§ 8.45 p.m.
§ House again in Committee on Clause 1: Amendment No. 5.
§ Lord Pearson of Rannoch
One factor not so far mentioned in our deliberations is that the European Union's common foreign and security policy has failed at pretty well everything it has attempted. One has only to cite the Falklands war, Yugoslavia, Cyprus, Liberia, the Middle East and Iraq to see that that is so. Indeed, it is hard to think of any foreign policy area in which the European Union has been successful. I may be wrong about that, in which case no doubt the Minister will put me right.
One of the European Union's problems is that it has interfered in those areas not because it was able to bring any particular expertise or influence to bear but because it wished to justify the existence of a foreign policy which is, after all, one of the essential features of a state. We all know that the European Union has great ambitions to become a single state; at least, our partners in the European Union do, even if British governments, of every hue, continue to deny it.
Often, too, the European Union's unhelpful interventions are inspired by a pathetic desire to show the Americans that the Europeans are master in their own continent. As the Foreign Minister of Luxembourg, M. Jacques Poos, so dangerously put it at the start of the Yugoslavian problems:If there is one problem which Europe can solve, it is Yugoslavia".How wrong he was, and at what cost.
With this history, it is very worrying that there is not more discussion about exactly why European foreign and defence policy has failed so dismally and why it is likely to continue to do so. Even more worrying, however, is that one can now discern the voices of bad workmen blaming their tools and starting to ask for newer and sharper tools so that they can do better in future. Some of those newer tools are clearly in the Treaty of Amsterdam.
That is to me reminiscent of past discussions about socialism. If, 20 years ago, one pointed out, as one often did, that socialism did not work economically, politically, culturally or morally, one often met the response that that was because there was not enough of it, or that it was not sufficiently pure, or that it was being polluted by elements of the market economy, and so on. I hope that we shall not hear that sort of answer 1420 from the Government tonight. Many noble Lords have pointed out the folly of what is now contemplated by the Treaty of Rome, as amended by the Single European Act at Maastricht and now by these very dangerous modifications agreed at Amsterdam. There is only one thing to do with them—and that is to scrap them.
The Earl of Clanwilliam
I shall not detain the Committee for long, but we must recognise that we are an island race with world-wide responsibilities which have been developed through past centuries and which are not to be negated or abandoned in favour of the Amsterdam Treaty as implemented by the Council of Europe. A common foreign policy can be implemented in the final analysis only by the use of defence forces and in the extremely short term. That is the import of the Treaty of Amsterdam; it will conflict with NATO. It is a deliberate attempt to remove the Anglo-Saxon influence. If that is not xenophobic what is? Are we all to be taken to court for being xenophobic because we like to look after the Anglo-Saxon influence in the world?
When the crisis in Iraq occurred the disarray was obvious. This is not a good augury for a common position. I direct one comment to the Liberal Democrat Benches. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, spoke cogently about co-operation with which we are very much in agreement. However he did not recognise or appear to have read Article J.4 which is entirely prescriptive. It does not allow us exit from any common arrangements that may be made.
§ Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
The Government may be assisted to know that noble Lords on these Benches do not necessarily agree with one another. Some of us believe that the Treaty of Rome, the Single European Act, the Treaty of Maastricht and now the Treaty of Amsterdam are very good measures. I believe that it is worthwhile intervening very briefly in this matter to state that we are not wholly united. Some noble Lords believe that the Treaty of Rome was the forerunner to the establishment of peace in Europe which has existed for more than 50 years. It is that aspect of the Treaty of Rome we are addressing tonight. I believe that what the Government are doing in continuing with the unification of Europe is extremely good. I shall continue to support them and what my noble friend Lord Wallace has said throughout the remaining stages of this Bill when I have the opportunity to do so.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
The comment of the noble Viscount brings me to my feet. He will be well aware that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was formed long before the Treaty of Rome of 1957. If anything has kept the peace in Europe it is not the European Community, the European Union or the Common Market; it is NATO. The noble Viscount should be aware that the greatest threat to western Europe was the Russian blockade of Berlin in 1949. That blockade was broken not by the European Union—which had not been formed at that time—but by the United States and Britain acting together. They ferried 1421 by air all of the supplies that Berlin needed. It is true that the French provided a little help but it was a little because they were unable to do more. I want to nail once and for all the suggestion that it is the Treaty of Rome that has kept the peace in Europe. That is not the case. The peace in Europe has been kept by NATO and the Atlantic alliance.
§ Baroness Park of Monmouth
The noble Lord, Lord Shore, said so much of what I originally intended to say that I have scrapped about two-thirds of my speech, which I am sure will come as a relief to the Committee. Nevertheless, I should like to make a number of points. Particular stress has been placed on Articles 12 and 13 and the adoption of joint action and common positions. Reference has also been made to Article 15 which requires member states to ensure that their national policies conform to the common position. I do not believe that that gives us any choice because it is an obligation placed upon us by the treaty.
