§ 4.2 p.m.
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 in Cannes. The Statement is as follows: "With permission Madam Speaker, I shall make a Statement on the meeting of the European Council in Cannes, which I attended with my right honourable friends the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer and with my honourable friend the Minister of State for Europe.
"The Council rightly gave priority to the need to promote growth and employment. It called for flexible job markets and on rigorous budgetary policies to keep inflation and deficits down. These are the policies we have been advocating for years.
"We need to create a Europe of enterprise. Seventy per cent. of the jobs in the European Union are in small companies, and I welcomed the Council's focus on the need to free these businesses from red tape.
"We have promoted work in Europe on deregulation designed to stimulate employment and innovation, and the Council has now called for specific proposals from the Commission this year.
"At the Summit, the Heads of Government discussed a single currency. As I have made clear to the House, I believe that a single currency carries significant economic, political and constitutional implications. That is why at Maastricht I fought for our right to keep the pound.
"At the Summit, other Heads of Government showed a growing awareness of the difficulties of the plan for Economic and Monetary Union. It was agreed that there can be no question of any member states moving to Stage 3 in 1997. I am equally clear that there is not the remotest prospect of all 15 states meeting the convergence criteria by 1999, although it is probable that a small number will do so.
"At this Council, for the first time it was acknowledged that a move to a single currency by some member states and not others would have serious practical and economic consequences for the future operations of the Union. Finance Ministers have now keen asked to look at this problem and report further.
"What would a move to a single currency mean for those who did not participate? Would those bound into monetary union benefit? Or would those remaining 770 outside the union gain advantage? What are the implications for the Single Market? What would be the impact on resource transfers? Many questions arise.
"I have long believed it is vitally necessary to examine these problems. It should lead to a much more realistic and informed debate.
"Any decision to move to a single currency will he the most far-reaching structural change for the whole Union: vital, of course, for those who participate in it. But it will be equally vital for those who do not. At the very least, it will change the Union profoundly—perhaps in ways that are unexpected.
"I believe it is essential for this country to participate fully in that debate. Here, above all, we must make our practical views count and stand up for our interests in Europe.
"Yet our ability to influence the debate on a single currency now, when it matters, would be destroyed if we exercised our opt-out now. We would forfeit our influence over the most crucial current issue affecting Europe's future. That would not he in our interests. We should seek to influence the debate before we finally decide our position.
"Agreement was reached on Europol and the Customs Information System, which will reinforce the fight against cross-border crime and drug trafficking. Agreement on Europol had been held up because some member states insisted that the European Court of Justice must have jurisdiction.
"I would not agree to give the European Court of Justice a role in such a sensitive area involving our police and criminal intelligence activities. After a long debate, the question of possible ECJ involvement in the dispute settlement procedure for Europol was set to one side, while in the meantime the convention was agreed.
"The European Council will examine the dispute settlement procedure again in June 1996, but I have made emphatically clear that I do not anticipate we would take a different position then. The ECJ will not he the arbiter in any case relating to Europol which involves the UK Government or arises in the courts of the United Kingdom.
"The UK has also led the fight to combat fraud in the Community. The last European Council at Essen agreed the plan of action which we proposed. The Cannes Council confirmed agreement on a regulation and convention providing tools for the task; and at Madrid in December we shall review the actions member states are taking to crack down on fraud.
"The European Council took stock of the early preparations for next year's Intergovernmental Conference. It agreed that the preparatory study group should consider how the European Union could better respond to its citizens' expectations. At the heart of this is the need for effective and rigorous application of subsidiarity.
"In 1990 the Commission proposed 185 pieces of primary legislation. In the first half of this year, it has proposed 11.
771 "At Cannes, the Commission was instructed to complete its two-year review of subsidiarity applied to existing legislation in time for consideration at Madrid in December.
"The prospect of further enlargement was highlighted by the meeting yesterday between the 15 members of the Council and the Heads of Government of 11 prospective member states. They will benefit from the programmes agreed for help to central and eastern Europe and the Mediterranean.
