HL Deb 18 June 1997 vol 580 cc1243-57

3.42 p.m.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Richard)

My Lords, with the leave of the House, and with apologies to my noble friend Lord Borrie for interrupting his debate, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister about the meeting of the European Council in Amsterdam on 16th and 17th June, which he attended with my right honourable friends the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer and my honourable friend the Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The Council conclusions have been placed in the Library of the House. I shall also place a full copy of the text of the Amsterdam Treaty in the Library as soon as it is available. The Statement is as follows:

"Our aims in these negotiations were to protect our essential interests over immigration, foreign policy, defence and a central role for Britain in Europe; to promote changes of real interest to the British people; and to move Europe on to a new positive agenda. We also promised to bring a fresh and constructive approach to Europe and to these negotiations.

"I am happy to tell the House that our objectives were fully achieved. And they were achieved while at the same time improving our standing in Europe and relationships with our partners.

"First, we have obtained legal security for our frontier controls, through a legally binding protocol to the treaty. This is an achievement of lasting value, attained for the first time. The key point in the protocol says, and I quote: 'The United Kingdom shall be entitled … to exercise at its frontiers with other member states such controls on persons seeking to enter the United Kingdom as it may consider necessary for the purpose'. "I know that this will be welcomed by the whole House. We have ensured that we, and only we, decide border policy, and that policies on immigration, asylum and visas are made in Britain, not Brussels. Others may choose to have different arrangements, to suit their traditions and geographical position. I see no reason to prevent them doing so, although these arrangements will continue to be governed by unanimity. The United Kingdom can participate in areas of interest to us if we so choose—at our option. No opt-out. An opt-in as we choose.

"In the justice and home affairs area, we have also agreed better arrangements for co-operation on police, crime and drugs. I attach great importance to more effective international action in these areas of direct concern to people. But co-operation will remain inter-governmental and subject to unanimity. Thanks to amendments that we secured, the European Court will also have no authority to decide cases brought in UK courts on these issues.

"We have also ensured continued protection for our essential interests in all the areas where we sought it. We have maintained the veto—as we said we would—in foreign policy, defence, treaty change, community finances, and tax. We have prevented the extension of qualified majority voting in areas where it might cause damage. Others wanted to extend QMV in the social chapter, which would have affected our companies even if we were not party to the chapter. Because we were in it, we were able to stop this. We have agreed to qualified majority voting where it is in our national interest; for example, on research and development and on action to combat fraud and waste. We have also ruled out other potentially damaging proposals. For example, others wanted to give the European Union explicit legal personality across all the pillars. At our insistence, this was removed. Moreover, the treaty spells out that international agreements can only be concluded on the basis of unanimity following a clear Council decision. In addition, we secured a veto over flexibility arrangements which could otherwise have allowed the development of a hard core excluding us against our will.

"Secondly, for the first time in a decade Britain is setting a positive agenda for Europe. In April in Manchester, I set out our platform for reform: completion of the single market, a new emphasis on flexible labour markets and education and skills, reform of wasteful policies in agriculture and elsewhere, enlargement and a more effective common foreign and security policy. Each of those elements was fully reflected at Amsterdam, in the IGC or the Council conclusions. In particular, we successfully promoted support for a new action plan for the single market which echoes key British concerns. This should in time lead to further opening of Europe's markets to British companies. Completing the single market will be one of the top priorities for the British presidency.

"Thirdly, jobs. We have put these at the top of Europe's agenda, where they belong. The new treaty chapter on employment recognises the importance of job creation and sets member states and the Community the task of promoting flexible labour markets, and education and skills. That is where Europe must make a difference.

"Fourthly, the treaty makes Europe more relevant to people: it ensures greater openness; it increases powers to combat fraud and waste; it strengthens environmental protection; it creates power to act against discrimination on grounds of sex, race, religion or disability—another area where Britain has taken the lead; it gives subsidiarity—ensuring that decisions are taken at the European level only where there is real added value in doing so—real teeth through a binding protocol; and it imposes an obligation to take into account the welfare of animals.