Article 17 announces the framing of a common EU defence policy based on fostering closer institutional relations with the WEU leading to a common defence with a view to integrating the WEU into the Union. Meanwhile, it provides access to an operational capability under Article 17.2, notably humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping and tasks of combat forces in crisis management including peacemaking. Essentially, that is the WEU's Petersberg mandate.
I should like to comment particularly on Article 28 which has financial implications I find disturbing. What machinery is there for clearing a cost benefit analysis with member states and getting their agreement to a defence budget every year? It is significant that the inter-institutional agreement regarding the financing of the CFSP is between the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission and that it is attached to the Treaty of Amsterdam but does not form part of the formal treaty on European Union. What is its status? The text says that the agreement was finalised in July 1997 and that the provisions are now in force. At what stage, if at all, were member states consulted on the powers taken to create this budget, and will national parliaments have no control over it? That is the kind of question that the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, asks and answers, but I wish to pose it at this stage.
It will be said that there is one saving grace in the new treaty that should serve to compensate for the many new fetters that it rivets upon us; that is, the statement in Article 23 that QMV will not be used to enforce joint action or common positions when decisions have military or defence implications. However, those are the very tasks for which the EU intends to use the Western European Union and its resources under Article 15.3.
There cannot be any doubt that the EU has now given itself a mandate for setting up its own defence machinery and strategy and is moving purposefully away from the present position, which has served us and Europe well in NATO for over 50 years, of independent nation states freely working together but working as national governments answerable to national parliaments and implementing national strategy. 1422 Defence is the first duty of any government and governments have to answer to their parliaments when they send men out to be killed, even when they are peacekeepers. Defence has to continue to be inter-governmental, not under supranational control. Nation states have to make their own decisions on matters of the life and death of their citizens and the use of increasingly scarce human resources. Our own strategic defence review has already shown that, even in carrying out our own national tasks, which already include peacekeeping in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Cyprus and the Falklands.
When people dismiss our role east of Suez they forget that we have the Caribbean and the Commonwealth—a world wide constituency that we must look after and to which we must answer. We must make hard choices to match resources to commitment. It would be impossible for us to be required to respond in addition to government-by-committee in Brussels, particularly in view of the discrepancies between membership of the WEU, where all nine full members belong both to the EU and to NATO and are covered by the NATO defence guarantee, and that of the EU. There are European members of NATO—Turkey, Norway and Iceland—who are not members of the EU. They are also covered by NATO but not the WEU guarantee. The WEU has five observer members; Denmark, which is covered by the NATO guarantee, and four neutrals, who are also members of the EU, Ireland, Sweden, Finland and Austria. The WEU has associate partnerships with nine states: Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and the three Baltic states. As one FCO document put it well some time ago:Congruence between the membership of WEU and the EU is not complete".The WEU is not exactly over-burdened with military resources. There is already not a little triple-hafting going on between the Allied Command Europe Reaction Force (ARRC), which is part of NATO's Allied Command Europe, the NATO-led forces in Bosnia, and the WEU. When the EU talks in Article 17 of,availing itself of the WEU to elaborate and implement decisions and actions of the Union which have defence implications",where, may I ask, are the troops cominig from? Britain, as the framework country—the lead country in ARRC—provides 60 per cent. of the troops and resources; the Americans 20 per cent.; the Netherlands 7 per cent.; and the others equally small or smaller contingents. In some respects it can be said to be a case of two generals and two stretcher bearers, or maybe a field hospital. The German army of 305,000 men is constrained as to where it can operate by perfectly valid political decisions. It had to pull together a contingent of individual volunteers for Bosnia who had never served together as a unit. Of our own existing commitments, too many are already peacekeeping so that training in the main area of defence is suffering badly, as is morale. The French, the joker in the pack, also have overseas commitments and a somewhat volatile relationship with NATO, although not of course with the EU. Are the Government to make provision in the defence review for more troops, aircraft and weaponry for the committees in Brussels to despatch somewhere to carry out their very own 1423 operations, paid for and executed by us? And what about the four neutral members who are to participate "fully and on an equal footing" in planning and decision making? The condition is of course that they contribute to the task, but it seems unlikely that the contribution could be more than token since for one thing, Ireland and Sweden, to take two of them are already fairly active UN peacekeepers.
I quail, and so should the Government, at the proposed proliferation of busy, opaque committees, working groups, directives, joint action, co-decision and so forth which we can now expect before the Brussels mountain brings forth a series of expensive and unwanted mice. The present arrangements of WEU and NATO work perfectly well. We simply cannot afford the administrative burden which the Commission will now proceed to lay on the weary shoulders of our planners and our troops, and I can only pray that implementing EMU leaves them no time to do anything else for a while. Meanwhile I strongly support the proposal for regular reports to Parliament, preferably before and not after action has been taken.
