HL Deb 12 December 1994 vol 559 cc1098-112

3.38 p.m.

The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne)

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister on the European Council at Essen. The Statement is as follows:

"With permission, Madam Speaker, I should like to make a Statement on the European Council at Essen which I attended with my right honourable friends the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Council's conclusions have been placed in the Library of the House.

"The European Council achieved five key British objectives: strong support for the peace initiative in Northern Ireland, including additional funding of £240 million; commitment to an intensified fight against fraud and mismanagement; solid progress on subsidiarity—and it is agreed that next year the Council will complete its review of the existing Community statute book; priority for labour market flexibility and deregulation to make Europe competitive and create jobs; and a strategy to prepare for accession to the Union of the six central and eastern European associate members.

"At the request of the presidency, I briefed the European Council on the peace process in Northern Ireland. There was unanimous agreement to a Commission proposal to provide an extra £240 million over three years to help urban and rural regeneration in Northern Ireland and the border counties of the Republic. I am grateful for the strong support that President Delors has given to Northern Ireland.

"I raised the subject of fraud, waste and mismanagement of the budget following the Court of Auditors report. I said that the European Union would not enjoy popular support unless it took vigorous action against those abuses. I made a number of proposals which were agreed by the Council. Those were as follows. The Council must ensure that reports from the Court of Auditors are rigorously scrutinised and followed up. Each member state must report to ECOFIN on what it is doing to combat fraud in its own country. Agreement should be reached rapidly in Brussels on measures now under discussion. These include a British proposal put forward by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary which would oblige member states to co-operate and act effectively to fight criminal fraud against the EC budget. Finally, the new powers given in the Maastricht Treaty—as a result of British initiatives—to the Court of Auditors, the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council should be used to the full.

"I made clear that the taxpayer's money must not be misused. The fight against fraud, waste and mismanagement will remain high on our agenda. That view was strongly endorsed by the Commission and a number of member states.

"The European Council confirmed again that subsidiarity—the principle of minimum community interference—must be a guiding principle of the European Union's future work, as agreed at Edinburgh. I am encouraged that so far in 1994 there have only been 42 Commission proposals for significant legislation compared with 185 in 1990. But the new Commission must keep up the fight against unnecessary interference.

"Discussion of the economy focused on the need to create jobs. Yet again the policies that we have been following in this country were widely accepted to be right for the European Union. We agreed that Europe must be more competitive. We agreed on the need for more flexible working arrangements, for the reduction of labour costs and for better education and training.

"There was nothing in our discussion to suggest that socialism had triumphed over market liberalism. The reverse is plainly the case.

"The European Council added three new priority transport projects to the list of TransEuropean Networks agreed at Corfu. Four out of the 14 are United Kingdom projects: the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, the West Coast Main Line, the rail route from Cork to Lame and the Holyhead to Felixstowe road link.

"The Essen Council effectively rejected the long-debated proposal for a European Union-wide carbon energy tax. It supported instead the approach which Britain has advocated all along: a flexible framework allowing those member states which wish to introduce a carbon energy tax to do so. We will not wish to do so.

"Enlargement of the European Union has long been a British objective. At the Edinburgh and Copenhagen Councils the decision in principle to open membership to the six countries of central and eastern Europe was taken. At Essen, leaders of the 15 European Union states, including Austria, Finland and Sweden, met their central and eastern European counterparts. Agreement at the Council on a strategy to draw the six associate members closer to the Union was another important step to help prepare for their eventual accession.

"On Bosnia, there was strong support for the UNPROFOR commanders and the work being done by the brave men and women who they lead. They are saving lives and bringing better living conditions to many parts of Bosnia than would otherwise be possible. We agreed that UNPROFOR must be allowed by the Bosnian-Serbs to get on with its job without obstruction and should stay, provided the risks were acceptable. It was our unanimous view that the enforced withdrawal of UNPROFOR could have disastrous consequences—above all, for the people of Bosnia. But we agreed that we needed to plan for all eventualities and to keep in close touch with other troop contributors and interested governments.

"The European Council gave strong backing to the Contact Group's efforts to achieve a negotiated settlement. The immediate need is for a durable ceasefire as a prerequisite to a successful negotiation.

