer co-operation, harmonisation and unity. That, I should have thought, is the way everybody wants to go; after first establishing a community, which they wish to be a developing and progressive one, to bring about closer co-ordination, co-operation and friendship among those who are members of it.
Why are we enlarging the Community all the time? It is because we want to enlarge the area of cooperation. We want to enlarge the area of community spirit. I think that we should remember that this is the replacement of a generation of conflict among member states of the Community. We seem to ignore the fact that the European Community replaces European conflict. There have been two wars in my lifetime because of the inability of the countries of Europe to keep the peace among themselves; and here 1067 at least we can pursue the establishment of peaceful relationships where previously conflict, war, destruction, mutilation and death prevailed.
Indeed, in an hour of crisis Winston Churchill offered union with France to save Europe, to save freedom and to rescue France from what appeared then to be complete collapse and subordination to the Nazi terror. That was his solution to the crisis at the time. Although members of the public may have felt that to be a very bold bid to save the situation, it showed how desperate the situation was and how far he was prepared to go to avert the ultimate failure. With that history in our minds, let us consider what value we can attach to the European Communities.
I hope that we can stop making difficulties if difficulties do not exist; and if there are difficulties, let us see how they can be removed. If this is indeed a momentous Bill, this ought to be a momentous occasion. Looking at it from the outside, it would not appear to be so. I thought that we had had our momentous occasion the other day when the Committee expressed itself in very emphatic terms on a key amendment at the outset of the Committee stage. I should have hoped that that set the tone and direction for all subsesquent discussion on this Bill and that we would not stop at every local station to examine it in detail to see whether something should be exempted from the provisions of the Bill itself.
If it were passed, this amendment would kill the Bill stone dead; it is obvious that it would do so. In those circumstances it is not the slightest bit of good hoping to make progress if the Committee must have a rehash of the major debate on each point and if we make difficulties for ourselves. If we complain of overwork, I would point out that there are times when we make a good deal of it for ourselves. I think we ought to begin to economise our efforts in matters upon which we ourselves are making more difficulties than might otherwise exist. There is much more that can be said about this. We will have all this debate over again if the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, goes on with these amendments concerning the meaning of sovereignty, its derivation, its scope, how it is defined, what we will surrender, and what the constitution says. It is no good going on like this.
§ 2.30 p.m.
§ Lord Moran
Perhaps in this context I may put to the Minister a question which I put to her in the debate on Second Reading and to which she was good enough to give an answer which I think was only a partial answer. The question was: what is our longterm objective? I pointed out that there seemed to me to be a fairly profound difference between the objective as stated by the preamble to the Act—to transform relations as a whole among the states into a European union—and what the Prime Minister said last December about her opposition to a united states of Europe. I therefore asked the Minister to clear up the uncertainty and tell us where, in the Government's view, we are heading.
In her reply on that occasion the Minister told us clearly where we are not heading. She made it clear that there was no question of moving towards a united states of Europe and that we were not taking steps 1068 towards federal union. She said that we were talking about practical, pragmatic steps in co-operation with other member states. I do not think, with respect, that she made it clear what these steps were towards and what it was that the Government really wanted to see at the end of the day in Europe. If the noble Baroness could make that a little clearer this afternoon, I for one would be very grateful.
The other point I wish to make concerns a common foreign policy—a point raised by my noble friend Lord Monson. As the Committee will know, under the treaty members are bound to try to formulate and implement a European foreign policy, which is a very noble objective.
But to some extent we are playing the game of "Let's pretend" on this, because any foreign policy must begin with the fundamental question of security. When we talk about our own foreign policy, we always begin by talking about NATO, and our co-operation with NATO, because security is first and foremost the fundamental question with which any foreign policy must deal.
I read the other day a letter in the Irish Times of 9th October from the International Secretary of Irish CND—not a man with whom I would expect to agree. But what he was saying from an Irish point of view was:It seems ludicrous to suggest that Ireland can follow a genuine neutrality policy while binding ourselves by treaty to developing a common foreign policy with states which are all committed to NATO".It seems to me that he had put his finger on a fundamental weakness in any attempt to reach a common foreign policy, because there is one member of the Community which has a policy of neutrality and does not belong to NATO, and how can you develop such a policy, except on peripheral matters, when you are not agreed on the first and most fundamental aspect?
§ Lord Bethell
It seems to me that we have heard yet again a number of speeches, particularly from the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, and from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, which could have been made, and may have been made, 14 years ago in the debate on the European Communities Bill. It will be recalled that in 1972 we debated at great length the treaty with its preamble which refers to a movement towards the greater unity of the peoples of Europe. We decided at that time, by substantial majorities in both Houses, that we should join the European Community in spite of the objections raised by noble Lords and Members of another place that this meant a diminution or a reserve in the sovereignty of the Crown and Parliament.
I cannot for the life of me see any difference between a decision that we took then, 14 years ago, and what is proposed now and what is debated on the amendment put forward by noble Lords opposite. So we have to conclude, surely, that my noble friend Lord Campbell is right in saying that the words "European Union" are only words and that the noble and learned Lord should not try to raise among us the spectre of a federal Europe in that context. 1069 I speak as someone who disagrees fundamentally with my noble friend about the direction that the European Community may take in the future. I am not myself a federalist, but I believe it is conceivable that there may be a movement towards federalism in the next generation, or in the generation after that. I would not use the word "never", as my noble friend did, because in such matters I never use the word "never" and I would not wish to commit future generations. 1 know, though, that I was not elected to the European Parliament in order to bring about a federal Europe and, so far as I can detect, certainly this is not the aim of colleagues of mine.
The Single European Act seems to me to be a very carefully and finely honed distillation of a number of points of view about the direction which Europe is taking and should take. It will not satisfy everyone. It does not particularly satisfy me, because I feel that it does not go quite far enough. For instance, it does not tackle the problem of the secret deliberations of the Council of Ministers and the lack of democratic control over the legislative process within the Council of Ministers. I am thinking particularly at the moment, just as an example, of the proposed directive on European air travel, which is now being discussed in secret by Ministers, and we do not know exactly what they are going to come up with in a month or two.
It is very difficult for Members of this House, of another place or of the European Parliament to find out what is going on in that Council of Ministers' discussion. I should like to see more powers given to the European Parliament in order to supervise the legislative boss— the Council of Ministers. But this is not in the Single European Act, unfortunately. We cannot have everything, but perhaps in the future we may see a further movement towards more democratic control of our European Community institutions.
In the meantime I must agree with my noble friend Lord Campbell that it is carrying things to an absurdity to say that this reference to a European union is a commitment to a federal Europe. It does not mean that at all. Ever since 1972 we have spoken of movement towards a unity of the peoples of Europe. This is merely a reaffirmation of the decision by Parliament that we should commit ourselves to making this matter work and, as the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, so eloquently expressed it, to replacing conflict with co-operation.