"The Council decided that the next European Development Fund would provide 13.3 billion ecu, or about £11 billion, to the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.
"The United Kingdom also provides high quality bilateral aid to many of these countries. I want to ensure that multilateral contributions do not swallow up our bilateral aid.
"Our contribution to the eighth European Development Fund—worth 1.63 billion ecu, or about £1.35 billion, over five years from the year 2000—will be very substantial. But we are taking a smaller share than under the seventh European Development Fund, and as a result placing less pressure on our bilateral programme.
"On the former Yugoslavia, the new European Union mediator, Mr. Carl Bildt, reported on his first visit to the region. We asked him to concentrate urgently on ways of reopening talks with all the parties on the basis of the Contact Group plan, and to continue efforts to secure recognition of Bosnia by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
"During the Council my right honourable friend and I met the Irish Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister for bilateral talks. We commissioned a joint report on how the paramilitaries could decommission weapons and explosives. The Taoiseach and I will discuss this report in due course.
"We can take considerable satisfaction in this summit. On economic issues, in the fight against cross-border crime, on Community fraud, in the emphasis on enlargement, in the sensible balance reached in the allocation of external funds, and in the support given to Mr. Bildt's diplomatic efforts over Bosnia, the Council has followed courses which we advocated. On other areas of vital national interest we have influenced the debate while retaining our own rights of decision.
"I would not pretend these results were invariably easy to secure. But, as this Council again showed, the debate within Europe has evolved significantly in our direction over recent years. I am confident we can carry this evolution a great deal further by robust advocacy, by patient negotiations, and by standing by our belief in a common-sense Europe.
"I have made clear that I believe that the way forward for Europe is as a Europe of nation states built upon co-operation. Key decisions affecting this nation must he taken in this House.
772 "My guiding principle is to do what I believe is in our national interest: to argue for Britain's interests in Europe and to build a Europe which carries the trust of the British people. That I will continue to do.
"I should like to add one further point. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has devoted 43 years to unbroken public service—as a diplomat, a politician and a Minister. This was the 16th European Council he has attended as Foreign Secretary. His huge contribution to foreign policy co-ordination between European governments was recognised at the summit in a moving tribute by his colleagues. His contribution to our relations outside Europe has been equally important. At this summit, as throughout the past five-and-a-half years, his deep knowledge and calm authority have earned great credit for this country. My right honourable friend has justly earned respect on all sides of the House, and I believe that we owe him our thanks".
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ Lord Richard
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House for repeating in this House the Statement made by his right honourable friend the Prime Minister in another place.
I should like to begin with the last point that he made. I too would like to pay some tribute to his right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary. He has been a distinguished public servant for years. He has represented this country in many fora. He has had to advocate many policies. I have always felt that he was rather more of a diplomat than a politician, which having regard to this Government's record is perhaps a not inconsiderable compliment from this side of the House. He has done his duty extremely well. We have not agreed with him on every occasion, but we respect him for his abilities.
What are we to make of this summit? Yet again I have a complaint to make at the outset. I beg noble Lords who are interested in these matters to read the presidency conclusions and not merely to read the gloss put upon them by one of the participants. That is especially important when that participant is a candidate for the leadership of his party and his Statement is perhaps more of a personal manifesto than an accurate reflection of what went on at the summit over the weekend. I shall quote two paragraphs from the conclusions in a moment to see whether the House agrees with me.
The summit itself was a rather inconsequential, not to say boring one. It resulted in a somewhat impenetrable and lengthy communiqu?, a great deal of which deals with the relations between the European Union and the Mediterranean. Perhaps the most significant practical result was the agreement reached in the margins with the Irish Government over the decommissioning of IRA arms. For that we are extremely grateful.
I am interested to see that the Prime Minister has so far managed to avoid the fate suffered by his predecessor when she attended a summit in France. She lasted two days after her return; he has at least until next Tuesday.
