§ 4.38 p.m.
§ Consideration of amendments on Report resumed on Clause 1.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 1, line 9, leave out ("and IV") and insert ("IV and V (except Article J/").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a brief, probing amendment which I tabled in order to pursue the debate that my noble friend the Minister and I had together at Committee stage on 29th June. My questions concern Title V of the Treaty on European Union (Article J as it is also known), which covers the proposed common foreign and security policy.
The amendment proposes to leave out Article J.3 because, despite what my noble friend said in Committee, Article J.3.2 still seems to me to provide for a joint action—whatever that may be—to be pursued by a qualified majority vote. In our Committee proceedings, I asked my noble friend whether a joint action could involve the use of British troops. She replied by pointing to Article J.4 which deals with the foreign policy, security and defence of the proposed European Union. She pointed out that Article J.4.3 states that:
Issues having defence implications dealt with under this Article"—
that is, Article J.4—
shall not be subject to the procedures set out in Article J/"—
that is, implying the use of the qualified majority vote.
§ My noble friend opined that that ruled out a joint action committing British troops. With respect, I am not sure that I can agree, and that is why I tabled this amendment. If my noble friend is correct, can she tell 36 the House exactly what a joint action might be? If a joint action is not covered by the provisions of Article J.4, what is it? Could it be, for example, an operation such as we have helped to mount in Bosnia or such as we may be obliged to mount almost anywhere else on this troubled planet under the terms of the treaty? Could British troops be obliged, by qualified majority vote in the Council, to accompany aid through hostile territory elsewhere, and therefore could their lives be still put at stake? If so, is that not a substantial cession of our sovereignty to qualified majority voting in the Council? Those are questions which I have previously asked my noble friend. I would be most grateful if she could see her way to giving the answers which she was not able to supply at our Committee proceedings.
I would be grateful if my noble friend could also answer one other question about Article J which, again, I asked in Committee and to which I did not get a reply. That question is this: what is the attitude of Her Majesty's Government to the declaration on voting in the fields of common foreign and security policy, which declaration is to be found at the back of the treaty? Britain has signed this declaration. It reads as follows:
The Conference agrees that, with regard to Council decisions requiring unanimity, Member States will, to the extent possible, avoid preventing a unanimous decision where a qualified majority exists in favour of that decision".
I put this question to my noble friend before and did not get an answer; so I have to put it again now. What is the force of that declaration? Do Her Majesty's Government intend to respect it? When she comes to consider her reply can she dwell a little on the words "to the extent possible"? Surely it will always be possible for us to agree to a unanimous vote even if that vote would lead to military or other action endangering our troops' lives and perhaps even our national interest. Does my noble friend not agree that this declaration very substantially weakens our ability to resist a qualified majority vote being used against what we regard as our interest even under Article J.4 which she quoted on 29th June? If this is not so, what is the point of the declaration?
§ The Government have said on several occasions that both Titles V and VI—Articles J and K—of the Treaty on European Union operate only by unanimity under a process known as intergovernmental co-operation. The Foreign Office has said that these two new pillars are to be binding in international law; which means, I think, that we must take them very seriously. My own reading of the treaty suggests that neither title does in fact operate only by unanimity, but I shall be dealing with Article K under Amendment No. 12 later on. In the meantime, I should be most grateful if my noble friend could answer the questions I put to her on Title V or Article J and on the declaration on unanimous voting, to which I referred, now that we have reached the Report Stage of these proceedings.
§ Lord Finsberg
My Lords, I was not able to be present when this item was debated on 29th June because I was leading the United Kingdom delegation, which I have done for seven years, to the Council of Europe. I should like to ask my noble friend whether 37 she will examine the relationship between the Petersburg Declaration and the Maastricht agreement which deals with Western European Union.
I have to remind your Lordships that defence—particularly on Bosnia, on the Iran-Iraq sanctions and on the Gulf War—was co-ordinated to a very large extent by the Western European Union. That treaty remains in force for 50 years from 1948 and cannot be denounced before then. There is an argument between the parliamentary assembly of Western European Union, where again I have the honour of leading the United Kingdom delegation and the Ministerial Council as to whether the 50 years should date from 1948 or from 1954, the date of the modified Brussels treaty. But I shall not ask my noble friend to enter into that argument at this stage.
The ceding of sovereignty in the field of defence took place when we joined NATO so those who are now complaining that we have lost sovereignty in defence must learn the facts of life. We ceded sovereignty in the field of defence when we signed the modified Brussels treaty and the original Brussels treaty. It is very important that your Lordships are not deceived by some of the arguments that are being put forward by those who for a variety of reasons—I am sure, very sincere and well founded—are trying to say that in the field of defence we are giving away very much. That is just not so.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Baroness Elles
My Lords, perhaps I may add to what my noble friend Lord Finsberg said and make one very brief comment. Not only do we have obligations under NATO and WEU but also with regard to humanitarian aid, which my noble friend Lord Pearson quite rightly raised. We are obligated as members of the Security Council of the United Nations and signatories to the charter of the United Nations. We have obligations under that charter as well.
§ Lord Ewing of Kirkford
My Lords, it was not my intention to take part in this debate but the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Finsberg, has encouraged me to say a few words in the hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, when she comes to reply, will give a clearer definition of the role of the Western European Union.
I had the honour to serve for five years as a member of the Western European Union and I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Finsberg, for his leadership of the United Kingdom delegation. Throughout that period of five years' membership of the Western European Union one of the things that struck me forcefully was the number of times British Foreign Secretaries, whoever happened to be Foreign Secretary at the time, said that the Government had it in mind to strengthen the role of the Western European Union. I came to realise that that was a euphemism for doing nothing.
I can remember a decision being taken to establish a parliamentary institution to oversee the work of the CSCE. I argued at that time that we already had parliamentary institutions in Europe that could easily 38 oversee the work of the CSCE in a different field. When it came to the discussions to create the European Economic Area between the European Free Trade Association and the EEC it was decided at that stage also to establish a parliamentary institution to oversee the work of the amalgamated EFTA and the EEC. The problem is that Europe is littered with parliamentary institutions. None of them knows quite what the others are doing. We have the EEC, the Western European Union, the Council of Europe, the North Atlantic Assembly, the parliamentary institution that oversees the work of the CSCE and we have the proposal to put in place some kind of parliamentary scrutiny to oversee the amalgamation of EFTA and the EEC. We also have NATO, which has no direct parliamentary role.
One of the major defence problems in Europe, if I may say so to the Minister, is the contradiction that although France is not a member of NATO it is a member of the Western European Union. The treaty to which the noble Lord, Lord Finsberg, referred lays down specifically that the headquarters and meeting place of the Western European Union must always be in Paris. So we have this contradiction whereby France is not a member of NATO but is a leading and dominant member of the Western European Union. No one quite knows what the role of the Western European Union is.
I can understand some of the problems because of the way in which the Western European Union has been enlarged over the years by member states which are not members of the EEC, on the one hand, or NATO, on the other hand. Whichever party is in power, it is simply not good enough for Her Majesty's Government to go on saying that they intend to strengthen the Western European Union as a defence pillar while at the same time restricting the budget. That has constantly been the problem of the Western European Union. The budget contributions coming from the member states have always been restricted. Therefore, the Western European Union is working on a very tight budget indeed. It is simply not good enough for governments to say that they intend strengthening the Western European Union while restricting the budget.
My final word is concerned with an illustration of the contradictions that appear from time to time in relation to the Western European Union. At the time of the outbreak of hostilities in the former Yugoslavia—the noble Lord, Lord Finsberg, will remember this well—the defence committee of the WEU convened a meeting in order to take advice (not to take action) on the basis that if military intervention in Bosnia was to go ahead we wanted to know the number of troops required in order to intervene in Yugoslavia. We also wanted to know about other tactical factors which related to the outbreak of hostilities in Yugoslavia.
As it always does, the committee met in Paris. Half-an-hour before the meeting took place we were told by the clerk to the committee that Herr Dietrich Genscher, who at that time was the German Foreign Secretary and who also held the position of chairman 39 of the ministerial council which oversees the WEU, had intervened and forbidden the experts to give advice to the defence committee of the WEU.
All I am saying to the noble Baroness is this. While I recognise that in the Maastricht negotiations defence and foreign policy are two separate pillars, and not actually part of the negotiations that the Committee is discussing at the moment, there has to be a much clearer definition of the role of the Western European Union in order that those who subscribe to its aims and work know clearly what lies ahead for that organisation in the years to come.
§ Baroness Chalker of Wallasey
My Lords, I hope that my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch will allow me first to answer the more general questions and then to return to his specific questions. I believe that that will set in context the questions which he himself asked and which I sought to answer on 29th June when we had our debate. However, he has retabled these matters at Report stage. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Ewing of Kirkford, that the Western European Union rather than the Twelve will be responsible for implementing decisions with defence implications. I hope that is made clear. It is certainly made clear in the Maastricht Treaty. There is nothing in that treaty that will compel the United Kingdom to commit forces to military action against our will. In that sense I link the noble Lord's comments with those of my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch.
I also say to him that one of the interesting developments has been how the Western European Union is seeking to work ever more closely in future with NATO and with the partners currently in the European political co-operation under CFSP, which is a separate pillar of the treaty. Perhaps I may also tell him that the Western European Union no longer has its headquarters in Paris. They have been moved to Brussels for easier co-ordination with NATO of all relevant matters. Therefore, that answers the noble Lord's question as to why, when France is not a fully participating member of NATO, although she does join in, the headquarters were still in Paris. The move has already taken place to Brussels.