"Fifthly, the treaty prepares the institutions of the Union for enlargement. There was not as much progress on this as there might have been. But we have ensured that, at the time of enlargement, the Council's voting system will be changed to give Britain and other large countries more votes. Europe must now get on with making a reality of the historic opportunity of enlargement. We need to extend our stability and prosperity to the new democracies of central and eastern Europe. The European Council is committed to decisions on the opening of enlargement negotiations at its meeting in December. We shall play a leading role in those negotiations, particularly during our presidency.

"Sixthly, while retaining our veto, we have taken steps to improve the effectiveness of foreign policy co-operation with better planning and co-ordination. That is an important British interest. But getting Europe's voice heard more clearly in the world will not be achieved through merging the European Union and Western European Union or developing an unrealistic common defence policy. We therefore resisted unacceptable proposals from others. Instead, we argued for—and won—the explicit recognition, written into the treaty for the first time, that NATO is the foundation of our and other allies' common defence.

"The House will also be interested that the treaty contains provisions to strengthen Parliament's ability to scrutinise European legislation properly, by laying down a minimum six week period for documents to be available.

"Though not part of the IGC, we also made real progress in Amsterdam on the problem of quota hoppers—fishermen from other member states who fish against British quotas. We secured an agreement with the Commission on our two central concerns. First, that we are entitled to put into law a clear economic link between boats using our quotas and Britain. Economic benefits from boats flying the British flag should go to British ports, for example through a proviso that 50 per cent. of a boat's catch should be landed locally. We will be introducing new licence conditions to reflect this with all possible speed.

"Secondly, the Commission agreed to bring forward new tougher measures of enforcement to ensure that fishermen landing their catch abroad cannot escape controls. These measures are agreed by qualified majority voting and cannot therefore he blocked by another member state. These agreements, taken together, will mean a major disincentive to quota hoppers, present and future. And Commission agreement to the new measures means that their vulnerability to legal challenge, a perennial problem hitherto, should be greatly reduced.

"The letters between myself and the President of the Commission setting out these agreements are in the Library. The Commission letter also confirms that important principles underlying the common fisheries policy, notably relative stability and the provisions on 12 mile limits, should remain when they are reviewed in 2002. These commitments allow us to start working with fishermen from around the country to plan a sustainable future for the industry. My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will be making a more detailed Statement immediately after this.

"On economic and monetary union, the documents discussed by the House on 9th June were approved. I made clear that the entry conditions should be strictly applied and that sustainable convergence is essential if EMU is to go ahead successfully.

"The European Council also agreed a resolution on employment with British ideas at the centre of it. We have shown that, alongside low inflation and sound public finances, Europe needs a new approach to employment and growth, based on British ideas for competitiveness, including more flexible labour markets and employability. This means creating a more skilled and adaptable workforce, better equipped to cope with economic change. It means a new emphasis on getting people off welfare and into work. It does not mean the old agenda of tax and spend—no new money from the Community budget was agreed in Amsterdam. This is the right approach, in or out of EMU.

"The successful conclusion of the IGC enables Europe to put institutional wrangles behind it and move on to the issues which affect people's daily lives: jobs, the environment, crime. Progress in these areas will be our priority. We are determined not to let Europe get bogged down again in minutiae. If we are to build a people's Europe, we must stay focused on the people's concerns.

"We said we would secure our frontiers; and we did. We said we would preserve NATO, not the European Union, as the cornerstone to the defence of Europe; and we did. We said we would get a new deal for our fishing communities; and we did. We said we would put jobs at the top of the agenda for Europe; and we did. We said we would start to make Europe more relevant to the concerns of the peoples of Europe; and we did.

"We made Britain's voice heard at Amsterdam, because for the first time for many years Britain spoke as a united Government with a clear direction for Europe. We have proved to the people of Britain that we can get a better deal by being constructive, and we have proved to Europe that Britain can be a leading player setting a new agenda that faces the real challenges of the new century".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

3.54 p.m.

Viscount Cranborne

My Lords, the House will be extremely grateful to the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal for repeating the Statement with his usual panache and style. Nevertheless I feel that the Statement raises more questions than it answers. However, I welcome parts of it and I draw the attention of the House to what may seem to be some of the more detailed parts: the reference to the free movement of goods and the question of legal personality in the conclusions.