I have one last point—and an important one—upon which the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, might disagree were he here. Once the EU starts to present itself as a single entity claiming to have the capacity to conduct a supranational Union defence policy, we can probably expect the Americans to take their cue to withdraw from Europe. Without American logistics and air power there can be no effective European military operation, not even peacekeeping and humanitarian rescue, and there will be a serious threat to stability in a potentially volatile world. At present the British presence in Germany, as the lead nation in ARRC, and at Land Command, is playing a very important role in creating that stability, as well as creating an excellent relationship with the Germans at local level. That is something positive. That is a worthwhile part of being in the EU, but it is national.
I can only hope that the Government's blessed position at the heart of Europe will enable them to put the brakes on. It is quite difficult enough to deal with the delicate issue of Russia's relationship with Europe in the defence field through NATO where I believe it will work. We should not confuse that situation. The Union, after all, will have its hands full with enlargement and its consequences. Let us insist that it puts its toy soldiers away and refuse to play its war games.
§ Lord Moynihan
I feel that I must comment upon the procedural exchanges which took place earlier this evening. I hope that the noble Lords, Lord Wallace of Saltaire and Lord Whitty, will accept my observations on those interventions. First, there is no one in this Chamber who condones filibustering, or have we witnessed any filibustering during the lengthy proceedings of this Committee? The unusual yet important nature of the amendments under consideration make them, by definition, wide ranging, detailed and deserving of serious consideration.
1424 Every aspect of this legislation has far-reaching constitutional importance. Indeed, it is of such significance that it merits a nationwide referendum in Denmark, the result of which may negate all the work undertaken on this treaty in both Houses.
Secondly, agreement has been reached to couple together important issues for the convenience of this Committee, so no constructive contributions should be curtailed. To take an example, foreign affairs and defence this evening could have been separated, but this place and the usual channels decided that they would be joined. The Committee would expect them to be properly debated.
Thirdly, this Bill was ruthlessly guillotined in another place. This place has a duty and reputation to fill the void created there, and to seek amendments, and, where appropriate, revisions to this legislation, whenever possible and wherever necessary.
Fourthly, I heard no repetition in the eloquent and invaluable contribution to our proceedings of the noble Lord, Lord Shore. What I did hear from the noble Lord. Lord Whitty, was a criticism of one of the most respected noble Lords in this Chamber. I may disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Shore, but I respect his integrity, his oratory, his commitment, and his utter sincerity.
§ Lord Moynihan
I shall give way in a moment, if I may just finish this point. I am frankly astonished that the Government should so criticise a senior Labour Peer.
§ Lord Whitty
I fear that the noble Lord's recollection is faulty. There was nothing that I said that was criticism of my noble friend Lord Shore. I was pointing out, reacting to the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, that the Companion provides guidance on the length of speeches. I was respectfully requesting my noble friend to observe that. It is completely untrue that there was any criticism of the contents of my noble friend's speech or of his conduct. I was just pointing out the normal procedure of this place, which I think is the job of the Government Whip.
§ Lord Moynihan
On the contrary, it was made explicitly clear by the noble Lord, in echoing the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, that the manner in which the noble Lord, Lord Shore, was speaking was too lengthy. That was precisely the point that was being made. I was surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, should make that point, because his party had already spoken from the Front Bench on this amendment. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, spoke eloquently on it. Clearly, his Front Bench did not believe that that was long enough.
If one combines the contributions from that Front Bench, 24 minutes of contributions came from the Liberal Democrats Front Bench. I find it even more surprising that criticism should be made about the length of the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Shore, when it was felt necessary that on this one amendment the Front Bench required 24 minutes.
1425 There is a considerable degree of cross-party support for the manner in which these complex and, in some ways, unique Committee proceedings are to be managed. I hope that intemperate, and in my view ill judged, procedural interventions will not prejudice the future handling of this Bill.
§ Lord Wallace of Saltaire
I hesitate to break a confidence, but I recall a conversation with the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, who asked me whether I was intending to speak in this debate and said that he hoped that I might contribute on the defence dimension upon which my noble friend Lady Williams had not touched. I am sorry that I acceded to the suggestion. I thought that that was something that contributed to the debate. I recognise that the politics of the Conservative Party are such that one has to do all sorts of funny things on the Front Bench. I merely wish to record that that was the conversation we had.
§ Lord Moynihan
I am more than happy to echo that as a completely accurate reflection of the conversation. I welcomed the noble Lord's contribution in the substantive debate on the amendments before the House tonight. I should be only too happy if he felt it necessary to make further contributions on the amendments, but that was not the point that I was making.
My point was on the interventions specifically criticising the length of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Shore, which I believe was an unjustified criticism from the Government Benches and from the noble Lord, Lord Wallace. He may find that amusing, but I can tell him that it is not a matter which the Official Opposition find amusing or are light-hearted and relaxed about. We intend to consider the Bill in detail. If the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, is challenging me because he feels that it is light-hearted to draw to the attention of the Committee the importance of detailed consideration of the Bill he should have sat through every aspect of our proceedings. I can promise him that we on these Benches intend to look into the legislation, to question the Government and to take as much time as is necessary to ensure that there is full and detailed consideration. That is no laughing matter.