My noble friend Lord Finsberg, as the noble Lord, Lord Ewing of Kirk ford, said, led the delegation to the WEU in a very distinguished manner for many years. He was right to ask about the relationships between the WEU and other agreements. Perhaps I may also say that he was 100 per cent. right when he said that for our common good we ceded our sovereignty with our membership of NATO and through various other treaties.
I return for one moment to something which came to my mind when the noble Lord, Lord Ewing of Kirkford, was speaking. Some Members have asked me in the corridors about new members of the EC in relation to the Western European Union. The new European Community members have three options: they may become full members of the Western European Union; they may have observer status or they may not join in at all. It will be entirely up to them. As the noble Lord, Lord Ewing of Kirkford, 40 will know, historically, WEU members have organised territorial defence through NATO. We believe that it makes sense for that to continue.
As the noble Lord intimated in his remarks, the Maastricht Treaty makes it clear that it is for the WEU to elaborate and implement decisions and actions which have defence implications. That will be done in collaboration with the CFSP pillar, but separately from it. By forming a bridge between the European Community partners and NATO, it ensures that everything which is done by the partners in the security field has to be compatible with the views and activities of NATO. That is what Article J.4(4) is all about.
There is a dual role as a defence component of the European Union and as a means of strengthening the European pillar of NATO. That is why the WEU, quite rightly, after all its long and excellent experience, as my noble friend Lord Finsberg said, will have the key co-ordinating role.
We have had the groundwork for effective co-ordination already laid. I believe it was that to which my noble friend Lord Finsberg referred when he mentioned the June 1992 WEU Council of Ministers. They approved practical measures which were needed to develop close working relationships between the WEU, on the one hand, and the union and NATO, on the other.
In December last the NATO foreign ministers endorsed the guidelines for the practical working relationship between NATO and the WEU. We now have both sets of measures providing for close contact between the secretariats, a regular exchange of information and reciprocal attendance at meetings where necessary. Those provisions will be further implemented gradually as the WEU settles down in its new home in Brussels.
Perhaps I may now return to the essential elements of this particular amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch. I did attempt to answer his questions previously. I shall go through what he has asked once again. He asked about joint action. Joint action is defined in Title V of the treaty. It is to develop the existing European political co-operation arrangements so that we have a stronger commitment in the areas in which member states have important interests in common. But all key decisions, such as areas which should be subject to joint action, will be taken by unanimity. The United Kingdom has had considerable success here because we have succeeded in ensuring that the provisions are workable and flexible. Joint actions have to be specific. For example, the Middle East would be too broad a subject to be workable in joint action, but EC participation in peace conferences on the Middle East might be a good subject for joint action.
Therefore, joint actions will be specific, workable and usually time-limited, but they will also be subject to review should circumstances change. That is covered by Article J.3(3) which states:If there is a change in circumstances having a substantial effect on a question subject to joint action, the Council shall review the principles and objectives of that action and take the necessary decisions".41 As long as the Council has not acted, joint action shall stand. That is all covered by Article J.3(3).
Perhaps I may advise my noble friend that it is wrong to suggest that joint action includes military action and the deployment of British troops. As I explained in Committee, Article J.4(3) clearly excludes defence from joint action, stating:Issues having defence implications dealt with under this Article shall not be subject to the procedures set out in Article J/".That refers to the whole of Article J.3, which deals with joint action and which comprises paragraphs 1 to 7.
My noble friend went on to ask me what will happen about the troops who might be assisting in the delivery of humanitarian aid. Perhaps I may say to him unequivocally that if troops are involved, those troops obviously have defence implications. That is clearly covered by Article J.4(3), which reads as follows:Issues having defence implications dealt with under this Article shall not be subject to the procedures set out in Article J/".I hope that my noble friend will feel a little happier on that score.
I turn now to Articles J.3(5), J.3(6) and J.3(7). These paragraphs provide various let-outs so that member states cart, if necessary, take emergency action without having to agree it first with others. Member states can even be exempt from a joint action if it would cause them severe difficulties, provided that they do not undermine it. Those provisions are there specifically should something arise not at present foreseen by members of the Community.
I know that my noble friend is concerned about the use of qualified majority voting, which is covered by Articles J.8(2) and J.3(2). We covered this ground in Committee. The use of qualified majority voting in carefully chosen circumstances can make CFSP more effective by speeding up the decision-making process, but there is absolutely no question of qualified majority voting applying as a general rule. The general rule is one of unanimity, as outlined by Article J.8(2), which states:The Council shall act unanimously, except for procedural questions and in the case referred to in Article J.3(2)".The use of that qualified majority voting is strictly circumscribed. It can only be applied to second order implementing decisions (for example, to the question of how many people should be included in a delegation) and only when there is unanimous agreement to extend it to such an area. That is why Article J.3(2) states:The Council shall, when adopting the joint action and at any stage during its development, define those matters on which decisions are to be taken by a qualified majority".That is why we have used the phrase on many previous occasions that the United Kingdom has a double lock on the use of qualified majority voting: first, in putting a subject into joint action and, secondly, in agreeing to the use of qualified majority voting. If we decide that all decisions, no matter how small, need to be taken by unanimity, then they will be taken by unanimity. We have tried to think of an example to make this even more crystal clear to my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch. Such an example would have occurred if 42 there had been any disagreement. Perhaps I may put it to my noble friend in this way: we decided to deploy European Community monitors in the former Yugoslavia in our European political co-operation by unanimity. That was, of course, before the Maastricht Treaty could come into effect. We have decided that the same will happen subsequently. An example of an area where we might jointly decide that qualified majority voting was appropriate would be the administrative arrangements relating to the European Community's deployment of monitors in the former Yugoslavia, having decided that they should be deployed and where they should be deployed. I hope that we would then be sensible enough to use qualified majority voting to decide what colour the monitors' vehicles should be and that we would not spend long hours arguing about the colour of the paintwork on those vehicles. However, that would not alter the fact that we would take a unanimous decision on whether to send monitors and to what destination.
My noble friend is also concerned about the declaration on voting in the field of the common foreign and security policy undermining unanimity. Perhaps I may advise him that it certainly does not undermine the unanimity requirement because declarations are not part of the treaty and are thus not enacted by this Bill. The declarations give evidence of a political commitment undertaken by the parties to the treaty. This particular declaration reflects the fact that, in practice, the Twelve do strive for consensus which is, of course, one of the strengths of the system. But the treaty requirement for unanimity as covered by Title V still remains, as I made clear in Committee on 29th June. The declaration, Which states:The High Contracting Parties shall, as far as possible, refrain from impeding formation of a consensus",simply restates Article 30.3(C) of the Single European Act.
My noble friend asked me what we mean by "to the extent possible". Having sat through a number of Council meetings, including meetings on European political co-operation, I can tell my noble friend that, if necessary, we continue for many hours in order to try to reach a consensus. If there were some real reason why we should not reach agreement, it would no doubt become very clear. However, "to the extent possible" means involving the goodwill of the members of the Council or the committee, and that goodwill is usually apparent. Even if the means of achieving the ends is not always agreed at the beginning, it becomes clear after argument.
I have tried today to put more flesh on the bones of the arguments that I used in Committee on a very similar amendment. I ask my noble friend to look at what I have said today together with what I said to him at col. 783 on 29th June. The fears that he has expressed are certainly real fears, and I can only say that if, when he has read 'what I have said today and when he has read again what was said on 29th June, he cannot see why I am so sure of this, perhaps I had better see him outside the Chamber to try to put his mind at rest. I can certainly advise him, however, that he need not have the concerns that he has expressed. 43 I believe that his mind will be set at rest if he reads Article J.4(3) in conjunction with what I have said today.
I sincerely hope that my noble friend will not press his amendment to a vote, but should he so decide, I must advise your Lordships to reject the amendment because it would not ease the path—in fact, it would make quite a nonsense.
§ Lord Pearson of Rannoch
My Lords, I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken. I would say to my noble friends Lord Finsberg and Lady Elles who have indicated that we have already given some of our absolute sovereignty away to bodies such as NATO and the WEU, that, of course, I accept that. I can assure my noble friend Lord Finsberg that I am not trying to frighten anyone by moving this amendment. I am merely trying to establish the extent to which we go further along that road in Title V or Article J, because we have been given to understand that both Titles V and VI can be operated only by unanimity. So I am, of course, particularly grateful to my noble friend the Minister for her explanation that all key decisions will be taken by unanimity when we are dealing with joint actions.
I have been very glad to learn—I must say for the first time—that joint actions will not include the use of British troops to protect aid convoys and so on; but that joint actions will be confined to altogether more harmless activities such as deciding the colours of ambulances and buses, and so on.
I was aware that the declaration on the CFSP was not part of the treaty; but, nevertheless, as I felt we had signed it, I thought that it put an onus on Her Majesty's Government to go along with unanimity when, perhaps, they might not have been happy to do so. But I feel sure that everything my noble friend has said from the Front Bench will be very helpful to have on the record. As I said at the start of the amendment, it was a brief probing amendment, and I am very happy to withdraw it.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch moved Amendment No. 3:
Page 1, line 10, leave out ("together with the other provisions of the Treaty so far as they relate to those Titles.").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 3, which is grouped with Amendments Nos. 4 and 41, is also designed as a very brief probing amendment, but I think that it may be an important one. Clause 1 of the Bill proposes to incorporate Titles II, III and IV of the Treaty on European Union signed at Maastricht into the Treaty of Rome, and, therefore, into British law. The Bill goes on to say that these regrettable titles are to be so imported:
together with the other provisions of the Treaty so far as they relate to those titles".
The amendment would seek to remove the words that I have just quoted.
§ It seems to me that we should know what "other provisions" are being imported into the treaty beyond those which are already there, and which, therefore, do not require to be imported by this Bill. They are clearly additional provisions or else the words which 44 the amendment would remove are superfluous, and so the amendment could be accepted. I wonder whether my noble friend can enlighten us on the precise meaning of these words.
