§ House again in Committee on Clause 1.
§ [Amendment No. 8 not moved.]
§ [Amendment No. 9 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]
Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 10:
Page 1, line 9, after ("Titles") insert ("I (except Article B)").
§ The noble Lord said: Once again we return to the fray after a rather truncated 55 minute dinner break. I take this opportunity to make a plea to the Chief Whip to allow us in future a full 60-minute hour, provided that that is allowed under the terms of the treaty.
§ The purpose of Amendment No. 10 is to remove from the endorsement of Parliament Article B of the treaty. That sets out the objectives of the Union— economic and social cohesion, economic and monetary union, a common foreign and security policy, citizenship of the Union, which we have discussed at great length earlier today and which we shall probably discuss further later on, justice and home affairs, and last but by no means least, the maintenance of the acquis communautaire body of EEC law. I say "EEC" because it is still the EEC until such time as the treaty is ratified.
§ It would be foolish and vastly ambitious of me to try to deal with economic and social cohesion, economic and monetary union, a common foreign and security policy or justice and home affairs this evening, especially as we are to deliberate those matters at considerable length and in considerable depth over the next few days. However, the acquis communautaire is a different matter since, so far as I have been able to ascertain, it does not appear elsewhere in the Bill except in Article C, which is the subject of Amendment No. 11 where the phrase is alluded to in a much more cursory fashion.
§ In contrast, those who peruse Article B are left in no doubt as to what the framers of the treaty intend. The acquis communautaire is not only to be maintained in full—and I stress the words "in full" —but is also to be built upon. That contradicts totally the assurances that we have been given by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary among others that subsidiarity will become the main focus and guiding light of the Community once the treaty is ratified.301
§ It is true that it need not necessarily affect future matters to be the subject of subsidiarity, but it will make it extremely difficult for anything which has already been handed over to the competence of the Community to be devolved back to member states.
When I asked a supplementary question of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor he replied:
The new article",
that is, the article concerning subsidiarity,
will apply from the date of ratification of the treaty … However, the principle … may well",
and I ask the Committee to note the words "may well",
actuate proposals for changing the existing law. It could well be that existing laws might be shorn of some unnecessary detail",
not all unnecessary detail but some unnecessary detail,
as a result of a desire in the Community as a whole to simplify matters".
He went on to say:
it would be in accordance with public opinion not only here, but in other member states as well".—[Official Report, 17/6/93; col. 1665.]
From everything that I have learned, I believe that the noble and learned Lord was absolutely right on that point.
§ The point is that it seems obvious that there is an essential conflict here between the bald statement in Article B that the acquis communautaire will be maintained in full and the sincere desire of Her Majesty's Government, and no doubt the desire of some of the other governments in the Community, to devolve matters back to member states.
I do not wish to go into a long discussion on subsidiarity this evening because the Committee is thin. However, this question must be addressed. It will arise again, but I think that we should hear something about it this evening. In case it is thought that only those of us who are somewhat inaccurately called Eurosceptics—most of us know Europe well and love it, but I suppose that Eurosceptic will do as a convenient form of shorthand—have doubts or suspicions about the acquis communautaire, perhaps I may quote a distinguished individual who is noted for his strong views in support of the Community; namely, that noted financial and political journalist, Sir Samuel Brittan, writing in the Financial Timesyesterday. He talks about the "pernicious doctrine of the acquis communautaire," and says that under that doctrine:
the Community holds on to all the powers it has been given and asks for some more".
That is what we are up against. If the treaty is to be ratified with those words included, it seems to me that the application of subsidiarity to matters which have already been handed over to the competence of the Community will be almost impossible. I look forward to hearing the Minister's reply on that point. I beg to move.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Employment (Viscount Ullswater)
The effect of Amendment No. 10 would be to include within the scope of the Bill the Common Provisions (Title I) of the Treaty on European Union except for Article B setting out the objectives of the Union. The 302 Common Provisions establish the structure of the treaty. They are needed in particular to explain the pillared structure under which the Union embraces the Community on the one hand and the common foreign and security policy and the justice and home affairs pillars on the other.
The Treaty of Rome had no common provisions because it was only about the Community. The Single European Act had common provisions because it dealt not only with the European Community but also with European political co-operation. But to include the common provisions in the Bill without qualification would be to introduce a legal anomaly. We need to legislate domestically only to incorporate those EC provisions which can have direct effect in the UK or those provisions under which the Community measures may be adopted with that effect; that means predominantly the provisions of Titles If, III and IV plus the protocols. That is why the Bill as it stands includes only Title I (as one of the "other provisions" of the treaty) "so far as they relate" to Titles II, III and IV.
The noble Lord, Lord Monson,rightly says that Article B mentions so many of the matters with which we shall deal in more detail or have dealt already in some detail. But he quite rightly points out that the one which has not been spoken to, and perhaps will not be spoken to, is the acquis communautaire. The acquis communautaire means, as I believe the noble Lord rightly interprets it, the provisions of the Community treaties and all Acts adopted so far under those provisions. It is a shorthand way of referring to the body of Community law and practice to which new members sign up when they join.
In the case of the United Kingdom, that was done by Article 2 of the Act of Accession 1972 which states:From the date of accession, the provisions of the original treaties and the Acts adopted by the institutions of the Community shall be binding on the new Member States and shall apply in those States under the conditions laid down in those Treaties and in those Acts".I have to say that there is no real, simple English translation of the acquis communautaire. The particular indent of Article B was amended at the United Kingdom's insistence to avoid any implication that co-operation outside the Treaty of Rome should be brought eventually within it. The review under Article N(2) will only consider the extent to which such co-operation may need to be revised to become more effective. No commitment has been made to bring all that within the Community.
The common provisions introduce substantive treaty articles to be found later in the treaty. But the final part of Article B explicitly states that,objectives of the Union shall be achieved … while respecting the principle of subsidiarity as defined in Article 3b of the Treaty".Even in the present instance, I think that that is a useful reminder of the central position of subsidiarity in Community decision-making. Indeed, it was in reflecting on that central position that my noble and learned friend made the remarks to which the noble Lord, Lord Monson, referred. With that explanation, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.
§ Lord Monson
In the absence of any other contributors to this mini-debate, I do, of course, intend to withdraw the amendment; indeed, I never intended to do anything else. The whole purpose was not to divide on so many major issues but simply to clarify them. I thank the noble Viscount for what he said. However, I am not convinced that he has fully clarified matters. I am not for a moment worried about the lack of translation for acquis communautaire. It is a perfectly simple concept. We all know what it means, unlike, for example, subsidiarity, which is still enshrouded in every sort of mist.
No doubt when we discuss subsidiarity at a later stage we shall return to the matter under discussion. I still maintain that there is a definite conflict here between what is set out in the treaty and the Government's very worthwhile and praiseworthy intentions of applying the principles of subsidiarity as widely as possible. As I said, we shall probably return to the matter before long. Therefore, for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 8.45 p.m.
Lord Bruce of Donington moved Amendment No. 11:
Page 1, line 9, after ("Titles") insert ("I (except Article C)").
§ The noble Lord said: I should point out that I shall be referring to the grouping list of today's date (and not yesterday's) that I understand has been made available to Members of the Committee. The situation can be slightly misleading. With the leave of the Committee, in moving the amendment I shall speak also to Amendment Nos. 13, 14, 50, 190-200, 202-210, 217, 218, 226-230, 252-267, 269, 309-316, 318-325, 392 and 415.
§ I must request the indulgence of the Committee a little while cross-referring to various amendments. Speaking from the Back Benches on such an extremely complex Bill exposes one to certain physical disabilities as regards sorting out papers. Those who happily occupy the Front Benches are somewhat assisted by having a desk in front of them. Therefore, if there is any delay in dealing with papers, I shall be most grateful for the indulgence of the Committee.
§ I shall deal first with Amendment No. 11. It relates to Article C of Part One of the treaty. That can be found on page 2 of the very excellent Maastricht Treaty and Prospective document issued by the British Management Data Foundation. It has been made available to Members of this Chamber and also to members of the public generally. The foundation is most kind to do so. It describes the Treaty of Rome as amended by the treaty under consideration. It facilitates easier examination of the effects. I am sure that Members of the Committee will agree that we are somewhat indebted to the foundation for doing something which, in our opinion…and I say this with the utmost good humour…the Government ought to have done to enable the public better to understand what is involved. Indeed, it might even have assisted certain members of the Government who subsequently admitted that they had not read the treaty.304
As I said, the first amendment deals with Article C. With the Committee's permission, I should like to read from that article. It says:
The Union shall be served by a single institutional framework which shall ensure the consistency and the continuity of the activities carried out in order to attain its objectives while respecting and building upon the 'acquis communautaire'"…
which, of course, has already been dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Monson. It continues to say:
The union shall in particular ensure the consistency of its external activities as a whole in the context of external relations, security, economic and development policies. The Council and the Commission shall be responsible for ensuring such consistency. They shall ensure the implementation of those policies each in accordance with its respective powers".
§ I should like to deal, first, with that outrageous aspect. When I read those parts of the proposed treaty, I wondered what costs would be incurred. The Commission and the union (the Community) take on board many heavy responsibilities which will involve a good deal of activity that will be most costly. I had it in mind…as I trust have most noble Lords…that out of the Consolidated Fund we are paying on average £2.5 billion net every year to the European Community. I do not like continually to remind the Committee about that fact; but I know how very fussy Members of this Chamber are in matters of public finance and also as regards the public sector borrowing requirement. I am trying to insinuate myself into the approval of noble Lords for having reminded them of the correctness of their point of view on such matters.
§ I am very disappointed. I wanted—as I am sure we all do—to have some idea as to what the costs would be of all the extra activities that are being undertaken, especially during the year under review. Certain activities are already taking place in anticipation. Certainly after ratification the Commission can be relied upon not to delay unduly in carrying out its already planned activities which it has assumed in advance that we shall approve. In fact, the Select Committee of this place, which as we all know carries out such sterling work, is already basing most of its current examinations of witnesses in connection with various aspects of Community affairs on the assumption that the treaty will be ratified. Everyone is a bit ahead on this, except of course the Commission. That bothers me.