"Finally, over dinner the heads of state and government had an informal discussion about the future development of the European Union, taking account of the need for further enlargement. That was the first such wide-ranging discussion that I can recall, and it was very welcome. I emphasised the Community's achievement in helping to bring 50 years of peace and prosperity to Western Europe. In squabbles over other matters that priceless achievement is often overlooked. I also commented that 40 years ago the founders of the Community had a broad vision of their objectives many years ahead and that those objectives had already been exceeded. Within a few years we shall have about 20 members and some time later perhaps as many as 27. The Union is changing beyond recognition. I said that it was time to rethink the Union's future constructively, and I set out the need for realism in the period ahead. That is essential if the European Union is to regain popular support.

"I do not underestimate the difficult tasks that the Union faces. But I was greatly encouraged by general acceptance of the need for flexibility and substantial changes so that the European Union can successfully meet the challenges ahead".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

3.47 p.m.

Lord Richard

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement made by his right honourable friend the Prime Minister in another place.

On reading the communiqué of the summit, it seemed to me that, on the whole, it was a workmanlike rather than a dramatic one. For example, no major new initiatives were taken and there was no new grand course set for the development of the European Union; indeed, it was more a matter of building upon what had been achieved in the past in the hope that further progress would be made in the future.

At the outset I am bound to say that, on reading the communiqué and then the Prime Minister's Statement (which I received about five minutes before it was repeated in this House), parts of them seem to describe two different meetings. Faced with his own party in the other place, I can well understand that the Prime Minister may feel the necessity, so to speak, to gild one or two of the lilies or dress up some of the more difficult parts of the report.

I turn, first, to the section dealing with jobs and job creation. As regards what the Prime Minister said to the House of Commons and what the report actually says, the two are so diametrically opposed that I must tell the noble Viscount that when I was jotting down a few notes after reading the communique regarding the section dealing with employment—that is, not what the Prime Minister said—I actually wrote down the words: Glad to see that the Government now endorse a more interventionist approach to investment, training and job creation". I urge noble Lords to read the communiqué and not to rely on the one sentence that appears in the Prime Minister's Statement.

In the employment section the communiqué says that it was agreed: The measures should include the following five key areas: Improving employment opportunities … by promoting investment in vocational training. Increasing the employment-intensiveness of growth…more flexible organisation of work … a wage policy which encourages job-creating investment … and … the promotion of initiatives, particularly at regional and local level, that create jobs". It continues: Particular efforts are necessary to help young people … who have virtually no qualifications, by offering them either employment or training … The fight against long-term unemployment must be a major aspect of labour-market policy … Special attention should be paid in the difficult situation of unemployed women and older employees". What the Prime Minister said about all that was: Yet again the policies that we have been following in this country were widely accepted to be right for the European Union". With great respect to the noble Lord the Leader of the House, what the Prime Minister said about that aspect of the communiqué is, frankly, a travesty of what seems to have been agreed. May I say a word about Northern Ireland—

Noble Lords


Lord Richard

My Lords, all I have is the communiqué. There is no point in Ministers shouting at me. I have the communiqué, which I have read, and I have what the Prime Minister said about it. All I am saying to the House and to Ministers, and particularly a Minister who may have been present, is that the two do not match up.

I hope I may say a word about Northern Ireland. The fact that the Community is to produce £240 million for Northern Ireland is extraordinarily welcome. It is interesting to note, too, that a good bit of intervention is called for if the £240 million is to be forthcoming. It is to provide support, in the areas of urban and rural regeneration, employment, cross-border development, social inclusion and investment promotion". Is that money to be genuinely additional; in other words, do the Government have to put up their £240 million before the Community produces its £240 million? I am delighted to see the nods on the Government Front Bench. The only trouble is the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal is nodding his head up and down and the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, is nodding her head from left to right. It happens in all governments but no doubt before the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal gets up, perhaps someone can tell him whether the Government have to put up £240 million of their own money in order to get the £240 million from Brussels. If they have to match the Brussels contribution, can we have an assurance from the Government that they will match it? I pause for nods but there are none forthcoming. How wise!

I hope I may say one or two words about eastern Europe. I think the steps that have been taken at the summit were useful steps towards preparing for further enlargement. It is clear that no serious negotiations will take place with anyone until after 1996. I suppose, frankly, that that is right. The communiqué refers to the three Baltic states and to Slovenia. It seems that the objective is to bring those four also into the negotiating process for enlargement. Does that mean that we are now contemplating, and seriously envisaging, the possibility of an extra 10 members of the European Union, the six East Europeans plus the three Baltics and Slovenia, by a date towards the end of this century, and if so, what do the Government think that will do to the Maastricht timetable for a common European currency and for greater integration in Europe?