§ Amendment No. 4 which is grouped with Amendment No. 41 takes Amendment No. 3 into somewhat greater detail. It seeks to make explicit that whatever other provisions are being imported, apart from Titles II, III and IV of the Union Treaty, Title V covering our proposed common foreign and security policy, and Title VI covering our common justice and home affairs policy, will not be so imported. So the question I ask my noble friend, to which, I must say, I have not been able to discover an answer elsewhere is quite simply: what is the point of the words which the amendment seeks to remove? What are the "other provisions" referred to? If the answer is "nothing" I wonder whether the Government might be inclined to accept the amendment. I beg to move.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Baroness Chalker of Wallasey
My Lords, my noble friend asked why we have in the Bill the words "other provisions". If he looks back at our debate in Committee on Amendment No. 189, he will see the response given then, but let me explain in slightly greater detail now.
The "other provisions" to which the Bill refers in this context are the preamble, the common provisions (Title I) and the final provisions (Title VII). Noble Lords may wonder why those provisions are not being incorporated into UK law, lock, stock and barrel. The reason is that they relate to the Community treaties (Titles II, III and IV) and also to the two inter-governmental pillars (Title V—Common Foreign and Security Policy and Title VI—Justice/ Home Affairs). If we were merely to incorporate those "other provisions" into UK law in toto, we would be blurring the distinction between the Community pillar and the two inter-governmental pillars in the Treaty on European Union.
The Government believe that that is an important distinction and it was the result of a UK negotiating effort at Maastricht, and what we regard as a success. It runs through the treaty. I believe that it would be wrong of us not to mirror the treaty in EC law. I am seeking to persuade my noble friend that Amendment No. 3 will erode the very independence of the pillars on CFSP and justice and home affairs which I know many of your Lordships are pleased are separate from the European Community. I am glad to have a nod from the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, on that score, because in our earlier debates I found that there was a high degree of agreement on the issue that the two inter-governmental pillars should remain separate from the Community treaty.
Amendment No. 4, which my noble friend has associated with Amendment No. 3, and the schedule suggested in Amendment No. 41 which accompanies Amendment No. 4 seek to require us to specify the "other provisions". That is unnecessary. As it stands, Clause 1(1) is perfectly clear. As I have said, the other provisions that will be incorporated are those that relate to the Community titles. As a matter of 45 legislative drafting, it would be bad practice to try to list precisely the provisions which relate to the Community treaties. For example, it would be a very complex drafting task to divide Article E of the common provisions into those elements which apply to the Community titles and those which do not.
A similar technique was used successfully in the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1986. It gave effect to the Single European Act which also contained not just. EC but inter-governmental provisions. It, too, used the phraseologyso far as they relate toto bring in those common provisions of the rest of the treaty which related to the EC provisions. There has been no evidence that that has caused any difficulty in this country or in any other country. It would make good sense to keep the two Bills—I hope, the two Acts—in parallel.
The Bill as it stands is clear. It maintains the important distinction which I have described between the Community and the inter-governmental pillars. That is why I urge your Lordships, should my noble friend press his amendments, to resist them all.
§ Lord Pearson of Rannoch
My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend. As I said in introducing the amendment, it was at this stage only a probing amendment. The areas it covered are clearly somewhat boggy, and require considerable attention from those more versed in legal drafting. Therefore, if I may, I should like to take away what my noble friend has said and examine it with those who advise me. In the meantime. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendment No. 4 not moved.]
Lord Stoddart of Swindon moved Amendment No. 5:
After Clause 1, insert the following new clause:
(". In implementing Article 8 of the Treaty of European Union, Her Majesty's Government shall provide arrangements for any British citizen to renounce citizenship or the Union.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 5 it may be for the convenience of the House if I speak also to Amendment No. 6. At the week-end my noble friend Lord Jay, who had intended to move the amendment, unfortunately fell and hurt himself and is unable to be present today. I feel sure that the House will wish to send him its good wishes for a speedy recovery.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
My Lords, it has therefore fallen to me to move the amendment which relates to European citizenship and the right to contract out. Together the amendments would give people the right to contract out of being European citizens.
I make no apology for returning to the subject at this stage. I read what was said about Clause 8 on Second Reading by the noble and learned Lord the 46 Lord Chancellor and in Committee by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. However, for a number of reasons I remain worried about the citizenship provisions.
First, I have asked myself why they are there at all. They are not necessary to the treaty; they are not necessary to give the treaty teeth. That appeared to be confirmed by the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, in a debate on the EMU in Committee. He said:the Treaty of Maastricht deals with economic and monetary union. That is why I have said in this Chamber on more than one occasion that the Treaty of Maastricht is a useful and valuable treaty. Essentially its aim is not to give economic and monetary union its legal base—that has already been done in the Single European Act—but to fill in the detail. It does one other thing which is of particular significance to my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls. It brings out into the open things which hitherto have been done in private. In other words, we are enabled to see what lies behind the arras. I have always said that he who wanted to see was always in a position to see. But that is exactly and precisely what the Treaty of Maastricht does".—[Official Report, 23/6/93; col. 358.]Since, according to the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, Maastricht simply fills in the details of the Single European Act why do we now have the concept of a European citizenship, which was not in that Act? Was that one of the issues hidden behind the arras, as the noble Lord put it? If so, were we misled about the real intentions of the Single European Act? Were the government of the day misled about the real intentions of the Single European Act? I contend that they were. They had no idea, for example, that Article 100a of that Act would be used to impose on this country policies which were outside the orbit of that government and, indeed, of this Government too.
Again and again we were assured that that could not happen. But it did happen and that is why so many of us are concerned about this treaty. That is also why we must be most careful about its wording. I wonder who were the advisers who were not able to give proper advice. How was it that people could be so misled about the Single European Act? Or was it just another turn of the ratchet towards a federal European state inserted by the centralisers and federalists?
Noble Lords will recall that the Dutch presidency produced a draft Treaty of European Union which was openly federalist. Indeed, it contained the dreaded "F" word. I have a copy of that treaty which states in Article 1:by this treaty, which marks a new stage in a process leading gradually to a European union with a federal goal".That was in the draft treaty but it is interesting to see what comes after Article 1, Part One. Part Two deals with Community citizenship; in other words, the first mention of that is in the draft Dutch treaty, which openly refers to a federal union. Therefore, we must be most careful about the words which are used and we must know what they mean and why they are there. The Prime Minister was successful in having the "F" word removed. But did not the concept of federalism remain and with it Clause 8 as we now have it in the Treaty of Maastricht? Surely that is what has happened and surely that is why we should remain antagonistic towards the concept of Euro-citizenship.
On Second Reading the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said: 47Maastricht will not make us subject to anyone other than Her Majesty and we shall not owe any allegiance to the European Union".—[Official Report, 8/6/93; col. 714.]No doubt that was comforting to many noble Lords and no doubt the noble and learned Lord relied on the Edinburgh declaration for his assertion. But such declarations as were made on the subject in Edinburgh do not have the force of Euro-law. Indeed, the legal adviser to the House of Commons Select Committee on European Legislation has advised that:Member states cannot by a cosy agreement in Council unscramble the effect of the treaty".So it would seem that time could prove the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor to be mistaken in his view of Euro-citizenship since it is not he, not Her Majesty's Government, not the British courts nor even Parliament itself which will be the final arbiter of the meaning and the implications of European citizenship. It will be the European Court, which alone has the power of interpreting the treaty.
It might appear to some that I am being too pernickety and legalistic. However, when one reads in the European Parliament working document that a proposal was:to transfer the concept of citizenship and nationality to the union level",one cannot be too careful. We are entitled to demand cast-iron assurances as to the continued pre-eminence of British citizenship and to seek to protect British citizens, through these amendments, by giving them a right to opt-out of a citizenship which they may not wish to have and which imposes on them duties of which they know not or do not understand.
Now, of course, if the British people—and this will come later this week—had had an opportunity, or are now given the opportunity, to have a say as to whether they wish to be European citizens, that would be another matter. Without the opt-out proposed in the amendment, it is quite intolerable to impose on British people a citizenship, which may give them rights which they do not want, as well as imposing on them duties which they may well regret in the future. For all those reasons, I commend the amendments to the House. I beg to move.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, I strongly support the amendments. Let us remind ourselves that the notion of citizenship of the Union was really no more than a last minute sudden whim of Senor Felipe Gonzalez. It is by no means central to the treaty. The rights that it provides are of minimal interest and utility to most people in this country, the exception perhaps being the implied right of resident non-United Kingdom citizens to vote for a Northern Ireland assembly, if and when one is set up. That could have unpredictable and possibly dangerous consequences.
As for duties, we must accept the assurance given by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor that not only are no duties specifically imposed by the provisions, but also that there is no way in which the European Court of Justice could find a future loophole through which unforeseen duties could be imposed. That being the case, the Minister will 48 doubtless be more than happy to give an assurance that no taxes will ever be imposed by the Union—taxes which would be binding on British citizens—and under no circumstances will there ever be conscription into a single European army which the leader of the Conservative MEPs in Strasbourg, Mr. Bill Newton Dunn, has enthusiastically forecast will be a reality perhaps in less than 20 years' time. Those two assurances from the Minister would put everyone's mind at rest.
Those of a suspicious turn of mind may wonder whether or not the real purpose of the provision is to soften up people for some scheme to flesh out the concept of duties with a view to imposing a number of tangible duties from 1996 onwards. However, leaving aside both the Trojan horse of duties—and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, that it is a Trojan horse—and relatively unexciting rights, most of which could be secured by reciprocal agreements whenever they are necessary, the main motive behind the concept of citizenship of the Union must be psychological: to gradually erode people's allegiance to their own nation and to divert their loyalties elsewhere.
