HL Deb 26 March 1998 vol 587 cc1385-401

6.29 p.m.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Whitty.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Lord Ampthill) in the Chair.]

Resumed debate on Clause 1: Amendment No. 5.

Lord Whitty

With the leave of the Committee, proceedings today are starting rather later than had been agreed, but I assure the Committee that discussions through the usual channels are proceeding to make more time available for the Bill after Easter although I regret that I cannot at present say how much or exactly when. Nevertheless, I hope that we can make substantial progress tonight.

Lord Shore of Stepney

This is a resumption of our debate on Amendment No. 5 which was interrupted at close of play on Tuesday. It is also a debate on a cluster of amendments dealing with the whole question of a single foreign policy and the associated arrangements for defence. It is, therefore, a matter of profound importance to the future security of this country and of our partners in Europe and elsewhere in the world.

It is also timely that we should be debating this matter today because, as I understand it, an important event is taking place in Moscow where President Yeltsin is meeting President Chirac and Chancellor Kohl to discuss many matters relating to foreign policy in the European continent. Rather to my surprise, the British Prime Minister is not there, but is in his proper place, if you like, here at home at No. 10. However, we are members of the European Union and, as I understand it, we happen to hold the presidency at present. The noble Baroness who spoke for the Liberal Party on Tuesday and pointed out that there was a very long way to go before anything like a single foreign policy emerged in Europe made a very good point which was also, as it were, in anticipation of the remarkable development in Moscow today. However, we did not need today's event to remind us of the profound differences that exist between member states of the European Union in their approach to foreign affairs and the obligations they have undertaken in the past and to which they still hold today.

Perhaps I may remind the Committee of the events that led recently to the near-confrontation with Iraq. There was, indeed, a serious threat to the continued effectiveness of the United Nations inspectorate in that country. The issue was of major importance: the detection of weapons of mass destruction which are currently in the hands of a known aggressor and a known—I was going to say "madman", but I am not sure whether that is an appropriate word—but, at any rate, a very dangerous ruler. In pursuit of earlier Security Council resolutions, the United States and the United Kingdom—properly, in my view—rallied together and brought the threat of force to the Gulf in the very visible presence of aircraft carriers with strike aircraft.

What to me was extraordinary was the lack of public utterance by our fellow members of the European Union. My noble friend Lady Symons, who is to reply to this debate, answered a Question on this a week or so ago. The Question had been tabled by my noble friend Lord Hardy and related to the extent to which European Union countries had rallied. My noble friend Lady Symons said that some of them had offered what I can only describe as a "minuscule" contribution. There was a frigate from the Dutch; a frigate from the Belgians; and airport facilities from Germany, Italy and Spain. There was total silence—conspicuous absence from even those endeavours—from France. As we all know, the government of France were actively operating against the Anglo-American and Security Council mobilisation against the government of Iraq.

One might say, "So much for a common foreign policy", but I want to go a bit further into it than that and to put to the Committee the fact that there are deep differences of approach to international affairs between the different countries which are members of the European Union and, indeed, countries outside it. In this debate I want to test the whole reality—or, rather, the lack of reality—of the efforts to achieve a common foreign policy within the framework of the European treaties. I refer to the Treaty of Maastricht in particular and now to the Treaty of Amsterdam which enlarged the provisions in the Treaty of Maastricht relating to foreign policy, security policy and defence.

Nobody has any doubts about the unanimous wish for more effective co-operation in dealing with global security and political problems. I am not merely very much in favour of the efforts being made in different areas to increase security, but I welcome the fact that there are forums in which such matters can be discussed. Like other Members of the Committee, I think the greatest forum of all is the Security Council of the United Nations and, in terms of effective action in the light of what the Security Council decides, NATO, which has the will, effectiveness, command and control system to enforce the will of its political council.

So, I am very much in favour of international action and I have no objection at all to having a consultative mechanism with our friends and partners in the European Union. Indeed, I welcome that. Co-operation in foreign policy is to be welcomed. I have no doubt that following today's meeting in Moscow there will be reports back and that we can think about what has been said and consider it. That seems not unreasonable. I understand, again from my noble friend Lady Symons, and her previous Answer to a Question, that there were a number of consultations about what to do about Iraq, although they did not lead to any action on the part of the European Union. Let us be quite clear: we all want consultation, effective co-operation and action in the various forums which are effective.