§ The preliminary draft budget for the year 1994 was due for publication on 15th May last. It is now 22nd June. I am informed that it was published on time as one would normally expect. However, I am troubled that it is impossible to obtain a copy from the Printed Paper Office, no matter how hard I try. I am sure that Members of the Committee appreciate that some of us on both sides of the Chamber like to study such matters as cost effectiveness and possible avenues of excess expenditure and areas where good value for money is perhaps not being obtained.
§ I should have thought that in the light of our debate—it has been known for a long time that this debate was about to take place in this Chamber—data would have been available. I can tell the Committee in advance that if the 1993 draft budget as approved is any guide, there is bound to be certain expenditure 305 that is completely out of control. There is bound to be some expenditure on the objectives of the treaty which has been widely overestimated as members of staff have been increased, probably unnecessarily, and money spent on things that will not happen. I am normally quite amiable about these matters but I must protest at not being able to obtain a document which, from my point of view, is vital—I talk not only as a politician but also as an accountant—to assess the cost of these measures as regards the British taxpayer. I hope that the situation will be remedied.
The rest of the amendments deal with the acquis communaufaireto which I have referred. Article E states:
The European Parliament, the Council, the Commission and the Court of Justice shall exercise their powers under the conditions and for the purposes provided for, on the one hand. by the provisions of the Treaties establishing the European Communities and of the subsequent Treaties and Acts modifying and supplementing them and, on the other hand, by the other provisions of this Treaty".
§ I pause for a moment to examine the article more closely. There ca n be no doubt that the provisions of Maastricht, if carried out within the timetable put forward by the Commission—and contained in some parts of the treaty itself—will mean an extra load on all of the institutions. Incidentally, I do not exclude from that the Court of Justice.
§ If one looks through the extra responsibilities of the Court of Justice and the kind of actions that may or may not be brought before it by the Commission, or indeed by member states as a result of the new provisions of Maastricht, I venture to suggest that the Court of Justice, as at present constituted, will be hopelessly undermanned from the point of view of judges, legal staff and others. One has only to look at the areas of likely dispute within the Maastricht Treaty to appreciate that it is unrealistic to envisage the institutions remaining unchanged.
§ Indeed, whatever illusions the Committee may have about the Bill, its aim is to enlarge the powers, the extent and the functions of the institutions. It has nothing to do with the people of Europe at all. This debate is primarily concerned, by agreement, with the institutions. I should perhaps mention, before I reach the main part of the detail that I wish to discuss, that it is not my intention today to discuss amendments which relate under Titles III and IV to the ECSC and to the Atomic Energy Community. One can eliminate those for our purposes from the discussion and concentrate on those institutions which affect the European Economic Community proper.
§ Today we shall consider the institutions as such and some of their functions. We should consider whether we believe that the treaty really tells us the whole picture as it is likely to emerge or whether some of it is just window dressing. I refer in the first instance to the powers to establish an ombudsman for Europe whom a citizen shall have a right to approach, through an MEP, as regards any matters at issue between himself and the institutions.
§ Has it occurred to anyone that for an ombudsman to he effective in these circumstances will require organisation on a fairly hefty scale? Our own parliamentary commissioner here—Britain has a total 306 population of some 40 to 50 million people—incurs heavy costs. Europe comprises over 325 million people. The idea of an ombudsman being able to exercise any function that is meaningful on behalf of an individual citizen makes the imagination boggle. I do not believe that the provision for the establishment of an ombudsman is at all realistic. A considerable organisation would be needed to make the position effective or even to do the job on the scale of that of the British parliamentary commissioner.
§ I turn now to the Parliament. I am not sure how I can deal with that and at the same time retain the good will of my noble friend Lady Elles—I hope I may call her my noble friend—with whom I have an amiable relationship. She and I were both MEPs and I hesitate to say anything that would offend her. The European Parliament is a sham parliament. It is powerless to do anything. One has only to read through the English translations of the proceedings that have become available over the past six months or so—in particular the debates dealing with the European budget and expenditure control, which are supposed to he under the Parliament's supervision—to realise that most of the people contributing to those debates do not have the remotest clue what they are talking about.
§ Lord Bethell
The noble Lord says that the European Parliament is a sham parliament arid incapable of doing anything. Is he really prepared to stand by that? Will he think about it., consider the powers that the European Parliament has and ask himself whether the Parliament is a sham parliament and entirely incapable of doing anything?
§ 9 p.m.
Lord Bruce of Darlington
I shall certainly do that. I can perhaps best illustrate what I say by acquainting the Committee with how the European Parliament operates. There can be nothing more illustrative than that. The European Parliament is not frightfully well attended in the first place. The National Consumer Council produced a good study on the European Parliament a couple of years back. The document revealed that the attendance was poor and the expenses high—I do not budge from that—and that salaries and expenses are higher than those attributable to a British Cabinet Minister. I do not resent that. It is a matter for those concerned and I wish them well. But let us consider what they have to go through. In this Parliament—I include this Chamber in that term—we still have a right to send Bills back to another place for consideration even though we do not possess power in the sense that the other place quite rightly has it.
We examine a Bill and its precedents in varying degrees of intensity and application. At the end of the matter we decide either that we will not vote on it at all and pass no opinion, we absent ourselves, or we decide to go through the Content or Not-Content lobby. One votes for or against. There is a certain effect in that. For example, if, in the course of the next few days, Members of the Committee were minded to vote for any of the amendments affecting the Treaty of Rome which are contained in the Maastricht Treaty, 307 the amendment would have to go back to the other place for a rethink. It would then come back to us and we would decide whether to accept the verdict of the other place. Once again, we go through either the Content or the Not-Content lobby.
Let us consider what happens in the European Parliament. I shall not go into great detail. I am sure that the noble and learned Lord will be relieved not to have the responsibility of thinking about any of the detail of this Bill, and I do not blame him. The European Parliament may go through one of the following procedures.
The first is the consultation procedure. That is a very nice job, one in which a delegation is selected by the Parliament, in part by the political groups meeting in the bureau, or sometimes in the party bureau. It is decided which form of delegation to send to the Council for Conciliation. I have been there myself a couple of times in connection with conciliation proceedings and consultation procedures relating to the budget. Therefore I know what happens. One turns up at the Council headquarters. One has a good talk with them. One puts one's case. Sometimes they will give way, sometimes they will not. Occasionally, in order to reward one for having gone there at all they may make a slight concession. That is what happens in the consultation process.
Then there is another procedure, called cooperation, which involves a more active role on the part of representatives of the European Parliament. Then there is a co-decision procedure. If the Committee wishes I shall certainly describe it. First, I should like to describe the co-operation procedure under Article 189c of the Maastricht Treaty. This is what happens.
The European Commission makes a proposal. The European Parliament formulates and delivers its opinion on the proposal. The "common position" of the Council is adopted by qualified majority vote, or the Council of Ministers communicates its common position to the European Parliament. Thus, the British Prime Minister attended the European Parliament on 16th December 1992 to convey to the Parliament the common position reached by the European Council in Edinburgh. Then a number of courses are open to the European Parliament. It can approve the common position by qualified majority within three months. It can express no opinion within three months. In either case the Council of Ministers adopts the measure. Alternatively, the European Parliament proposes amendments to the common position by an absolute majority, which it must do within three months of being informed by the Council of Ministers. Alternatively, the European Parliament rejects the common position of the Council of Ministers by an absolute majority of its members. In the latter two cases the European Parliament forwards the results of its deliberations to the Council and to the Commission.
If the European Parliament has adopted any action other than those I have described, the European Commission is required to reconsider its proposal within one month and then resubmit the re-examined 308 proposal and its opinion on any amendments of the Parliament which the Commission cannot accept. Within three months the Council of Ministers is required to adopt the Commission's re-examined proposal, assuming that the Parliament has not acted. The Council may adopt the proposal at that stage, either by qualified majority vote or by unanimity, if the European Parliament has rejected the Council's common position, the Council of Ministers wishes to adopt the European Parliament's amendments which have not been accepted by the Commission, or the Council of Ministers wishes to amend the re-examined proposal. Alternatively the Council of Ministers does not adopt the proposal within three months, whereupon the proposal is deemed to have lapsed.
That is very different from voting Content or Not-Content. In short, it involves a considerable contortion, with which I am sure the Members of the European Parliament are well familiar.
Lord Bruce of Donington
I am sorry to annoy the noble and learned Lord opposite but these are matters which cannot be skated over without being examined, or in some cases without being listened to. They are quite difficult and complicated.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
I am very much obliged to the noble Lord for giving way. Why should the noble Lord assume that none of us knows anything about the matters to which he is referring?
Lord Bruce of Donington
I have the utmost respect for the noble Lord. In matters of this kind he has certainly achieved a reputation which is considerably in excess of the self-admitted ignorance of some Ministers of the Government. I pay my tribute to him.
There are these other procedures: assent, information, and, finally, there is the budget. All those procedures are complicated. They are not as simple, as direct, as transparent or as effective as ours.
If Members of the Committee believe that those procedures are effective I invite them to take a look at the papers which are available at intervals from the Printed' Paper Office. For example, there is a translation of the proceedings which take place in the European Parliament and are reported in the English language. I cannot be fairer than that.
I do not believe that those of us here, who are so impatient that they do not want to hear detail, are in a very good position to pass judgment on the detail which lies at the root of this Bill, and much of its obscurity. It would be unfair if I were to exclude the European Parliament from other matters. If there is any doubt about the value of the European Parliament in these matters—they are a matter of great importance—I draw the Committee's attention to the debates in the European Parliament of 14th September 1992; that is, two days before Black Wednesday.