§ Lord Silkin of Dulwich
This amendment has been a vehicle for very wide-ranging discussion. I do not propose to ask for a lift on that vehicle but rather to address a few remarks through a direct question arising out of the amendment and the clause upon which it is based, in the hope that the Government will give clear elucidation of what in law that clause achieves, in particular paragraph (j) which it seeks to include in the 1972 Act, and beyond that more particularly the effect of including in the 1972 Act the words "the preamble".
1070 If one reads the clause with the 1972 Act, one finds that the Bill seeks to enlarge the meaning of the Community treaties to include the provision set out in paragraph (j) which itself includes the words "the preamble". But that alone would not have any effect on English or Scottish law; and for the effect of that one has to look at Section 2(1) of the 1972 Act which provides:All such rights, powers, liabilities, obligations and restrictions from time to time created or arising by or under the Treaties, and all such remedies… as in accordance with the Treaties are without further enactment to be given legal effect or used in the United Kingdom shall be recognised and available in law, and be enforced … accordingly".As I understand it, the effect of Section 2 and the effect of bringing further words within the definition of "treaties" is, in so far as those further words are required,in accordance with the Treaties … without further enactment to be given legal effect".Then Section 2(1) gives legal effect to that in English and Scottish law.
If that is so, one comes to the crucial question in the light of this debate of whether the words "the preamble" are words which, without further enactment, are to be given legal effect under the treaties. I have grave doubts as to whether they are. Indeed, when I look at the third paragraph of the preamble, which has not been referred to in the debate—Determined to work together to promote democracy on the basis of the fundamental rights recognized in the constitutions and laws of the Member States"—I ask myself how in the world that could possibly be given direct effect in our law.
If that is the right interpretation—I am asking the Minister to be good enough to make clear whether it is or whether it is not, and if not, what is the right interpretation— then why is it that those words, "the preamble" are included in Section 1 of what is to be inserted in the 1972 Act? What is the point of doing this? What benefit do we derive from putting them on our statute book if they will not have any effect? I can understand the desire to show our accession to the ideas behind them, which have been discussed in many speeches during the course of this debate and some voices are in favour and some very much against. On the border issues I find myself very much on the side of my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby, but that is neither here nor there.
What we are doing is looking to see what is the point of inserting in legislation words which may or may not have some effect when so inserted, and if they do not have any effect why are we spending time—already 66 minutes—on them? This arises not because of my noble friend's amendment but because the words are there. If they were not there we should not need to discuss them. I hope that when replying, the Government will make that very clear indeed and clarify particularly to what we are committing ourselves in our law by inserting those words into the 1972 Act.
§ 2.45 p.m.
§ Baroness Young
Perhaps I should begin by answering the question that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Silkin, raised at the end of his speech and say something about the legal status of the preamble and Title I in relation to the remaining provisions of the Single European Act. Article 31(1) of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties provides that treaties:shall be interpreted in good faith in accordance with the ordinary meaning to be given to the terms of the treaty in their context and in the light of its object and purpose".Article 31(2) of the Convention makes clear that the preamble forms part of the context in which the treaty is to be interpreted. In the particular case of the Single European Act, as is the case with other Community treaties, the European Court will generally be called upon to construe particular articles of the treaty together with any Community legislation made under them. Its main concern will be to establish the natural meaning of the words in the operative provisions before it.
So, although the preamble to the treaty is an integral part of it, it does not confer rights or create obligations. Substantive rights and obligations are based on the operative provisions which are contained in the articles. The preamble is included because it is part of the treaty. The preamble to the Treaty of Rome was similarly included in domestic law by the 1972 Act. This does not mean that the preambles create directly enforceable rights, because they do not.
Perhaps I may now turn to the actual amendment, Amendment No. 27, that is before us, which refers to Title I. That, on the other hand, has an important legal effect. It preserves the vital distinction between the provisions on European political co-operation in Title III which do not form part of Community law (and it is Title III of course which refers to political co-operation), and the provisions in Title II, which do. In Clause 1 of the Bill the words:so far as they relate to any of the Communities or any Community institutionare intended to carry this distinction into our law as regards Title I itself.
Having, I hope, clarified those important points, I turn to the substance of the debate that we have had, which was really about the term "European union". As is customary, the preamble recalls existing commitments such as the Rome Treaty itself, to which indeed I referred at length in my summing up at Second Reading—which talks of laying the foundations of,an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe".The Stuttgart solemn declaration identifies union as being achieved by:deepening and broadening the scope of European activities so that they coherently cover, albeit on a variety of legal bases, a growing proportion of member states' mutual relations and of their external relations"—that means "practical steps". I was pleased to hear the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, say this 1072 afternoon that he supported the promotion of the full internal market. It is not a vague consititutional concept. That is why Article 1 of the Single European Act refers to:making concrete progress towards European unity".The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, said—and I entirely agree with him—that these amendments are wrecking amendments because if passed they would wreck the Bill. The Committee should be under no doubt about that.
I was pleased to hear from my noble friend Lord Bethell, who said—and I think I quote him correctly—that when he was elected to the European Parliament he did not believe that he was elected to bring about a federal Europe. The Single European Act does not represent, as has been suggested by some Members of the Committee this afternoon, a step towards a federal united states of Europe. The legal reasons for that were well put by my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway. As my right honourable and learned friend the Foreign Secretary said in another place on 23rd April:We are not talking about the declaration or proclamation of a United States of Europe or about vague political or legal goals. We are talking about practical steps towards the unity that is essential if Europe is to maintain and enhance its economic and political position in a harshly competitive world".—[official Report, Commons, 23/4/86: col. 325.]That is an objective which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, has said this afternoon he supports although he does not believe that that is what the Single European Act is trying to do. What he has done, if I may say so, is to set up a type of bogeyman for us. He has set out to make our flesh creep, and of course when he sets his mind to something he does it very well. We have had a good, flesh-creeping experience this afternoon: "How terrible all this will be!" That is not related to the amendments which are before the Committee or to the Single European Act. That is why I am so pleased that basically the noble Lord agrees with what the Government are trying to do, because if that is the case he could not possibly vote for the amendments which would make those objectives much more difficult to achieve.
As the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, said, we are trying to advance a little further down the path although not as fast as many of us would like. My noble friend Lord Bethell has quoted the work that he has put in in trying to get something done about air fares—something to which we would all subscribe, for a result we would all like to see, and which we hope the legislation will make easier to come by.