I am sure the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal will be aware that the documentation is extensive and does not yet appear to be fully available. On those grounds alone, let alone the importance of the subject which today's Statement addresses, will the noble Lord undertake that there will be an opportunity to debate these matters in your Lordships' House as soon as the papers are available and we have an opportunity to study the detail? I hope that the usual channels will be able to agree a suitable length of time for such a debate and that the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal will be able to give the House an undertaking that we shall have an opportunity to debate these matters before the House rises for the Summer Recess.

Will the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal also undertake to bring any necessary legislation to this House so that the British Parliament has an opportunity to vote on it and to enact it? I seem to remember in the days when the noble Lord was speaking on occasions such as this from this Dispatch Box that he always advised me to read the Presidency conclusions rather than the Government's version of them. I always try to follow the noble Lord's advice whenever possible in spite of the inevitably rather restricted amount of time available to the Opposition for preparation for these occasions.

I was pleased to see that both in the Statement and in the Presidency conclusions the question of unemployment quite rightly takes priority. However, I have to say that particularly on page 8 the conclusions read rather like a restatement of the old corporatist line that has produced such splendidly effective results for unemployment in Germany and France. I suspect that is rather different from the claim in the Statement as regards flexible markets. When he replies will the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal confirm that flexible markets will be possible, in particular in the context of what seems to me to be the less than clear claims about the effects of the social chapter and its integration into the treaty?

I have asked the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal the following question before and I hope he will forgive me for asking it again. Whatever is introduced into the QMV provisions of the social chapter, will the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal please confirm that the only way—short of extraordinary negotiating skill, which may be even beyond the capacities of the present Prime Minister under certain circumstances—in which the Government can pick and choose which elements of the social chapter they wish to apply is to maintain our opt out and to put those provisions in parallel through the British Parliament? If that is not so, I should be extremely interested to hear it. If it is so, I wonder how the noble Lord reconciles that with the claim in the Statement that he has just read.

I move on to the question of enlargement. Is the noble Lord aware that the Labour Party manifesto stated that the enlargement of the Community would be a high priority? The Statement stated that there was not as much progress as there might have been. All I can say to that is, indeed. Where, for instance, is the agreement on the institutional reform that points towards future enlargement? What new practical measures will be taken to bring in new members as a result of this treaty? Is it not a fact that this treaty does nothing to build a wider Europe, only—as is all too predictable to some of us—a deeper, more bureaucratic Europe which therefore will be less competitive, unlike, I fear, what the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, said before we began these exchanges, and therefore one that is less likely to create jobs which, quite rightly, the Government regard as the highest priority for all Europeans at the moment?

Can the noble Lord clarify precisely what has been said on a question of flexibility? Is he aware that if flexibility can be agreed by QMV it could constitute a major step towards a deeper integration in Europe—something of which I understand the Prime Minister is no longer in favour? Therefore in what areas has the Prime Minister agreed to allow new flexibility? Might this not be a veto bypass to allow greater centralisation even if Britain wanted to stop it?

Did the Prime Minister raise the issue of the beef ban during the talks? Is it not the truth that no progress whatever has been made towards lifting the ban, whether in other forums which have been more properly used for that debate or in this forum in view of the lack of progress in other forums? In that context, what is the Government's attitude towards importing European beef which appears now not to be subject to the same stringent controls as British beef?

What exactly has the Prime Minister agreed on defence? Can the noble Lord confirm that the draft treaty talks of, the objective of the gradual integration of the WEU into the European Union"? Is he aware that on defence a Dutch presidency spokesman has said that this is, the first time Britain has conceded the principle of integrating defence in the European Union"? I hope that when the noble Lord answers these questions he will be able to deny that claim from his Dutch colleague.

There is deep suspicion in all parts of the country, despite the glorious honeymoon being enjoyed by the party opposite, that the United Kingdom has entered these negotiations, in particular on the social chapter, perfectly prepared to give ground in exchange for dubious returns. It seems to me that in agreeing to the provisions of the social chapter, to a new employment chapter, and on surrendering our veto in a number of areas, the innocence of the Government in the shark-infested waters of European negotiation is becoming all too obvious.

Will the noble Lord also tell the House what benefits were secured for this country's national interest as a result of what has happened? Will he confirm that as a result of the agreements made today there will indeed he more qualified majority voting? Will there he more powers for the European Parliament and more influence for the European Union and its institutions over foreign and employment policy? It looks as though that is so. That is fine so long as the objectives that are being peddled are consistent with the competitiveness and employment objectives that we all wish to see achieved.