309 At that meeting of the European Parliament which was presided over by Herr Klepsch—I believe that he is a Christian Democrat with considerable affiliations on a loose basis with the Conservative Party—he was asked by a Mr. Blaney for a ruling under Rule 56 of the Rules of Procedure. Mr. Blaney stated:I am speaking on behalf of my political group; we wish to say that at the present time and for some weeks past we have all been amazed and dismayed to find the President of the Commission participating in the French referendum campaign. We find it contradictory when we recall that only a few short months ago after his brief intervention in Denmark during their referendum campaign the Commission President subsequently issued an apology".The matter was again referred to by Mrs. Ewing who is not entirely unknown in another place and, I believe, is of repute in this Chamber. She referred to exactly the same issue. In referring to the matters complained of by the particular Member, she stated:There was certainly a long-standing tradition, as you will be aware, Mr. President, that Commissioners were neutral. They were servants of every Member State equally. They claim to be a college …That means they speak for everybody, every Member State. It is really a fairly new development that Commissioners are breaching this long-standing honourable tradition of neutrality and descending into the arena that they are meant to have left behind them".Members of the Committee are familiar with reports which have appeared in the press of partisan intervention, sometimes by the President of the Commission himself. I refer now to the attitude to that issue by the responsible Member of the Socialist Group who replied to the request made by the Green Group.
Mr. von der Vring, speaking on behalf of the Socialist Group, in the presence of the leader of the British Labour Group of the European Parliament, stated:Mr. President, I do not agree. The majority in this Assembly do not want a politically emasculated Commission but would like to continue to have Commissioners who are politically committed…We do not want a neutral institution, but this Parliament has made it clear that it regards the Commission as Europe's future government".According to the chairman of Parliament, the request for any statement upon the matter was rejected.
That is the attitude of the European Parliament, although not necessarily of all Members. I do not presume to speak for all Members. However, it is the prevailing view of the European Parliament that the Commission is Europe's future government.
§ Lord Bethell
The noble Lord really must not make such an assumption. It is quite incorrect to say that the European Parliament or the Commission see themselves as the future government of Europe.
§ Lord Bethell
It is absolutely incorrect. Perhaps the noble Lord will stick to what he knows about—his knowledge is considerable—and not make assumptions about the European Parliament.
Lord Bruce of Donington
I made no assumptions. I referred to what is said in the report. I examined the report and did not read any dissent from that view subsequently. If any European Member of the Parliament had strong views about the matter he or 310 she would have taken the opportunity to dissociate himself or herself from the ruling. I shall not pursue the point.
§ Lord Plumb
The noble Lord has given me an opportunity to dissociate myself from the remarks that he makes. I have sat with a good deal of patience listening to a diatribe about a European Parliament which is a very different institution from the one to which you had belonged when you left in 1979. Having said that, the Members of the European Parliament are very grateful to you for the work that you did on their behalf prior to that particular time.
§ Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone
The noble Lord must refer to other noble Lords in the third person and not in the second person singular.
§ Lord Plumb
Thank you. The noble Lord referred to the role of the European Parliament through the co-operation procedures and totally ignored the responsibility that the European Parliament has. The noble Lord referred earlier to the role of the Commission. Who does he think is responsible?
§ Baroness Trumpington
I am told that one cannot have a debate before the Question has been put and the amendment moved.
§ Lord Dean of Beswick
I rise on the point that the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, had not finished. What we have just heard was a speech, not an intervention, and the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, should be allowed to conclude, then we can put the matter. Unfortunately, the noble Lord, Lord Plumb, was out of order.
§ 9.15 p.m.
Lord Bruce of Donington
I am most grateful for the continued indulgence of Members of the Committee. In reward, I shall immediately sit down after trying to make the few points which I hope commended themselves to the Committee.
§ The Earl of Onslow
I have no intention of taking as long as the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, or going into such detail. All I wish to do is to ask my noble friend on the Front Bench what "union" means. It seems to me fundamental and to go to the core of the treaty.. Funnily enough, I find no difficulty with the expression "Union of the peoples of Europe". That is a concept of friendliness, co-operation and loving thy neighbour, to which I have no objection whatever.
§ The Earl of Onslow
The noble and learned Lord is having the time of his life, intervening from a sedentary position in a loud and boisterous way, in the same way as he did at Sunningdale in the early 1920s. We were both at the same school.
§ Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone
All I wished to do was to say, "Hear, hear!", which I thought was perfectly in order, from whatever position.
§ The Earl of Onslow
Let us try to stop this little exchange. It seems to me that the question of what "union" means is of fundamental importance.
My right honourable friend the Prime Minister says that the whole point of union is to stop the centralisation of Europe. Others, including the German Chancellor, have said that it will lead to the ideas of the French Revolution becoming common to Europe. I do not know about Members of the Committee, but I remember that we have a square called Trafalgar Square and a station called Waterloo. When the Grenadiers troop the Colour, they wear bearskin helmets in remembrance that the whole disastrous adventure was brought to an end not a million miles from Brussels, which was then being defended by the Germans and ourselves. I do not like the idea that the French Revolution should be the basis of the union of European states.
In a recent speech Chancellor Kohl quoted Dr. Adenauer and said:We remember what Konrad Adenauer said in his memoirs: 'In my view the European nation-states had a past, but no future. This applied in the political, the economic and the social sectors. No individual European country was able to guarantee its people a secure future on its own strength"'.The meaning of the word "union" is of fundamental importance. If its meaning is what my right honourable friend the Prime Minister says, I suppose one could hold one's nose and say, "Let the people have a referendum", and hope that they vote it down, and still not mind if they do not. If, however, it is a union along the lines proposed by the Euro-federalists, I think we have a duty to fight strongly for our independence, our national identity and our own future. There are two fundamental differences.
§ Lord Clinton-Davis
I am a little puzzled as to the amendment to which the noble Lord is addressing his remarks.
§ The Earl of Onslow
The noble and learned Lord yet again from a sedentary position murmurs that I am showing off. I am almost prepared to plead guilty to that, but it seems to me that under this series of amendments on the institutions of the Council, the Commission and Parliament, this Chamber is a perfectly legitimate place to raise the subject of what we mean by the "European union". We have not had a satisfactory answer and I sincerely hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench will be able to give us one.
§ Lord Clinton-Davis
With respect, before the noble Earl sits down, it would be helpful if Members of the 312 Committee could refer to the specific amendment they are addressing. I refer not only to the noble Earl. Otherwise we shall all be in a state of tremendous confusion. In addressing issues affecting institutions, one could allude to almost anything, but that cannot be the purpose of sensible debate.
§ Lord Pearson of Rannoch
I wonder whether I can help the noble Lord. As I understand it, we are debating Amendment No. 11. Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 certainly refer to Articles B and C of Title I, which both begin with the Union setting itself certain objectives. According to those two articles, the Union is very much in the picture and my noble friend Lord Onslow is correct to address them.
§ Baroness Hooper
I feel compelled to respond to some of the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, in introducing his amendment and the group of amendments that is involved. I feel I have to point out to the noble Lord that he is, frankly, out of date.
It is now some 14 years since he served as a Member of the European Parliament. I choose to address my remarks to the institution of the Community concerned as the European Parliament because I was a Member of the European Parliament. I was privileged to be elected in the first directly elected, democratically elected, international Parliament in the history of the world. I am totally amazed that the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, should feel that an international Parliament should have the same sort of rules and procedure as this place has in order to be understood in this country. I feel that that says a lot about the people who are opposed to the treaty. Indeed, in my view, the very criticisms that the noble Lord makes justify the Maastricht Treaty, which, after all, is aimed at correcting the democratic deficit and giving some teeth to the European Parliament in enabling it to have a greater say over European Community legislation. We all know that national parliaments feel that they are very burdened by the scrutiny tasks that they are expected to carry out in relation to European legislation. So why not allow a directly elected European Parliament to carry out that task?
The treaty also intends the European Parliament to have powers to act further as a watchdog over that terrible beast the European Commission in order to implement the decisions of the Council of Ministers as well as to operate the Community's budget. I do not want to delay the proceedings further; but I felt that it was absolutely necessary to correct the impression that the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, unfortunately gave to this Chamber.
§ Lord Tebbit
For the comfort of those who are intending to follow this debate in detail, I should say that I shall address some of my remarks particularly to Amendment No. 191. Other amendments will be more generally addressed. But I am a little puzzled by the proposed groupings, and I take it, since on the proposed groupings Amendment No. 15 is on a 313 separate line, that we should not be addressing ourselves to Amendment No. 15 in this group. I shall return to Amendment No. 15 at a later stage.
Let me say first of all that I have never, before recent days, had any great feeling of solidarity with a salami sausage, even when it has been placed upon the slicer. But I now begin to understand the feelings of a salami sausage when it is on the slicer. Throughout our discussions see the principle being enunciated time and time again that one more slice will make no difference. The general proposition which has been put by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, and by my noble friend Lord Cockfield, is that we placed our constitutional salami sausage upon the slicer in 1972 and that we no longer have any rights whatsoever to say "stop" until we have been sliced, and sliced, and sliced, and sliced.
What I see time and again in the detail of the treaty—perhaps I may now slightly change the analogy without unduly confusing your Lordships—are new pegs being put in for the treaty (whatever it may be called) of 1996 or 1997. Before dinner we discussed how defence policy has been slid into the treaty—not in very hard terms; it is just sort of mentioned. It is "sort of mentioned" in terms rather more explicit than the concept of citizenship was expressed in the Treaty of Rome as we enacted it into our domestic law in 1972. It is a peg.
Now we find another peg; namely, Article 138a. In case noble Lords have not yet found it, perhaps I may remind them of what it says:Political parties at European level are important as a factor for integration within the Union. They contribute to forming a European awareness and to expressing the political will of the citizens, of the Union".What does that mean? Is it Eurowaffle, Euroguff, or will it be the hock on which, on some day in the future, in the extremely well chosen words of the Prime Minister today, there will be more "muddleheaded meddling by the Commission".