The single foreign policy commitment in general terms comes in the Treaty of Maastricht and is slightly updated in the Treaty of Amsterdam. However, anyone who considers the language, or rather the strength of the language, in those treaties really has to scratch their head because we are apparently committed to the following under the provisions on a common foreign and security policy. It is stated: The Union … shall define and implement a common foreign and security policy … covering all areas of foreign and security policy". The objectives are spelt out including, rather surprisingly, support for the United Nations. However, we shall put that on one side. The document goes on to say: The member States shall support the Union's external and security policy actively and unreservedly in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity". Am I dreaming? Is this the real world? Clearly, it is not. However, that has the force of a treaty commitment, and not just one but two treaties. The section dealing with common foreign policy concludes with the words: The Council shall ensure that these principles are complied with". That is strong stuff; it is a pretty strong commitment.

Clearly, there is a will on the part of many fellow members of the European Union to establish a common foreign policy. That will is expressed very strongly in the language of the treaty. Why is that not something that we can unambiguously welcome? We all know the answer. The reason is that on many important matters of national and international security the majority opinion on the Continent in the European Union is not our own and clashes with our obligations. The Gulf is an excellent example. Suppose that the members of the European Union had got together and had had a proper political discussion with a vote and public declaration at the end. Suppose that that public declaration was that the Union would not use or threaten to use force in the Gulf. Would we have been bound by it? Is that the thought behind this single foreign policy document? That would be absurd. Clearly, we could not allow it, not simply because it would be wrong but because our obligations go far beyond the European Union.

The European Union is Euro-centric about policy; it has no concept of global responsibility and international problems. We have. That is something we should retain and be proud of. We have obligations and commitments to a range of Commonwealth countries across the world. We have had a special obligation and commitment since the end of the war when we became not merely a founder member of the United Nations hut a permanent member of the Security Council. That is a position which we share with four other nations. Because we are a member of the Security Council we have obligations which, frankly, the European Union is not necessarily concerned with and may seek to overrule.

There is a specific reference in the treaty. Article J.9(2) makes the following statement about the Security Council of the United Nations: Member States which are also members of the United Nations Security Council will concert and keep the other member States fully informed". We now come to a more important point: Member States which are permanent members of the Security Council will, in the execution of their functions, ensure the defence of the positions and the interests of the Union". I am glad that the following words, which at least place a question mark on the whole matter, are added: without prejudice to their responsibilities under the provisions of the United Nations Charter". I do not know whether I have understood it correctly. If my noble friend is able to interpret this very interesting provision and tell me what it really means in terms of our obligations to the Security Council and the European Union I shall be greatly indebted to him.

I noted another provision in the treaty referring to other fora and relations with countries worldwide and international organisations. I quote from Article J.10: shall co-operate in ensuring that the common positions and joint actions adopted by the Council are complied with and implemented". We know that there is a European Union presence now in virtually every important country. The European Union is expanding a diplomatic service. It now claims that other member states who have similar diplomatic representation should not do anything until they have concerted with and discussed it with the lead diplomatic representation, which is the office of the Commission in the countries concerned. I understand why some people are enthusiastic about a single foreign policy. They look forward to the possibility of achieving a great saving in expenditure and the phasing out of British diplomatic representation in favour of collective representation on our behalf by the European Commission office. Undoubtedly, that will have support in some parts of the Treasury but I hope that it will be firmly resisted by the Foreign Office.

I must now turn to defence. Whatever may be said about a common foreign and security policy, defence is probably even more important except that inevitably it is in tow to foreign policy. The Treaty of Amsterdam has a good deal to say about defence. I suggest that a proper reading of the provisions in the treaty referring to defence, in particular Article J.7, which is a large provision with many paragraphs, is that what is envisaged is the takeover of the Western European Union by the European Union and the equipment of the European Union with a very serious defence capability. That is the aim at any rate. If one does not recognise that, one is very foolish.

The amendment in the treaty itself makes the position pretty clear: RESOLVED to implement a common foreign and security policy including the progressive framing of a common defence policy, which might lead to a common defence in accordance with the provisions of Article J/". That features among the major stated purposes in Article 1 of the Treaty of Amsterdam, as in the Treaty of Maastricht.

The relevant article here is Article J.7. I hope that the Committee will forgive me for quoting a number of passages from the treaty, but these words of the treaty must be weighed and considered. To some extent—I do not say in this area—they are possibly subject to judicial interpretation. But certainly we are committed to wording to which we did not object at the time. This is what the treaty says about the question of defence: The Western European Union … is an integral part of the development of the Union providing the Union with access to an operational capability notably in the context of paragraph 2". Paragraph 2 reads: Questions referred to in this Article shall include humanitarian and rescue tasks"— the so-called Petersburg tasks with which we are familiar, but they are not confined to them.