A great many people will resent that political engineering. I have invented that phrase which is the equivalent of social engineering. They will wish to dissociate themselves accordingly from compulsory citizenship. Others will object on purely moral grounds. Even if there are no implied legal obligations to be loyal to the new Union—an assumption which may be open to doubt—they would nevertheless feel a moral obligation. They may feel that it is hypocritical and dishonest to become unwilling citizens of an entity to which they could profess no loyalty whatever.
Others still would describe themselves as passionate Europeans but resent the idea of citizenship being confined to inhabitants of a minority of European nations with Norwegians, Swedes, Finns, Swiss, Austrians, Slovenians and Hungarians regarded not so much as second-class citizens but almost as non-persons. The many tens of thousands of descendants of those Polish airmen, without whom we might never have won the Battle of Britain, living in this country will almost certainly resent being made compulsory citizens of a Union which includes Germany but which excludes Poland.
By all means let enthusiasts of citizenship of the Union—and we have heard from many of them in your Lordships' Chamber—adopt that citizenship if they prefer to do so. But to impose without choice that citizenship upon unwilling British subjects is intolerable. I believe that the right to renounce that citizenship is essential.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, it is interesting that the Government have remained totally impervious to the fact that some of us do not wish to be sold like cattle or sheep and made to be citizens of something else. We are quite happy to be citizens of what we are. I cannot see why we should be made to be citizens of something else. I believe that that is what people object to. It is a very simple concept, which the Government have not grasped. Noble Lords on the Labour Front Bench are grinning away happily 49 because they have not grasped it either. It seems to me a preposterous idea that we shall be bulldozed into becoming citizens of something of which we do not wish to be citizens.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, I should like to say a few brief words in opposition to the amendments which concern citizenship. That is one of the few matters on which I sought to address your Lordships in Committee on Amendment No. 2 and on an amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Moran, which concerned the Monarch. I give your Lordships an assurance that I shall not repeat anything that I said on either of those occasions because one does not wish to waste time. However, much of what was said then is relevant to the argument.
As has been stated by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, I accept that the Dutch draft referred to citizenship in the context of federalism but I cannot and must not enter into a semantic argument as regards what the Dutch, French or we mean by federalism. It is a word almost akin to "democracy", which means what you wish it to mean. I agree that one must he careful with words. Being careful with words, one cannot construe Article 8 in the context of what we understand on all sides of the House as a federal concept.
As regards citizenship of the Union, the rights referred to therein are defined; the duties are not defined. Those duties relate to duties imposed under the Treaty of Rome and the Single European Act. Article 8 imposes no duties other than those that already exist. The amendments seek to rewrite that extant situation. They propose a kind of opt-out declaration, a renunciation of a situation in which we are already committed and involved.
That simply is not possible as regards existing duties. Your Lordships may well think that it is wholly irrelevant in respect of rights which there is no compunction whatever to exercise. For those reasons, I hope that your Lordships will not accept the amendments.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
My Lords, the one problem that I have is that I do not believe that the Government attach the importance to the word "citizenship" which they should. Indeed, my noble friend Lady Chalker, who has been so excellent on many occasions, referred to it as an empty reference. I do not believe that it is. It is a matter about which the people of this country feel deeply. Noble Lords who have spoken have made it clear what is their reaction.
On one occasion my noble friend Lord Ferrers said that he did not believe that it added up to much because we already accept the terms of citizenship. He said that the name was merely tidying the whole thing up. The main point is that everybody applauded the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, because he is a very good wordsmith. He knows how to present a case and he is very persuasive. He has both the body language and the words which are extremely impressive. A great many people have quoted the noble Lord when he said so plausibly that he was a Scot by nationality, a British subject and a European 50 citizen by conviction. That is very good. It seems to separate things in a way which suggests that the word does not mean anything. The noble Lord is perfectly happy to be a citizen of Europe; indeed, his conviction leads him that way. That is fair enough. I congratulate him on being happy about what is being done.
However, what about the people who do not want to be citizens of Europe? It is not their conviction that they should be citizens of Europe; they are compulsorily being told by the terms of the treaty (over which they have never had any authority) that they will be looked upon as European citizens—which, when you look at all the legal powers entailed, would have a priority over being a British citizen.
I do not suppose that the matter will be put to a vote on this occasion, although that will have to be applied later. I should like to feel that my noble friend who is to reply will let it be seen that the Government recognise what the people of this country feel as regards their citizenship: they regard it, and those to whom they owe their duties and their responsibilities, as being fundamentally important.
My Lords, as the debate has continued it has become clearer that the European Court is to have the power to settle all the doubts that have been besetting us. But when it comes to interpret duties and citizenship, those concerned w ill not be influenced by the debates in your Lordships' House—indeed, not in the slightest way. They will be looking for what is in the Maastricht Treaty. As long as it is there we are exposing British citizens to a citizenship without knowing what it entails. No one in this Chamber, not even the noble Baroness who has been involved in such matters or indeed the Ministers, knows what duties are implied. The word is there for a reason. The European Court will take the sovereign right that it has to decide what citizenship means and what duties may be imposed thereby. I support the amendment.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Lord Moran
My Lords, when I introduced an amendment on the subject in Committee, I said that what I particularly disliked about the proposal was the element of compulsion. Consequently, I support the present amendment. It seems to me that although the Commission said that the object of putting the provision in the treaty would be to encourage a feeling of involvement in European integration—which sounded harmless enough—I believe that the real object was put forward by those who are working for a European state. They want European citizenship gradually to replace national citizenship which they hope will wither away. I also mentioned the European Community passport and was put right by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, who told me it was not a European passport but a European format, which of course I accept. However, I think that it is both an unnecessary and an undesirable element of the treaty.
I should like to mention one other aspect of citizenship that I raised separately in Committee. I refer to the position of the Sovereign. We had a good debate on the subject at that stage and received a very 51 helpful and comprehensive reply from the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, for which I was most grateful. I continue to think it unfortunate that, when the Government negotiated the treaty, they did not arrange for the Sovereign and other Community heads of state to be exempt from the obligation to become citizens of the European union. I do not know whether they tried or whether they found it impossible to do so; we have not been told. In my view, it is a pity that that was not done.
My noble friend Lord Tonypandy and I subsequently had a helpful talk with the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. He told us that no future duties could be imposed on the Sovereign without new European legislation; that is, as I understand it, measures agreed by the Council which would become part of our national law. The noble and learned Lord also told us that he did not think that the European Court could interpret the treaty in a way which would impose new duties on the citizens of the union. That has been one of my main concerns. I was very glad to have the noble and learned Lord's reassurance on that point.
The noble and learned Lord also told us in Committee on June 30th that the Sovereign would be a citizen of the union. I believe that that was the first explicit statement to that effect by the Government. The noble and learned Lord made it clear in his remarks that the main safeguard for the Sovereign's position would be the impracticability of enforcement, either through Her Majesty's own courts or those in other parts of the Community. It does not seem to me very satisfactory for the Sovereign to rely solely on that safeguard to protect her from the imposition of inappropriate duties.
Therefore, I very much hope that when the noble Earl replies to the amendment he will be able to tell the House either that no further duties could be imposed on citizens of the union, by interpretation of the treaty by the European Court or amendment of the treaties, or, if at some future date new duties were to be imposed on the citizens of the European union, that the Government would bring such duties to the notice of Parliament. Perhaps he will also confirm that if such duties were to affect the Sovereign (even though they could not be enforced upon Her Majesty; a point which we fully understand) the Government will undertake to obtain the approval of Parliament. That would be helpful.
There is a further point that I should like to make about which I have given notice to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, though in fact it was very short notice. I understand that there was a case in 1990 which involved the Lord Advocate and the Dumbarton District Council. The judgment of the court laid down,that the Crown is not bound by any statutory provision unless there can somehow be gathered from the terms of the relevant Act an intention to that effect. The Crown can be bound only by express words or necessary implication".That case concerned the Crown in its public capacity, but I imagine that there would be no difference in matters affecting the Crown in its private capacity. As far as I know, there is nothing in the Bill which 52 expressly applies the Article 8 provisions to the Sovereign. I do not know what the words "necessary implication" mean, but in any event it is not clear to me that they would necessarily apply. It seems possible that under that judgment Her Majesty the Queen will not after all be a citizen of the union. I should be most grateful if the noble Earl can tell me in his response what the Government think about that point. However, if he has not had sufficient time to consider the matter, which I fully understand, perhaps he will reply to me at a later stage of the Bill's proceedings.
Lord Belhaven and Stenton
My Lords, during the course of our short debate the thought crossed my mind that during the reign of Mary Queen of Scots the Scots were given French citizenship and the French were given Scottish citizenship. That must have been nice for those few people who were able to risk the hazards of travelling between Scotland and France, including the hazard of being caught by English Royal Naval ships. However, that was followed by the introduction of a French army in Scotland. That must have made people reflect a little. I am not suggesting that a European French or German army will appear here in the immediate future but we might think about that matter a little.
§ Lord Howie of Troon
My Lords, I wish to reflect on the remarks made a short while ago by the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, who was worried about treaties being imposed on people against their will. That is a valid point and one of which I have considerable experience. Like the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, I am Scottish by nationality. However, I do not really wish, at the end of the day, to be a citizen of the United Kingdom. I am one and it does me no terrible harm but I am one because of a treaty which was imposed upon me without any discussion. The reason for that is quite plain in that the treaty was signed in 1707 and, like most noble Lords, I was not present at the time. However, the treaty was not agreed by the Scottish nation as a whole but only by a small minority. It became the law and I am, by force majeure as it were, a citizen of the United Kingdom. I would much rather be a citizen of Scotland than of the United Kingdom but that is outwith my powers at the moment.