"Muddleheaded meddling"—those are strong words from the Prime Minister, who is quite clearly seeking to establish his credibility as the most Euro-sceptical of us all. They are words which I myself should have hesitated to use; they are so harsh.
But what effect would the removal of Article 138a from the treaty have? When my noble friend winds up this debate and responds to it—there will be ample opportunity after her response for noble Lords again to take up the issue—I expect her to explain very clearly what would be the effect upon the treaty of taking out that article. Indeed, what is the effect of keeping it in?
What do those words mean? Will we be told that they have no real meaning and are just Euroguff, like that Euroguff of years ago in the Treaty of Rome about an ever closer union of the peoples of Europe? Is it that Euroguff which we now find, according to the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, we should all have known meant that we were to be made citizens of the European Union—a European Union which had not been invented at that time?
My goodness me! The way in which, in retrospect, people find out what such things meant! One can almost see the divine hand of providence popping 314 those words into the treaty so conveniently. That is nothing like as clearly as I see the divine hand of providence in the fact that my honourable friend Mr. William Cash, the Member for Stafford, was born on the day that the Royal Air Force bombed the bridge at Maastricht to stop the advance of the Germans across Europe. It really was divine providence to have arranged that.
I return to the point. I should like to ask my noble friend what the impact of those words has upon the treaty. I want to make sure that she has heard the question and understood it clearly. She nods. She has.
Secondly, what would be the effect upon the treaty if the words were not there? She will no doubt say that it will entirely mess up the treaty because we would be signing a different treaty to the other members. That is not the point that I wish to make. Would it make any difference if those words were vaporised out of the treaty as it has been discussed in all 12 parliamentary assemblies of the Community? How did those words get into the treaty? Are they some kind of appendix, something left over from the evolutionary process of the creation of the treaty, now no longer with a purpose except occasionally to become inflamed and cause distress in the way that appendices sometimes do? Or are they there for a specific purpose? Are they another peg in relation to which in 1996–97 we will be told "Didn't you understand that? It has some enormous constitutional significance now. You agreed to it in 1993. You didn't understand what it meant? Oh, what a foolish lot you are. However, you are committed to it now." The salami is moved further along the slicer and something else has disappeared from our national life. We will then find that the legislators of 1997 have no right to object because your Lordships and the other place accepted it in 1993.
If we are to accept those words, I should like to know what they mean. If I am told that they mean nothing, then I want to know why they are there. It is a very bad principle to incorporate into British domestic law matters that have no meaning. Someone will find a meaning to place upon them at a future time. I can offer no possible explanation as to why the words are included in the treaty. I am not without some degree of ingenuity in such matters but I am totally at a loss to decide what those words mean.
I wish that my noble friend Lord Cockfield were here. He would not be at a loss because he has explained that the treaty is a mere trifle, something that we should have disposed of before dinner, let alone continued to discuss this evening. He stated at Second Reading that it is only a matter of dotting the i's and crossing the t's. Where is the "i" in the Treaty of Rome on the statute book that is being dotted by Article 138a? Where is the "t" that is already on the statute book that is being crossed? Are a new "i" and a new "t" being introduced into the Treaty of Rome which will be dotted or crossed in 1996 or 1997, or earlier if the Belgian presidency has its way, for example next week? There is an indecent haste to proceed further before Europe has digested what has already been done.
315 I have made clear to my noble friend how I wish her to reply to my inquiries. I hope that she will be able to do so to the satisfaction of myself and, indeed, your Lordships' Committee.
Let me turn to a rather broader matter for I know that it has no strong procedural force. I refer to the grouping of amendments. I ask the indulgence of the Committee to refer to them as a grouping rather than to them individually. It would make my argument rather shorter if I were granted that indulgence than if I were to be denied it.
The grouping comes under the heading of "Institutions, Council, Commission and Parliament". Let me put this thought to the Committee. These are the institutions by which the Treaty of Rome is enforced upon the peoples of Europe. This is the moment when, in the treaty, we are shovelling dots on I's and crosses on T's in the form of new powers which have not formerly been exercised through the European institutions on to those institutions. It is time that we took stock and asked ourselves whether it is fair and reasonable to believe that those institutions and those procedures are in any way adequate for the tasks that they already have, let alone the new tasks placed upon them by the treaty.
An industrialist friend of mine observed to me the other day, "I don't bother any longer to seek to lobby Ministers of the Government in any way. By the time matters arrive at the Minister's Dispatch Box the decisions have already been taken. I go to Brussels". He added, "But what alarms me is that whereas I used to be able to get sensible answers from commissioners, even though I did not agree with them, increasingly commissioners are no longer in control of what is coming forward". That is not surprising.
Let us examine what happens to a policy question. We are all relatively familiar, and I have no need to bore the Committee, with how policy comes forward, is turned into legislative proposals and fights its way through those Cabinet committees which we are now allowed to mention in this newer, freer age—for example, QL—and eventually find a place in the legislative timetable. But as M. Delors explained, before long 80 per cent. of the legislation affecting the lives of the citizens of these islands, will be decided not in this Palace of Westminster, but in Brussels—80 per cent.
Are the mechanisms capable of bringing forward those proposals and dealing with them not only in an efficient manner, but also in a democratic manner? The Community is discussing enlargement. Many Members of the Committee this evening will have sat, as I have done, in the Council of Ministers—one of 12–operating on institutions which were designed to be operated in a Community of six. We can look forward before long, I hope, to a Community of 16. Beyond that it is my devout hope that we can look forward to a community of 20, 25 or more. Can your Lordships imagine a tour de table before lunch of 16 or 20 Ministers all expressing their views on a policy issue?
Let us not even bother about the trifling difficulty of finding sufficient people who can translate from Finnish to Portuguese without going through two 316 other languages on the way. That tends sometimes to reduce the directness and clarity of points of view that may initially have been put with a lack of directness and clarity. It is clearly impossible for those 16, 20 or however many Ministers it may be in future, meeting only periodically, to be able between themselves to find a way to bring forward policies to be discussed, threshed out and turned into legislation, because they are legislators. That is why we get so much bad legislation from Brussels.
Who will be taking the decisions and creating legislation? We know that to some considerable extent today these matters are dealt with by the Commission, in particular by commissioners. When the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, was there in relation to the workload that fell upon his shoulders to a very considerable extent he was able to deal with those matters himself. When the Commission has come to its conclusion it is passed on to COREPER, as was described most graphically the other day by the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington. The permanent representatives do the bargaining and sort it out. For example, on Monday evening the Minister will find in his dispatch box the speaking notes for what he has to say on Tuesday morning at the Council of Ministers. If he has any doubts about it when he gets to Brussels he will be told by COREPER that it has all been sorted out, that he does not need to worry about it and it will be extremely difficult if he objects in any way. That is what happens today. It requires Ministers of courage, determination and great political skill—Ministers who are there for long enough to establish contacts with Ministers of other governments who may be there long enough. In my experience, it is also absolutely vital to establish contacts with the civil servants of other Ministers if the Minister is to be effective.
With this treaty and others that are to come we are placing a huge extra workload upon the Commission. As the Euro-enthusiasts like to tell us (I am sure there will be one here to correct me if I am wrong), the Commission has at its command less civil servants than the Scottish Office. That is the figure that I hear quoted. Can such an organisation cope with the amount of responsibility that is being placed upon it? I think not. How is it managing to cope at the moment?
I will tell your Lordships how it is done. It is recruiting by the score young law graduates from schools in places like Paris, Brussels and, presumably, London—I make no narrow nationalist point—who know nothing of the world beyond the Treaty of Rome and the institutions of the Commission. They have no experience as democratic politicians. They increasingly have no attachment to any institution except the Commission. They have no experience in business nor commerce nor industry. But what they are very good at is finding a text in the treaty, looking at it in detail, meeting among themselves, deciding how the powers of the Commission and the institutions of the Community can be stretched out (for that is their lifeblood) and stretching them out. And by the time they have sorted out these policy issues and fed them up to the commissioners, the die 317 is already being cast, because not even commissioners of the enormous energy and quality of my noble friend Lord Cockfield, whose energy is prodigious, as those of us who served in Cabinet with him will know, have enough hours in the day to control this great surge of legislation which is coming up from beneath them. What hope is there for a democratic control exercised by Ministers in the Council?
These are the issues which are behind the amendments on the Marshalled List. Those of us who are critics of the treaty, have no solutions at the moment other than to say that one should not be overloading in Oat manner. I hope that when she comes to reply, my noble friend will tell us what proposals the Government have for the reform of the institutions in order to ensure that they are able to cope with the workload which is being placed upon them.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Lord Monson
Although I have put my name to Amendment No. 11, I wish to confine my remarks solely to Amendment No. 191, which was explained so well by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit. Once again, in Article 138a, we Find a phrase which echoes the phrase in the preamble which we discussed in our deliberations on Amendment No. 3. The sonorous phrase then was,reinforcing the European identity".The sonorous phrase in Article 138a is,forming a European awareness".It is presumably not a European awareness that embraces the whole of Europe but an awareness confined strictly to that minority of European countries which happen to be currently members of the EEC.
One enthusiastic exponent of the joys of forming a European awareness appears to be M. Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the Front Nationale in France. The Guardian newspaper revealed only a few days ago that M. Le Pen and his cronies received almost £390,000 of EEC taxpayers' money—in practice, British and German taxpayers' money since we are the only countries to be net contributors to EEC funds—as reimbursement for expenses incurred on luxury fact-finding missions to Venice and to other desirable cities and resorts of Europe.