I wish to consider a number of key areas relating to defence policies. It is covered in this section of the treaty under Article J.7 and revises the original Treaty of Maastricht, Article J.4. It is addressed in new Clause 42 standing in my name. From these Benches, I offer the Government our unreserved support for resisting merging the European Union with the Western European Union. The Prime Minister is rightly proud of the article in the treaty which states that NATO, rather than the European Union, is the cornerstone of our defence. Likewise, the previous administration was proud of the explicit reference expressing a similar sentiment in the Maastricht text which stated that nothing undertaken by the EU should prejudice the importance of NATO.
1426 Under Article J.7, the role of the WEU is defined as to support the Union in the,framing of the defence aspects of the common foreign and security policy",and to provide the EU with access to the,operational capability to enable it to undertake the Petersberg tasks",which consist of,humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping tasks and tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacekeeping".However, behind that reasonable definition of the WEU's role, there lurk worrying integrationist moves towards the EU common defence and this is why I have tabled new Clause 42 which seeks to give Parliament—and Parliament is the important word here—an enhanced role in determining the appropriate relationship between the European Union and the Western European Union.
First, Article J.7, paragraph 1, foresees the,progressive framing of a common defence policy",which,might lead to a common defence policy".This is a revision of Article J.4, paragraph 1, in the Treaty of Maastricht, in which direct EU involvement in defence tasks was to be "eventual". Therefore, the framing of a common defence policy is now no longer to be "eventual", but "progressive".
Secondly, in the Treaty of Maastricht. Article J.4, paragraph (2), the,Union requests the WEU, which is an integral part of the development of the Union, to elaborate and implement decisions and actions of the Union which have defence implications".This system of "requesting" provided for an informal relationship between the two bodies which retained distinct identities. Now, instead of the European Union requesting that the WEU undertakes actions on its behalf, the Union will now,avail itself of the WEU to elaborate and implement decisions and actions which have defence implications".Thirdly, under Article J.7, the text states unequivocally that,the Union shall accordingly foster closer relationships with the WEU with a view to the possibility of integration of the WEU into the Union".The phrase "possibility of integration" worries me greatly. What guarantees can the Minister give that, despite the possibility of a merger enshrined in treaty form for the first time, no such merger will take place? For if this treaty gives explicit recognition that NATO is the foundation of our common defence, it also gives an explicit recognition of the possibility of an EU and WEU merger and the first steps towards the common defence identity for the European Union.
Given that Article J.7 states that,the CFSP shall include all questions relating to the security of the Union, including the progressive framing of a common defence policy… which might lead to a common defence should the European Council so decide".and given the statement before the election that,Labour will not permit an EU Commissioner to determine our defence policy",1427 can the Minister give an assurance that we are not slowly but surely moving into the orbit of an unrealistic, potentially damaging European common defence identity? For decisions on defence policy must be taken by consensus and must remain where they belong—with sovereign nation states. The European Union is not equipped to fulfil that role. At present it contains four neutral countries which do not share the obligation to mutual defence upon which both NATO and the WEU full membership are founded. It would be quite wrong for those countries to have an equal say in decisions affecting those who do.
Nor does the EU have any of the operational expertise or the working understanding with NATO which the WEU has gradually acquired over the past few years and which will be essential to the success of future European-led operations. Finally, it would be inappropriate for the Commission, the European Parliament or the European Court of Justice to have any role in defence decision-making.
I should like to take a step back for a moment and consider what role the EU should have in the field of security policy. Of course, member states of the European Union have many interests in common. There is a role for the common foreign and security policy in safeguarding and advancing those interests. That is a role in which this country can play a prominent part. From these Benches, we are keen to develop European defence co-operation, but questions of defence go right to the heart of national sovereignty. A decision to send members of our Armed Forces to risk their lives must remain a decision for our national government, accountable to our national Parliament. They are not matters for decision in the European Union. Member states must be free to act in the defence of their national interests. That is reflected in our commitment to NATO which has been covered so eloquently by my noble friend, and which has been the keystone of our security since 1949.
For half a century, the peace and security of Europe has been guaranteed by perhaps the most successful alliance in our history. Except in extremis, forces can be committed to NATO operations which involve the risk of conflict only with the approval and always by consensus of the North Atlantic Council. Indeed, NATO's position as the predominant institution of European security has been acknowledged, even by France and Spain which are in the process of joining its military structures. NATO is founded on the democratic and liberal values which are common to its members. Those are not exclusively European values. They unite the whole of the Western world.
But the importance of NATO is not only political but military. The European allies alone lack the air and sea capacity, missile defence, the advanced communication satellites and military computers provided by the United States. From these Benches, we believe firmly in the overriding importance of the Atlantic Alliance as the bedrock of our future security. Sustaining a strong US component to European security is an essential part of that.