Will the noble Lord confirm that the remit of the European Court of Justice and the Commission has not been extended to cover asylum and immigration? Is it true that the Council of Ministers will consider at a later date extending QMV to this area? As regards the European Court of Justice, will the noble Lord tell us what, if anything, has been done to limit the damaging effect of the retrospective application of ECJ judgments?

On common foreign and security policy, the noble Lord read from the Statement that we have maintained our veto. Can he confirm that the decisions of the Council on common foreign and security policy would indeed be by majority vote? I refer to the decisions on the implementation of the policy with, a possibility for a member state to take a position of constructive abstention or only in the case of important reasons for national policy to block a vote". Can the noble Lord tell the House who will decide those important reasons of national policy? What guarantees do we have that a national judgment will be recognised and respected? Indeed, how does that square with the claim that the Government have maintained the veto which is, after all, a bald assertion which appears not to be qualified half enough in the Statement?

All in all, at the risk of perhaps sounding a little churlish—I welcome some of what is in the Statement—there is increasingly apparent a gap between the Government's rhetoric about flexible markets and what they are prepared to sign up to but, more importantly, to resist in Europe. It seems to me that the Government are caught between a desire to be loved in Europe at almost any cost and their gradually dawning realisation that what I can only describe as Tory policies deliver jobs. I hope that a debate can help us to clarify where the Government really stand and that the Lord Privy Seal will enable us to have that opportunity at an early date.

Lord Jenkins of Hilihead

My Lords, I, too, thank the Lord Privy Seal for having repeated the Statement. I believe that a fair summary of the Prime Minister's report on Amsterdam would be that it shows he has already vastly improved Britain's working relationship with our European partners but has not yet, hardly surprisingly, solved all the difficulties of Europe. But it is something that Britain has moved from being the problem of Europe to perhaps offering at least a part of the solution, at the same time showing how relatively easy it is with a little good will to achieve quite a lot of what are thought to be Britain's special interests, some of which I am more enthusiastic about than others.

The contrast with the previous Government's ineffective mixture of braggadocio, humiliating retreat and maximum ill will could hardly be greater. In the circumstances the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, although opening in a more muted way than he has sometimes done recently, was perhaps a little ungracious. I particularly treasure his statement that there is deep suspicion throughout the country of the Government's attitude to the social chapter. I am reminded of "My Fair Lady" and references to parts of Hertford, Hereford—rather doubtful—and Hampshire. It could just possibly be true of those three counties. Broadly, throughout most of the country, I believe that the Government are enjoying an almost over-heady honeymoon. I do not find much touch with reality in what the noble Viscount said. Representing a party which handled the European issue in such a way as to wreck Britain's influence in Europe and at the same time nearly destroy itself was a remarkable feat which might have been expected to produce a little humility.

However, there was one service which the previous Government rendered to Europe. By uniting everyone else against ourselves, it made them somewhat artificially patch over their own differences. This time, the uniting bogey man having been removed, or at least some of his features having been modified, the more cross currents begin to emerge. That is not in itself unhealthy and gives us a position of greater influence. However, I think that it should be subject to two important provisos. First, to attempt to sunder in recrimination the Franco-German partnership would be an act of gross irresponsibility which could have grave consequences not only for Europe and ourselves but also for the world. Secondly, whether we are in or out, for the single currency to fail at this stage would be like the juddering halt of a vast airliner whose engines had been reversed at the very last moment. The mood would be sullen throughout Europe. I do not think that the next great challenge and important British interest—that of the enlargement to the east—could then be faced and overcome.

It was in regard to preparation for enlargement that Amsterdam accomplished least. If the Community is to be enlarged to 20-plus, it is essential that the number of commissioners be reduced from the present basis. Already in my day, with a Community of nine, there were one or two too many commissioners. It is essential, too, that the decision-making process in the Council of Ministers is strengthened. These were the unsolved issues of Amsterdam.

Amsterdam as a whole, however, I count as a good beginning for the Prime Minister; although it leaves him with many tests to face in the future. It was neither a disaster nor a triumph for the European Union—although such modified success and partial disappointments should be seen in perspective as having always been part of the rhythm of Europe.