It goes on to say that it, shall include humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping tasks and tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking". That is a very strong commitment for the use of force through the WEU at the beckoning of the EU Council. Indeed, it says so in so many words. I take that seriously.

The UK has—I have no doubt that my noble friend will refer to it—some wording that says, "Well, whatever happens with the WEU and the development of a common defence policy, our obligations to NATO, our arrangements with NATO will remain". In so far as it goes, that is a welcome reassurance. But of course it does not go all that far. The truth is that the arrangements made in the WEU and the EU could affect greatly the coherence of NATO as a whole because there is, in that, a clear threat of the separating out of the WEU from NATO, the WEU being under the command of the EU, and NATO being under the general direction of the NATO Council. There is a clear danger of a serious division of viewpoints and of policies.

It is the intention of members of the EU not merely to rest where they are now but to go ahead as far as they can. Again, to quote Article J.7(4), the provisions I have just mentioned: shall not prevent the development of closer co-operating between two or more Member States on a bilateral level, in the framework of the WEU". I believe that that had in mind the formation of the Franco-German brigade and probably the German-Dutch brigade which is being or has been formed.

We know that in other parts of the treaty there are half chapters about closer co-operation and the mechanisms for bringing that about under which, if a majority of EU states wish to go ahead, using the institutions, the resources and the finance of the Community, it can do so provided that certain conditions are met.

I want to know whether that closer co-operation, or flexibility clause, as we used to call it, applies also to the defence arrangements. If it does, it clearly opens the way for a majority of the EU states to formalise a defence treaty and to take over the WEU in the process.

That is something about which we should be worried. In addition, it is an indication of what lies ahead. There is a tiny little clause referring to Article N of the treaty at the end of the section on defence. Article N allows for the calling of a further IGC with specific reference to furthering and developing that defence and foreign policy commitment.

I wish to refer lastly to the protocol. Protocol A provides: The European Union shall draw up, together with the Western European Union, arrangements for enhanced cooperation between them, within a year from the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam". So we know: they can call another IGC. They have to work out arrangements within the next 12 months. It is a serious forward commitment of which we need to be conscious.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire

I appreciate that the noble Lord is just coming up to 25 minutes. I have been reading my Companion which states: The House has resolved 'That speeches in this House should be shorter'. Long speeches engender tedium and tend to kill debate.". I checked on the origins of that provision in the First Report of the Select Committee on Procedure of 1987–88 which states: That there should he no mandatory time limits, but other measures to discourage long speeches, including recommended maxima of twenty minutes for Lords opening or winding up debates from either side and fifteen minutes for other speakers: Lords being encouraged to protest against breaches". I merely wish to draw the noble Lord's attention to that as politely as I can.

Lord Whitty

Fascinated as I was by my noble friend's speech, I did notice the time. I fear that I have to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wallace. Speakers are expected to keep within 15 minutes, and therefore it would be appropriate for my noble friend to draw his remarks to a close.

Lord Shore of Stepney

I have no objection to that at all, and of course I apologise to the Committee. I have not kept my eye on the Clock. I had rather kept it on what to me is the fundamental importance of the commitment that my country is entering into, which has not been properly debated either in the other Chamber or yet in this Chamber.

I shall conclude now by merely saying that the commitments that I have read out which have been made in the body of the treaty are reciprocated by the WEU in a series of declarations that it has made, which are again to be found in the Amsterdam Treaty, to go along, as it were, equally with the EU in its defence endeavours. I conclude. I very much hope that short speeches will not necessarily preclude Members of this Committee from reaching the truth in these complex matters.

The Earl of Clanwilliam

It appears to me that the force of the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Shore, has evidently been too much for noble Lords on the Liberal Benches.

Lord Tebbit

Before I commence my remarks, I think that I might observe that the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, was not in his place during the somewhat lengthy Statement, and, if I may say so, the extraordinarily lengthy questions which were asked by the Front Benches after the Statement. He might have a look at that and question whether he was a little over the top in what he said in relation to speeches which concern this country's foreign and defence policy.

The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, may not like to hear these things; he may be bored by these things. But it is important that in at least one Chamber in this Parliament we discuss these things. I am sorry if the noble Lord is bored.

Earl Russell

It is generally recognised that ministerial Statements, especially if covering a wide range of material, cannot be as restricted as ordinary speeches. It is also generally recognised in this place that if one has a point to make one should be able to make it in 15 minutes.

Lord Tebbit

I accept, of course, what the noble Earl says. That is no doubt why he sat down after about 12 minutes when asking a question on the Statement.