1428 It is true that in the new strategic environment, military forces are also increasingly likely to be needed for crisis management tasks which fall short of territorial defence. But in the case of smaller, peacekeeping, humanitarian or other crisis management operations, it will not always be reasonable to expect the United States or Canada to participate. The WEU provides the best framework for the further development of that co-operation. The fact that its 10 full members are also members of the Atlantic Alliance enables it to maintain close relations with NATO. The WEU provides also a network of countries with associate and observer status, drawing together 27 European countries in all. That enables it to bring together the widest possible range of contributions, including NATO allies which are not part of the EU, and central European countries.
The previous government believed that the WEU should be maintained as an autonomous organisation with its own treaty base and that its operational capabilities should be developed to enable it to operate effectively in peacekeeping, humanitarian and other limited crisis management tasks. European defence co-operation must therefore be organised in such a way that while bearing their full share of the burden within NATO, and without building new structures that duplicate those already available in the alliance, European countries are also able to act on their own when necessary.
It is essential, too, that any development of a common security policy should not in any way impair the effectiveness of NATO; nor should it seek to duplicate what NATO does so effectively. The common foreign and security pillar of the European Union should strengthen the European pillar of NATO. It should allow Europe to take on a more equitable share of the costs of its own defence and should provide a forum in which common interests should be discussed.
During this debate, I hope to receive a clear statement from the Minister—and I am sure I will—about the Government's vision of the role of the common foreign and security policy. How do they see its relationship with NATO? How can duplication of NATO's work be avoided? I hope also to receive reassurance that moves towards a common European Union defence identity will be staunchly resisted.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean)
In answering this part of our debate this evening, I should point out that I am speaking not only to Amendment No. 5, but also to Amendments Nos. 6 and 7, 9A to 9E, 32 to 35, 39, 41 and 42 which have been grouped together. Over the past two evenings of debate there have been two broad and largely contradictory criticisms in this Chamber of the changes in the Amsterdam Treaty to the provisions governing co-operation on foreign policy. There are those, exemplified by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, who want a single, integrated EU policy and who think that the Amsterdam changes do not go nearly far enough, leaving CFSP arrangements intergovernmental and so hamstrung. There are those, like my noble friends Lord Shore and Lord Stoddart 1429 who argue the opposite; namely, that Amsterdam will introduce a single EU foreign policy through the back door. Both arguments are misguided. Her Majesty's Government were right to ensure at Amsterdam that co-operation on foreign policy remains intergovernmental, under the control of member states. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, acknowledged when he spoke on the last occasion that we discussed this matter, in an interdependent world we need to co-operate on foreign policy. That means pooling EU efforts where sensible and in line with UK national interests; indeed, I stress that point. Collectively, we can exercise more weight on the world stage.
However, a supranational CFSP would not be more effective. CFSP is based on the will of member states to act together. Again, and at the risk of wrecking the career of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, I must say that I agreed with him when he said that this will cannot be artificially created through institutional mechanisms, such as QMV. If member states do not hold convergent positions, we should not try to create a false consensus. Such a hollow foreign common policy would weaken, not strengthen, the weight of the EU on the world stage, as member states would be quick to undermine that policy behind the scenes.
I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, as he requested, that Amsterdam is not a Trojan horse for such a supranational foreign policy. Her Majesty's Government ensured, as we committed ourselves to do in our manifesto, that, under Article J.13, no member can be forced to act or not to act against its will. Member states in the Council remain in firm control of CFSP, with the Presidency in the lead in managing it. I can also assure my noble friend Lord Bruce that the Commission has never had, and is not given in this treaty, sole right of initiative in CFSP matters.
As this Government have noted before—and as my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey told Members of the Committee—Amsterdam is a consolidating treaty: it rationalises the intergovernmental arrangements agreed in Maastricht in order to increase their efficiency and effectiveness. In CFSP, it introduces practical steps to streamline decision-making and financing arrangements; to improve the quality of Council Secretariat advice; to improve external representation of the EU; and to enhance the armoury of instruments for action at member states' disposal. Perhaps I may attempt to cover each of those improvements in a little more detail. I give way to my noble friend.
§ Lord Shore of Stepney
I am much obliged to my noble friend for giving way. I noted my noble friend's response to the leading spokesman for the Opposition and her emphatic statement that we cannot, so to speak, have decisions imposed upon us and that we remain intergovernmental in that sense. However, what does my noble friend have to say about the adjacent provisions in the treaty which allow for enhanced or closer co-operation undertaken not by unanimity but by a majority of member states? Does that apply to the collective defence area? If so, cannot my noble friend envisage a substantial group of states in the European 1430 Union, led perhaps by France and Germany—though I am not too sure about that—insisting upon or carrying forward this closer co-operation without a British veto to prevent them? Is that not a danger to the cohesion of NATO?
§ Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean
I think the noble Lord will find that much of my contribution is devoted to the point that he raised. But as he has asked me about this categorically, flexibility does not apply to the CFSP provisions. I hope to be able to give him some greater assurance on that point in a moment or two.