The noble Lord, Lord Moran, raised a point about political co-operation. He said that I had not answered him completely on Second Reading. He asked what we were working to achieve in Europe. I shall tell him. We want a single large market for our goods and services. We want a Community which competes on equal terms in the new technologies. We want a Community which speaks with one voice in foreign policy and which works for ordinary people. Those seem to be highly desirable aims. 1073 If I may go so far as to quote a speech made in 1966 by the then Prime Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Wilson of Rievaulx, he said:I would like to see a drive to create a new technological Community, to pool within Europe the enormous technological inventiveness of Britain and other European countries, to enable Europe on a competitive basis to become more self-reliant and neither dependent on imports nor dominated from outside, but basing itself on the creation of competitive indigenous European industries. I can think of nothing that will make a greater reality of the whole European concept".Those words have a familiar ring today.
The noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, tried to make our flesh creep on another score. He drew our attention to the fact that 16 Conservative MEPs had voted for the Spinelli draft treaty, a draft that I may tell him has since become a dead letter. He was well answered by my noble friend Lady Elles. I would remind him, however, today that the British Labour Group in the European Parliament has just sent the leader of the Labour Party a document calling for the withdrawal of Britain from the Community and the end of NATO. Perhaps he can tell us whether that is official Labour Party policy or not. One thing I can tell him is that, like the Spinelli draft treaty, it will not find much favour in the real world. And it is about the real world that we are talking this afternoon. All right, we can have our differences about whether we should ever have gone into Europe or not. But the truth of the matter is that we decided in 1972 that we would. This was reaffirmed by a referendum in 1975. It was reaffirmed again at the 1983 general election. We go on fighting old battles. If we go on like this, we shall not take the opportunities of the new world that is ahead of us.
I hope, for these reasons, that the Committee will not accept these amendments, which are wrecking amendments, but will do what I believe the overwhelming majority, not only of your Lordships but of the British people, want, which is to move ahead in the European Market in the interests not only of Europe but of Great Britain itself.
Lord Bruce of Donington
I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for her reply. Of course, any amendment produced to a Bill of this kind is bound to be stigmatised as a wrecking amendment. We have had all this before. We have had the Pavlovian reaction of a number of complete Euro-fanatics on the point. This is not the issue. If what the noble Baroness says is true—I would not wish to impugn her integrity—words no longer mean what they say. The fact is that the preamble says,to transform relations as a whole among their States into a European Union".The Stuttgart solemn declaration used exactly the words I have already used. I shall say them again,determined to achieve a comprehensive and coherent common political approach and reaffirming their will to transform the whole complex of relations between their States into a European Union".Those words, if they mean anything, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, has said, mean the federal state without any shadow of doubt.
1074 I am operating this afternoon, as a matter of honour, under a time constriction. Owing to the intervention of other noble Lords, which I had not anticipated, I cannot afford the time to spend on a Division. Otherwise, I should most certainly do so. It is only, I tell the noble Baroness opposite, my own sense of rectitude as to what it is proper should be done in the light of a conversation I have had, that prevents me putting the matter to a Division. I give no such undertaking—and will not—in respect of the Third Reading. In present circumstances, however, I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendments Nos. 28 to 32 not moved.]
§ 3 p.m.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
moved Amendment No. 33:Page 3, line 16, at end insert ("and section 6(c) of Article Title III").The noble Lord said: With this amendment, it may please the Committee to take Amendments Nos. 34, 35, 36 and 38. We touched briefly on this matter in the previous debate. This group of amendments will enable us to discuss the issue of political co-operation more fully, in particular in relation to foreign policy. The details for provision of such co-operation are set out on page 19 of Cmnd. 9758, the Single European Act, under the heading Title III, Article 30.
As far as I can see there was virtually no discussion of these important provisions in the House of Commons. That presumably was due to the fact that discussion was guillotined or that amendments relating to Title III could not be brought within the Long Title of the European Communities Bill. Perhaps it was a combination of both or perhaps those members of another place who briefed themselves properly about the implications of this Bill realised that the treaty on political co-operation had been signed by the Government, albeit I think surreptitiously without publishing the text, that there was therefore a fait accompli and that Parliament had no power to abrogate a treaty already signed by Her Majesty's Government under prerogative powers.
However that may be, there is every reason why this House should examine these proposals as thoroughly as possible within the time constraints imposed upon us. Indeed, it is our duty to do so, and more especially bearing in mind the lack of discussion in another place.
In order that we can discuss these matters intelligently I fear that I shall have to take up the time of the Committee by quoting some of the provisions of Article 30. I am quoting from the top of page 20, where it says:2. (a) The High Contracting Parties undertake to inform and consult each other on any foreign policy matters of general interest so as to ensure that their combined influence is exercised as effectively as possible through co-ordination, the convergence of their positions and the implementation of joint action".The article goes on to say in (b):Consultations shall take place before the High Contracting Parties decide on their final position".1075 In 2(c) it states:In adopting its positions and in its national meaures each High Contracting Party shall take full account of the positions of the other partners and shall give due consideration to the desirability of adopting and implementing common European positions".There are then several other provisions.
What does this mean? Until now I had believed that the Government and the Foreign Office devised and administered Her Majesty's foreign policy, not a European foreign policy. From now on it seems that we shall have to forget Her Majesty and endeavour instead to formulate a European foreign policy. That is exactly what the noble Baroness said during the debate on the last group of amendments. That foreign policy may be inimical to the stability and perpetuation of Her Majesty's realm. Members of the Committee may say that is far-fetched but nevertheless it is a possibility.
We have undertaken to inform and consult the 11 other countries of the European Community on any foreign policy matters of general interest and to consult with them before taking a final position. Since there are virtually no matters of foreign policy in which the other 11 states could not claim an interest, we shall be bound to inform and consult them on every foreign policy issue before taking a final position. That is a remarkable erosion of sovereign power which is not only undesirable and insulting to the British Crown and people but, in certain circumstances, could be positively dangerous and a weakening to Britain's position in the world.
As we heard from other speakers in the previous debate, foreign policy involves defence. Under the circumstances of having to inform and consult our other European members regarding decisions that we are going to take, think of the position when, quite rightly in my view, the Government decided to confront and deal with the disgusting fascist dictator Galtieri, who invaded the country and the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands. Had we been obliged to consult 11 other states, including Italy and Spain, the task force which so bravely and effectively rescued British citizens from the yoke of foreign fascist domination would have never set sail, let alone reached the Falklands. As it was, our partners, in my view, took advantage of our preoccupation in the Falklands War by making the sacrifice of the British veto on farm prices a condition of their continued lukewarm support for the Falklands campaign. If time permitted, I could develop that theme at length.
I must pass on now to provision 4 of Article 30 which states:The High Contracting Parties shall ensure that the European Parliament is closely associated with European Political cooperation. To that end the Presidency shall regularly inform the European Parliament of the foreign policy issues which are being examined within the framework of Political co-operation and shall ensure that the views of the European Parliament are duly taken into consideration".One now finds that in the formulation of foreign policy British foreign policy will be further influenced not simply by our own Parliament at Westminster, but by a Parliament sitting hundreds of miles away from our capital—a Parliament where British representatives would be outnumbered by six to one. We have 1076 been told, and will no doubt be told again, that there is no dilution of soveriegn power by this provision. I fear that many will accept the assurances. Only time will show the extent to which power and sovereignty was shifted from Westminster and Whitehall. When that stark fact is brought home to the British people, in spite of what has been said this afternoon, I want to have it on record that I was not one of those who stood quietly and idly by while our status as a proud and independent nation was eroded and undermined.