The Prime Minister is fortunate in his colleagues in Europe. They showed forbearance and understanding. It is somewhat shaming that they felt that he needed it. For 773 Britain to be represented at a European summit by a Prime Minister who had voluntarily placed his position at risk and by a Foreign Secretary who had just resigned meant that our voice was hardly at its strongest and our contributions were hardly the most effective.
I want to put three specific questions to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House. First, will he confirm that after the reductions in our contribution to the EDF the contribution of Germany will be somewhere in the region of 3 billion ecu, that of France 3.12 billion ecu, of Italy 1.6 billion ecu and the United Kingdom 1.6 billion ecu? In other words, from being one of the major contributors, our contribution has fallen in comparison with that of Germany and France.
Secondly, in relation to the Rapid Reaction Force, for which the summit expressed support, I ask the Leader of the House what exactly its role will be. How is it envisaged that it will be used, against whom, for what purposes, in what circumstances and, most important, who will give it its orders? We have asked for answers to those questions before but we have not had them.
Thirdly, I wish to ask the noble Viscount the Leader of the House a specific question on the communiqué. I hope that he has a copy. Page 7 of the communiqué, subscribed to by the Prime Minister at the summit, reads thus:The European Council [of which he is a member] restates its firm resolve to prepare the transition to the single currency by 1 January 1999 at the latest in strict accordance with the convergence criteria, timetable, protocols and procedures laid down in the Treaty".
Later, in another paragraph, which the Prime Minister accepted, it states:the European Council would like work on preparing for introduction of the single currency to continue unabated … It requests the Council to define, in consultation with [the Commission and the European Monetary Institute] … a reference scenario guaranteeing full compliance with the Treaty, this being a precondition for the irreversibility necessary at the start of the third stage, with a view to reporting back to the Madrid European Council".Later itcalls on the Council to continue with all the necessary discussions and to report hack to its Madrid meeting so that it can decide on a scenario for introducing the single currency".Is it the policy of the Government, and is it the policy of Mr. Major as a candidate for the leadership of his party, that he has a firm resolve to prepare for transition to the single currency by 1st January 1999? We are entitled to ask that question. We are entitled to have a clear answer from the Government as to what their position is.
Finally, I say this to the other side of the House. For Heaven's sake, get your election over quickly. The present state of limbo and transition is doing the country absolutely no good whatever. I speak as one who is as patriotic as any other Member of this House, but I have to say that the spectacle that we saw at the summit over the weekend was frankly demeaning for a power like Great Britain.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Viscount the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement. I should also like to follow the noble Lord, Lord Richard, in paying tribute to the Foreign Secretary for, as appears in the Statement, 43 years of devoted work in foreign affairs in one role or another. That role must have been quite extraordinarily difficult for him to carry out over recent years.
774 The Statement makes it clear that a great many of the questions which were discussed are matters of central importance to this country. There are European questions which cannot be solved on a purely national basis. For example, the question of Europol and of international crime is essentially a Union matter as well as a matter for individual countries. Therefore, one is a little surprised to find, especially in view of the debates in this House and of reports which have been placed before us, that the role of the European Court is so ruled cut as having no part whatever to play in a matter which is surely so plainly international and, indeed, supranational in many ways. It is likely that, sooner or later, the European Court will have to play a role.
However, when one looks at the other subjects which have been discussed, it is clear that they are all matters which are vital to the well-being of this country. Indeed, the Statement starts with reference to "growth and employment". If they are to be successful in this country, they must be seen at least on a European Union scale. They cannot be considered solely in national terms.
Of course, the same applies to the question of the single currency. I hope that we shall have an explanation on the apparent divergence between the Statement here and the points read out by the noble Lord, Lord Richard, as to the position that we are taking over the single currency. I should have thought—and we on these Benches have been quite clear in our support for the eventual establishment of a single currency—that it was fairly obvious that some of the countries inside the Union will not be anything like ready for a single currency by the date which has been given. Therefore, one welcomes the suggestion that there should be a report from European Ministers on the matter. It is not a matter that could possibly be set aside. It is vital not only to European development; it is also vital for the development and well-being of this country as a country and as part of the European Union. Indeed, one could continue looking at all the points that have been made. The well-being of this country vitally depends on how such matters are handled at the European level.