The real point I wish to make is that, no matter what I prefer, being a citizen of the United Kingdom does me no harm. I remain a Scotsman. In the same way I am perfectly sure that becoming a citizen of Europe will do me no harm either—I shall still remain a Scotsman, or a "Britisher" if it is more appropriate so to describe myself. Despite the important constitutional matter relating to the Queen which I shall not touch upon, the movers of this amendment are making extremely heavy weather of something which we Scots have become used to over the past 300 years and the rest will become used to in such time as remains to them.
§ Baroness Hooper
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls said that the people of this country feel deeply about the provisions of Article 8. I, too, 53 feel deeply about these provisions. Having read them thoroughly I am in favour of them. One should think of those people who are nationals of this country and who happen to be living and working in other parts of the European Community. They do not do so on a whim although there are many old age pensioners and others who choose to live in other parts of the European Community. Many of those people are working in other parts of Europe to help our economy, to improve the job situation and to benefit trade generally. Why should those people be deprived of the opportunity to vote in local elections and indeed in European elections when they may well be working in European institutions? The Treaty on European union quite clearly provides rights to the citizens of this country to participate in the political life of the country in which they happen to be residing. The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, referred to a draft Dutch treaty. There may have been many draft treaties. To suggest that taxes and prescription are all part of this. provision seems to me to be going entirely too far.
§ Viscount Mountgarret
My Lords, I believe that the fears of my noble friend Lady Hooper are somewhat unfounded as I react this amendment, which I support. It only provides for the opportunity for any British citizen to renounce citizenship of the Union. Anyone who wishes to continue to be associated with citizenship of the proposed Union can, as far as I can see, remain so. That is an individual decision. I see no difficulty there. However, I have a difficulty with one matter and I do not know whether my noble friend can answer it. Your Lordships and Members of another place give an oath of allegiance to the Sovereign. I accept that the position of the Sovereign is a tricky subject. The Sovereign as head of state represents the country. By giving an oath of allegiance to the Sovereign, one gives an oath of allegiance to one's country. One only has to think of the well known phrase "For Queen and country". I suggest that many of your Lordships have taken part in actions that served the best possible interests of this country. If people find that they are no longer citizens of this country but that they are citizens of the Union, they may have to ask themselves which comes first. One may have to ask oneself whether one should put one's allegiance to the Union first—about which one has not even been consulted, but which is a fact as it has been stated by some body in Brussels—or whether one should put one's allegiance to one's country first. That is a difficult matter to decide. Personally I would always give my allegiance to my country quite regardless of citizenship of the Union. Nevertheless, one may not be carrying out the intentions of Article 8.
§ Lord Harris of High Cross
My Lords, one thing that I have learnt from these absorbing debates is that it is impossible to get worked up about everything. When I first came across what I still regard as this European citizenship lark, my stock of indignation was already spent on the economic absurdities of this treaty. It is only as I have listened to the debates that a little indignation has welled up within me. It started at an earlier stage when the noble Lord, Lord 54 Thomson of Monifieth, said that he was proud to be a citizen of Scotland, of the United Kingdom and, now, of Europe. I begrudge him none of those three. He is a citizen of Scotland by choice and not by any legal definition. However, he can describe himself as a citizen of Scotland and a citizen of the United Kingdom by legal definition. He may also describe himself as a citizen of Europe. He needs no further permission from M. Delors and his friends. The noble Lord may, with oversoaring ambition, describe himself as a citizen of the world. One can understand that perhaps even less than the previous declarations. However, we must consider this matter as either one of the utmost triviality on the level of that kind of declaration of individuals, if I may say so, or as a matter of some importance.
My anxieties go back to the Second Reading when the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, who is an authority on all detailed aspects of the European conundrum, described what we are involved in; namely, a minefield. The European project is a minefield. The noble Lord suddenly discovered that he had opened a new minefield through the Stuttgart declaration of which most of us had been innocent. We had slept calmly in our beds at night not knowing that in 1983 a solemn undertaking was initialled, or signed, by the leaders of the European Economic Community—as I am still allowed to call it for a few more days—which anticipated developments of which we had not dreamt until the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, unveiled the matter. He was paid to understand such arcane mysteries whereas the rest of us have to get along as best we can.
The noble Lord explained to us that the seeds of Maastricht were planted there. They were barely noticeable. They were general statements. One might call them flower arrangements. But with cultivation and time they will come into full growth and fruit and become bushes and trees.
I recall that the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit—whom we miss very much today, although I must warn your Lordships that he is joining us tomorrow on these matters—used the vivid example of pegs. He did not say that there was a conspiracy or a great plan. He said that since the Treaty of Rome a number of pegs have been inserted along the way. They look like little finger-posts and quite harmless. They read: "This way to European friendship"; "This way to a closer association"; "This way to political union". They are amiable and welcoming. But then one learns from the Community and the Commission that they were not signposts but solemn and binding commitments. Suddenly, great propositions are erected on those beginnings.
I believe that European citizenship is either complete nonsense or it is important. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, whose legal contributions I find difficult to understand fully, said that the duties of citizenship stem from the Treaty of Rome. He said that they are implicit in all that has gone before. We have to abide by these matters. Whether we are farmers or innocent citizens we are caught up in the need to abide by the law as it has unfolded. Very well. To the best of our ability we have abided by the law 55 without being called citizens. Why is citizenship suddenly embraced in this way? I feel distinctly uneasy about it.
I would wish to be regarded as a citizen of Europe. I have four splendid Anglo-French granddaughters. In my view, all their best features are French—after all, they are young ladies. I take great joy in visiting France, Germany or Italy, although perhaps less so on some of the fringes, and in feeling at home as a European. However, are we to say that the Hungarians, the Czechs or the Poles are not Europeans? Have we suddenly appropriated this label, this accolade, and conferred it on ourselves while the unwashed beyond the confines of fortress Europe are not regarded as Europeans? After all, Europeans are real people in law. They have rights, although no specific duties.
I believe that it is preposterous. In a sensible world, and without Whips around, we would vote it out. I do not know whether we shall vote on the matter. I shall go through the Lobby on this issue, although I have no great hope of uprooting this particular absurdity, and I reserve my main indignation for other issues.
§ Lord Swinfen
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Mountgarret has raised an interesting query in my mind. Members of your Lordships' House swear an oath of allegiance to the Crown. If they become a commissioner I understand that they also swear an oath of allegiance to the European Community. Which oath takes precedence, because, having sworn an oath, it surely cannot be broken? If there is a conflict of interest between this country and the EC, which oath do they follow? Which duty do they follow?
§ Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish
My Lords, as I have listened to the debate during the past little while, tingles have been going up and down my spine with horror at what has been threatened in relation to my British citizenship let alone in relation to the Queen. I made the mistake, which in this debate is obviously fatal, of reading what the text of the treaty actually says that that citizenship involves. I decided that rather than the wicked fairy, it is more likely that it is the tooth fairy which has come.
The most important thing that I have discovered is that if I am a citizen of the Union, I can only be such because I hold the nationality of my member state. That does not seem to be the end of the world. I find that the rights conferred by the treaty will be conferred upon me, as will the duties. We have discussed the duties. My noble and learned kinsman the Lord Chancellor explained on 30th June—and I was listening even if it is clear from the repetition of the debate in the past 46 minutes that not many other noble Lords were listening—that the duties of the citizens of the European Union are those imposed by the mechanism of the 1972 Act and the Single European Act. Therefore, there is nothing very new in the duties contained in the Maastricht Treaty. They already exist and have already been accepted by this House and this country. Therefore, I do not believe that that is a great problem.
56 It should please the noble Lord, Lord Harris of High Cross, that:Every citizen of the Union shall have the right to move freely and reside freely within the territory of the Member States".I do not think that there is anything horrific in that. It seems to me to be thoroughly reasonable. Citizens residing in other member states can vote in local elections. I believe that those of our fellow citizens of the UK who live and work in other member states and pay their local taxes might like to think that they could vote in local elections. The same is true of European elections.
When I read Part II of the treaty concerning citizenship of the Union, I do not see cause for the shock and horror to which we have been subjected in the past 47 minutes. To me it sounds like good common sense and the way forward to build a union between the peoples of the European Community and a wider European Community as that develops.
My Lords, I am certain that all noble Lords will recall that when my right honourable friend the Prime Minister first took over the stewardship of the United Kingdom he stated clearly that it was his ambition to roll back the frontiers of the state. That statement followed on from the vitally important principle enunciated on numerous occasions by my noble friend Lady Thatcher. I rejoiced when I heard those words, as I am sure did other noble Lords. At the time I had no idea that by the rolling back of the frontiers of this state he really meant the rolling forward of the frontiers of other states and their influence and power over his country.
I remember well, as I am sure other noble Lords will recall, that in order to demonstrate quite clearly that he had every intention of so doing, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister ensured that a great charter was published. He did not call it a great charter. Still less did he call it a Magna Carta. Unhappily, he did not even call it a statute of liberties, as I would have preferred. No, such is the importance that he attached to the concept of citizenship that he called it The Citizen's Charter. Yet my noble friends on the Front Bench pooh-pooh this whole concept of citizenship as if it does not matter.
During the Committee stage, noble friends who, unlike myself, are lawyers and learned in the law—I am not even a common lawyer—in particular my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway, my noble friend Lady Elles and my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, among others, made great play of the principle that only rights are set out within the Treaty of Union and not duties. All the time they forgot or chose to forget the fundamental principle in English jurisprudence that rights flow from duties, not the other way round. That is what Jeremy Bentham meant when he said that to talk of rights is nonsense on stilts. He is correct. One cannot conceive a de facto, still less a de jure, existence of a right unless it is perceived as flowing from the duty of other people not to harm you. That is the core of the matter.