Other enthusiasts for forming a European awareness would appear to be the European People's Party, a group in the European Parliament with which believe the Conservative MEPs are affiliated. The noble Lord, Lord Bethell, will correct me if I am wrong. In a document published in September 1990 the European People's Party wrote:The formation of European party structures is extremely important to the further progress of European integration. The EPP, which has set itself the aim of creating a United States of Europe, feels particularly challenged here".It later states quite baldly that the goal of the European People's Party is a United States of Europe. What strange bedfellows our Conservative MEPs keep when their goal of a United States of Europe is so diametrically opposed to the goal of our Prime 318 Minister, as we are given to understand, and who totally opposes such an entity. But let that pass for the moment.
Article 138a also refers to,expressing the political will of the citizens of the Union".That sounds fine—even admirable--at first glance; but it is in fact a weasel phrase. The political will of the citizens of a nation state is expressed by their own political parties. To the extent that their political will —that is, the political will of the people of any individual nation—differs from that of the citizens of the Union as a whole and the more powers are transferred to the European Parliament, the less the aspirations and needs of the individual nation states will be heeded.
§ Lord Bethell
Perhaps I may speak to my Amendment No. 204, which takes into consideration the rights that will accrue to the European Parliament under the Maastricht agreement to approve or disapprove the President of the Commission and the Commissioners as a body. I propose to argue that this paragraph does not go far enough and that it would have been preferable if a paragraph had been added that would have enabled the European Parliament to advise and consent to the appointment of each individual Commissioner.
It will be useful at this stage to say a few words about various points that have been made in this debate about the institutions. My noble friend Lord Tebbit and one or two other speakers have given the impression that there are such serious problems in the European institutions that the situation is hopeless and beyond redemption. The noble Lord, Lord Bruce, made this point particularly strongly as regards the European Parliament. However, my noble friend Lady Hooper explained that a lot has changed. since the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, left the European Parliament in 1979. For one thing, Members are now directly elected rather than appointed by their party leaders.
I think that it would be a mistake to dismiss the European Parliament now after only a few years of its existence, and not to take into account some of its achievements and some of its possibilities once the Maastricht agreement has been approved. I should mention in particular the role of the European Parliament in getting right the proposed directive on financial services, which will be to the great benefit of the City of London and other British financial institutions; the directive that allows our professional people to work in other EC member states, especially doctors and others in the medical profession; the work of the European Parliament in the discovery of fraud in the European budget; and the work of the European Parliament's budgetary committee on this question. I refer also to our work to reduce the cost of European air travel and to highlight the problems of human rights in third countries. I believe that the European Parliament will be given greater power over budgetary matters as the proportion of the budget that goes on compulsory agricultural expenditure is reduced over the years, as I very much hope it will be.
However, the main purpose of the Parliament (which I believe should not be dismissed and done 319 away with as some noble Lords may wish, but strengthened), must be, as indicated under the treaty, to scrutinise and supervise the Commission in Brussels. Its main task is not to tackle the Council of Ministers. It has its role. We are dealing with government by separation of powers, which is perhaps something that is not familiar to a number of British people, but which is very familiar to Americans and citizens of other countries which have a system of separation of powers.
Under that system it is the duty of the elected Parliament, in particular, to control the budget; to watch out for misdemeanours in expenditure; and to control appointments. I should like to see the European Parliament, if not under the Maastricht agreement because it will be impossible to amend it at this stage, but in a future agreement given those powers.
Lord Bruce of Donington
I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Before he leaves that point, especially on the European budget, is he telling the Committee, particularly after having read, as he must undoubtedly have read, or heard, the debates on the budget in the European Parliament, that the European Parliament in fact supervised or affected in any way the draft budget for 1993?
§ Lord Bethell
Of course it did. Every item in the budget was voted on in the budgetary committee, which I dare say the noble Lord has not attended very much, and in plenary session. It is much easier for a Member of the European Parliament to influence the EC budget than it would be for a Member of another place to influence the UK Budget, which in practice is determined solely by the Government. Any Member of another place who tries to amend the British Budget will receive short shrift when it comes to any vote.
§ Lord Bethell
That is one case, but in the European Parliament it happens on hundreds of occasions every year. The aim of the Maastricht agreement, and others that may follow it, should be to do away with the democratic deficit, and to tackle the problems that have been highlighted by noble Lords in a negative way, by giving the European Parliament the tools that it needs to do its job. It is a step in the right direction to allow the President of the Commission, who will be appointed towards the end of next year, and his colleagues to be approved or disapproved as a body. I hope that the new European Parliament to be elected in June 1994 will cast its votes, not capriciously but on the basis of a careful examination of the new President, involving hearings at which the nominated new President will be required to give evidence and answer questions asked by newly elected MEPs.
It would have been preferable had that power been given to tackle not just the appointment of the 320 President and, so to speak, the "job lot" of Commissioners but the appointment of individual Commissioners and other senior members of the institutions such as members of the European Court of Justice. The European Parliament is not a rival of this place or another place. It works in parallel with them and serves to strengthen democracy in an area where there are certain lacunae which need to be redressed.
§ Lord Holme of Cheltenham
I express the support of these Benches for Amendment No. 204 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Bethell. It is a constructive amendment. It deals directly with the problem of the democratic deficit. Like the noble Lord, we, too, would go further and make the appointment of individual Commissioners subject to the scrutiny and approval of the European Parliament.
It is refreshing to find in a wilderness of negativism an amendment which is positive and aims to do something constructive about bridging and reducing the democratic deficit. The noble Lord has our support. I hope that when the Minister replies she will address this amendment in particular, which is oddly grouped with amendments of a different intent.
§ 10 p.m.
§ Lord Pearson of Rannoch
I wish to put a point to my noble friend Lord Bethell, who speaks as a Member of the European Parliament. It is, therefore, perhaps understandable that he wishes to put a favourable gloss on its activity. From those of us who sit on your Lordships' Select Committee I must say to my noble friend, by their fruits shall ye know them.
Perhaps I may press my noble friend on the aspect of fraud in the Community. When my right honourable friend Sir Leon Brittan came to see us the other day he had to admit that among them the institutions of the Community could not say to the nearest£5,000 million how much is stolen from the Community budget each year. My noble friend has the European Parliament embarking on these wonderful new activities. What hope can he give us that when we discuss these matters again in 1996 or 1997 he will be able to put a figure on fraud in the Community? The Committee has received at least two well-informed reports on the matter. They conclude that the political will to address the problem does not exist.
§ Lord Bethell
I thoroughly agree with my noble friend that the amount of fraud which takes place in the European institutions is abominable, that it needs to be most carefully addressed and that all Parliaments—national and European—need to look at the matter with the closest possible attention.
I agree that the matter has not been properly tackled, although a number of national parliaments are paying attention to fraud in the European Community. If my noble friend looks in particular at the work of John Tomlinson, MEP, and of various others he will see that considerable scrutiny has been turned on to the question of fraud in the European Community by the EC Budgetary Committee and that a number of remedial measures have been taken.
I agree that there is a lot more to be done. One must in some member states change the habits of a lifetime—of many lifetimes. I believe that the European Parliament should be strengthened in order to do that job. Perhaps that is where I part company with my noble friend; he believes that the European Parliament should be swept away, whereas I believe that it should be strengthened in order to carry out its work.
§ Baroness Elles
I thank my noble friend for having given way. Does he agree with me that the EC Budgetary Control Committee was the first to produce reports on fraud in the Community and that it is the fault of the member states that fraud is not discovered? The member state must repay the money to the Community and therefore no member state is encouraged to discover fraud and to repay the sums fraudulently taken from the Community budget.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
I think that we ought to give this side of the Committee a chance. The noble Lord, Lord Bethell, has perhaps confirmed the fear of many of us that this is a centralising treaty and takes at least a step—perhaps a big step, perhaps a small step—towards a federal or unitary state. The noble Lord said that he believed that the European Parliament should supervise not the Council but the Commission. Therefore, the assumption is that the administration of Europe is by the Commission. That is the assumption. The noble Lord does not wish to supervise the Council of Ministers; he wishes to supervise the Commission.
Of course, some of us listen to what Members of the European Parliament say. As my noble friend pointed out earlier, many Members of the European Parliament believe that the European Commission will be the government, and, indeed, is now the government, of Europe. That is what people like myself do not and will not countenance under any circumstances. Therefore, we should be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, for making it absolutely clear what the European Parliament is about and what this Bill is about.
322 There is no doubt that the Bill and the Maastricht Treaty give additional powers to the institutions of Europe. We have heard about some of those this evening. As the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, told us, there is the power to vet and veto commissioners. The Commission wants even more power to vet and veto commissioners. Those commissioners are appointed by national governments. Therefore, the treaty gives one of the institutions power to negate what national governments have done.
That is an interference with the sovereignty of those governments, whether we like it or not. It sounds innocuous but, in real terms, it is a serious interference with the right of a government to appoint, as their commissioners, the commissioners which they want, unimpeded by anybody else.
§ Lord Clinton-Davis
Perhaps my noble friend will give way. My noble friend is aware that the European Parliament has now, and has for many years, had the theoretical right to dismiss the entirety of the Commission. Does he regard that as a negation of the sovereign powers of member states? It is true that that right has never been exercised, but it has existed for many years.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
My noble friend will know that I believe that everything about Europe negates our sovereign powers. However, that power which the European Parliament has is a power which was given to it and which it has had for a very long time. I am seeking to prevent the institutions having further powers because I do not agree that they should have those powers at all.
Then there is the power to appoint an ombudsman. That may be aping our own Parliament but, nevertheless, that is an additional power, as is the power to initiate legislation, which had not existed previously. We must not concentrate on the European Parliament. Having said that, the European Parliament costs £390 million per year compared with £120 million for the House of Commons arid the House of Lords. In that case perhaps we should take some notice of it because of its high costs. Nevertheless, other institutions have additional powers and we shall discuss them in depth later. For example, the Commission will have the power to recommend to the court fines on member states that it believes are defaulting on their duties. The court will have the power to fine nation states if they are in default of court orders. I do not know how on earth those fines will be enforced, but that will make for an interesting discussion later.