I now wish to say a word about Bosnia. It is an unhappy story in which confusion of aims has produced confusion of policies. I think there is very much a feeling—it does emerge from this special communiqué on Bosnia—that things are slipping in a way which makes them increasingly uncontrollable. I welcome the declaration and agree that UNPROFOR should remain so long as it is doing a helpful job. I recognise indeed that our troops there are becoming increasingly vulnerable. Can we be assured that economic and political pressure on the Serbs, both in Serbia and in Bosnia, will be kept up, and that there is now unanimity in the European Council on the next steps to be taken?

I said that much had been left over until after 1996. Do the Government recognise that this will no longer be a conference solely about the updating of Maastricht or the implementation of what was then agreed? It is beginning to assume a much greater importance with the increased possibilities of further enlargement by the end of the century. I think we have to get the institutional framework right if that enlargement is to succeed. I hope the Government are giving that some very serious thought indeed.

Finally, I wish to say one word about the president of the Commission, M. Delors. The communiqué was generous in what it had to say about his 10 years as president of the Commission. I think it was somewhat ungracious—if I may say so—of the Prime Minister not even to mention it in the course of his Statement. Whatever one thinks about the policies of M. Delors, he has pursued his vision with consistency, with determination and with a very considerable degree of success. I think it would have been better had the Government recognised that this afternoon in the Statement.

3.54 p.m.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, we on these Benches wish also to thank the noble Lord the Leader of the House for repeating this Statement. The fact that the press regarded it as a rather dull summit is all to the good. It is nice when they cannot find anything particular to snipe at. We also are glad to see that the European Community is prepared to provide an additional £240 million over three years for Northern Ireland. However, I, too, would like the confirmation for which the noble Lord, Lord Richard, asked, as to how this stands in relation to what the British Government will have to produce.

I would also like to suggest that the people who have been sniping so hard at the additional payment to be made to the funds of the European Union should take note of the fact that we are getting an additional £240 million for Northern Ireland. That must be very welcome and a fairly good exchange for the extra £90 million that we are committed to paying.

Of course we welcome the attack on fraud. We in this House have a good record of having revealed and opposed the fraud that is taking place in the Community. Those on all sides of the House, the pro-Europeans and the anti-Europeans, are, I think, agreed that fraud is intolerable. Can the noble Lord tell us what means are being adopted to check up on what happens? We have heard acceptable statements about the unsuitability and the intolerable behaviour of people who carry out fraud, but we want to know what methods will be used to make sure that it stops, because that is the only thing that will make any difference.

I was interested in the enthusiastic support for subsidiarity. I see that the Prime Minister defines it as the, principle of minimum community interference". I believe it is also frequently referred to as being decisions made at the lowest level at which they can effectively be undertaken. Has it escaped the Government's attention that this definition of subsidiarity, which we all support, is entirely compatible with federalism as understood everywhere except in the United Kingdom? It is interesting that the so-called federalists, who are indeed federalists, in the rest of the Community accept subsidiarity as much as it is accepted by Her Majesty's Government because they have a better understanding of what federalism—as we in our party have always understood it —in fact means.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Richard, we are, of course, very concerned about the increase in jobs and what that will really mean in terms of extra funds that may be forthcoming. To be fair to the Government they have of course always recognised that it was necessary to put more money into education and training. They have put a great deal more into education and training than have any Labour government that I can recall. We are glad to see that this is supported by the Commission and hope that the Government will take it up vigorously.

Additional money, which would of course also create jobs, is, I notice, forthcoming for the Channel Tunnel rail link. Does this mean that, with good fortune, we shall no longer have the same opportunity that President Mitterrand pointed out for admiring the Kent countryside on the way to the port, and if so, how quickly will this take place? Many Members of your Lordships' House had the pleasant experience of travelling in the tunnel and it is delightful to be able to get to Paris in three hours. However, we would have a much better journey if we could get to the Kent coast rather more swiftly than we did on the occasion to which I refer. Perhaps some of that money could be used to make a high speed link, which we have wanted to see for so long, really work.