I take the points which the noble Lord, Lord Shore, made. Some of them of course had been made, to some extent, during our discussions on the Maastricht Treaty. In particular, I raised the issue of the extent to which it would be binding upon our delegation in the Security Council to uphold a common position which had been reached within the EU. I did not receive an adequate answer from the last government on that matter. Perhaps, having had some time to reflect upon it, Ministers may try again, Ministers of this Government, to see whether they can say whether the British delegate in the Security Council would be in breach of our treaty commitments if he took a line which was not compatible with that of the common foreign policy of the European Union.

Let us be clear about this matter. It is all very well to think that this will be an unchanging world. At some stage, a common foreign policy view may be achieved within the Council of Ministers. However, events then move on and, indeed, governments move on. It might mean that a government would be elected here who would take a precisely different view on that policy. We have been near to it at times in the past. Had a Labour Government been elected at one time they would have pursued a policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament. That is interesting. Of course, they have learned better now and one welcomes all sinners who have come to repentance. But how would an incoming government change the European Union's foreign policy?

If they could not change that foreign policy, would they be condemned to the utter absurdity of having our delegation at the United Nations upholding a view which was not the view of the Administration of this country?

Indeed, we see from the treaty that, The Presidency shall represent the Union in matters coming within the common foreign and security policy". What are the restraints upon that? On what occasions will the presidency not represent the Union? Where will it not represent the Union? With such words in this treaty, how long will it be before other members of the United Nations question just how many representatives the European Union should have at the United Nations? If there is but one policy and if we are to be in a quasi-state, and certainly the European Union is a quasi-state already, why should the European Union have so many delegates at the UN, let alone having two in the Security Council?

There are other countries which are not so represented, countries far larger than the European Union; for example, India. I believe that were I speaking for the Indian people I would question why India, a nation of 1 billion people, should have but one delegate at the United Nations and the European Union, which is committing itself to having a common foreign policy, should have 15 or so? Why? We are surely making a fundamental error in going down that road.

I turn to page 14, Article J.9, about which the noble Lord, Lord Shore, spoke. It is quite clear, as one reads it. Paragraph I of Article J.9 states: In international organisations and at international conferences where not all the Member States participate, those which do take part shall uphold the common positions". Does that apply to NATO? Is the position which the British Government take at NATO to be influenced by the views of countries which are not members of NATO? It may not be that many years before there is a qualified majority within the European Union of countries which are not members of NATO. Are we then to be bound to put forward in NATO the views of the European Union?

7 p.m.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire

I am sorry to challenge that but the noble Lord was talking about the need to establish the truth. Of the 15 member states of the European Union, 11 are currently members of NATO. Of those which are at present negotiating membership three are also about to join NATO. When precisely does the noble Lord expect there to be a majority of states which are not members of NATO?

Lord Tebbit

The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, seems to regard the European Union as being a very short-term affair. These treaties are intended to be permanent. Who can know those things? We can say what is the position today and what is likely to be the position in a year's time or five or 10 years' time. But those are matters for the permanent treaty of the Community.

I notice that Article J.5 on page 12 refers to the requirement that, The Council shall adopt common positions". And then, Common positions shall define the approach of the Union to a particular matter of a geographical or thematic nature". That is fairly wide in its scope. What would not be a matter which was either geographical or thematic in its nature? After that it states: Member States shall ensure that their national policies conform to the common positions". Again, it is not inconceivable that there should be a change of government not only in this Kingdom but among other member states. Are we to be saddled then with the spectacle of countries forming their foreign policy in relation to a common position with which they do not agree? How does a country escape from that position?

I shall not incur the wrath of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, by speaking too long. But I leave him with that challenge. Will he describe how it would be open to an incoming British Government who do not agree with the policy which had been formed by the European Union—indeed, a government who may have been elected having campaigned on the fact that they did not agree with that policy—to reverse the European Union's policy? I beg the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, not to say that it can be done by powerful argument. We know that it is not always powerful argument but is very often self-interest which prevails in the European Union. How would that be reversed?

If it could not be reversed, what sanctions would be brought against a sovereign government of a sovereign state embarking upon a foreign policy which had been endorsed by the electorate but which was not the policy of the European Union? How would it be changed?

Lord Bruce of Donington

I have two very short questions to put to the Minister. To some degree, they are associated with the remarks which have fallen already from the lips of the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit.