I now turn to Provision 10(b) of Article 30 which says:The Presidency shall be responsible for initiating action and co-ordinating and representing the position of Member States in relations with third countries in respect of European Political Cooperation Activities. It shall also be responsible for the management of Political Co-operation and in particular for drawing up the timetable of meetings and for convening and organising meetings".If I am reading and understanding this provision correctly, it seems that increasingly the foreign policy of this country shall not only be made under influence from foreign states, but shall be increasingly represented to countries not of the EC not by the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom but the President of the European Community. Shall we soon have to think in terms of "His" or "Her Presidency's" foreign policy, rather than Her Majesty's foreign policy? Not since the reign of Henry VIII have foreign potentates been so allowed to interfere in the affairs of Her Majesty's realm. That is the case if, of course, I am reading that particular provision correctly.
Also, to assist the President in the role of spokesman or spokeswoman on foreign affairs we find that Provision 10 states:A Secretariat based in Brussels shall assist the Presidency in preparing and implementing the activities of European Political Co-operation and in administrative matters. It shall carry out its duties under the authority of the Presidency".Therefore, as I see it, the nucleus of a Euro-foreign office is to be formed. I wonder how soon it will expand its role and importance to the detriment of the United Kingdom Foreign Office.
The Prime Minister has insisted time and time again that she has no wish to see a federal or unitary European state. I believe her. I believe that that is the Prime Minister's position. I have no reason to doubt her word. Yet I fear that by this Bill and the Single European Act, and in particular by Article 30, the seeds of federalism and unitarianism which were sown in 1972 are beginning to germinate. The ratchet has clicked several notches and as time goes by I feel sure that those of us who have had the temerity apparently, according to some noble Lords, to expose and warn and who have been criticised and vilified for our pains, will be vindicated by events. It is with sorrow and deep foreboding that I feel that I must move these amendments.
§ Baroness Young
It may be helpful if I recall the purpose of the provisions on foreign policy cooperation which form Title III of the Single European Act. These provisions stem from an initiative by the British Government. We judged that the time had come to place co-operation in foreign policy, known as "European Political Co-operation", on a firmer treaty basis. Our partners agreed with us and the text of Title 1077 III which was finally adopted, closely reflects our original proposals.
Title III is not within the scope of the Bill because it does not and will not form part of Community law. Although foreign policy co-operation is an important aspect of Community membership, it is of course carried out within a quite separate framework. The Single European Act enshrines in treaty form the practices and commitments which have grown up informally among the member states over the last 16 years. They provide a basis for its growth in future. In particular, they strengthen the existing commitment to consult on economic and political aspects of security questions; they promote greater consistency between external policies decided in the Community framework on matters such as aid and trade and the foreign policy objectives identified by the Twelve in political co-operation; they introduce administrative improvements which have become necessary now that 12 member states participate in political co-operation. In particular, there will he a small secretariat in Brussels to improve continuity between presidencies and help the presidency of the day with the administration of meetings.
I should have thought that few of your Lordships will doubt the growing need for Europe to speak and to act together on foreign policy issues. The Twelve are clearly more effective when they can do so. Political co-operation is proving its worth in new fields—for example, in the fight against international terrorism.
Once again the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, has set out to make our flesh creep over a number of issues. However, let me say to the noble Lord that political co-operation enables the Twelve to speak and to act together when it is in their interests to do so. It is of course very often in their interests to do so because they are stronger when they speak with one voice. However, we are not obliged to join with our partners. If on any particular matter we think it necessary to take a different line from our partners, we are free to do so. We shall not always be able to agree and it is a basic principle of political co-operation that we remain free to adopt our own national position where we think that is necessary. Political co-operation operates by consensus and there is no question of our being out-voted on foreign policy issues.
The noble Lord raised two quite specific points when he referred to the role of the European Parliament which is quite different as regards political co-operation from its role in Community business. Article 30.4 says that it is:closely associated with European Political Co-operation".The European Parliament is kept informed of developments in European political co-operation, but it has no powers. The way in which that is to be done is described in the accompanying ministerial decision.
The detail of the secretariat, to which I have already referred and to which the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, also referred, is that it will be a small group of five officials under the head of secretariat. The five will be appointed on a rotating basis for two and a half years each: that is to say, five presidency periods; two before, 1078 two after, plus the presidency period of the official's own country. The head of the secretariat will also be appointed for two and a half years in the first instance but not related to the rotation of the presidency. They are two quite specific points.
When the noble Lord says that, of course, if we had had this European political co-operation agreement at the time of the invasion of the Falklands the Task Force would not have been able to set sail, he is quite wrong. We were already in political co-operation at that time and we immediately consulted our partners as soon as the invasion took place. Within days they had all imposed a ban on all imports from Argentina—a good example of political co-operation.
However, let us move nearer to today. The common decisions on Libyan state-sponsored terrorism in April 1986 provide another good example because they resulted in a reduction in the size of the Libyan People's Bureaux all over the Community. We have had common action on South Africa both in 1985 and in 1986. I hope that this will answer the noble Lord, Lord Moran, who was asking for some examples of where political co-operation has been effective.
I could go on because security was referred to. We have co-operated successfully in the CSCE from the start to press for improvements in human rights as well as in many other areas. We worked closely together at the Stockholm CDE Conference which reached a successful conclusion last month. It was the cohesion among the Twelve that played a vital role in the closing weeks of that conference.
Once again I am surprised that noble Lords opposite should have put down these amendments. I have so often heard calls from your Lordships for examples of political co-operation and here we are trying to put it in a more formal way. I have already indicated the safeguards to ourselves should we feel that the decisions are not ones we could support, but I hope that the Committee will see this part, Title III, as being an important part of the Bill before your Lordships' Committee and will not support these amendments.
§ Lord Moran
Before the noble Baroness sits down, may I ask her a small question? On Page 20 of the Single European Act there is a rather obscure sentence which says:The determination of common positions shall constitute a point of reference for the policies of the High Contracting Parties".Can the noble Baroness tell us precisely what that means? Does it mean that when common positions have been reached, they are not binding on members of the Community but that they simply have to take account of them?