Regarding the future of the European Union, of course we welcome the fact that enlargement is being accepted. We welcome the new additions to the Union and support entirely the move towards further enlargement. However, that must mean that we need to take a very good look at the institutions of the European Union. The language problem alone is horrific, when one thinks of all the possible permutations and combinations of languages which will be required. The dominance of the interpreters will increase to an intolerable degree unless something is done. However, that is only one aspect of the reform of the institutions which should be undertaken in anticipation of enlargement. Can we be told what is likely to happen in that regard?

There is also the question of Bosnia and the disturbances in the countries of the former Soviet Union. I have to refer to them in that way because I am quite unable to pronounce the names of the areas in which military action is taking place. Does that not underline the importance of much greater co-ordination on defence and foreign affairs in the European Union as a whole? If there had been better co-ordination we might have made a better job of dealing with the problems in Bosnia. We must anticipate that there will be problems of that kind in the future and consider how, as a union, we address the issues with which we are confronted. Up until now it has been too little and too late because we have not had the institutions and the machinery to deal with the problems as they arose.

We on these Benches very much support the continued presence of the UNPROFOR troops and the continuation of the humanitarian work in Bosnia. Having seen some of the work at first hand, I can say that it would be deplorable if we were unable to continue to give that help. We should not forget that there are probably hundreds of thousands of people alive today who would be dead if that help had not been given and who will probably die if the support is discontinued.

Viscount Cranborne

My Lords, I am very grateful for the kind words of the noble Lord, Lord Richard, and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, about the generality of what was achieved at Essen. The noble Baroness said that dullness could be a good thing. If she means by that what the noble Lord, Lord Richard, identified as a workmanlike performance building on what has already been achieved, I agree with her. These are matters of considerable importance. It is as well that we make sure that we have foundations in place before erecting substantial structures above the ground which, if built on poor foundations, might all too easily collapse. Therefore, I take what the noble Lord and the noble Baroness said as general approval for what may be seen as a somewhat dull performance.

However, I take a somewhat different view from the noble Lord, Lord Richard, with the greatest reluctance, in relation to the contrast which he affected to draw between the communiqué and the Statement which I have just read out. It is worth pointing out to the noble Lord that virtually all of the themes which only three or fours years ago were seen as purely British preoccupations now appear, from what was agreed at Essen, to be in the very mainstream of European thinking or, to coin a phrase, at the heart of Europe—liberalisation; freeing up markets; reforming welfare systems; and above all (and I say this with the greatest respect to the noble Lord) reducing the cost of jobs.

Essen fully recognised that fighting unemployment means making labour markets work effectively. Indeed, the Council called for more work in areas such as improved vocational education. Even though the noble Lord, Lord Richard, did not recognise that, I am extremely grateful for the kind remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, on the subject. It is a matter to which I referred during the course of the debate on the humble Address a few days ago.

As regards Northern Ireland, I am delighted that both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness welcomed the promise of money. I am able to give the noble Lord the reassurance he seeks. The funding agreed will be genuinely additional money from Community funds and genuinely additional money in terms of Government spending. It is in addition to current government budgets for Northern Ireland. I hope that that will reassure the noble Lord, Lord Richard.

So far as concerns the noble Lord's remarks about the Baltic states, I believe that we can conclude from the proceedings at Essen that the Baltic states have taken a step on the road towards membership. Both he and the noble Baroness referred to the importance of looking at the Union's institutional arrangements in the light of the substantial increase in the number of members which the negotiations foresee. Those are not only the three members from EFTA but also a possible six members from Central and Eastern Europe. If the Baltic states are to join those countries in the Union, clearly the dangers to which the noble Baroness drew attention should be at the forefront of our minds. I certainly do not dissent when she makes that point.

There was an expectation, which in the event was not realised, that Bosnia might easily elbow out all other matters, however important, during the course of the Essen conversations. That did not happen, and that was right. Nevertheless, Bosnia occupied a great deal of attention, and rightly so. The noble Lord, Lord Richard, asked whether pressure on the Serbs—both the Belgrade Serbs and the Bosnian Serbs—would be kept up. The answer is clearly yes. The noble Lord will be aware that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary and his French opposite number, M. Juppé, have been at the forefront of the pressure on Mr. Milosevic. Indeed, in the Statement which she repeated in your Lordships' House last week, my noble friend Lady Chalker drew attention to a glimpse of hope from the delegation of Bosnian Serbs from their so-called capital, Pale. That gave some hope that cracks are beginning to appear there. Nevertheless, it would be unwise to pin too much hope on those developments.