It was most fortunate that the Prime Minister was able to meet and talk with representatives of the Irish Republic. I do not think I need remind your Lordships that, although it is not a specifically European matter as such, it is a matter of the very greatest importance. The opportunity that was given to the Prime Minister to deal with the matter—or, at least, to advance it to some extent—is one which is most welcome. It is not for me from these Benches to pay tribute to the Prime Minister; indeed, that is not my role and I have no intention of doing so. However, if the Prime Minister was able to advance his remarkable successes so far with the Irish question by his attendance at the Cannes summit, that at least would he something that has been gained. It is surely a remarkable achievement to have got even as far as we have in the Northern Ireland situation.
As I pointed out, I could continue to talk about all the matters decided and discussed at the summit. However, I shall not do so. They are matters of European Union 775 importance; but they are also matters which are vital to the development of our country. That is why we on these Benches have always been such unqualified supporters of Britain's role inside the European Union, taking a vital part in the development of that Union.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Richard, that it is shaming that our representatives had to attend the summit with English nationalists baying at their heels—because that is what they are. If the Tory Party continues to support an English nationalist body, the sooner it falls the better.
My Lords, I thought that I would he able to smile sunnily on the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, until her peroration. However, I should like to thank both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Richard, for the generosity of their tributes to my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary. With their permission, I should like to convey the burden of their remarks to my right honourable friend.
If the noble Lord, Lord Richard, will allow me to say so, there were clear implications in what he said which, in view of the amount of time that I spent with my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in the past few days, I found a little distressing coming from the noble Lord's lips. He accused the document that I repeated to your Lordships this afternoon of being a personal manifesto from my right honourable friend and said that it was not an accurate reflection of what happened.
My right honourable friend has been urged, as I think the noble Lord would expect him to be, to sink his rhetoric into one particular objective in the past few days; namely, to forget anything that might deflect him from winning the leadership election in this party. My right honourable friend has been absolutely adamant every minute of the day in saying from the very beginning of his trip to Cannes, and in his preparation for that trip, that his first priority was to defend what he saw to he the interests of this country.
My Lords, I think it is fair to say that most of the results that my right honourable friend brought back amply demonstrate the extraordinary mastery of the issues which my right honourable friend has acquired over the past five-and-a-half years. Even if the noble Lord opposite cannot agree with that and he still feels that the summit was boring, I have to tell him that such matters which, as the noble Baroness emphasised, are extremely important—and I agree with her in that respect—tend to be extremely detailed and do not always make very good theatre. However, they matter. I am very proud that this country has a practical man to represent it at international gatherings.
I was also extremely pleased and touched to hear the noble Baroness's tribute to my right honourable friend' s achievements on Northern Ireland. I was also very pleased to hear the noble Lord, Lord Richard, allude to that fact. We do not know what the joint talks that have been agreed as to examining ways in which weapons could be decommissioned from the para-militaries will yield in the way of proposals. We must wish them well. 776 As the noble Baroness emphasised, they are matters which are of supreme importance in view of the tragedy which has been continuing so long in the Province.
The noble Lord, Lord Richard, asked me three specific questions. First, I can confirm that the noble Lord gave the correct figures for Germany, Italy and France and that the United Kingdom's overall aid to ACP countries has not changed. What we have done is to protect our highly cost-effective bilateral aid programme. I believe that the House will be well aware of the remarkable job that my noble friend Lady Chalker has done to intensify the effectiveness of our aid programme during her tenure of office. It would indeed be a shame if the main thrust of what we do in that very important sphere were in any way diverted and if the controls and the focus which my noble friend has enormously improved were in any way to be diluted. We will still be the third largest contributor in the European Union. We will have as a result the best targeted bilateral aid programme. The OECD report that was recently produced on this subject confirms that.