Noble Lords, and lawyers who ought to know better, take comfort from the fact that the duties are not stated. Believe me, my Lords, they are: and within 57 the Treaty on Union. One has only to consider the appalling phrase in Article F. Needless to say it appears at the end. It is perhaps the most important duty that is imposed on every individual in this country. The article states:The Union shall provide itself with the means necessary to attain its objectives and carry through its policies".In other words, the duty lies in that article for the Union to tax the individuals in this country. We have ever diminishing power over that policy. That is why the issue is so important.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, those who support the amendments put forward a group of amendments at Committee stage which, quite properly under the circumstances, had two alternative propositions: first, that there should be a voluntary renunciation of European citizenship; and secondly, that there should be no European citizenship for British subjects. Unfortunately they chose the wrong version to pursue to Report stage because they have chosen one which does not make sense. Much of what we have heard bears no relation whatever to the provisions of the treaty. The treaty is absolutely clear. There is a series of properly defined rights. The noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, has spoiled them by reading them out, as I did in Committee. The provisions are relatively modest. They concern the right to vote in European and local elections. They involve the right to be represented, if necessary, in a third country by the consul of another member state when there is no consul of one's own member state available. Those are fairly inoffensive issues to which I do not believe many people object.
There are no duties. One can state it as clearly as that. The duties referred to in the article are those duties defined in the treaty; and there are no duties defined in the treaty. Therefore all that we have heard about the potentiality for more duties to be thought up by the European Court of Justice, with our citizenship in the United Kingdom eroded, is nonsense. If we are to spend 53 minutes discussing a matter which is so unrelated to the facts before us in the treaty, then I fear for the sanity of some of us as the next three days proceed.
§ 6.15 p.m.
My Lords, I am sorry that the words "citizenship of the Union" or "citizenship of Europe" have caused such concern to your Lordships. I realise that they have caused anxiety. However, I shall try to allay that worry as best I can because I believe that it is misguided. I agree with the analysis of the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, as to where his loyalties and allegiances lie. I agree with my noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish that when one listened to some of the remarks on what will happen to us, they sent tingles up one's spine. I believe that some noble Lords have allowed their imagination and anxiety to run away with themselves.
The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, stated that the first mention of citizenship was in the Dutch draft treaty; and that that was one of the bad aspects about the measure. That is not so. The draft treaty that was produced by the Luxembourg presidency, before the 58 Dutch draft treaty ever saw the light of day, already had positions on citizenship. The Dutch draft treaty was thrown out by all other member states. We should not deal with rejected proposals. We should concentrate more on what the present treaty states. The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, asked whether he could have cast iron assurances from Her Majesty's Government about the continued pre-eminence of British citizenship. The noble Lord can have those assurances.
He was anxious, too, that Article 100A of the Single European Act had allowed all kinds of unspecified horrors to occur. Article 100A of the Single European Act has been extremely successful in bringing about the single market which is overwhelmingly in the United Kingdom's interest.
The noble Lord then stated that my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor relied on the Birmingham declaration in saying that no allegiance to the European Community is created by Article 8. My noble and learned friend made his statement on the basis of what the treaty says. There is nothing in it to create an allegiance. We shall not be subjects of the Union; we are all subjects of Her Majesty. That is the point on which my noble friend Lord Mountgarret got himself into a tangle. My noble friend Lord Swinfen also said that he found the point interesting. My noble friend Lord Mountgarret stated that if we are no longer citizens of this country but of the Union, where will our loyalties lie? That is not the proposition. Of course we are citizens of the United Kingdom. The fact is that my noble friend is a citizen of the United Kingdom. He is a subject of the Queen. He owes allegiance to the Queen, No such allegiance is offered to the Community by being a citizen of the Union. All that does is to confer rights upon us as members of what one might describe as "the club". Citizenship of the Union is a different concept from citizenship of the United Kingdom and being a subject of the United Kingdom, and allegiance to Her Majesty. The concepts should not be confused.
My noble friend Lord Swinfen asked which oath takes precedent if one takes oaths. The commissioners swear no oath of allegiance to the Community. They swear to be completely independent in the performance of their duties and not to take instructions from any government or other body. There is no conflict between that and the oath of allegiance to the Queen.
The noble Lord, Lord Moran, referred to the position of Her Majesty in the case of the Lord Advocate v. Dumbarton District Council. He wrote to my noble and learned friend this morning about that matter. The position of the Sovereign in relation to the citizenship provisions was carefully and comprehensively set out by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor on 30th June. However, in view of the shortness of time since the noble Lord, Lord Moran, wrote to my noble and learned friend, the noble Lord will understand that I cannot give him a direct and comprehensive answer today. However, I recall the Lord Chancellor's point that any duties laid down upon individual citizens are so laid by powers given under the Treaty of Rome and become effective in United Kingdom law through the machinery of the 59 European Communities Act 1972. It is therefore to that Act which we must look to determine the position of the Sovereign in relation to any duties of citizens, and not to the present treaty and the Bill. I shall write to the noble Lord upon that.
Let us be clear about one thing. Union citizenship will not replace British citizenship. It confers an additional status. It does not imply, as some noble Lords have suggested, that the European Union will take on the guise or mantle of statehood; it will not. Despite its somewhat grand wording, the reality of the citizenship concept is very modest. Article 8 paragraphs 8a to 8e contain a number of useful but limited rights, not duties, which can in no way be compared with the rights of national citizenship. Indeed, they are rights which are only available to those who are in possession of nationality of a member state. Being a member of a European Community state is an essential precondition of the conferring of those rights.
We must be clear too that there are no duties included in those articles; nor do they provide any mechanism by which duties can be added. The only duty on an individual citizen is the one which he already has—that is, to obey the provisions of the law of his country which may or may not be affected by Community law. That issue has been extensively covered on a number of occasions. Frankly, the Government welcome the provisions. They can only be of advantage to members of the Community, and they can be of no disadvantage. The size of the majority at the end of your Lordships' debate at Committee stage suggests that your Lordships took that view also.
Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 both seek to provide arrangements for any United Kingdom national to renounce his or her Union citizenship. I remind your Lordships that no one is under any obligation to exercise those rights which have been conferred upon them. No one is compelled, for example, to reside in another member state, but anyone who wishes to do so will be able, if they so choose, to vote in local and European parliamentary elections. Many people would regard that as being an advantage.
Similarly, no one is forced to petition the European Parliament or the ombudsman or to apply to the consulate of another member state, but many people would regard those as advantages. They would regard them as facilities and nothing other than a positive advantage.
Union citizenship is not in any way a replacement for national citizenship. On 22nd June I said that Union citizenship has no relevance to anyone who is not a citizen of a European Community state. Only nationals of a member state can enjoy its benefits. It is not possible to renounce Union citizenship without renouncing national citizenship. There are European Community rights which are enjoyed at present by members of the United Kingdom. For example, people can go to live in other European Community countries now and establish themselves in other countries. All that Article 8a does is to confirm what is at present a practice and a right. Amendment No. 6 60 seeks specifically to exempt United Kingdom nationals who opt out of Union citizenship, if they are able to, from the duties which are mentioned in Article 8. But those duties only refer to the duties which are incumbent upon all nationals of member states. That is, to obey the provisions of Community law which refer to individuals.
Most European Community law refers to governments and to public bodies, but there are some provisions which affect individuals. One might wonder what those provisions are. For example, there is the toy safety directive which obliges retailers not to sell dangerous toys. I am sure that that would have a devastating impact on my noble friend Lord Onslow.
Another example is the tachograph directive. That requires road hauliers and their drivers to use and maintain machines which keep records of hours and distance travelled, for reasons of their own and others' safety. It would simply not be possible, I suggest, nor desirable for nationals of member states to be able to exempt themselves from such duties. I am sure that your Lordships agree that those are not exactly earth-shattering duties which will he imposed upon every single member of the Community, to the total detriment of all concerned.
However, we agreed to abide by the provisions of the Treaty of Rome way back in 1973 when the United Kingdom joined the Community. We cannot in honour try to crawl out of those obligations now. The simple position is that, as members of the European Community, we all already have certain rights and duties, as we do as members of the United Kingdom. By virtue of the Treaty of Rome, as amended by the Maastricht Treaty, we will all have additional rights as citizens of the European Union, but not additional responsibilities.
Noble Lords who have spoken to the amendment say that they do not want those rights. To that, my reply is that they are under no obligation whatever to exercise those rights. Noble Lords then say, as my noble friend Lord Onslow, said, "What's more, we don't want to be contaminated by the thought of any additional rights. Let us be allowed to opt out". I think my noble friend said that they did not want to be treated like cattle. My reply to that is that one cannot opt out of a fact. The fact is that we are members of the United Kingdom. The fact is that the United Kingdom is a member of the European Community. The fact is that we are, ipso facto, members of the European Community. Both confer rights, both confer duties. We acceded to the duties of the Community when we acceded to the Treaty of Rome in 1973. All that the citizenship articles do is give us additional rights. One cannot opt out of a right, one just has the right not to exercise that right.
For those reasons, I think that the amendments are unnecessary and unworkable and I suggest that noble Lords do not approve them.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, is he in a position to give the unequivocal guarantees for which I asked him? That is that no new form of new taxation nor, in the long term, conscription will ever be imposed upon us in consequence of the new form of citizenship.
My Lords, the citizenship provisions which are suggested today do not carry those obligations at all.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
My Lords, I thought that I heard my noble friend Lord McIntosh say that he doubted the sanity of the people who put down these amendments.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, not at all. I feared for my own sanity, which is much more fragile than that of my noble friend!