I was addressing points about decision-making which I hope will interest the noble Lord, Lord Shore. In line with our negotiating aims the Government preserved at Amsterdam the UK's ability to require unanimity in CFSP decision-making. This safeguard is at the heart of our position. Article J.13 preserves unanimity for all decisions on common foreign policy in the form of common strategies or of joint actions and common positions not agreed on the basis of common strategies; and for any decision with military or defence implications.
Maastricht allowed for QMV for implementation of agreed foreign policy. Amsterdam makes that automatic. Further, it adds the ability constructively to abstain when a member state does not want to be forced to act, but does not want to stop others from doing so. It is for the individual member state to decide whether or not to abstain. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan—as he specifically requested—that constructive abstention cannot be used to make a member state act against its national interest if it is in a minority. These two measures usefully streamline decision-making. The UK is a leader, not a follower, in CFSP. Therefore QMV and constructive abstention are to our advantage as they allow more effective implementation arrangements for what we want. EU election monitoring, for example, could not be held up by bickering over precisely how many monitors to send. Less active member states can stand aside without blocking action by others.
The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, asked for clarification on the so-called emergency brake, the provision in Article J.13(2). He asked how it would work. Any member state can require that any decision is taken by unanimity. The reference in Article J.13(2) to,important and stated reasons of national policyis a deterrent against frivolous use. Referral to the European Council merely reflects the current reality that if Foreign Ministers cannot agree, they pass an issue to heads of government or state in the European Council to attempt to resolve the issue by unanimity. But the key is that the individual member state has independent control of whether and when to pull the emergency brake. In answer to another specific point from the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, that decision is not subject to—indeed no decision under Title V is—review by the ECJ. The emergency brake is an important safeguard which recognises the potential sensitivity for all member states of foreign policy decisions, as so many Members of the Committee have recognised this evening.
1431 The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, the noble Lord, Lord Shore, and other noble Lords asked whether a unanimously agreed common strategy on Iraq could have led to a decision by QMV that no member state should use force during the recent crisis. However many times and however many ways this question is put, the answer remains "No". The Government would not have agreed to a common strategy which excluded the use of force. There would thus have been no legal basis for any subsequent decision by QMV not to use force. We would use the emergency brake to block any attempt to use QMV to extend or otherwise change unanimously decided policy. Therefore we would be able to retain our freedom to act again in future, as we have done in the recent past, in a situation such as Iraq.
The noble Lord, Lord Shore, asked about Article J.1. He is right that the article requires that member states support the common foreign and security policy. But under both Maastricht and Amsterdam member states have the power to block decisions which they oppose, as I hope I have been able to demonstrate to the noble Lord.
The noble Lord referred to Article J.9(2) which requires member states to defend the interests of the Union. He threw away the line, "without prejudice to their responsibilities under the United Nations Charter"; but that is, of course, the important line. That means that there is freedom to act as an independent UN Security Council member, and that freedom is not fettered. It is not a new provision. It was in Maastricht.
The noble Lord, Lord Shore, asked again about flexibility. The flexibility provisions are applicable only in respect of the first and third pillars. There is no provision for flexibility as regards this second pillar which we are discussing this evening.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
I am sure the Minister will agree that this is a very complicated treaty and provision. I understand that Article J.13(I) provides for decisions to be taken unanimously. But any one country abstaining does not create a veto. Any decision under Article J.13(1) could not be vetoed by any member.
Let me put a hypothetical position to my noble friend. Imagine, for example, that under Article J.13 the Council had considered the position in Iraq. It had decided, with Britain abstaining, that force should not be used. Bearing in mind that Britain wished to support the United States in its military action against Iraq had not agreement been reached between the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Iraqi leadership, how would the British presidency have been involved? I hope that that is not too complicated.
§ Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean
I do not think that it is too complicated. I hope that I have understood what my noble friend asks. The abstention is what we have called a constructive abstention, which does not impede the actions of others to act if they feel they wish to do so.
My noble friend gave an example which I believe is fundamentally flawed. In that position we would not have constructively abstained. We would have either 1432 vetoed the common strategy—I believe that the real issue would have arisen at that point—or we would have pulled the emergency brake at a later point. Therefore, on both points my arguments remain that we would have, in effect, had a veto.
I hope that I can reassure the noble Lord that we would have had the freedom to act in the way we did after the ratification of the treaty. I hope that I have assured him on that point.
§ Lord Tebbit
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. She has dealt well with the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart. However, let us suppose that the last administration had, like President Bush, gone wobbly. Let us suppose they had agreed, and there had been a unanimous agreement within the Council, that force should not be used against Iraq. Of course, subsequently, there was the general election and the present Administration are most robust, have given great support to our American allies and would have wanted to change the policy. In exactly what way would that have been possible? Or would the incoming Government have been locked in to the policy of the preceding government?
§ Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean
Like any international obligation, such obligations are binding, not on the government of the day, but on the state, as I am sure the noble Lord is well aware. However, there is an important point here. Most CFSP instruments reflect the rapidly changing nature of foreign affairs. They are therefore generally time-limited to six months or a year. Indeed. Articles J.3 and J.4 require common strategies and joint actions to specify their duration.