Secondly, the noble Lord, Lord Richard, asked about the Rapid Reaction Force. He asked who will give it its orders. I rather hoped that I had made that clear when repeating a Statement in your Lordships' House not too long ago. It is clear that the Rapid Reaction Force is under United Nations command. I apologise to the noble Lord if he did not feel that my answer was clear, but I thought I made it clear what its purpose was. I know that the noble Lord understands very clearly the difference between peacekeeping and peacemaking, particularly in the context of what is happening in Bosnia.
Thirdly, the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and the noble Lord, Lord Richard, also quoted charmingly, if I may say so, from the lengthy document which was produced as a result of the summit. I wish to remind both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord that my right honourable friend has secured an opt-out from the single currency—if and when it comes about—whether partially or completely. I do not wish to repeat in any way the careful explanation that my right honourable friend gave this afternoon in another place, and which I have repeated here, on the reasoning for that. All I can do is to recommend to the noble Baroness and the noble Lord that they should reread—I hope I do not sound too patronising—what my right honourable friend said. The reasoning seems to me to be impeccable. As the noble Baroness said, we are talking about matters of supreme national importance. I cannot over emphasise how much I agree with her on that point. It is only sensible therefore that my right honourable friend should remember, as indeed he has done, that we believe in the supremacy of Parliament in this place and that it is for Parliament to decide these matters.
Finally, I cannot resist coming hack to the peroration of the noble Lord, Lord Richard. I could not agree with him more in one sense; that it is important to get this election over quickly. We shall do so. I can speak with some authority when I say that we have work to do hut we will ensure that my right honourable friend not only wins but wins well. That will enable us to continue with renewed vigour to prepare ourselves for resisting the suggestions from the party opposite about what policies this country should follow on Europe in particular where as usual, like 777 a fading blonde, it dons last year's fashions and only succeeds in making itself look ridiculous. Europe is coming our way in the way that it creates its jobs and in the way that it stimulates growth, while the Labour Party, as we well know, would sign up to every Euro-lunacy which has gone out of fashion and has been going out of fashion for the past few years.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, your Lordships' House is, I think, more than usually grateful to my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal for repeating the Statement and, if he will allow me to say so, for the excellent replies he has just given to the points that have been made by those opposite. I think the great advantage that we derive from the Statement is that it brings out clearly how very fortunate we are in our Prime Minister, and the hope that he will he able to continue to render these distinguished and able services without disturbance for many years to come.
My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for what he said and for his recognition of the selflessness with which my right honourable friend has ensured that his primary task at Cannes, as always, is to try to make sure that he represented what he saw as the real interests of our country.
§ Lord Desai
My Lords, will the noble Viscount clarify a point about the single currency issue? It was reported in the newspapers that the proposal President Chirac made of having a committee of wise men was rejected. Reference was made to the European Commission itself. There is a point that may be missed in this respect and that is the tie-in between the completion of the single market and the establishment of a single currency. Although people have linked the two they have not made quite sure that all the subsidies in various industries are uniformly eliminated across Europe. Until that happens any single currency experiment would pose dangers. Was that point pushed by any party at the summit?
My Lords, as usual the noble Lord, Lord Desai, always asks the most difficult and reasonable questions. I have to admit to the noble Lord that I was not at Cannes myself. I had one or two other things on my mind at the time. However, I have seen nothing in the papers that I have read or any account from any of the officials or Ministers who were there to show that the specific point was raised. However, we are well seized, as he is, of the validity of the point that he makes. If I may make a general point, it is clear that the benefits of a single market are considerable for this country, whether we have a single currency or not. The noble Lord with his academic qualifications, which sadly I lack, will be more aware than I that it is not only tariff harriers and fiscal barriers but non-tariff harriers, some of them of an extreme sophistication, which will inhibit the single market. My right honourable friend is heavily seized of the importance of this and the importance of reducing them. He will, I think, continue to do everything he can to meet the desires of the noble Lord.
§ Earl Russell
My Lords, while agreeing entirely with what the noble Viscount the Lord Privy Seal said about the importance of the single market, and hearing in mind 778 the risks of a large export business with fluctuating exchange rates, does he think that any decision against a single currency could possibly constitute a threat to the survival of the single market?