Many noble Lords have urged us to deal quickly with the treaty. The noble Lord, Lord Rippon, is nodding his head. I can well understand that he wants things to go through speedily. However, with his experience of treaties and, indeed, of negotiations, should have thought that he would know full well that deep proposals such as those proposed which involve giving powers to other institutions need close study. I hope that he will forgive me, and others like me, for not taking as read assurances given to me by people who have previously given assurances that have not in actual fact proved to be true.
323 I hope that Members of the Committee will take seriously our desire to examine the Bill thoroughly. We are doing so in a civilised manner. We very much resent being told that we ought not to discuss it. We also very much resent being heckled and made fun of by certain Members of the Committee.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
Yes, I think it is fair that I say so. We are trying to do a job for Parliament and for the people of the country. We are trying to ensure that legislation does not pass through this place without proper scrutiny. That is our job. If necessary, we shall do so with review and, indeed, with amendment. I hope that our aims are taken seriously. I also hope that all noble Lords will agree that the issues discussed today are both relevant and serious. They deserve to be discussed and to receive a proper reply.
§ The Earl of Onslow
Before the noble Lord sits down, I should say that I believe it is part of our tradition that we are heckled. That is the point of a parliamentary democracy; we should not mind that.
§ Lord Clinton-Davis
I think that it is, perhaps, appropriate for me to intervene at this stage to express the Opposition's point of view about the large number of amendments under consideration, but in particular about the areas upon which the Committee has concentrated this evening. We have concentrated largely on the powers of the European Parliament and touched also on the powers of the Commission. I shall allude to those matters, among others.
I should say at the beginning of my remarks that in no way did my intervention seek to undermine my noble friend in any personal terms. He has every right—indeed, he has a duty—to ensure that his point of view, and that of others who think like him, is adequately expressed in such debates. Our debates are most important. No one should underestimate their importance.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
I can assure my noble friend that a proper intervention is perfectly in order; indeed, 1 like them. I always give way and, I hope, answer them. However, the sedentary explosions, and so on, that come from a certain quarter are somewhat off-putting. Perhaps a little restraint on the part of certain noble Lords might not go amiss.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Lord Clinton-Davis
Of course, sedentary explosions do occur from time to time. There have been complaints about a lack of accountability on the part of the institutions; about the fact that they have to undertake tasks that are too onerous; and about the fact that such tasks will increase in the future. There are also complaints about fraud and their failure to deal with it, although as the noble Baroness, Lady 324 Elles, said in her intervention, the overwhelming amount of fraud arises in member states and is not properly dealt with by them.
I recall an occasion when the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, and the rest of the Commission sought to persuade the member states to enable the Commission to have powers to deal more adequately with fraud. Those powers were denied. It ill behoves those who played a part in denying the Commission those powers to complain bitterly now that the Commission has failed in its activities, and likewise the Parliament. However, I am not sure that the Parliament is able to exercise very much influence in those affairs. Perhaps it ought to exercise greater influence in dealing with some of the excesses that occur. I know that the Parliament is concerned about those matters. It does not exactly redound to the benefit of the Parliament if wild excesses of expenditure occur. However, such excesses occur in other respects and in other fields too.
If one expects these institutions to do their work, they must be properly resourced. I do not believe they are properly resourced at the moment. The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, referred to young people coming into these institutions and seeking to assert their own powers because they have a vested interest in the Commission—the noble Lord was in particular adverting to the Commission—as it will prolong their careers. The noble Lord suggested that for those people there was an advantage in the Commission being a centralised, supranational institution which would assume larger and larger powers to itself.
I say with great respect that in the four years during which I had the honour to be a commissioner I did not perceive that happening at all. It is a travesty of the truth to suggest that people who are prepared to work inside the Commission do so for such base reasons. The work is no longer regarded as particularly well paid. People have to move to another country to carry out their duties. One of the problems is that the very philosophy enunciated by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, has undermined the influence of Britain in the institutions. Over the years, people like the noble Lord and others have put people off serving in the Commission. For that reason there is today an insufficiency of people in the higher grade posts in the Commission emanating from this country. We should enthuse people with the idea of working for the Commission and doing a valuable job.
Whatever the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, may say, the Commission has a valuable role to fulfil and will continue to do so. That is not to say that it always does a superb job. I do not think governments always do superb jobs. I recall the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, and his noble friend Lady Thatcher were responsible for the poll tax. That was not exactly a case of doing a superb job as the present Government recognised by getting rid of it.
I turn to the Parliament itself. First of all, it is a relatively new institution. It has only recently become an elected assembly. It is an institution which has played a more notable part than even the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, was able to represent to this Chamber as he omitted to say that the influence of the Parliament in bringing actions against the Council of Ministers 325 has led to a number of landmark decisions which themselves have helped to evolve policy in the field of transport and of the environment in a most significant way. I remember how pleased the noble Lord was about the decision taken in the case brought by the Parliament against the transport Ministers in the Council for failing to pursue a common transport policy. I remember how pleased he was—I believe with hindsight he was entitled to be pleased—about the Nouvelles Frontières case which assisted aviation policy. Those were landmark decisions, many of which arose because of the supervision exercised by the European Parliament over important areas of policy. I have mentioned two or three.
Somebody, I believe that it was my noble friend Lord Bruce of Donington, said that the Parliament was worth nothing and had no powers. He does not want to give it powers, but he makes the complaint that it has no powers. It has important budgetary powers. It is part of the budgetary authority of the Community. I well remember living under acute difficulties when the Parliament and the Council were unable to agree the budget. The Commission lived on what were called provisional twelfths, living from hand to mouth. Some of us began to worry whether we would be paid, but I am glad to say that that did not arise. The fact is that it is not a sham Parliament. It is not powerless to do anything. However, its present powers are not adequate to deal with the issue of the democratic deficit which unquestionably arises.
For that reason I believe that what is happening in relation to the Maastricht Treaty, in giving it certain important powers, is not going as far as we should. I believe that the European Parliament should have a power of veto, albeit very limited or in very constrained circumstances, under the negative assent procedure. The five co-decision powers which it enjoys will enable it to be more purposive in influencing the Council of Ministers.
I think that it was my noble friend Lord Stoddart who asked what the European Parliament does to supervise the Council of Ministers. One of the great difficulties about the Council of Ministers is that largely it carries out its duties rather furtively and in secret. I have heard Ministers—not simply British Ministers—say to the public in their countries through the media that what they had had to say in the Council was such-and-such, which was the complete reverse of anything that I had heard them say in the Council. I am sure that that was the experience of others. Consequently, we need to open that up.
The European Parliament is under some difficulties in that regard since it does not have any real role at present in the determinations which are undertaken by the Council of Ministers.
§ Lord Tebbit
I am grateful to the noble Lord for allowing me to intervene. It is an interesting proposition which has been put forward that the proceedings of the Council of Ministers should be open to the public. Would the noble Lord advocate that the proceedings of the Commission should also be open to the public? After all, that is where the decisions are really made, is it not?
§ Lord Clinton-Davis
Yes, I believe that when the Cabinet in this country decides that it will undertake its deliberations in public similar bodies might do likewise. I believe that some of the discussions inside the Commission ought to be more open. The whole burden of Commission policy over the years has been to open up discussion. I speak as a former Commissioner, not as somebody who holds that office at present.
I shall give way to my noble friend in a moment.
§ Lord Clinton-Davis
I shall give way to my noble friend in a moment. I was responsible for one of the directives in the environment field dealing with greater transparency—the freedom of environmental information directive. I am very proud of that. I believe that it would be better if all the institutions in the Commission, and a wider number of institutions outside the Commission, were more transparent in their activities. I did not notice at the time that the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, was a fervent supporter of greater transparency. I give way to my noble friend.
Lord Bruce of Donington
I am most grateful to my noble friend. Will he confirm that about two minutes ago he confirmed the position of the Commission as equivalent to the Cabinet? Is that not what we have been saying?
§ Lord Clinton-Davis
I did no such thing. The Commission is not like the Cabinet. It operates in a totally different way. However, I would be very happy to see the Cabinet opened up to greater transparency. Why not? But, of course, one has to be realistic about the fact that ideas are discussed within an organisation such as the Cabinet or the Commission, which involve a degree of confidentiality. However, the Commission always has the reputation of being the only vessel in the world which leaks from the top.
I turn to another power. When I was subjected to those interventions I was adverting to the powers of the European Parliament. I believe it right that it should have the new powers connected with the appointment of the Commission and, indeed, to deal. with the Commission's programme too. I do not go quite so far as the noble Lord, Lord Bethel'. I do not wish to enlarge upon the argument—it is a separate and difficult argument—about whether the Commission should become totally beholden to the Parliament. That is the risk of going down his route. However, I leave that point.
Citizens within the Community have been given a new right to be able to petition the European' Parliament. Noble Lords who argue against the creation of an ombudsman dealing with maladministration cannot argue that maladministration is rife and at one and the same time deny the European Parliament the right to be able to deal with that problem in a more effective way. I refer in particular to the rights of citizens to be able to go to an ombudsman. Yes, of course that right will take 327 additional resources, but it adds to the influence of citizenry within the Community; and that needs to be enhanced.
The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, raised the point about political parties and Article 138a. I do not know the reasoning underlying that point. I shall listen with considerable interest to the noble Baroness when she replies to the debate. I am not entirely sure that I know what it all means. However, the noble Baroness is in a more privileged position than I am to deal with that issue.
However, I wish to deal with a point made by the noble Lord about the surge of legislation. Perhaps legislation has been at its most rife in dealing with the implementation of the single market and its legislative powers. It is an issue with which his Government were most concerned. There were something like 282 different legislative proposals. Of course that imposed a substantial burden upon the Commission. However, apart from that, I believe that the noble Lord grossly exaggerates the situation with regard to the burden of legislation through Brussels. What adds to the burdens is that member states—as they are perfectly entitled to do—sometimes confuse that legislation. The process of amendment by the member states in the COREPER and in the Council is formidable. The European Parliament also amends legislation.