Under the Treaty of Amsterdam, which we are invited to ratify, Article J.5 says that the Council shall adopt common positions. The Council, of course, means the Council of Ministers. In that paragraph, there are six mentions of the European Council which was formed originally under Article D. All the remaining references to the Council refer to the European Council of Ministers. The European Council meets, in accordance with the terms of the treaty, only twice a year, or thereabouts, and the Council of Ministers meets at very short intervals. There are several Council of Ministers' meetings every month. In fact, most of our representatives on the Council of Ministers spend a sizeable portion of their time on aeroplanes to and from Strasbourg, Luxembourg, Brussels or wherever it may be.

Article J.5 states that the Council shall adopt common positions. Matters of note have covered the period of the British presidency, in particular the situation in Iraq. That has already been mentioned by several noble Lords. Your Lordships will agree that it has presented great problems for the whole of humanity and for practically every country in the world. Among those countries I generously include the members of the European Community. They have been concerned—or should have been concerned—too.

When did the Council of Ministers meet to determine a common position? If a common position is to be determined, who is responsible for bringing forward proposals for consideration by the Council of Ministers under the terms of the original treaty, which is all pervasive covering all the treaties which have since been concluded? The Commission is required to produce proposals; the Council of Ministers can initiate nothing. That is implicit and explicit in the Treaty of Rome.

When was a common position determined? What proposals did the Commission put forward during the Iraq crisis for a common position to be determined? I am in the recollection of the House as indicating a long time ago—and I am quite sure that your Lordships realise it—that the attitude of the Commission during the recent crisis was one of deafening silence. It had no recommendations or proposals to put before anyone.

I now invite your Lordships to consider the position of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, who throughout the period occupies the presidency. Let us consider Article J.8 of the Amsterdam Treaty which states: 1. The Presidency shall represent the Union in matters coming in the common foreign and security policy. 2. The Presidency shall be responsible for the implementation of decisions taken under this Title; in that capacity it shall in principle express the position of the Union in international organisations and international conferences. 3. The Presidency shall he assisted by the Secretary-General of the Council who shall exercise the function of High Representative for the common foreign and security policy. 4. The Commission shall he fully associated in the tasks referred to in paragraphs 1 and 2. The Presidency shall he assisted in those tasks if need he by the next Member State to hold the Presidency. 5. The Council [of Ministers] may, whenever it deems it necessary, appoint a special representative with a mandate in relation to particular policy issues". What happened during the crisis fortnight in regard to the presidency? What kind of mandate has my right honourable friend the Prime Minister been given? What kind of assistance has he been offered by any member state? I have already referred to the position of France. That needs no further elaboration because it was dealt with by my noble friend Lord Shore. However, I will call to mind the position of Belgium, which may have been forgotten. During the Falklands War, despite the fact that it was a member of the Community, as were we, it declined even to supply us with ammunition for the war.

Those matters must be faced and I am sorry that they must be discussed with a Labour Government in office. It takes Ministers a considerable amount of time to read through all the documents which must be read by someone or other during the course of their duties. It is a duty of civil servants—the English bureaucracy let alone European Community bureaucrats—to ensure that Ministers are properly and fully informed. If they read through all the documents which are issued an enormous amount of time would be taken from that available to them daily. Surely the Government—and in particular a new government—are entitled to the support of those who protest that Britain is not at the heart of Europe. They should propose to help a new government, but they have not done so. They have not accorded the new government any more loyalty than they did to the one which preceded them.

Lord Monson

I do not see how we can seriously contemplate a common security policy when the interests of each EU nation are so divergent. The other EU countries, in particular the Mediterranean countries, are positively Palmerstonian in taking the view that the interests of their countries are eternal. But they are more ruthless than Palmerston ever was. The Spanish, for example, seriously threatened to block the accession of Sweden, Finland and Austria unless they were granted fishery and other concessions. Yet for some reason the Europe enthusiasts never accuse the Spanish of being bad Europeans. That accusation is reserved permanently for Britain alone.

Recently we have seen how France leans over backwards to placate Saddam Hussein; partly in the hope of gaining valuable trade concessions and partly, no doubt, to keep the skies over Paris unpolluted by anthrax spores.

In an interesting article published last autumn, the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, asked how there can be a common defence between countries some of which are wholly within NATO, some of which are precluded from defence obligations and one of which—Franceis a semi-detached member of NATO. The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, went on to ask: What is the point of suggesting that there can be a common foreign policy between countries who wish to see the United States fully engaged in Europe and countries whose foreign policy is directed towards diminishing that engagement to vanishing point?". I never fail to be astonished by the hatred—at any rate, dislike—for the United States manifested by the French political classes: not by the ordinary French people who are reasonably pro-American, but les énarques. If there is one country they dislike more than the United States it is Japan—although how Paris would survive without Japanese tourism I do not know! But the attitude is curious, particularly given the part played by the American forces in liberating France in 1944. It is totally alien to our own view and the view of most other EU nations. Therefore, there can be no co-operation on that aspect.