No, my Lords, I do not think it necessarily would. After all, the fastest area of growth or destination for exports of this country is outside the European Union. It is perfectly plain that the dramatic growth we are seeing, for instance, in the markets of south east Asia and the Far East, makes them extremely lucrative and successful destinations for British exports. There is no prospect whatever of our unifying the pound sterling with the yen or the renminbi. I would suggest that that will not inhibit the success of British exporters in the future any more than it has done in the past 12 months where our success has been dramatic and a direct consequence of the liberalisation and the supply side reforms that this Government have carried out over the past 16 years.
§ Viscount Waverley
My Lords, did France specifically make up a part of the UK shortfall in EDF contributions, thereby making future payments by the fund more in favour of Francophone countries? Does the noble Viscount the Lord Privy Seal agree that the United Kingdom's long-term interests, from support in the United Nations to other long-term issues, are being eroded by not supporting more fully ACP multilateral development issues?
My Lords, it was not just France but also Germany and other countries. I should emphasise that the United Kingdom remains fully committed to ACP development and the overall value of our aid, bilateral and multilateral, remains the same.
§ Lord Gridley
My Lords, in all humility I support my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal this evening in what he has said. I consider that there was much more that was of greater importance than just the question of how we might have governed during these past few months, or even years. There is a question of honour and of how this country behaves when under certain difficulties. That issue arises in this case. What has fortified me over the whole of my life has been the inspiration that I have gained from the way in which this country has behaved in difficult situations. I had to suffer in a gaol in Singapore in the last war. I could not envisage how on earth we were going to get out of the situation that we were in until I saw Louis Mountbatten standing outside the gaol in splendid naval uniform.
This country has provided great inspiration to the whole of the world. Generally speaking, we arc admired wherever we are spoken of.
A matter of honour is involved. The Government have been in difficulties for some months, perhaps even years. However, it is more important that we govern in our own way in this country. Greater issues have been at stake. I thank my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal for the way in which he has brought the matter before us this evening.
My Lords. I am most grateful to my noble friend for his kind words. Perhaps I may crave the indulgence of the House for a moment to say this to him. It is entirely appropriate to hear from my noble friend 779 in view of the fact that today my right honourable friend launched—before an unusually well-behaved press, if I may put it that way—the programme of events for the VJ-Day commemorations, assisted by the chairman of Tribute and Promise, who is the immediate past chairman of the Royal British Legion, and the noble Viscount, Lord Slim. It is very clear that that programme will be a just recognition of the sufferings that people like my noble friend endured under the Japanese. It will be an opportunity for our country to express her thanks to those who fought and died throughout the Second World War.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
My Lords, is the noble Viscount the Lord Privy Seal aware that many noble Lords on this side of the Chamber will have taken great offence at his description in his closing remarks of my noble friend Lord Richard. When he accuses my noble friend of looking ridiculous, it seems to me that he should have been looking at his own party. Can nothing be more ridiculous than a leader of a party who resigns as leader of the party—even though apparently he wishes to remain as leader of the party—when he has no need to do so, and in advance of a vital and important conference? As a result of his actions, and of making himself look foolish, he has also made this country look foolish and sidelined at a vital conference which greatly affects this country.
I hope that he will not repeat the accusation that this side of the House looks ridiculous when commenting on matters which concern noble Lords on this side, and the country.
Having delivered myself of that, perhaps I may ask the noble Viscount about the single currency and reference to the Commission of discussion on that issue. Can we he assured that we shall have a better, much deeper result from the Commission than its previous document, which was very shallow? Can we also he assured that those who urged us into the ERM with such disastrous consequences will have nothing to do with any discussion of the future of this country regarding EMU and the single currency?
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, for giving me an opportunity to clear up any belief that he may have had that I made an ad hominem attack on the noble Lord, Lord Richard. I hope that the party opposite and the noble Lord will accept, if doing so does not get him into bad odour with his party, that I have absolutely no feeling that the noble Lord Lord Richard is anything other than totally "unridiculous".