§ Baroness Young
I am sorry if I did not make myself plain to the noble Lord, Lord Moran. I thought I had explained that specific point. If your Lordships will allow me, I shall repeat what I said for the sake of clarity. I said that it is a basic principle of political co-operation that we remain free to adopt our own national positions where we think that it is necessary. Political co-operation operates by consensus and there 1079 is no question of our being out-voted on foreign policy issues. I have given some good examples where we have achieved co-operation and where it has proved to be effective. But, as I said earlier, there is a safeguard and that is contained in the statement I have just made.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, should feel that I set out to make the Committee's flesh creep. In fact, I set out to do no such thing. I merely read the document and put my interpretation on the words in the document. If I am being told that words mean nothing, or that they mean not what they say, then that puts a different complexion on it and it looks as though in future we shall not have to read what is set down but read between lines. That was what the noble Baroness appeared to be doing. She said that Title III was not included within the purview of the Bill. I must accept her word for it, but I should like her to explain why under Title I it says:Political Co-operation shall be governed by Title III. The provisions of that Title shall confirm and supplement the procedures agreed in the reports of Luxembourg (1970), Copenhagen (1973), London (1981), the Solemn Declaration on European Union (1983) and the practices gradually established among the Member States".As I understand it—I may be wrong and I hope the Minister will correct me if I am —Title I is part of the Bill. Therefore if Title I becomes part of the Bill does it not follow that Title III also becomes part of the Bill by virtue of the fact that Title III is part of Title I? I may have misunderstood the position and perhaps in a minute the noble Baroness will answer that point.
The noble Baroness also said that Britain would be free to take a different line. Of course I accept that, but at the moment we are free to take a different line from our Community partners as we wish, whereas under Article 30 of Title III we now have to inform our partners and consult them before we come to a decision. Hitherto we have been able to come to decisions without consultation. It was in that sense that I said that our sovereignty was impaired, so there is a difference. There is a difference between the present position and what I understand it will be after the passing of this Bill.
The noble Baroness also referred to the secretariat. She said it would be only a small group of about five people. Yes, indeed, I acknowledged that in my opening remarks. But, as with everything in the EC, like Topsy it will just grow and grow. We all know that. Although the noble Baroness will assure us that this will not happen I fear that in a little while we shall be asking questions in this Chamber about the growth and the cost of the new European political secretariat.
Finally, in relation to the Falklands, I do not believe—in fact I am absolutely sure —that this consultation procedure was in operation and certainly did not take place before Her Majesty's Government decided that they would confront the dictator Galtieri and send a task force. I do not think I am mistaken about that. The decision at that time was unconstrainedly and correctly taken only by the British Government with no input from any other European state.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
Before the noble Baroness replies to that point, may I remind the noble Lord who has just spoken that the Minister answered specifically the questions which he has now repeated? The fact is that over the Falklands conflict we received an immense degree of support from our colleagues in the European Community. It was of enormous advantage to this country. The noble Lord is so ungracious as constantly to complain about the behaviour of our colleagues in Europe. In reality we had nothing but their wholehearted support.
§ Baroness Young
I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, for those remarks. I think I would be right in saying that the Argentine Government were surprised at the unanimity of support that we had from our European partners for which we were most grateful at the time and which was I think an extremely good example of the kind of European political co-operation that we are discussing.
If I might take us to the specific point that the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, asked me, I thought that I had answered it originally. He asked how the Bill achieved the exclusion of Title III. The clause makes clear that the preamble and Titles I and IV are within the scope of the Bill only:so far as they relate to the Community or any Community institution".In so far as these parts of the Single European Act relate to Title III and thus to European political cooperation they do not relate to the Community and are outside the scope of the Bill.
With reference to Article III.2, "Institutions responsible for European political co-operation", does not relate to the two Community institutions mentioned in Title III because they are not responsible for European political co-operation.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
I thank the noble Baroness but I should still like to have a look at it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendments Nos. 34, 35 and 36 not moved.]
§ 3.30 p.m.
Lord Bruce of Donington
moved Amendment No. 37:Page 3, line 16, at end insert ("and so far as any decisions taken thereunder are subject to a system of majority voting within the Council, then the provisions shall not apply should the representative of a single member country signify dissent from such a decision despite a majority to the contrary when the overriding national interests of that member country dictate such dissent").The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 37. This amendment seeks to write into the Bill something that the Government say already exists, the right of veto. Memories are perhaps short, sometimes very conveniently short; but at the time of the referendum campaign the people were told, under the general heading of,Will Parliament lose its power?the following:It is the Council of Ministers and not the Market's officials who take the important decisions. These decisions can be taken only if all 1081 the members of the Council agree. The Minister representing Britain can veto any proposal for a new law or a new tax if he considers it to be against British interests. Members from the other governments have the same right to veto".This is roughly what is in this amendment for insertion into the Bill. It goes on to say:Remember, all the other countries in the Market enjoy like us democratically-elected governments answerable to their own parliaments and their own voters. They do not want to weaken their parliaments any more than we would".Finally, under "Fact No. 2" on the document which was presented to the electorate at the referendum:No important new policy can be decided in Brussels or anywhere else without the consent of a British Minister answerable to a British Government and British Parliament".So much for the question that was addressed to the people and to which the affirmative response was received.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
May I ask the noble Lord a question? Obviously there may be some trick of memory so far as I am concerned, but my impression was that this document from which he is now quoting was one presented to the electorate by a Labour Government. He is speaking from the Labour Front-Bench. Do we take it that there is some new move so far as foreign policy is concerned or are they in fact dissociating themselves from every decision taken by a Labour Government in 1975?
Lord Bruce of Donington
No. I think the noble Lord will find my fidelity to the policies of the Labour Government is probably far stronger than his own fidelity to his own government of which he was a member. So far as I am concerned it matters not to me which party issued this. This was the issue. I agree it was put to them by a Labour Government and I support the fact that it was put to them in good faith. There is no conflict here.
The question is whether the veto exists. There are many noble Lords and there are members of the Select Committees who say that, notwithstanding this, a substantial erosion of national sovereignty has occurred. Some Members of the Committee including, for example, the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, applaud that as being the case. I do not dispute their right to argue that national sovereignty has been partially eroded. The Select Committee says that it has. I want to find out whether the Government think it has, because according to them it has not. According to the Government, the right of veto still remains. That is what I want to clear up.
The operation of the Luxembourg Compromise is already well known and the text of it is in the Select Committee reports. The five member states said:Where in the case of decisions which may be taken by a majority vote on a proposal of the Commission very important interests of one or more partners are at stake, the members of the Council will endeavour within a reasonable time to reach solutions which can be adopted by all members of the Council, while respecting their mutual interests and those of the Community, in accordance with Article 2 of the Treaty".The French delegation considered that where very important interests were at stake the discussion must be continued until unanimous agreement is reached. 1082 According to the noble Baroness, this right of veto still exists. It does not exist in law apparently, but it exists. She added in her letter to me, which I have her permission to read:In any case we did not rely on the Luxembourg Compromise to secure our interests when we negotiated the Single European Act. We secured other safeguards to ensure that our important national interests are protected".I asked what those other safeguards were, but so far I have received no reply.