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
My Lords, I am glad that I did not hear him say it—and, of course, I concur with him about his own sanity.
This has been an extremely interesting debate. The fact that it has taken one hour and seven minutes so far indicates the anxiety that is felt by the House and its Members about the citizenship clauses. It is right that we should have debated them again in detail. I do not intend to reply to everything said; but the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, did not wish to enter into a semantic argument about what "federalism" means. I point out to him that the Prime Minister thought it was important enough to embark upon a semantic argument with the other 11 heads of state or heads of government, to the extent that the word "federalism" was removed. So the Prime Minister thought that it was important and I also thought that it was important.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, said that she wanted to be a European citizen. That is fair enough, and she is getting her way under the treaty. The people who are not getting their way are those who do not wish to be European citizens. So she is all right, Jack! But what about the rest of us? She has a vote as to whether or not she can be a European citizen. I sincerely hope that on Wednesday she will join me in the Lobby voting to allow every other British citizen to have a vote as to whether or not they should be citizens of the European Union. I shall look for her in the "ayes" Lobby.
My noble friend Lord Howie of Troon is not in his place; but he said that being a citizen of the United Kingdom had never done him any harm. Hooray! Is it not nice to have a Scot suggesting that being a member of the British union never did him any harm? It is good for that to be put on record, since so many Scots say that it has done them much harm.
In winding up, the noble Earl said that we need not worry about these provisions; that they were innocent and innocuous. If they are innocent and innocuous, I do not really know why they are there. As I said in my opening remarks, they are not necessary for the treaty itself. The reason why some of us are suspicious is that we have seen pegs before on which other handbags and so on have been hung unexpectedly.
I did not say that the Dutch draft was the first draft to mention citizenship. I was perfectly aware that Luxembourg first did that. But I am very glad to have the assurance that British citizenship remains pre-eminent. I hope that that will always be so. I hope that the noble Earl will join us in opposing any further treaties which will lessen that pre-eminence or impinge 62 upon it. I am glad to hear from him that European citizenship does not imply—and I hope that he also means will never imply—allegiance to the European Union. Indeed, it would have been nice to have that assurance from him and the assurance that no further obligations will be placed upon us.
The noble Earl mentioned the toy directive as being one of the directives which arose from our duties as citizens, or members, of the European Community. My guess is that the toy directive might have put some people out of business. I do not know about that. What about the hygiene directives which put so many abattoirs out of business? What about that kind of directive which has destroyed thousands of businesses? I would have thought that that kind of directive would make people pause about being citizens of Europe if that is the type of duty that is placed upon them.
However, this has been a very interesting debate. I have listened very carefully to what the noble Earl has said. I have taken his assurances that the word "citizen" does not mean anything very great; that it is innocuous, and that we will owe no allegiance to anyone other than Her Majesty. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendment No. 6 not moved.]
§ 6.30 p.m.
Lord Harris of High Cross moved Amendment No. 7:
After Clause 1. insert the following new clause:
.—(1) Her Majesty's Government shall, immediately after ratification of the Treaty on European Union, take such steps as are open to them to call for the conclusion by the Community under Articles 228 and 238 of Title II of the Treaty on European Union of an agreement in the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
(2) Her Majesty's Government shall take such further steps to encourage the formation of such agreement as either House of Parliament may by Resolution direct.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 7 is another amiable and helpful proposal, rather like the first, on the reform of the common agricultural policy. I believe that if we were to vote on this amendment and if each of us put aside party politics, ignored the Whips and voted on our individual judgment and individual conscience (for those who have conscience left), I believe that the amendment would be passed by a massive majority.
What does the amendment say? Incidentally, it is a touch hypothetical. It begins:
Her Majesty's Government shall, immediately after ratification of the Treaty on European Union,"—
that is hypothetical—
take such steps as are open to them to call for the conclusion … of an agreement in the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade".
I was trying to think of what could be said on this issue that was new when I came across a statement by the Prime Minister, Mr. Major, that I thought was worth bringing before the House. In the introduction to the directors' year book, he says:
We must … look beyond the Community … Free trade must be a world-wide concept for it will do more than anything else to revive the world's economies".
§ Economists have been known to disagree among themselves. Since we have no closed shop and we abide by no Whips, I am free to reveal a secret; namely, that some practitioners of the black art have been known on occasion to talk nonsense. There is sometimes even a slight touch of that coming from a quarter not unadjacent to the Labour Front Bench—but not on this occasion. If there is one issue on which there is consensus approaching unanimity among economists, it is on the merits of free trade in advancing economic prosperity for all participants. I have said before (I hope not recently in this House) that a policy of free trade is in the long run the nearest that we have to a panacea for eradicating world poverty.
§ In his great work, Adam Smith showed that the prime cause of the wealth of nations, which he set out to investigate, was nothing more than the division of labour. It is, after all, no more than commonsense practice—the everyday practice of each of us, that we specialise in doing what we can do best and exchange the proceeds for goods and services which others can produce better. International free trade is simply the wider manifestation of the territorial division of labour between countries with differing climates, resources, habits, skills, capital and other natural or acquired comparative advantages. It is through the discovery procedure of competition that international trade exerts a continuing pressure to spread efficiency, innovation, investment and rising standards of living.
§ When politicians and others who should know better dismissively repeat the old saw that the European Economic Community never was a mere free-trade area, they reveal in my view a serious failure to grasp the potency of Adam Smith's fundamental teaching. As is well known, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade was launched after the war to negotiate the multilateral reduction or removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers to this mutually beneficial enlargement of human freedom and well being. Since the war it has already contributed more to prosperity than all the foreign aid, industrial policies and fancy schemes for which party men like to take credit. The further expansion of this beneficent process of trade can do more than all the malignant nonsense of social charters, level playing fields and other flat-earth economics beloved by Citizen Delors.
§ Now at last, spurred on by the scourge of unemployment, caused itself by almost indiscriminate interventionism, the Tokyo Summit has committed the leading trading nations to treating the completion of the seven year-old Uruguay Round as their top priority. We must take them seriously on their own assertion. This amendment would not even delay the passage of the Maastricht Treaty, since it would come into effect after the treaty had been passed and it would insert a condition into the Bill that we would need to negotiate, by whatever means are possible, a completion of the GATT round.
§ For my money its main purpose would be to serve notice on France, as a major protectionist stumbling block to early agreement, that the passing of the treaty will land it in the dock which is usually reserved for the 64 United Kingdom. I am certain that there will be almost unanimous agreement that we regard it as unthinkable that the GATT round should be lost. That would threaten the world with a resumption of the beggar-my-neighbour restrictions of the 1930s. Therefore my noble friends and I believe that the acceptance by the Government of this helpful amendment would demonstrate that Britain at least takes seriously the commitment to free trade enshrined in the original Treaty of Rome. I beg to move.
§ Lord Aldington
My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris, with this amendment has trailed his conscience as well as mine and the consciences of all your Lordships, I should like to declare my position. I am wholly for GATT. I have been for GATT for a long time. I have even had some experience of working within it under my noble friend Lord Thorneycroft long ago. I am as intent upon the successful conclusion of the Uruguay Round as he is. Earlier this afternoon we heard what the Prime Minister had been able to achieve to that end and the importance that he attaches to it.
What is a clause like this doing in this Bill? The Bill is about provisions consequential upon Maastricht. The conclusion of a GATT deal has nothing whatever to do with Maastricht. It was important long before then. It was important when my noble friend Lady Thatcher was Prime Minister, and it remains extremely important. I do not see any reason to delay the passage of this Bill by inserting in it a quite unnecessary new clause.
Lord Bruce of Donington
My Lords, I ask your Lordships' indulgence as I reply very briefly to the noble Lord, Lord Aldington. I venture to suggest that it is clear that the satisfactory conclusion of the GATT agreement to a very large extent depends on what France regards as in its national interest. France will have to judge that national interest within a new context: the provisions of the Maastricht Treaty. Those provisions either have an effect on the economies of Europe including France, or they do not do so. If they do not have any effect on the economies of Europe and their conduct, there is no point in having the Maastricht Treaty at all.
As I understand the position, France is entitled under the Luxembourg compromise, if it so wishes, to stick on the common agriculture policy as vital to France's national interest. As the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, confirmed only the other evening, the Luxembourg compromise still applies to the United Kingdom. Therefore we cannot deny to France what we would wish to have the power to do ourselves.
What we have to do—this is where the amendment proposed is so apposite—is to use all means of persuasion, including our activities in the European Council and other diplomatic contacts that we have with France through a variety of sources, to persuade France that in the main France's national interest now lies in its manufacturing industry, which would be greatly advanced if the GATT agreement were successful. In the case of France it is a balance between 65 its agriculture interests, which have political implications, and indeed the success of its manufacturing industry. I submit that the amendment gives encouragement to the Government, through whatever channels they consider open to them in Council or outside it and within the context of Maastricht, so to persuade France in order that the GATT arrangements may finally be concluded.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, since my name is on the amendment, I rise lest silence be thought to indicate that I no longer support what I said at Committee stage.
The amendment is worded in a different way from the one that I moved at Committee stage but it comes to the same point. The noble Lord, Lord Aldington, is right. Maastricht has nothing to do with GATT. It has nothing whatever to do with anything that is of any use to this country or its economy. It is another stage in the subjugation of this country to a system which in its essence is wholly opposed to the idea of free trade.