The burden of what I wished to convey was that the policies of the noble Lord's party are ridiculous. If I failed to convey that, I hope that the party opposite will forgive me.
There is no question whatsoever, so far as I know, that my right honourable friend remains Prime Minister of this country. As such it is his clear task to carry out his duties as effectively as he can and it is perfectly clear that he has done so at Cannes.
As regards the results of any investigation by the Commission, I think that the noble Lord, above all, will accept the belief of my right honourable friend that it is for Parliament to take a view of those results; and it is 780 perfectly sensible that Parliament should be given the opportunity to judge because he, and I, believe that Parliament should be sovereign.
§ Baroness Carnegy of Lour
My Lords in the Statement, my noble friend referred to Europol, and the decision that citizens and member states should be able to seek redress through the courts of member states for any wrong done to them through Europol rather than at the European Court. Can my noble friend tell the House whether the United Kingdom was alone in persuading the other member states that that should he so; or, as was reported in at least one newspaper, was there support from the Scandinavian countries and France? I was not able to give my noble friend notice of that question and he may not, therefore, be able to reply. However, the matter is important, in particular in view of the assumption made by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, that it was hound to become a European issue.
Europol comes under the third pillar of the Community, where inter-governmental arrangements are the order of the day and matters do not have to go through the European Commission. Therefore, whether there was support for the United Kingdom is important. I had hoped that the Statement would inform us, but it did not. I am sorry if I have caught out my noble friend.
My Lords, the House will judge whether or not my noble friend has caught me out.
On the question of whether or not we were alone, it is perfectly plain that there is always a body of opinion which longs to accuse Her Majesty's Government of being in a minority of one on European issues. I can confirm to my noble friend that on this issue, as with others during the course of discussions at Cannes, we were not alone.
I agree with my noble friend that Europol is important. The matter is extremely complex. However—and I agree with my noble friend—it is perfectly clear that it would not have been appropriate in the case of Europol for us to change the situation. Indeed, my noble friend is right. This touches on sensitive issues of national criminal law and police operations that are firmly under the third pillar, which is within the competence of individual members.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, it is doubtless admirable that the United Kingdom Government and the Government of the Republic of Ireland reached agreement in Cannes on the decommissioning of terrorist weapons in Northern Ireland. However, does the noble Viscount the Lord Privy Seal agree that inter-governmental agreements are all very well, hut the only important thing is that the major terrorist organisations show themselves prepared and ready to decommission a substantial proportion of their weaponry? Of that there appears to be no sign whatever.
My Lords, I am sorry if there is any misunderstanding—clearly there is from the noble Lord—about what my right honourable friend and Mr. Bruton agreed. The British Government have made their position perfectly clear over decommissioning of weapons. That position has remained entirely consistent ever since the present démarches opened.
781 What was agreed at Cannes between my right honourable friend and the Irish Prime Minister was that officials from the two governments would meet to examine proposals for decommissioning weapons in Northern Ireland. Those proposals may be acceptable to both governments—we do not know whether they will be—when officials have reported to the governments. However, as the noble Lord said, that is only the beginning. What matters is that the proposals should be made to work and be consistent with the position of Her Majesty's Government, which we have already made clear.
§ Lord Craig of Radley
My Lords, the Lord Privy Seal referred to the difference between peacekeeping and peace enforcement in Bosnia and said that the United Nations would be in command of the rapid reaction force. In the event that those forces are used offensively, can the Minister assure the House that the actions of our soldiers, sailors and airmen will have the full support of the Government?
My Lords, I hope that the noble and gallant Lord will in no way expect any answer other than "yes" to that question. We are a long way from the action suggested and circumstances would have to change. The nature of the orders, the rules of engagement, the colour that the vehicles are painted, the insignia, and many other matters with which the noble and gallant Lord is more familiar than I, would have to be addressed. The role is clear: deployment is taking place and I know that the noble and gallant Lord will be relieved to find that he and I are in no way apart on the issue.