I am bound to point out to the Committee that in 1972, in Cmnd. 4715, the Government said:On a question where a Government considers that vital national interests are involved it is established that the decision should be unanimous".Those sentiments were reiterated in 1985. Whether the veto exists depends on how we regard the situation that arose in 1982.
There can be no doubt that we tried to exercise our veto in 1982 at a time when the right honourable gentleman Mr. Peter Walker was Minister of Agriculture. I quote from his account given to another place on exactly what transpired. This occurs at col. 352 of Hansard of 19th May 1982:Together with Denmark and Greece we strongly protested when the Presidency, encouraged by the Commission, announced that for the first time since 1966 the principle of obtaining unanimity where a very important national interest had been invoked was to be violated…and that a decision was to be taken in accordance with the treaty arrangements for majority voting.He continued:I made a firm statement to the Council contesting the procedure and declaring that the Council had violated an accepted convention under which all previous price-fixings had been adopted. I stated that the Government considered that, as important national interests were involved, in accordance with the established practice of the Community, discussions should have continued in this Council until a unanimous agreement had been reached. I pointed out that the decisions which were being taken would place a further financial burden on the United Kingdom, that there was clearly a direct and organic link between the price-fixing decision and the budget negotiations and that this link had been recognised by all member States in their agreement that the three chapters of the 30 May mandate should proceed in parallel. I placed it on record that I considered that the conduct of the presidency of the Commission and the member States which had joined in this procedure had created a very sad and damaging day in the Community's history…and that the Council had quite unjustifiably chosen to depart from the established working practices based on the agreement reached in 1966".That is why, however unpopular it may be, however much people are impatient concerning what I am saying, however much it may be considered to be old hat and fighting old battles all over again, I shall aquaint your Lordships with the facts so that you may make your own judgments about it.
There is another reason why I query the existing position and why I want it established in law. We come now to the declarations made by the various Ministers at the time of the solemn declaration of Stuttgart—a solemn declaration never made public to the British people to this day unless they care to read the Select Committee reports of either your Lordships' House or another place.
If all member states now take up the position that, following the negotiation of this Single European Act, there is universal agreement among all the signatories that they know how to interpret the veto in future, that 1083 they know how to act on the veto in future and that they are all bound to act together in the same way, the noble Baroness's case has some force. However, consider what happened at the time of the declaration. There was a declaration by the British and Danish delegations with reference to paragraph 2.2.2, dealing with the whole question of voting, which said:While subscribing to section 2.2.2 of the Solemn Declaration, Denmark and the United Kingdom remain of the view that, when a Member State considers its very important interests to be at stake, discussion should be continued until unanimous agreement is reached".That reiterates the position exactly as put by the noble Baroness and that is still her position under the Luxembourg Compromise. However, consider the declaration of the Belgium, German, Luxembourg, Italian and Dutch delegations in regard to the same paragraph on page xxvii of the Third Report from the Foreign Affairs Committee of another place:While subscribing to paragraph 2.2.2 of the Solemn Declaration on European Union, the Belgium, German, Luxembourg, Italian and Dutch delegations state that the Presidency must have recourse to voting where the Treaties so provide.".That is a view completely in contradistinction from the views put forward by the British and Danish governments.
The British presidency ends, I believe, on 31st December. There are 12 member states. The presidency revolves at six-monthly intervals, to the best of my knowledge, so it will be six years before the British occupy the presidency again, if strict rotation is adhered to. I ask what will happen now when any question affecting British national interests arises and the noble Baroness, the Foreign Secretary or the Minister concerned seeks to apply the veto? How does she think that the veto applies? Would it not be far better to put in the treaty, even though it involved a revision, a provision which actually squares with what she believes is the case and which entirely agrees in legal terms with her concept of the matter? I beg to move.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
Surely we are not concerned with the provisions of Stuttgart. We are concerned here with the provisions of the SEA. Is not the perishable threat of Amendment No. 37—the sole amendment to which any noble Lord has spoken—the ipse dixit of any member state on a question of overriding national interest? Is this not the very justification for the SEA—to unblock the decision-making process? With respect, the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, seems to have stood the whole problem on its head.
As to Luxembourg and national interests, the Luxembourg Compromise on matters of vital national importance remains wholly unaffected by the SEA. It remains a political reality, an important part of the decision-making process, notwithstanding the extension of the qualified majority voting proposed by the SEA; a political reality which exists and which to some extent reflects the grand design of King Henry of Navarre and Sully, with this permanent committee of the states of Europe, with arbitral functions, but with retention of essential aspects of sovereignty—and it 1084 was Churchill who said that we are all servants of that grand design. This compromise on national interests works and shall continue to work, not against the ultimate threat of sanction and withdrawal, but because the Ministers of all member states, including the Ministers of Her Majesty's Government, are the true servants of that grand design.
§ Baroness Young
The noble Lord, Lord Bruce, asked the question right at the beginning of his remarks: does the veto exist or does it not? In the proceedings on the first day of Committee on 8th October, my noble friend Lady Hooper explained the distinction between a veto as constituted by the unanimity requirement and the so-called veto represented by the Luxembourg Compromise. The Luxembourg Compromise is not, and never has been, a provision of the European Community treaties. It is a political understanding based on the so-called Luxembourg accords of 28th and 29th January 1966, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, quoted from the letter that I sent him, I went into some detail on this point.
But in those so-called Luxembourg accords five of what were then the six member states declared that:Where in the case of decisions which may be taken by a majority vote on a proposal of the Commission very important interests of one or more partners are at stake, members of the Council will endeavour within a reasonable time to reach solutions which can be adopted by all the members of the Council while respecting their mutual interests and those of the Community in accordance with Article 2 of the treaty".The French delegation considered that:Where very important interests are at stake the discussion must be continued until unanimous agreement is reached.It is that French declaration which constitutes the basis of the Luxembourg Compromise. By definition, that compromise, which is sometimes called a veto, is only applicable to decisions to be taken by a qualified majority and, although the French view was in a minority in 1966, it now represents the clear view of at least five member states—France, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark and Greece. Moreover, as noble Lords will know, in 1985 a sixth government, the German government, invoked the Luxembourg Compromise.