Perhaps I may now turn to the instruments. I hope my remarks will shed a little more light, even though the noble Lord shakes his head. Article J contains two useful CFSP instruments. The first is the common strategy. This will be a more formal vehicle for the existing European Council practice of setting guidelines on foreign policy. It will give important common policies more weight on the world stage. It is given the same degree of definition as joint actions were in the Maastricht Treaty.
The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, asked for a definition of a common strategy. The common strategy must set out objectives, duration—an important point for the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit—and the means to be made available. In other words—and again this is important in respect of the issue raised by my noble friend Lord Stoddart—we can insist on a common strategy being as precise as we want. In practice, common strategies are unlikely to be very different from existing joint actions. Both the preparation of, and the decision on, common strategies are by unanimity. So we have an independent control of the process.
Secondly, we pressed successfully for a new provision, Article J.4.4, for the Council to request the Commission to submit proposals in support of CFSP common measures. We believe that that will help ensure better coherence in external economic and political activities. However, as I indicated previously, such a request does not confer exclusive rights of initiative in 1433 CFSP upon the Commission. I say that most emphatically to my noble friend Lord Bruce of Donington.
Turning to institutions, we negotiated at Amsterdam three useful additions to CFSP institutions: first, double-hatting the secretary-general of the Council secretariat as High Representative for CFSP. That will improve the representation and visibility of CFSP. The High Representative will add to existing representational capacity, reduce the burden on the presidency and the troika, and help ensure continuity from presidency to presidency in contacts with third countries. He will ensure better coherence within the secretariat of external economic and political activity.
I assure the noble Lords, Lord Moynihan and Lord Stoddart, however, that the High Representative will not be an independent EU Foreign Minister. The treaty makes clear that he or she will be accountable to, and the servant of, member states in the Council. So CFSP remains firmly under member state control and the presidency in the lead on the management of it. I hope that that answers the specific point made by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, in winding up.
Secondly, Amsterdam creates a new deputy secretary general to relieve the new secretary general high representative of many of the current secretary general's duties, and so make time for his new CFSP duties. Thirdly, it adds a new policy planning and early warning unit to the CFSP resources of the secretariat. This will help sharpen the preparation and the focus of policy options put before the Council.
We also successfully negotiated improved financing arrangements. CFSP expenditure will normally be borne by the Community budget rather than by member states. Under Maastricht, the European Parliament was able to place CFSP funding in the reserve, so allowing it to block or amend Council decisions on the financing of individual CFSP actions. The inter-institutional agreement we negotiated at Amsterdam prevents that happening.
The noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, asked what the CFSP budget is used for. There are 30 mecu or about £20 million in the budget for 1998. Member states in the Council of Ministers can choose to use this to fund common foreign policy activities under five main headings. First, there is support for democratic transition and electoral processes, as we did in 1995 for the Palestinian elections, and in 1996 and 1997 in the former Yugoslavia. The second is disarmament, including funding for demining activities and support for victims of anti-personnel land-mines, as we have done since 1995. The third heading is special envoys, providing funding as necessary for the EU special envoys to the Middle East peace process and the Great Lakes region.
The fourth heading is prevention of conflicts and support for peace processes. This year, the budget has been used to provide 6 mecu in rapid short-term assistance to the new Dayton-friendly Republic of Serpska Government in Bosnia. Last year it was used to provide funding for counter-terrorism training for the 1434 Palestinian Authority. It is also used to provide support, as necessary, for the office of the high representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina. The fifth is to fund common foreign policy action in response to any emergency.
Like my noble friend Lord Grenfell. I have been amazed during this debate at some noble Lords' sheer inventiveness in trying to turn what he described as "modest mice into woolly mammoths of evil disposition". I will deal with one or two of the modest mice or evil mammoths. First, the noble Lord. Lord Renton, referred to the dropping of the reference to "member states" in Article J.1. That merely recognises that when member states act collectively it is by definition as the Union. Perhaps I may point out to the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and my noble friend Lord Stoddart that this is the same drafting as that employed in Article J.1.3 of the Maastricht Treaty. There is nothing new or particularly alarming in it.
Secondly, member states have shared confidential information with each other ever since European political co-operation first started in 1970. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, was worried about sharing of intelligence reports. Common policies are based on common analyses which must start from a common information base. We are putting in place arrangements to ensure security vetting of secretariat and policy planning unit staff. However, it remains entirely at the discretion of the individual member state what information that state chooses to share. So I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, that the UK's defence intelligence relationship with the United States is not affected. Indeed, we would not allow it to be affected.
Thirdly, Article J.9, mentioned by many noble Lords, is unchanged from the provisions negotiated by the last government in Articles J.2.3 and J.5.4 of the Maastricht Treaty. The UK would have to agree to any common position before being required to uphold it in any international forum. The Government also welcome the continued explicit acknowledgment in the treaty that the UK and France, as permanent members of the UN Security Council, have independent responsibilities under the UN Charter.