The thought of closer co-operation with Greece is somewhat worrying. I well remember when the late Lord Gladwyn, a passionate Euro-enthusiast, as noble Lords on the Liberal Democrat Benches will agree, sadly stated from the Liberal Benches more than 10 years ago that in retrospect it had been a mistake to admit Greece to the Community, at least as early as it was admitted, so troublesome had that country been. Although I have come to know Turkey well over the years and have many friends in that country, I do not automatically subscribe to the view that Turkey is invariably right and that Greece and the Greek sector of Cyprus are invariably wrong in their manifold disputes. However, undoubtedly Turkey is more sinned against than sinning in the western media coverage it receives. Unfortunately for them, the Turks, like the Ulster unionists, are not nearly as adept at public relations, spin doctoring and switching on the charm as are their opponents. That gives rise to anxiety that the dexterity of Greece in its special pleading might drag us and possibly other western European nations into a conflict which could break out between Greece and Turkey at some time during the next five, 10, 15 or 20 years if the common security policy were to become a reality.

The Earl of Onslow

I was interested to see when we considered the disputes that are actually going on between members of the European Community that there is a row between the English and the Irish over the border; there is a row between the British and the Spanish over Gibraltar; and that there is a permanent row going on between the Greeks and the Turks. I suspect that the Spaniards would take a very different view over the Falkland Islands than we take. That is just within Europe. It also seems to me that it is impossible to expect the Finns to have the same sort of attitude to foreign policy that the Greeks or the Spaniards would take.

When the capital of Germany moves from Bonn to Berlin the psychology of German politics will change from what I suggest would be a Rhine palatinate, almost a Hapsburg view of Europe—or certainly a Burgundian view of Europe—to that of a Hohenzollern or Eastern-Prussian view of Europe. I am not casting any moral judgments here, I am just suggesting that when that capital moves, with the Polish border 80 miles away, that is psychologically bound to happen.

For no other reason than the fact that we have 22 miles of what Black Adder would call "wet, blue wobbly stuff" between us and the rest of the Continent, psychologically we have a different view on foreign affairs. Indeed, we have a different outlook to history and to trade. It is rumoured in newspaper reports that, under the next defence review, the present Labour Government are thinking of producing two fleet carriers with the capability of 40 aircraft. That reflects the attitude of a maritime global policy, but it does not stop us co-operating with Finland on something, with Greece on something else or, indeed, with France on other matters. But to suggest that Mr. Poos should have any control over HMS "Illustrious", the "Indefatigable", the "Ark Royal", or whatever she will be called, strikes me as being a rather dangerous idea; and I put it no higher than that.

We have had the farce of a concerted European policy over Bosnia, which fell between two stools: it meddled, but did not impose; or it just did not let the whole gang of Balkan thugs slit each other's throats, which would have been a Bismarckian approach to such affairs. Perhaps I may draw your Lordships' memories back a little to a splendid remark by Bismarck that the whole of the Balkans is not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier. So, for five years, we got our Balkan policy completely wrong until some leadership was imposed by the Americans and, I believe, by British and French troops on the ground outside Sarajevo, acting together rather than under the aegis of something in Brussels.

We are a grown-up country. We are much too settled to have a sort of committed foreign policy, with all the inherent dangers it brings, set in tablets of stone and which becomes the law of the Medes and the Persians in an unrepealable treaty. For heaven's sake, let us co-operate and let us be friends and, on occasions if we have to, go to war alongside German soldiers, if that is in the interests both of Germany and of England—or, indeed, French soldiers. Let us not tie the hands of Her Britannic Majesty's Foreign Secretaries for generations to come.