I do not think that I shall go through the whole experience of 1982 which the noble Lord has cited, but perhaps I may say for the future that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary said in another place on 23rd April that there was no loss of essential protection of the national interest as a result of the limited shift that has been made from unanimity to qualified majority voting. And he gave these safeguards: first because we have, in fact, retained unanimity where we needed to—for example, for matters of fiscal harmonisation; secondly, because we have specific safeguards covering human, animal and plant health which protect our position on key issues; thirdly, because it will still be open to us to combine with other member states to form a blocking minority, and, fourthly, because as a last resort the Luxembourg Compromise remains in place untouched and unaffected. 1085 That the Luxembourg Compromise is unaffected by the Single European Act is not just the view of the United Kingdom. Our view was supported in a recent survey of the Single European Act by an independent and prominent law firm specialising in Community law which said:The continued resort to the Luxembourg Compromise is in no way prohibited even in the new areas open to majority voting".It is also borne out by a statement issued by a French Government spokesman in September when he said:The Council of Ministers will be able to decide by qualified majority more frequently than at present without in any way bringing into question the ability of a member state to invoke the Luxembourg Compromise when a question of vital interest is concerned".Of course no one can give a guarantee that the United Kingdom will never find itself in a minority on any one issue; but the fact is that if we take a timid view of our ability to protect our interests or an extremely narrow view of where those interests lie in the Community, then, as in life, we shall achieve very little or nothing at all. In the interests of our industry, and of our working people and of consumers we have long pressed for the completion of the single large market, and we cannot afford to wait, as we have had to do in the past, for 17 years for decisions to be reached. We need quicker decisions but that must mean qualified majority voting. But it is a qualified majority voting in a limited area and for practical purposes.
I believe that our position is fully safeguarded and that the amendments before the Committee are unnecesssary. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, will withdraw them.
§ 3.45 p.m.
Lord Bruce of Donington
I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for her reply. Her verbal replies to me do not answer the documentation. The facts are in the documents that I have quoted. The Luxembourg Convention is once again referred to by the Government on page 27 of the Select Committee's report, which makes specific reference to the essence of the Luxembourg Compromise. I am satisfied that in the final analysis the veto is no longer effective. The noble Baroness may believe that it is but I, and anybody else who can read the documentation, know perfectly well that it is not. Nevertheless, in view of the time constrictions, and only because of the time constrictions, I ask leave of the Committee to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendments Nos. 38 and 39 not moved.]
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 [Extensions of provisions to courts attached to European Courts.]
[Amendments Nos. 40 and 41 not moved.]
Clause 2 agreed to.
§ Lord Denning
had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 42:After Clause 2, insert the following new clause—
§ ("Sovereignty of The Queen.
§ .—(1) The provisions of Article 168A of the EEC Treaty shall not be interpreted or applied so as to enable any such attached court to sit in the United Kingdom, or to exercise any jurisdiction over British subjects resident in the United Kingdom.
§ (2) In lieu of the jurisdiction of any such attached court, every British subject resident in the United Kingdom and owing allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen shall he entitled to the protection of Her Majesty, according to the law of England, administered by Her Majesty's Judges sitting in the Royal Courts of Justice under the Rules of the Supreme Court.
§ (3) If and in so far as under Article 168A aforesaid any such attached court is given jurisdiction to decide disputes according to Community Law, a like jurisdication shall be exercised by Her Majesty's Judges also to decide them according to Community Law (in so far as that is made part of the law of England by section 2 of the European Communities Act 1972) subject to a reference to the European Court of Justice on points of Community Law.").
The noble and learned Lord said: I am not going to move this amendment. We had a long discussion on the first day of the Committee as to the position of the attached courts. I am very comforted by the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and I have extracted one or two sentences which I should like to place on record. She said:
The attached court will not take on new work; nor will it have new powers. It will only take on those cases which individuals and companies can under the present rules bring direct to the European Court. Not more than one subsidiary court can be created. It will sit in the same place—Luxembourg. It will not in any way take away the powers now exercised in this field by our own domestic courts".
Those words are very satisfactory to me and in the circumstances I do not move Amendment No. 42.
§ [Amendment No. 42 not moved,]
§ Clause 3 [Provisions relating to European Assembly]:
§ [Amendment No. 43. not moved.]
The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 44. It may be for the convenience of the Committee if we discuss together with that Amendments Nos. 45 to 51. I think I can do this fairly briefly. This group of amendments deals with the change of nomenclature relating to the European Assembly, which following the passing of this Act will be formally recognised by statute as a parliament—the Parliament of the European Community. What is more, if we pass this Bill unamended, we shall be saying that the European Assembly has always been a parliament. In fact Clause 3(3) states:
On and after the day mentioned in subsection (1) above the enactments and instruments amended by this section shall have effect as if the Assembly of the European Communities had always been named the European Parliament".
§ If we pass the Bill unamended, we shall be saying that the Assembly has always been a parliament, which means that our own statutes have always been wrong and individuals like myself have always been wrong in describing this body as anything other than the parliament. So far as I can see, that is retrospective 1087 legislation gone mad and I cannot see why it should be necessary.
§ Some people may argue that the change of name means nothing and that it alters nothing in the relationships between the British Parliament with our own Constitution and the European Assembly, but I am afraid it does. In Britain the word "Parliament" has a special and universally understood meaning. To the British people "Parliament" means their sovereign, their protector and the ultimate fount of justice, and this deep meaning is branded on the consciousness of the British people by history and by participation. Thus, to the British, their Parliament is not only the hander-down of laws which bind them all and the dispenser of justice; it is also part of their heritage and the prime mover over centuries for the establishment of the free and democratic society in which we all have the privilege of living today. Therefore it has a distinct meaning in Britain.
§ Until now, and certainly since the reign of the Tudors, no other assembly has held sway or had influence in the land other than the Parliament at Westminster. By this Bill we shall help establish another parliament, composed of a huge majority of foreign representatives sitting in a foreign capital, which will hold sway in many areas of our national life, circumscribe action by this Parliament and, to some degree anyway, dilute its sovereignty. We should remember that we are unique in the European Community in having a nation and a constitution at the heart of which there is our Queen, who is of our Parliament and acts in Parliament and by Parliament. That is what we mean by "Parliament" and that is what the people understand and expect Parliament to be. We should remember this when we are dealing with these amendments. We shall be untrue to our ancestors and unfaithful to posterity if we carelessly sacrifice cherished and fundamental institutions to some misconceived and hypothetical economic benefit through the completion of the internal market. I beg to move.
§ Baroness Hooper
We have time constraints and I do not propose to repeat what I said to the Committee last week on this subject. I shall simply say that it makes sense to reflect in the Single European Act the long-standing practice of referring to the European Parliament as such. It follows that this usage should be reflected in our law to avoid confusion and even self-contradiction. Let me quote some examples. If, for example, we kept to current official usage for the next European elections in 1989, we should continue to confuse the voter by referring to the Parliament in all official electoral documents as the "European Assembly", while all the manifestos and electoral literature would refer to it as the "European Parliament". That would be the effect of Amendments Nos. 44, 45 and 46.
Amendment No. 45 would create the following Long Title to the European Assembly Elections Act 1978:An Act to make provision for and in connection with the election of representatives to the European Parliament, and to prevent any treaty providing for any increase in the powers of the Assembly from being ratified by the United Kingdom unless approved by Act of Parliament".1088 That is a strange result because the first reference would be amended while the second would use the short form, "the Assembly", which would therefore, thanks to Amendment No. 45, be left alone. That is confusing and absurd.