We should remember what the UNPROFOR forces were sent to Bosnia to achieve. Initially their only objective was to deliver humanitarian aid. I certainly welcome the remarks of the noble Baroness drawing attention to the remarkable job which the UNPROFOR forces have achieved in delivering aid, and, as she so rightly said, saving hundreds of thousands of lives in the process. However, I believe that your Lordships would wish me to underline the fact that the safety of our own troops is nevertheless paramount. If it becomes impossible for us to continue to carry out the task which the United Nations has given the UNPROFOR forces, then it will be up to those providing those forces to decide whether they can continue to do that job. At the moment the judgment is that the job is still doable, or substantially so, and we are all too aware of the possible consequences of withdrawal. However, I can assure your Lordships that contingency plans are in place in case withdrawal becomes necessary.

The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, mentioned fraud. All I add to what she said is that this conference has been a considerable breakthrough from the point of view of Her Majesty's Government. It is a question in which I know that many Members of your Lordships' House—I am glad to see the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, sitting in his place—have taken a considerable interest and, if I may say so, rightly too. The noble Baroness asked me what specific initiatives the United Kingdom managed to secure. I put the issue in that way quite deliberately in view of our own position on the matter.

We have seen several United Kingdom initiatives coming to fruition. In particular, the Essen conference called on the Court of Auditors fully to exercise powers that we ensured were put in place at Maastricht. It also called for the anti-fraud proposal on criminal aspects of fraud to be agreed by June next year. We secured all our objectives; and I can assure your Lordships that there will be no retreat in this battle. I am delighted to say that everyone at Essen was committed to ensuring that full use was made of the Treaty provisions. I believe that your Lordships will ensure that I and my noble friend will keep your Lordships fully informed on this important matter in the weeks and months to come.

The only other matter on which I wish to comment, with your Lordships' permission, is that of subsidiarity, raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. I am well aware that federalism can mean different things to different nations, in particular in western Europe. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that we have taken a substantial step towards achieving a high degree of unanimity in the course of the Essen conversations for our own objective for a co-operative Europe of nations rather than the united states of Europe, which so many of us in this country have feared for so long.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, it seems clear from the Statement that the meeting was a considerable achievement, not to say triumph, by our own Prime Minister, who seems to have achieved a good many important national objectives. I know that my noble friend will understand when I say that to many of us the fact that the Prime Minister has had that success is a very cheering and encouraging factor on which we would wish, very respectfully, to express our congratulations to him and to the Government.

I have only a few brief questions to ask. First, is it not a matter of great congratulation that £240 million has been obtained to help the position in Northern Ireland? That is a considerable achievement and will do a great deal of good.

My noble friend was less precise regarding new members of the Community. Apart from the three which are now definitely joining, and Norway which we hope will do so sooner or later, what are the other states under consideration? He referred, I believe, to half a dozen. It would be interesting to know what are those states, obviously without my noble friend committing himself. That seems to me fairly important.

Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Richard, sought to rebuke my noble friend, for not referring to M. Delors. As M. Delors is going, it is probably tactful not to say what one thinks of him. I think that on this subject silence is golden.

Viscount Cranborne

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for what he said, in particular for reminding me that I did not respond to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Richard, about M. Delors. I believe that we can all agree with the noble Lord that M. Delors has shown consistency, single-mindedness and determination during the tenure of his presidency, and that M. Delors is a Christian gentleman. We have had our differences with him in the way in which we saw the European Community developing, but we certainly wish him well in what appears to be a well-earned retirement—that is, if he does not change his mind.

I should like to point out that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister signed the communiqué to which the noble Lord referred. Since the noble Lord will have read the communiqué, he will know that all the European Union leaders subscribed to the thanks which the communiqué expressed to M. Delors for his year as President of the Commission.

I am particularly grateful to my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter for his analysis of the achievements of our right honourable friend. For reasons best known to the yellow press, my right honourable friend has had something of a difficult time in public prints lately. I only hope that they will give honour where honour is due. My right honourable friend's very remarkable capacity to negotiate under the most difficult conditions has been evidenced time and again during his premiership, whether in Northern Ireland, Maastricht or in other European fora. It is entirely appropriate for my noble friend and myself to pay tribute to that skill and perhaps to speculate that another Prime Minister would not have brought home the bacon in quite the same way. My noble friend is perfectly right: in particular the Northern Ireland financing is a considerable achievement.