Lord Richard

My Lords, I am grateful for the remarks of the Lord Privy Seal, at least for the beginning of his remarks—

Noble Lords

You are the Lord Privy Seal!

Lord Richard

My Lords, there it is. One is concentrating so much on other matters. I shall try again, and I shall not make that mistake again. I am grateful for the remarks of the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition—at least for the beginning of his remarks. I am also grateful for the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead.

The noble Viscount gave us a short lecture. In his kind, avuncular way he said that perhaps we were innocents in shark-invested waters. Speaking as one of the former sharks, I do not think the Government are innocent. In any case, for the Leader in this House of the party opposite to attempt to give anybody lectures on how to handle Europe and European policy is a little rich. Given that his party reduced British influence in Community institutions to the depths in which it was found by us on 1st May, I really should have thought that a decent period of silence on the part of Members opposite would be more appropriate.

The noble Viscount asked me a number of detailed questions. Some I can answer and some I cannot. I will write to him about those that I am unable to answer now. He said that the summit was a little weak on enlargement. The position on enlargement is this. The Commission will present its papers next month covering not only enlargement but also the related issues of the common agricultural policy, structural fund reform and the future financing of the European Union. It looks as though negotiations will start relatively soon thereafter. Frankly, that is not being slow on enlargement. In addition, the principle that was agreed is that there should be a reduction in the number of commissioners on the one hand but that there should be a re-weighting of the votes in the Council of Ministers on the other. That principle was agreed. To return from an international summit with those measures on enlargement in one's pocket was a distinct success and did not deserve the muted words of the noble Viscount opposite.

The noble Viscount asked me about the social chapter. He and I, and the party opposite, examined the social chapter on many occasions. My views on it are pretty well known. We have not agreed to any extension of qualified majority voting in the social field. Unanimity still applies in areas vital to competitiveness, in particular social security, co-determination in the boardroom and dismissal rights.

Qualified majority voting does apply in some other areas under the social chapter. However, it does not mean that we shall not be able to influence legislation. Of course we shall; we shall be there in order to influence it. A constructive approach overall means that one's partners are rather more likely and willing to listen to one's specific concerns.

Let us be clear. There is no half-way house between opting in and staying out. If we want to be able to influence the social and employment agenda and promote competitiveness across the European Union, we must be there at the table arguing our case. For example, if the working time directive demonstrates anything, it demonstrates that the previous Government's opt-out in no way protected them from being out-voted on measures with which they disagreed.

United Kingdom prosperity as a whole depends on the competitiveness of the European Union as a whole. Staying on the sidelines is no answer. The only way to ensure that Europe develops in the way in which we want it to develop is to persuade others of our case. The recognition by the Amsterdam Council of the importance of flexible labour markets and employability demonstrates that that is possible.

The noble Viscount asked me about the wording in the conclusions on jobs, which he found a little "padded". I do not think that he could have read the annexes to the presidency conclusions. One of them, the resolution of the European council on growth and employment, states: In addition, we will need to strengthen the links between a successful and sustainable Economic Monetary Union, a well-functioning Internal Market and employment. To that end, it should be a priority aim to develop a skilled, trained and adaptable workforce and to make labour markets responsive to economic change. Structural reforms need to be comprehensive in scope, as opposed to limited or occasional measures, so as to address in a coherent manner the complex issue of incentives in creating and taking up a job". That does not seem to me to smack very much of corporatism. On the contrary, it seems to illustrate quite clearly what we were aiming for and succeeded in achieving.

The noble Viscount asked about defence, and about remarks made by a Dutch presidential spokesman. I should not dream of commenting on a report in a British newspaper. I am certainly not prepared to comment on a report of what might eventually appear in a Dutch newspaper. I have not seen what the Dutch spokesman is supposed to have said. I shall make a point of looking at it.

To turn to common defence and foreign policy, the noble Viscount asked whether we have preserved the veto. Yes, we have preserved the veto. We are in favour of closer co-ordination and co-operation in these areas, but we are not in favour of giving up the British veto on action in these two areas. That we have preserved.

I hope that the House will have an opportunity at some stage to examine this matter in greater detail. I cannot this afternoon give any commitment at all as to whether, or when, a debate will take place. I can only give the same reply as the noble Viscount used to give to me. It is a matter for the usual channels, and I will consult with them.