I wish to deal with one area of accountability which has not been referred to in the debate. I believe that the European Parliament at present has a relationship—it is more effective than is conceded by opponents who have expressed a view in the Chamber today—with the Commission which provides it with very effective supervision. I refer to the personal relationship between the commissioner and the committees with which he or she deals. That is extremely important. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, that I went to immense trouble to liaise effectively with those who were responsible for my areas of policy inside the European Parliament. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, will concede that. Every commissioner does so. About 70 per cent. of the amendments that have been adopted by the Parliament under Article 100a have been adopted by the Commission. That has facilitated the legislative process so far as concerns the internal market and legislation which is associated with the internal market.
I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, was right. Of course, he conceded that there was room for improvement in the way in which the Parliament carries out its duties. There is room for improvement in many respects and in many parliaments. But we ought to give that Parliament, which has been in existence for such a short time, the benefit of the doubt. Overall, it is doing a very good job.
I speak again from my own personal experience, I believe that the Commission did not and has never sought to become this great supranational government about which some Members of the Committee speak so capriciously and idly. If those institutions are to do a better job in the future, they need to be more open, able to be given powers to deal with the 328 democratic deficit, which is real. There is a great need to be able to communicate more effectively with the people of the Community about the job that the different institutions do. I believe that is what the Euro-sceptics—if I may deem them such—seek to deny.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ Baroness Chalker of Wallasey
At this late hour, I shall do my best to wind up and answer questions as speedily as possible, because I believe some Members of the Committee wish to move on to a further amendment.
This set of amendments caused me to have great sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, when he moved Amendment No. 11, with the complexity of cross-referencing over 60 amendments before us. Let me try to concentrate on the questions that have been asked about the amendments and then respond to Amendment No. 11 which has been moved.
The noble Lord, Lord Bruce, talked about the preliminary draft budget for 1994. He and I would both like to have it in our possession already, but do not. The Commission only adopted it in late April. I point out that it is a preliminary draft budget. The press notice issued outlined just global figures; but following the adoption of the preliminary draft budget, the Commission is now preparing a line by line documentation for each of the institutions. That will be presented to the Council and to the European Parliament in mid to late June. When that process is complete—and the documentation is not yet available for all the institutions—it will be transmitted straight to the Council and deposited in the Library of the House in the usual way. I shall try to give the noble Lord warning by telephone that it is there, so that he is first—or at the front of the queue, anyway.
The noble Lord talked eloquently about the extra load on the institutions. I must say that I understand why he is anxious because of the complexity of many of the matters with which we are dealing. But I do not believe that there will be floods of new legal actions as a result of the Maastricht Treaty. Let me not be so bold as to predict future flows of litigation which obviously depend upon a large number of imponderables. On the other hand, I should like to draw the Committee's attention to one or two relevant factors which point in the other direction from that predicted by the noble Lord, Lord Bruce.
Large parts of the Maastricht Treaty are outside the jurisdiction of the court, particularly Titles I, V and VI. Secondly, there is an amendment to Article 165 of the Treaty of Rome, which will allow the court to sit in chambers, instead of in a plenary, as is the normal rule. By these means, the same number of judges can deal with far more cases.
Thirdly, the treaty also contains an amendment to Article 168a which will make it easier for more of the ECJ's workload to be taken off its shoulders by the court of first instance. That, I believe, will also make the despatch of business a good deal easier. I well remember the doubts expressed about the court of first instance, but I for one am glad that we had that courage back in 1986, as a result of the negotiation by 329 my noble friend Lady Thatcher, because the court of first instance has lightened the load of the European Court of Justice in a most effective way. That is why I believe that the prediction that the court will not be able to cope is probably going to be rather wide of the mark. But I cannot predict it any more than the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, can. I can only tell him the result of our experience so far.
Perhaps I may also say to the noble Lord that when he asks whether the treaty gives us the whole picture, I begin to feel a little concerned. I have read the treaty backwards and forwards over years—not just weeks. It tells us a great deal more, and does so in the amalgamated form that the noble Lord paid tribute to. It is a very good form. I also point out that the only reason that the British Government did not go to the expense of printing a consolidated form was that one already existed. (It was printed on 31st August last year). It would have been an unnecessary cost to public expenditure. That is not something that I would authorise, and I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, would do so if he had to take the decision.
The noble Lord also talked in fairly colourful terms about the European Parliament. We had a number of mini-debates going on within the moving of the amendments. I am very glad that it did not result in swords at dawn between my noble friend Lord Bethell and the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington.
Perhaps I may say something about one of the other main points made by the noble Lord, Lord Bruce. He, in a sense, sought to ridicule the complexity of the conciliation procedure. He talked about the consultation, the co-operation, the co-decision procedures, and so on. I have no hesitation in saying that the procedures are complex. But I would say to the noble Lord that I believe maintaining the institutional balance between the Commission, which is appointed, the council of national Ministers and the Parliament must have such a complex effect. But the result of all of that, as is outlined when one looks at the diagram of the negative assent procedure under Articles 189b and 189c, is clear: there has been a growing influence of the European Parliament on the process of draft legislation. The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, mentioned that in his final remarks. It is that the elected Members of the European Parliament, however much some people may not agree with the process of election—and even today there are some who still wish that Members of the European Parliament were still appointed—have a real influence.
I say above all to the Committee that it is quite clear that the last word remains with the Council of Ministers, and it always must. If there were any danger that that were not to be the case, then I for one —as well as (I know) my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and all members of the Cabinet—would simply not be going down the path that we are. We go down the path of the Maastricht Treaty because that is what we have negotiated.
To stay with this debate and try to answer the many questions will not be easy. But I believe that my noble friend Lord Plumb, a former president, and a very outstanding president, of the European Parliament, and my noble friend Lady Hooper were both right 330 when they underlined how much has changed since 1979—or indeed, may I say from my own experience, since 1986, when I was privileged to answer questions in the European Parliament every month during the six months of our presidency. Each year, as our own development together as European nations grows, that Parliament is bound to begin to have new influences. But what is above all important is that it is the Council of Ministers which takes the decisions. Therefore, when my noble friends make interventions upon the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, from their experience in the European Parliament, as does my noble friend Lady Elles, who is also a former Member of the European Parliament, they do so with real knowledge of a Parliament which is developing, just as our relationships in the European Community are developing—and rightly so.
I come to the question posed to me by my noble friend Lord Onslow. He asked me to explain very clearly what "union" means. I hope my noble friend will forgive me but I have just put my papers on that matter out of order. I shall certainly come to it later.
I turn to the comments made by my noble friend Lord Tebbit about the European political parties. It might surprise him to hear me say that I understand the concern that he voiced. That is one of the reasons why we fought so hard for the type of Maastricht Treaty that we have obtained. When we come at a later stage to debate the social protocol and when we discuss with my noble friend Lord Caithness the European monetary union opt-out, I am sure he will see how we sought to make sure that there is not a relentless pressure on—to use his words—the salami upon the slicer. Certainly I understand that he has not only an antipathy towards what is proceeding in Europe but an anxiety about it. But unless we are there explaining and arguing our corner, we will not make the progress that he wishes to have made.
My noble friend asked me specifically about Article 138a. It is a declaratory article. There is no doubt about that. It recognises an existing practice within the European Parliament. In that Parliament the MEPs sit according to their political allegiances rather than their nationalities. But there is no suggestion nor provision for positive Community action to promote the formation of political parties at a European level. Yes, there is liaison; yes, people work together. But they do that whether or not the process is formalised. It recognises the fact that this is the way that those who have been elected to the parliament choose to work together.
My noble friend went on to ask, if this is the dotting of the "i"s and the crossing of the "t"s, as my noble friend Lord Cockfield said, what would it lead to. It cannot lead to anything except that to which we permit it to lead. I believe that that is the critical point. What we do in changing our path in Europe must be something in which we are totally involved if in fact that path is to be decided in the way we want. That is why my right honourable friend the Prime Minister went to the other place before he went to Maastricht and gained overwhelming support for his negotiating mandate. That is why when he came back he put to the 331 other place the results of Maastricht and your Lordships had a debate in this House; and on both occasions he gained overwhelming support.
It would be easy to go down a number of the paths that noble Lords have—
§ Lord Tebbit
Perhaps my noble friend will give way. I asked her to explain to the Committee not only the effect that she saw the article having—she said that it has no effect—but also whether the treaty would be any the less valid in any way at all if it were not there. I asked her if therefore she would explain why it is there. If it is otiose, why was it not taken out? Otherwise, we must assume that it is a peg for the next treaty in 1996.
§ Baroness Chalker of Wallasey
I believe that my noble friend sees shadow where there is none. It was put there because Members of the European Community believed that it was right to recognise existing practice within the European Parliament. It is not sinister in the way that my noble friend describes. I do not believe that, because it does not make any provision for positive action, it has the implications that he suggests. But if we were to suggest taking it out, we would certainly be going against the wishes of others. The Government saw no reason why it should be taken out. That is why I would not wish to suggest that we should do it now.
My noble friend Lord Tebbit asked about the workload of the Commission. It is great, but with the conclusion of the single market programme and the application of the principle of subsidiarity it is falling off. I have no reason to think that commissioners are not in control of their bureaucracy, as suggested by my noble friend. It is for individual Ministers to ensure that bureaucracy works in accordance with the wishes of the Council. That is why in my council we repeatedly ask, as I did when I was in the Council of Ministers of Transport of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, for progress reports on the decisions of previous council meetings. That is the way in which Ministers in the Council of Ministers should act. The decisions rest with elected Ministers and much of the preparatory work is undertaken by council working groups briefed by Ministers in government and by members of European parliamentary committees. Therefore, the workload does not fall totally upon the Commission. Ministers at home and the European parliamentary committees have had plenty of opportunity to contribute to that workload.