My noble friend asked what other states are in view. There are the six associate members known as the CEE. That is, the Visegrad Four, plus Bulgaria and Romania. On top of that, there is discussion for Malta and Cyprus to be part of the next round of negotiations. I understand that that status, which was agreed at the Corfu Summit, was confirmed. I hope that that answers my noble friend.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, I regret that I cannot entirely share the unadulterated enthusiasm of the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, on the results of the Essen conference. I should have thought that they contain nothing which gives rise to the jubilation better expressed as game, set and match.

As the noble Viscount has been good enough to mention, I have a particular interest in the whole question of fraud and irregularity. I have not had the opportunity yet of seeing the Statement. However, I gather from the noble Viscount that there was wide agreement at the Essen conference as to the increased and more effective steps that are to be taken within member states to prevent fraud and irregularity and to enforce the law within each individual country; and the Commission concurred.

I regret to say that it is quite evident that the Government have not read the report of the Court of Auditors covering the year 1993. There are precedents for Ministers of high office not reading important documents. In particular, I refer to the Treaty of Maastricht which was not read at the time by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as the noble Viscount will recall. The report mentions the necessity for preventing fraud within individual member states. Incidentally, it does not state whether the institutions of the Community are to be regarded as part of the state of Belgium for the purpose of enforcement of the law in Belgium and the entry of police into the Commission premises. It would be interesting to know that.

However, one matter is quite clear. The Government have not assimilated the fact that the main part of the 1993 report of the Court of Auditors dealt with the very serious shortcomings of the Commission itself. There has been no indication from the Government that the stringent criticisms that have been made over the past 10 years by the Court of Auditors, and reiterated with even greater emphasis in the more recent report, have been understood, assimilated, or even supported by Her Majesty's Government. I therefore hope that by the time the European finance Bill comes before your Lordships' House, on, I believe, 9th and 10th January, Members of the House will have assimilated the contents of the report. I assure the noble Viscount that many of us in all parts of the House are quite determined that the Commission shall be forced to take the action which has been pressed upon it for many years by the Court of Auditors, but which has not so far been forcefully supported by Her Majesty's Government.

Viscount Cranborne

My Lords, until the noble Lord uttered the last few words of his intervention, I thought for one glorious moment that I should be able to agree with almost everything he said. If I may say so, he is less than fair to Her Majesty's Government, particularly in view of the assurances which I gave his noble friend Lord Richard. The United Kingdom has been at the forefront in making sure that fraud has leapt to the top of the agenda in the administration of European matters. The Court of Auditors was given power by the much derided Maastricht Treaty, which was derided by the noble Lord himself. The Essen summit called on the Court of Auditors fully to exercise those powers, as I made clear a moment ago. He will know as well as I do that tackling fraud is a battle which will never come to an end. It is up to us to ensure that we put the machinery in place which will tackle it effectively. Time will be the judge and I am reassured that the noble Lord himself will be up there in the front line with us making sure that fraud is tackled in the way that he and I want.

The Earl of Lauderdale

My Lords, instead of a five-minute speech I should like to ask my noble friend a simple question. Is there any further news of the dissidents, representing about a quarter of the membership of the Karadzic Assembly of Parliament at Paleé, who came to Belgrade last week and declared their support for peace?

Viscount Cranborne

No, my Lords, I can assure my noble friend that I have nothing to add to what my noble friend Lady Chalker said last week. However, if there is any change I am sure that my noble friend will come to the House and inform it.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, I should like to ask the Minister three questions. First, in relation to fraud, there were reports last week that there was under consideration a proposal that members of all police forces in the European Community should be allowed to cross borders to make their investigations. I hope that the Minister will be able to assure me that that is not true and that the Labour Government—I am anticipating matters, I am sorry—the present Government will not in any way agree to it.

Secondly, I note that the Commission will contribute £240 million to Northern Ireland over three years. I make that £80 million a year. Does that mean that our estimate of our net contribution of £3,500 million a year for the next three years will be reduced by £80 million for each of those years?

Finally, on the matter of subsidiarity, can the Minister assure me that the Government are more concerned about it than they appeared to be when they answered questions last week on the British double-decker bus? Can the Minister assure me that the Commission will now ensure that it will not bring forward the kind of regulations and directives that would force Britain to phase out double-decker buses or do anything else quite so stupid?