4.18 p.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, will he give an undertaking that the House will have an opportunity to debate in full this enormously important Statement, and that the debate will be given a full day without diminution in view of the general interest and importance of the matter?

Lord Richard

My Lords, I am afraid I cannot give the noble Lord any answer other than the one I just gave to the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition. I heard what he said, and I hear what the noble Lord says. I will consult with the usual channels, having listened very carefully to comments made this afternoon.

Lord Kirkhill

My Lords, perhaps I may press my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal on one point regarding the Western European Union. I quite understand that the Prime Minister has returned from the conference with the question of NATO confined within a legal framework which previously did not exist. I am confused, however, as to whether the Western European Union will continue to be the European defence arm. If the Western European Union is to begin to merge with the European Union, and the European Union is to be its own defence body, then I should like to know what is the Government's position regarding membership of the Brussels Modified Treaty. One thing is certain: the signatories to that treaty could not be brought together today and agree to sign. It seems to me that it would be a step back, were we to move from the modified Brussels treaty.

Lord Richard

My Lords, I obviously did not make myself clear. There were moves at the conference for a closer relationship between the European Union and the Western European Union. Those moves we resisted and they therefore did not take place. We see the role of the WEU in the future as it has been in the past. We do not see a defence role for the European Union.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

My Lords, as regards Europe and the fishing industry, the Statement seems to claim that decisions have been made which would improve the situation in relation to the dangers of quota-hopping. Can the noble Lord tell me what new arrangements were agreed that are different from the regulations which already existed before the meeting took place?

Lord Richard

My Lords, we now have the right to make further regulations. However, before the noble Lord comes back at me, immediately I sit down my noble friend Lord Donoughue will repeat in this place the Statement on quota-hopping and fish which is being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I have no doubt that my noble friend will be able to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, on all his difficulties.

Lord Shore of Stepney

My Lords, there will be considerable satisfaction at what my noble friend said, particularly about retaining national control over our frontiers, immigration and asylum policy. There will also be satisfaction that the European Union's ambitions to take over defence have at least been temporarily checked.

Apart from that, is the Minister aware that there is still a major contradiction between what we are saying about giving priority to the creation of employment and the continued pressing ahead with the restrictive and deflationary policies of economic and monetary union? Nowhere is that contradiction more evident than in the unfortunate position of the French Prime Minister. He was elected in the hope that he would reverse the policies previously pursued of squeezing the French economy and maintaining the high levels of unemployment. Yet once he was elected, he found himself pursuing exactly the same policy of going ahead and giving the same priority to the single currency as his predecessor. Is there not by now a recognition of the fundamental contradiction between pressing ahead with deflation and a single currency and at the same time saying, "We are going to give top priority to the creation of jobs"?

Lord Richard

My Lords, I am grateful for what my noble friend said at the beginning of his question. I can only tell him that the contradiction he perceives between the moves towards a common European currency and the creation of employment does not seem to exist in the minds of most of our partners inside the European Union. Nor does it exist in mine.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, I am not sure whether the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal is a tiger shark or a basking shark; I leave him to make that judgment. It is reasonable that we should all congratulate the Prime Minister on his views on employment in Europe. He makes himself sound like a cross between Lord Tebbit and John Bright, and that can only be cause for congratulation.

We all believe that expansion of the eastern European countries into Europe is vital for Europe's prosperity. A committee of your Lordships' House found that that would be totally impossible without there being a complete reform of the common agricultural policy. There is no sign, except wishful thinking, that that will happen. Yes, we want to change the common agricultural policy. It is easy to stop new clauses being inserted into a new treaty, but it is totally impossible to extract clauses from an old treaty. We all agree with what the Government want to do: to make Europe's jobs freer and to reform the common agricultural policy. What expectation do they have that the common agricultural policy can be changed, bearing in mind all the vested interests in keeping that ridiculous and, if I may say so, evil policy in existence?

Lord Richard

My Lords, again I did not make myself clear earlier on. The position is that the Commission is producing detailed reports on the expansion of the Community by including some of the applicant countries in July. One of the issues which the Commission is charged with examining is the effect of enlargement on the common agricultural policy. So it is a live issue and will no doubt get livelier as the time for enlargement approaches.