I hesitate to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, because we have agreed so much; but I think he is in error in believing that it is only agriculture in France that is protectionist. Unlike the industry of this country, French industry has been built up over the centuries under a system of protection. The European Community was designed to fortify that system. Therefore, I hope that there will be support for the amendment.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Aldington is so mesmerised by the words of the Bill that he will not raise his eyes to look at the surrounding circumstances in which the Bill has been produced. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, has done so. En strict terms, if the words in the European Treaty and subsequent treaties had been observed, as the theorists said they would be, there would be no need for an amendment such as this one. If the theories, as they were put in both Houses of Parliament years ago and subsequently, had worked in practice as we were told they would do, it is perfectly true that this amendment would be out of place in this Bill.
But circumstances have not worked out as the theorists told us that they would. The evidence that we have to take into account is not the meaning of the words in the Bill; it is the spirit in which the provisions have been applied or attempted to be applied. We do not have to read only the Bills and statutes with which we are intimately connected; it is not a bad idea occasionally to read the newspapers and general reports that are available to see how other Members of the Community react to many of the provisions. I am perhaps in a slightly better position than many others because for five years I sat in the European Parliament and had a chance to see the reactions of individual Members of that parliament.
I can tell my noble friend Lord Aldington that the general atmosphere in which this treaty will have to be applied, if ever the Bill becomes an Act, will have to take into account the fact that the French—and I believe other Members of the European Community 66 —have been a danger in coming to an arrangement within GATT which would be in our interest and the interest of Europe and the world. There is no doubt about that. Their inclinations are not to give support on issues that would suit us and the rest of the Community, if that does not happen separately to support their own interests even more.
Therefore, in this Maastricht Bill, so far as we are in any position to do so, we must give an instruction not only to France but to the other Members that we expect them not only to adhere to the written terms, but to apply them in the spirit of what was intended. The noble Lord, Lord Aldington, may think that it is not necessary to put the amendment into the Bill because in strict terms it is not in keeping with the spirit of the Bill itself. But if you add it to the circumstances surrounding what has happened over the past 22 years we should be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, for trying to insert an instruction which will see to it that not only the literal meaning of the words of the Bill are applied but that the spirit is also dealt with in a proper and unselfish way.
§ Lord Thomson of Monifieth
My Lords, I rise simply to offer a word or two of support to the modest complaint of the noble Lord, Lord Aldington. We have become so accustomed in these debates to amendments that have very little to do with the Treaty of Maastricht and the Bill that we have almost given up in terms of any kind of complaint. However, I was extremely glad to see one thing in the amendment. It urges Her Majesty's Government "immediately after ratification of the Treaty on European Union" to take certain steps. It appears to concede that the treaty will be ratified. And the sooner, the better.
§ Lord Peston
My Lords, perhaps I, too, may remind your Lordships that we are dealing with a Bill intituled,An Act to make provision consequential on the Treaty on European Union signed at Maastricht on 7th February 1992".The noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Pvlonifieth, said that the amendment has little to do with that. It actually has nothing to do with that at all. I assumed that within our rules, which are always somewhat of a mystery to me, it was still acceptable to have an amendment of this kind. But for the life of me I cannot see what it has to do with the Act at all.
Having said that, I do not in any way disagree with what is in the amendment. I do not back away from free trade. My credentials on this matter compare fairly favourably with almost anyone in your Lordships' House. Of course we favour free trade; of course free trade is central to, I hope, all our economic policies. The noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, was pulling my leg about support, or lack of' support, for her right honourable friend the Prime Minister. I certainly do not feel that he needs written into an Act of Parliament any encouragement to do what is in the amendment. It appears to me that he is working as hard as he can to move things forward with respect to GATT and the Uruguay Round.
I do not mind the subject coming up so that some of us can say that we approve of free trade, but that is about it so far as I can see. I deplore a little the 67 attacks on France. I do not doubt that the French look out for their national interest. It may well be that on some aspects of this they are rather difficult. But I am not aware—at least I hope it is not the case—that we do not look out for our national interest. I am certain that if we were to read the French press we would occasionally see adverse remarks about our country holding things back here or there.
I do not want anyone to misunderstand—I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, did not want anyone to misunderstand him—that we are wholly in support of negotiating as strongly and as quickly as we can on the GATT agreement. I am perhaps a little less optimistic than some about what was achieved at Tokyo but I certainly want to believe that it will all be highly successful. All I say is that if we can have an amendment of this kind I have 101 other things that I would like to put down for the Government to do immediately as well, except that I do not feel that your Lordships would like me to do that. I hope that, having made the point about free trade, we can leave this one alone and get down to rather more serious business.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
My Lords, I think that my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, should be grateful to people who put down amendments of this kind. After all, they enable the House to have a discussion about important matters and indeed to get on record the Government's point of view. If the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, had had his way we would not have discussed this Bill at all and he would have given the Maastricht Treaty its okay on the nod. That is not a good parliamentary practice.
§ Lord Tordoff
My Lords, it is unfortunate that at Report stage, when we are entitled to speak only once, attacks should be made on my noble friend in that way. It is grossly unfair to suggest that we would have played no part in any sensible discussion on the Maastricht Bill. If, for instance, I were to put down an amendment on the Arts Council, on playing fields, on the size of postage stamps, presumably, under the arrangements that we have on this Bill, it could be debated. It is extremely foolish for the House to go down this path.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, arising out of that, I rise only to make to your Lordships a point that I have made before. It seems to me that proceedings on this Bill not only at this stage but at a previous stage have been entirely untypical of the way this House normally conducts its business. I think that it would be a suitable matter for the Procedure Committee to look at the record after the Bill has passed, and, God willing, received Her Majesty's consent, and consider which of our proceedings over the Bill should be disregarded as precedents for our future proceedings, particularly for the benefit of noble Lords who are not normally in the custom of attending the House and who may regard what they see on these great occasions as being typical of our normal way of conducting business.
§ Baroness Chalker of Wallasey
My Lords, I note very carefully what my noble friend Lord Elton says about referring the proceedings on this Bill to the Procedure Committee. I am sure that the Chief Whip will want to look at this as will the Leader of the House and noble Lords in other parts of the House.
The amendment is not necessary. The noble Lord, Lord Pearson, generously paid tribute to the Prime Minister's efforts over the GATT round. I have to say that in many, many years of trying to seek ways forward to open up world trade I have never known an individual so committed to doing that as our own Prime Minister of the present day. The amendment is not necessary. Not only has the United Kingdom played a very active role in the Community but also with third parties to seek to secure a successful conclusion to the Uruguay Round negotiations and also to ensure that preliminary agreements reached—notably the EC-US accord on GATT agriculture—are not reopened.
The Government will give and are already giving their full support to the Commission's efforts to negotiate a balanced and comprehensive outcome to the Uruguay Round, one which will benefit the United Kingdom, the Community and the world economy generally. We have seen welcome progress made by Ministers from the Community, the United States, Japan and Canada in their discussions in Tokyo. We hope that that progress will mean that we make further progress in the multinational negotiations shortly to be resumed in Geneva. Certainly, there are elements of a deal on market access. That is very good news, as my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal made clear earlier this afternoon.
The Government have long argued that a successful completion of the Uruguay Round would make a large contribution to world prosperity and to ending the current world recession. It will be of particular assistance to the developing world. Many of the things that the noble Lord, Lord Harris of High Cross, said in moving the amendment about opening up world trade I would agree with entirely. But I believe the noble Lord, Lord Peston, and I are at one that the amendment is not needed to stiffen our resolve. Her Majesty's Government and other governments are doing all they can to complete the round successfully. There is no way in which the many suggestions, helpful as they may seem to those who have made them in the debate, would assist us any further. We have to be ready with our partners in the Community and with our other partners outside the Community to take all those steps—and we are ready to do so—to have a successful conclusion to the round.
I know that there are some Members of your Lordships' House, including the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, who are very worried about what our friends across the Channel might do. Of course, any country will look to its own needs, but I believe that in looking to our needs as a community and as part of the community of the wider world, we are getting very much better at not finding a need to stand out against decisions. We shall still retain that right. As the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, said, if we wish to 69 retain the right to stand out against decisions we must allow other members of the Community to do likewise.
I am encouraged that there is so much unanimity about a successful conclusion of the Uruguay Round, but I am not encouraged in the slightest by this amendment because it is truly not needed. Therefore, I urge your Lordships to resist it.
§ 7 p.m.
§ Lord Harris of High Cross
My Lords, it has not been a wholly uninteresting debate. It is quite impressive that there is a larger measure of agreement on this kind of issue than is ever apparent outside the Chamber. It is not necessarily true in France, Spain or Italy that there will be that degree of consensus in those countries on the fundamental and wide-ranging benefits of free trade. The noble Lord, Lord Peston, found himself in total agreement with me. He made some amiable references to France which I thought might be an opening hid for his candidacy as a citizen of Europe and perhaps the mayoralty of an attractive French village which he might have his eye on.
We drew a cheep from the Liberal Democrat Benches. Although it was a protest, I cannot really judge whether it was merited or not. I do not accept the strictures of the noble Lord, Lord Aldington, or those of the noble Baroness who replied that this matter has nothing to do with the Bill. If we had a magic wand which saw this Bill safely through this House and the other place but had attached to it a codicil saying, "In passing this Bill we have agonised about the completion of the GATT round", that would not be wholly unimpressive to our European partners who treat these matters rather more casually.
I cannot judge myself the threats which we have had about the matter being referred to the Procedure Committee for breach of our rules of conduct. I am advised that many of us would welcome serious consideration by the Procedure Committee of this matter because we persist in regarding it as an issue of some importance for the future of our democratic system. We are not disposed to apologise for detaining the House for an hour or two or even a day or two, in giving further thought to the matter. We can almost hear the dinner bell. I believe that we have agreed to withdraw the amendment. I thank those who have taken part in the discussion.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Baroness Trumpington
My Lords, I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned. In moving this Motion, may I suggest that the Report stage begins again at eight o'clock.
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.