The noble Lord, Lord Monson, wanted me to go into some detail about the European People's Party. I do not think that this is the place to do so, if the noble Lord will forgive me. However, we should be clear that the European identity and the European awareness is a reality among many ordinary people, not only in legal terms but when they are working in European companies and sometimes have to work in one country and then another when the internal market is working fairly well. That awareness is naturally feeding through into the thinking of members of political parties.
At one time Chancellor Kohl used to speak of a 332 united states of Europe, as some of his party still do, but Chancellor Kohl has realised his error. The existence of European political parties does not mean that we are going down the path of a united states of Europe.
It is impossible to answer all the questions that have been posed tonight, but the action on fraud is not one that should be passed over. The increased powers in the Bill to take action on fraud and the increased powers for the Court of Auditors are the right way to proceed. I can confirm the comments made by my noble friend Baroness Elles about the problems of fraud, which occur in many of the member countries. That is why it is right that there should be a power whereby countries that do not put their house in order can be taken before the European Court of Justice. Those are steps in the right direction to deal with fraud. Sadly, there is a long way to go in that respect, and that is something that the Bill and the Maastricht Treaty enable us to do.
My noble friend Lord Bethell asked about the appointment of the Commission. We all understand why he is wedded to the idea that the European Parliament should be consulted to a greater degree. The Commission is already subject to greater democracy. The member states retain the right to nominate their own commissioners and they will continue to do so. They can appoint the president and the Commission. This is not the right time to go further down the path advocated by my noble friend Lord Bethell in Amendment No. 204, but it is right that we should exercise the powers in the treaty and exercise them fully.
The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, talked about the centralising treaty and where power lies. The real power continues to lie with the Council, and so it always must. It lies with the national parliaments. Our Parliament has one of the best standards of scrutiny in the European Community. I sincerely hope that other national parliaments will emulate our rules on scrutiny.
The hour is late. I have sought to answer the main questions raised. Amendment No. 11, in a technical sense, would introduce a legal anomaly. Our whole debate has been in relation to the powers of the Parliament, the Commission and the Council. This Committee needs assurance that the Council remains the supreme decision-making body; that the Commission is under the control of the Council; and that the Parliament does not gain unreasonably in its powers, because that is the fear that is being expressed.
I have been through the 60 amendments with some care. While I can understand why the amendment was moved by the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, I do not believe that it would help us in our work to have it agreed tonight. The practices which have already developed in the Community and which are included in the treaty are sensible ones. If we were to add the words suggested in Amendment No. 1 I we would have the provisions of Title I included a second time. They are already included within the scope of the Bill to the extent that they relate to the amendments to the Community treaties in Titles II, III and IV. For instance, the common provision refers in places to the 333 activities of the Community. Another article describes how the Parliament, the Council, the Commission and the Court of Justice will exercise the powers.
All in all, I believe that we are better without the amendment. It does not add to the scope. We have had a useful debate, but the Council must remain in control, and the Bill will not have it any other way.
§ The Earl of Onslow
Will my noble friend answer my union question? She said that she would and she has not. It is most important.
§ Baroness Chalker of Wallasey
I apologise to my noble friend. I was so busy answering the other questions that I misplaced the piece of paper on which I wrote carefully the words that were used.
The point that I sought to make was to give my noble friend a clear and unequivocal statement. Let me give it to him as it is legally agreed. (I thank my noble friend for finding the right piece of paper.) The European Union is the framework within which co-operation takes place, either within the European Community—the rules are set out in the Treaty of Rome and are not changed by the Maastricht Treaty —or under the specific rules laid down for co-operation on justice and home affairs or on the common foreign and security policy. International agreements will continue to be concluded by the Community where they fall within Community competence but by the member states where they fall under the other two areas of co-operation. The union has no international legal personality.
That is the definition. I apologise to my noble friend. I did not intend to leave him out. The piece of paper was misplaced, and I thank my noble friend Lord Ullswater for finding it.
Lord Bruce of Donington
I sincerely trust that the Committee will not think it presumptuous if I venture to thank those Members who participated in the discussions on this group of amendments. From my point of view the exchanges have been most agreeable.
There were times when I harked back to shortly after 1979 when the new government came in and there was a different occupant on the Woolsack. For one moment I was transported back to those halcyon days when the off-the-cuff remarks from the Woolsack to the Bishops' Bench could be overheard. By looking to my left today, to the Privy Council Bench on the government side, I was reassured to see that the old hand was still in good order.
The debate has been a most interesting and in many ways penetrating one. I do not wish to comment very much further at this hour; but I feel bound to reply to the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, and the noble Lord, Lord Bethell. Both of them have reminded me that times have moved on in the European Parliament since I had an honour to be a delegate from this House to that illustrious organisation. I hasten to assure the noble Baroness and noble Lord that I have followed very carefully everything that has happened in the European Parliament and its committees since that time. I still retain very valued friends in Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg who venture to keep me up to date from time to time, to the point where 334 possibly on occasion I can interpolate some information that otherwise may not be available to your Lordships' House.
Some observations were made in conclusion on the incidence of fraud. At a later stage in the proceedings when we come to consider the question of internal finance perhaps the Committee will forgive me for adding some further and better particulars (to deal with the lawyers' side of it) on this important matter. It will be within the recollection of the Select Committee of which I have the honour to be a Member that when we went to the Commission about the incidence of fraud in the Community the initial reaction was almost a denial of its existence. Therefore, I am afraid that the idea that the Commission itself instigated and became alarmed about fraud before this House did is hardly well placed. Still, they are matters that can be dealt with at a later stage.
In the meantime, I renew my thanks to those who have participated in the debate. In view of the lateness of the hour and honourable undertakings given and received—undertakings that have been kept—I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendment No. 12 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]
[Amendments Nos. 13 and 14 not moved.]
Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 15:
Page 1, line 9, after ("Titles") insert ("I (except paragraph 3 of Article F)").
The noble Lord said: As the noble Baroness Lady Chalker has reminded us, because the hour is late and a number of other noble Lords will wish to speak to the amendment, I shall be as brief as possible. It is a probing amendment, albeit an extremely important one. Paragraph 3 of Article F states:
The Union shall provide itself with the means necessary to attain its objectives and carry through its policies".
§ What on earth does it mean or signify? The "means" referred to are not in any way limited either in kind or extent. The powers to be granted to the new Union under the paragraph are theoretically completely open-ended. Does it not pave the way for requiring a proportion not only of VAT but of nationally raised income and corporation taxes to be paid over to the new Union so that it can better attain its objectives and carry out its policies? Is it too fanciful to suggest that it may pave the way for a trans-European police force better to enforce the policies of the Union? Others have suggested that the means must include a federal written constitution for the new Union which will impose a single centralised framework in place of the three so-called independent pillars on which the Government rely in propagating the alleged virtues of the Bill. I look forward anxiously to the Government's reply. I beg to move.
§ 11 p.m.
§ Lord Tebbit
When my noble friend replies to the debate will he tell us what limits are placed upon the union in relation to it providing itself -with the means necessary to obtain its objectives? As it is written in 335 the treaty, that seems to be very wide. Perhaps my noble friend can say in what way and where those matters are constrained.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Henley)
I understand the concerns of both the noble Lord, Lord Monson, and my noble friend Lord Tebbit that Article F.3 may appear to give the union a blank cheque. The noble Lord and my noble friend will be reassured to learn that it does not. I hope that I can explain to my noble friend that there are certainly limits.
Article F.3, which replicates presidency conclusions endorsed by my noble friend Lady Thatcher at the Rome European Council in December 1990, does not commit the United Kingdom to agreeing particular Community activities or increased resources for the Community to fund its activities. As the Committee will know, Titles II, III and IV amend the existing three Community treaties. These amendments impact on the framework for the areas of Community activity that may take place under the treaties and be funded from the Community budget. But there are a number of important limitations when it is decided that Community action is appropriate.
The new Article 201a provides that the Commission shall not make a proposal with appreciable budgetary implications unless it can give an assurance that that measure can be financed from within the limit of the Community's own resources. This was an important change as a result of one of our own initiatives. Also important are Article 199, which provides for a balanced budget, and Article 201, which provides that amendments to the system of own resources requires the Council to act by unanimity and for any changes to be ratified by member states in accordance with their own constitutional requirements. For the UK that would mean this Parliament's agreement to an amendment of the European Communities Act 1972. The level of own resources that was agreed for the period up to 1999 was that agreed at the Edinburgh European Council. That is an upper ceiling on spending and certainly not an entitlement—and certainly not, as I stressed earlier, a blank cheque to the Community to spend United Kingdom taxpayers' money.
336 I hope that that is sufficient to clarify the position for my noble friend. I hope that it is also sufficient to clarify the position for the noble Lord, Lord Monson. I trust that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
§ Lord Tebbit
I am grateful to my noble friend. I construe from what he is saying that he is assuming that the word "means" can be translated into financial resources. Can he assure the Committee that "means" in this context means only financial resources and no other thing?
§ Lord Henley
I would rather not go quite as far as that. The French word was "moyens". I accept the correction of my pronunciation from my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham. To define it quite simply as purely financial resources, as my noble friend would wish us to do, might limit it more than I would care to go at the moment. It is something I would prefer to come back to, if my noble friend will bear with me, and explain to him later on. At the Dispatch Box at the moment I would rather not agree, in the straightforward manner that my noble friend would wish us, to the definition that he puts forward.
§ Lord Monson
In view of the Minister's reassurance to the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, I am fairly well satisfied. Like the noble Lord I found the Minister's assurances on the financial side fairly reassuring, with his mention of a ceiling on spending and the agreement on no increase in resources. The question of the police force may be a little fanciful, but the Minister did not answer the question of the written constitution, which those more experienced in these matters than myself have raised in various pamphlets.
As the Minister has promised to contact the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, about any implications other than financial which there may be in the paragraph, for the moment I think that the best thing to do is to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Baroness Trumpington
I beg to move that the House be now resumed.
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
House adjourned at six minutes past eleven o'clock.