Lord Ezra

My Lords, in connection with employment, will the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal confirm that it will be an important part of the Government's policy to ensure that the single market is completed? It was effectively introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield. I was in Copenhagen yesterday to witness the start of the construction of a unique enterprise to build a tunnel and a bridge between that part of Denmark and Sweden. I am glad to say that British firms are playing a large part in it. There should be many more such opportunities in the single market. Would it be part of the Government's policy to encourage that?

Lord Richard

My Lords, not only is it part of the Government's policy to encourage that, but it was one of the specific issues raised at Amsterdam. It found its way into the eventual conclusions: that the completion of the single market is one of our priorities and a priority of the European Union as a whole.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, I wish to pursue the point raised by my noble friend Lord Shore of Stepney. Is the Minister aware that in the draft treaty provisions relating to unemployment, the whole section which was to be put after Title VI in the original treaty is made specifically subservient to Article 103 of the original treaty? The article laid down the strict macro-economic conditions which are being complied with at the moment.

If the noble Lord regards the provisions on unemployment as now being satisfactory, were those sections in the draft treaty repealed or rather taken out of the treaty in the course of negotiations? If not, it still means that any policies to cure or ameliorate unemployment are still conditioned to the rigid conditions laid down by Maastricht on macro-economic policy, as set out in Article 102. Those conditions apply today and are largely responsible for the grossly excessive unemployment throughout Europe, now amounting to 18 million, and unemployment here which is nearer 3.5 million than the phoney figure that has been put forward so far.

Lord Richard

My Lords, with his usual vigour my noble friend makes a powerful debating point. However, with respect, it is no more than that. A large number of the countries of the European Union seem to be bent upon moving to European monetary union by 1999. In those circumstances, of course the relevant provisions of the treaty were not repealed at the Amsterdam Summit, and I am sure that my noble friend would have been staggered if they had been.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, I think I heard the noble Lord say that the Government had agreed to qualified majority voting extending to areas where it is in our national interest and that they had agreed to that extension in the case of research and development. Can the noble Lord tell us why it is in our national interest that qualified majority voting should apply to research and development, which is an important part of our economy, so that we can be outvoted as a country by a group of countries where it is perhaps less important?

Lord Richard

My Lords, it is because we perceive that more countries in Europe are in tune with our views on the increase of research and development than are opposed to it. Therefore, the extension of qualified majority voting in that area would be directly to Britain's benefit.

Lord Monson

My Lords, can the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal say whether any action was taken behind the scenes to put Spain in the dock, so to speak, over its disgraceful bullying—which is not too strong a word—of the people of Gibraltar, who are, of course, fellow members of the Community?

Lord Richard

My Lords, the noble Lord asked me a question which I cannot answer.

Viscount Waverley

My Lords, I believe that the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal used the words: have Europe as competitive as a whole". I have two questions to put to him. First, how high a priority is it that we endeavour to be more competitive than our partners? Secondly, will he take into account regional costs of living when establishing minimum wage rates in order to maintain local competitiveness?

Lord Richard

My Lords, with great respect, I do not think I understood either of the noble Viscount's questions. So far as concerns the first one—am I in favour of the extension of competitiveness in Europe as a whole?—the answer is clearly yes. Am I in favour of Britain becoming more competitive than the rest of Europe? The answer to that would also be yes. Am I in favour, when minimum wage rates (I believe he said) are being negotiated, of regional variations being taken into account? There is not a word in either the Maastricht Treaty or indeed this treaty about minimum wage rates. If that is a question which is concerned with the possible introduction of a minimum wage for the workers of the United Kingdom, then it is a question better addressed to my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Lord Shaw of Northstead

My Lords, in considering enlargement of the Community, everybody accepts the need to revise the CAP. But was consideration given to the need to tighten up on fraud, particularly at the point of entry into the Community? The Budget Control Committee of the European Parliament has undertaken a massive and very worthwhile report which shows enormous losses that will only be accentuated if we enlarge without previously tightening up.

Lord Richard

My Lords, the answer to the noble Lord's question is yes. Indeed, specific proposals by the British Government were made at Amsterdam in relation to fraud. They found a fair wind. Indeed, we agreed to the extension of qualified majority voting specifically on action to combat fraud, as otherwise it might be very difficult to get Community action as a whole taken if one country—perhaps more than one—is in a position to veto the action.