Amendment No. 50 would do practical harm as it would delete a provision which is necessary to ensure that former and present Members of the European Parliament who served while the institution was called the Assembly rather than the European Parliament—I am one of them—will continue to receive pensions payable to them under the European Assembly Pay and Pensions Act 1979, as amended by the Parliamentary Pensions Act 1984. Without this subsection, previous service as a representative of the Assembly would cease to count for pension. I do not believe that the Committee would wish to approve such a consequence or that it is legislation gone mad as the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, suggested.
Nor do I believe that the Committee would wish to prevent the Treaties being brought into line with the established practice in this country, as in all European Community countries, of referring to the institution as the European Parliament. I hope that that puts the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, into context and I hope that the Committee will reject the amendments.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My noble friends and I share the view expressed by the noble Baroness. If the noble Lord were to press the amendments, we should undoubtedly vote against them. I was surprised by the phrase used by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, when he referred to the danger of passing authority over—I hope that I quote him accurately —to foreign representatives sitting in a foreign capital. That presumably is the authentic voice of international Socialism as now defined.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
I thank the noble Baroness for her reply. I also thank her for declaring her financial interest in this group of amendments. For that reason alone and in consideration for the noble Baroness, whom we all admire and like, I should not dream of pressing the amendment. I therefore beg leave to withdraw it.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendments Nos. 45 to 51 not moved.]
Clause 3 agreed to.
[Amendment No. 52 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]
§ The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Cullen of Ashbourne)
Amendment No. 52A.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
May I raise a point of order? When were these amendments put down? Last night when I asked for the amendments to the Bill 1089 for today I was handed the Marshalled List with a supplementary sheet containing an amendment to be moved by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning. I took that home last night to study for today. On the Marshalled List for today I found four amendments on page 5 in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, which were not on it last night. We first saw them this morning. I submit that that is not fair to the Committee. If we do not have any rules about the time when amendments should be put down for discussion, it is time that we had some.
§ 4 p.m.
§ ("Articles 100A and 100E and Acts of Parliament.
§ .Articles 100A and 100B of the European Economic Communities Treaty shall not be interpreted or applied so as to enable any Act of Parliament (heretofore passed or hereafter to be passed) to be superseded, repealed or amended except by a Resolution made under section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972, specifying the repeal or amendment in the manner always heretofore done in statute and made public accordingly.")
§ The noble and learned Lord said: There is an easy explanation. All these amendments have been on the Marshalled List from the beginning of the Committee stage. All that happened was that owing to a mistake the first amendment was taken off the Marshalled List. The remainder have been there all the time. I shall therefore not take up the time of the Committee by discussing the point of order raised by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton. I shall just go by the Marshalled List. I do not think that the noble Lord can take any objection. At all events, all these were down from the beginning of the Committee stage.
I shall try to be as short as possible in my remarks because of the hour. This is a most important series of amendments. The amendments concern the sovereignty of Parliament itself. They concern the very point drawn to your Lordships' attention by the Select Committee when it said:
The powers of the United Kingdom Parliament will be weakened by the Single European Act. The Committee draw this important fact to the special attention of the House".
I have therefore drafted this series of amendments to maintain the sovereignty of Parliament in this country. The European Communities Act 1972 maintained the sovereignty of Parliament. Section 2 stated distinctly that all rights and so on provided for under the treaties are, without further enactment —those are the important words—to be applied in England. As to those that needed further enactment, there had to be a regulation and resolution brought before this House, so this House would have an opportunity of making it part of the law. That is the simple point I wish to stress. The 1972 Act states clearly the previous statutes to be amended or not, or treated as superseded. They are set out in a schedule.
§ The fundamental principle I want to state is that an Act of Parliament is supreme. It cannot be changed, amended or altered except by another Act of 1090 Parliament. That is recognised in this very statute. Those to be repealed or amended are set out. This is the fundamental principle that I wish to assert.
§ I wish now to illustrate my three propositions. The first—the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, will not I think complain about this—deals with the provision in the Single European Act which says that the provisions of the treaty can be harmonised. The sixth directive dealing with VAT was implemented by our Parliament saying in 1983 that newly constructed buildings were not to bear VAT. Let us suppose that the European Court says that this is wrong and that newly constructed buildings should bear VAT. I am saying that if a change is to be made, it should be resolved and implemented by Parliament itself.
§ Next, I should like to deal with the issue of harmonisation by taking the case of the senior dietician who, under our English statute law, would receive a pension at 60, but, if a man, could go on until 65. Then the European Court of Justice, relying on a subsequent directive, says that our Act is erroneous and ought to be amended, If our Act is to be amended it ought to be amended by the proper machinery provided for in the 1972 Act by a regulation brought before the House of Lords.
§ I could go on to the other cases. I have put forward in all these provisions that if an Act is to be repealed, amended or altered, it cannot simply be done by the European Court of Justice or by a directive. It ought to be done by a regulation in the House of Lords. It would then be made public. We have had the extraordinary case of the inflatable dolls where the Customs officer, acting under a statute of 1876, said that they were obscene and indecent and that he was going to forfeit and destroy them. That position was held to be correct under our English law and statute. Later, the European Court held that that was erroneous and that our Customs officer could not act on our statute of 1876. If our own statute is to be altered, let a regulation be brought before the House of Lords.
§ I do not want at this hour to go into a lengthy discussion. I have set it out in detail. I wrote to the noble Baroness setting out the complicated reasons. I do not want to press it at this hour. My object throughout has been to see that our statute law is not altered, repealed or amended unless a regulation has been before the House of Lords for that purpose. That is all I need to say. I do not want to press this amendment at this stage. But I wish to preserve the sovereignty of Parliament in respect of Acts which pass through the House of Lords.
§ Baroness Young
I am sure that all Members of the Committee accept the sincerity of the points that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, has put forward. We have been over this course several times in the Committee. We also went over it at Second Reading. At this late hour, I shall not take up the time of the Committee by repeating the arguments. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will not press his amendment.
§ Lord Denning
I do not press the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendments Nos. 52B to 54 not moved.]
§ Lord Silkin of Dulwich
had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 55:After Clause 3, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Commencement: Order
§ This act shall come into force on a date to be specified by Order and no such Order shall be made unless a draft thereof has been laid and approved by each House of Parliament.")
§ The noble and learned Lord said: In view of the time, I do not intend to move this amendment. It is far 1092 too important to try to deal with it in a minute or two. It is an amendment in whose consideration I am sure Members of the committee—who have quite varying views on the major issues we have discussed—would wish to take part. Perhaps I can give notice that I intend to put it down at whatever later stage I am able to.
§ House resumed: Bill reported without amendment.
§ House adjourned at ten minutes past four o'clock.