Viscount Cranborne

My Lords, taking the last question first, I can assure the noble Lord that the aim of any directive should be to have an open European market in all buses and coaches, including double-deckers. That will not only increase our chances of preserving a valued symbol and an extremely efficient form of transport in this country but it will also enable us to have a better chance of exporting such vehicles abroad, including to the countries of Western Europe. I believe I can give the noble Lord the reassurance that he needs on his question.

As regards crime, the noble Lord will be well aware that there are already a number of proposals in place which will be further explored, particularly during the coming French presidency, to try to ensure that there is co-operation between nations on crime, as opposed to the supranational arrangements which the noble Lord fears. I am also sure that we shall be able to keep him informed on the matter, as negotiations develop.

As regards the money for Northern Ireland, I do not believe I have anything to add to what I have already said. I can reassure the noble Lord and others who asked about it that this is new money both from the Government's point of view and from the point of view of the European budget.

Lord Cockfield

My Lords, on Northern Ireland, will my noble friend confirm that it was Jacques Delors who took the lead in the Commission and the Council in pressing that the £240 million should be given to Northern Ireland?

Secondly, will he also confirm that, on fraud, the most interesting point in the communiqué, if one reads it carefully, as the noble Lord, Lord Richard, encouraged us to do, is the admission there that fraud is primarily the responsibility of the governments of the member states? When we come to debate the issue—as I hope we shall—I propose to prove that point. Is it not the position that in an incautious remark on Radio 4 recently, the president of the Court of Auditors said that 80 per cent. of the fault rested with the governments of the member states, not the Commission at all? All the Commission does is to reimburse the member states for what those member states have spent. If we are going to shoot somebody, ought we not to start by shooting the right person?

Perhaps I may raise a third point. I am greatly in favour of further enlargement of the Community. Will my noble friend confirm that, before that enlargement can take place, it will be necessary to have a total reconstruction of the finances of the Community? That reconstruction will necessarily carry with it a root and branch review of many of the policies of the Community, including the common agricultural policy.

Viscount Cranborne

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, whose expertise in such matters is very much greater than mine. I can confirm that the Essen conference received an initial proposal from M. Delors that the Commission should provide the money which I have described. We are duly grateful to him for his help in that.

As regards fraud, I very much look forward to my noble friend's speech. I can confirm to him that, as I understand it, the communiqué makes the references which he described.

On enlargement, I can also confirm that there will need to be a reconstruction of many policies before an enlarged Community can hope to work effectively. That point was made by both the noble Lord, Lord Richard, and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. One aspect, if not the most important aspect, of that reappraisal will be a further look at the common agricultural policy.

Lord Monkswell

My Lords, I too thank the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement made in the other place. I was particularly glad to hear the references to the Channel Tunnel rail link and the west coast main line. The noble Lord, the Leader of the House, will be aware that many Members of Parliament of both Houses have for a number of years pressed for the modernisation and improvement of these essential elements of infrastructure to enable the manufacturing heartlands of Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow to get their products into the centre of the European market. We are glad that the Heads of Government of the European Union nations believe that these transport infrastructure elements are essential parts of the trans-European network. Bearing in mind those factors, I ask the Government what efforts will be made to ensure that these projects are brought to an early conclusion. The delays up to now have been scandalous. What urgency do the Government now place upon these public infrastructure projects?

Viscount Cranborne

My Lords, I am very glad that the noble Lord welcomes the construction of the Channel Tunnel rail link. Much of the speed that he desires is in your Lordships' hands with the introduction of the Hybrid Bill on this subject in your Lordships' House in the coming Session.

Lord Shaw of Northstead

My Lords, does my noble friend recall our recent debate about the report of the Court of Auditors and the frauds mentioned therein?

Does he also recall the significant difference between what came out of that debate—namely, that the Council took absolutely no notice of what the Court of Auditors said—and what happened at the latest meeting of the Council? Is it not a fact that the change has come about through the efforts of the Prime Minister in insisting that the role of the Court of Auditors be improved? Further, is it not true that the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, is a little ungenerous in not seeing any improvement? He sought immediate perfection, which is never possible. This is a big improvement.

I raise one query. The Commission now fully backs the move to settle these frauds and deal with them. However, I notice that the Statement states that a number of Members of the Council also gave support. Are there other members who are not so forthcoming in their support, and are those members significantly related to where the inquiries are most needed?

Viscount Cranborne

My Lords, I agree with the first part of my noble friend's question. However, I would not dream of commenting on his second question.