Lord Renton

I wish to draw attention to the strange evolution which has taken place within the European Union on the question of co-operation with regard to foreign affairs. The Rome Treaty put forward no arrangements, except perhaps by implication. However, if the integration which is envisaged as the long-term aim of that treaty were to be fully implemented, there would have to be some such co-operation. It was not until the Single European Act that we had anything written into any treaty about it. That legislation put the emphasis this way: The Member States shall endeavour jointly to formulate and implement a common European foreign policy". But the Maastricht Treaty carried evolution a stage further. Instead of just referring to member states, it referred to, the Union and the Member States". It said that they were to, define and implement a common policy to cover all areas of foreign and security policy". Now we have Amsterdam which does not refer to member states at all; it refers simply to "the Union" and says: The Union will define and implement the policy". What we have to be careful to consider is how it will do so: who will take the responsibility? We get the answer from paragraph (1) of Article J.8, to which the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, has already referred, which says: The Presidency shall represent the Union in matters coming within the common foreign and security policy". It refers to the "Presidency". That is not a description of an individual; it is a description of a condition, a state, in which an individual may be involved. We know now that the individual will only hold that position for six months and that it will change every six months. Paragraph (3) of Article J.8 says that the "Presidency shall be assisted". One would have hoped that would be by the Foreign Ministers in the Council of Ministers; but no, it is not so: The Presidency shall he assisted by the Secretary-General of the Council who shall exercise the function of High Representative for the common foreign and security policy". So, instead of having member states being consulted, getting together and co-operating, the Amsterdam Treaty requires that we delegate the whole of that responsibility to whoever occupies the presidency for a period of six months. Admittedly, the Secretary-General will provide a bit of continuity because he holds the job for some years, but is that a satisfactory situation?

When introducing the debate today the noble Lord, Lord Shore, referred to "consultancy". That is what we need. There is no evidence in Article J.8 to show that there will be any prior consultation. Indeed, there seems to be a complete delegation to whoever happens to hold the presidency for six months. That is not a satisfactory situation. It could lead to extremely difficult consequences, and I believe that we should he very wary of it.

7.30 p.m.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire

This is an important part of the treaty and I am glad that we are devoting attention to it. Of course, much of it is not entirely new. It represents in part an evolution of what we have been engaged in since we joined the European Community some 27 years ago—indeed, Britain began to take part in European political co-operation in mid-1972, well before we joined the Community proper—and part of what the current treaty represents is a regularisation of activities which are already under way.

I have sympathy with part of the purpose of the amendments which we are discussing. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us some assurance on my next point. Much of what has happened has not been reported to national parliaments. All that is covered under the second pillar is that which is least subject to national scrutiny. I note that the European Communities Committee of this Chamber now has a sub-committee—of which I am proud to be the chair—which covers the third pillar but does not cover all the activities which come under what is now called CFSP.

I am old enough to remember Jim Callaghan—now the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan—when he was Foreign Secretary telling us how useful he found foreign policy consultations when he first occupied that office in 1974. The great achievement of European political co-operation at that time was the Helsinki process, the conference on security and co-operation in Europe. It was one of the ways in which the west Europeans, as a group, managed to persuade the Soviet Union that pan-European consultations on security issues and on human rights and civil liberties were part of an East/West process. It was a time when the United States was not actively interested in European affairs.

I remember the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, when he was Foreign Secretary pressing, under British presidency, for a report to strengthen foreign policy consultations, which was of course the London report of 1980. I remember Michael Heseltine when he was defence Minister introducing a particularly useful initiative for the strengthening of the Western European Union because of the desirability—as it seemed to him—of strengthening European defence consultations and in particular of feeding through European defence consultations into a more common view about what kind of weapons we wished to procure. So there is nothing immensely new in this. I did not recognise the rather Churchillian picture of Britain as a world power surrounded by countries that did not look beyond their boundaries that the noble Lord. Lord Shore, presented to us. That is a very "East of Suez" depiction of the world. One of the questions we shall discuss when the strategic defence review is produced is where Britain's defence stands—

Lord Shore of Stepney

I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way, particularly after our earlier exchange. Is not the Gulf east of Suez?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire

The Gulf is indeed east of Suez. There are those who would say that we should be in the straits of Malacca and, if necessary, in the South China Sea, if the Americans want us to be there. When we discuss the strategic defence of Europe we shall discuss how far Britain needs, in the next 20 years, to be in the Gulf following the Americans. I have many questions about how far we should follow American Middle East policy.

I must apologise that I was absent from the Committee discussions on Tuesday. I am embarrassed to admit that I was in Brussels. There are, of course, a number of international organisations in Brussels. The one I was involved with on Tuesday was NATO. We discussed the formulation of NATO's new strategic concept which is to be presented next April for agreement among Ministers at which point—as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, is well aware—three new members will be accepted into NATO: the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary. The NATO study on enlargement—announced some 18 months ago—included in its proposals that in the long run membership of NATO in Europe and of the European Union should ideally consist of the same number of countries. Part of the process of double enlargement on which we are after all engaged concerns countries which wish to join both the European Union and NATO. The suggestion which I think I inferred from the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, is that NATO is somehow more permanent than the European Union. That is something we could debate endlessly. That ties us up with the large question of the whole US/European relationship.

Lord Tebbit

I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Not for the first time he precisely misunderstands what I said. NATO could disintegrate at any time. There was a proposal from one major political party here not that long ago that the United Kingdom should withdraw from it. It is possible that one day the Americans will be sufficiently irritated by the nonsenses which come from Brussels to leave NATO.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire

I remind the noble Lord that the Americans are in Brussels in strength. They have two large delegations there. I think the larger one is the American delegation to the European Union. The Americans are present in a great many of our discussions.

The NATO strategic concept, which is under discussion, has—under pressure from our American allies—concentrated greatly on the European security and defence identity, and on strengthening co-operation among the European allies because that is what our American partners want of us. That is the link between the NATO discussions and the European Union discussions and what we have in these parts of the Treaty of Amsterdam. We are, after all, already deeply involved and engaged—I am glad to see that the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, is now with us—in European defence co-operation. In 1998 we shall celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Dutch/British marine amphibious force. The British command the NATO rapid reaction force in Germany and are engaged in the multinational division. There is now a Franco/British air wing. I was interested to visit the British. Dutch and German naval staff involved in the standing force, eastern Atlantic some months ago.

Our defence is intimately integrated with our European allies. If we were to be involved in other conflicts, we would expect to be engaged with many of our European allies. The whole concept of combined joint task forces—the sort of things which are being discussed within NATO and within the European Union—concerns coalitions of the willing to take part in the kind of conflicts which we may see around the edge of Europe.

The Earl of Clanwilliam

The noble Lord has kindly given way. I take the point entirely that we have co-operation. It is co-operation for which he is calling. However, Article J.4 is prescriptive and states that we shall co-operate.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire

The noble Earl wishes to make language stretch beyond where we have currently stretched our obligations. I point to the experience of Bosnia where the Europeans are providing the hulk of the forces. The Europeans are also providing the bulk of the money. The Americans are still providing the policy leadership but are demanding—I was reading a couple of Madeleine Albright's recent speeches only yesterday—that the Europeans (the majority of EU member states have troops in Bosnia) should take a larger share of the burden. Much of the pressure for greater European defence co-operation comes from our American allies.

The Earl of Onslow

No one denies that it is a good idea to have defence co-operation, help and all the things which the noble Lord has described both in Brussels and in Bosnia. Bosnia was a mess-up to start with. However, it is not necessary to have the articles in the Treaty of Amsterdam to give us what we have already. We have that without the Treaty of Amsterdam.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

I put it simply to the noble Lord. NATO has an escape hatch. The Treaty of Rome has no escape hatch whatever.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire

I note that the Treaty of Rome is regarded as something particularly pernicious. Over the past 30 or 40 years we have become more integrated with our neighbours and allies as regards defence. We are now discussing the reorganisation of the European defence industry in which British Aerospace, GEC and others are talking of mergers with their German and French partners. We are not quite in the position we were in 50 or 100 years ago. The kind of political and policy framework we need is therefore something we have to discuss.

Under CFSP, in the Treaty of Amsterdam we are talking about a High Representative who will be the Secretary-General of the Council, and a policy planning unit attached to the new High Representative which will comprise of diplomats seconded from national foreign ministries. The idea is that the High Representative should be someone of similar stature and standing to the Secretary-General of NATO. Again, that is not entirely foreign to what we are used to. It responds to the repeated American desire to have a more coherent dialogue with their European allies.

That is the way we are moving. Some Members of this House may not like the distance we have already moved. But let us recognise that that is what British defence and foreign policies are now about. I hope that the Government will explain to a largely uneducated British electorate our multilateral consultations, how the common foreign and security policy operates, how the Western European Union relates to the European Union and to NATO, and, in the context of the strategic defence review, the link between the Treaty of Amsterdam, the NATO discussions on the future of NATO and European defence, and the future of British foreign policy.

The Earl of Clanwilliam

Does the noble Lord agree with Article J.4, as regards co-operation, whether or not we like it?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire

The idea that we can stand alone on foreign policy is a wonderfully Churchillian idea. If a British defence and foreign policy is concerned with the defence of Europe as a whole, we are most likely to find ourselves co-operating with our partners and allies in responding to those threats, as in Bosnia. That seems to me to be what Article J.4 is about.

Lord Whitty

I beg to move that further consideration on Amendment No. 5 be now adjourned.

Moved accordingly, and on Question, Motion agreed to.

Lord Whitty

I beg to move that the House be now resumed until 8.45 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.