Fourthly, the EMU stability pact would not prevent us from going to war if we wished. The noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Dalzell, suggested that any such foreign policy adventure would imperil our budgetary position, putting us in breach of the pact.
I am pleased to be able to assure the noble Lord that deficits over 3 per cent. of GDP will not be judged excessive or incur penalties under the stability pact if they are exceptional and temporary. The relevant regulation makes clear that exceptional and temporary deficits include those resulting from unusual events outside the control of the member state concerned. That description would fit any military action which any EU member state is likely to want to undertake nationally.
§ Lord Shore of Stepney
I am sorry to interrupt my noble friend. In considering that point, as she will know, the ways and means facility available now to the Treasury is to be repealed as part of joining the European Central Bank and EMU. If that ways and 1435 means facility is withdrawn, and with it the Government's ability to borrow from the markets at will, will it not be the case that we would then need the consent of the European Central Bank?
§ Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean
I do not believe that that is so. I believe the position is clear in what I have just said to my noble friend. The deficits, if they are incurred in exceptional or temporary circumstances, will not impede us from taking any kind of military action. I do not believe that my noble friend's point is one that has real locus. I should like to turn to the security and defence provisions. The Amsterdam Treaty clarifies the security provisions of CFSP. Let us be clear. NATO is the bedrock of our security. At Amsterdam we secured a treaty change which underlined the primacy of NATO in European defence. At the same time we improved arrangements aimed at enabling Europeans to make a more effective contribution to the security of their continent.
The noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, expressed anxiety that members of the EU and NATO had not engaged in serious dialogue over the enlargement of their respective organisations and that this reflected an inability to co-ordinate European foreign policy. But one should remember that NATO is a collective defence organisation; the European Union is not. As other Members of the Committee have said, not all EU members share the same strategic perspective and defence commitments. Indeed, not all future members may share them. So the criteria for the two enlargement processes are different. Countries involved in both processes will naturally have taken the issues specific to each into account in their overall policy-making and in their discussions with partners. But it would not be right for the EU to have a say in the expansion of NATO. Nor vice versa.
Amsterdam brings welcome clarity to the provisions agreed at Maastricht on this key question of the EU role in security and defence and its implications for NATO. I remind the Committee that it was Maastricht that introduced the concept of an EU common defence policy and common, or collective, defence. At Amsterdam a majority of partners wanted to go further, by committing to an EU common defence and integration of the WEU into the EU.
We succeeded in resisting those changes, which would have undermined NATO. In doing so, we managed to clarify Maastricht in a way that underlines the primacy of NATO. The treaty explicitly states that "partners who are members of the alliance see their common defence realised in NATO."
§ Lord Wallace of Saltaire
Perhaps the noble Baroness will allow me to intervene. I was reading some of the comments in the senate ratification debate on NATO this morning. All of them make clear that from an American perspective the expansion of NATO and the expansion of the EU are clearly linked. It is part of 1436 the American expectation that successful enlargement of the EU is seen very much as part of how NATO is strengthened. Does the noble Baroness accept that?
§ Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean
I accept that many people do link them. What I do not accept is that there is a direct or specific read-across from one set of negotiations to another.
I was talking about the clarification of the Maastricht position in the treaty under discussion. The treaty explicitly states that partners who are members of the alliance see their common defence in NATO, and the treaty also makes clear, as Maastricht did not, that there can be no EU common defence or EU/WEU integration unless and until all member states agree by unanimity in the European Council and, further, endorse the decision in line with their own constitutional requirements.
Like the Maastricht Treaty, the Amsterdam language on the relationship between the EU and the WEU reflects the difficulty in reconciling opposing views among partners of how the relationship should work. Most would like to see the WEU set on the path to integration into the EU. Together with our partners who shared our concerns, we prevented this. The EU and WEU remain separate organisations with their own decision-making procedures. Amsterdam confirms that only the WEU, not the EU, has an operational military capability and that decisions on military operations undertaken by the WEU on the EU's behalf will continue to be taken in the WEU.
At the same time, Amsterdam takes important steps towards a more efficient, practical approach to handling crises under the common foreign and security policy. It makes clear that the WEU will be the channel whereby the EU can call on an operational military capability in support of its own non-military crisis management activity. The WEU's so-called "Petersberg tasks", referred to by my noble friend Lord Shore, include humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping tasks, tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including, of course, peacemaking. They are included in the treaty. It not only underlines the EU's political commitment to crisis management, but it also usefully confirms the range of activities which the WEU may carry out on the EU's behalf.
The treaty makes clear the commitment to a closer working relationship between the EU and the WEU, aiming particularly at more effective arrangements for assessing and planning a co-ordinated response to any crisis. The protocol to Article J.7 of the treaty recognises the importance of strengthening this practical co-operation. The treaty also promotes a greater role for neutral partners in European crisis management, where they have a valuable contribution to make. The effects of these changes will be to strengthen Europe's crisis management capability in a way which we believe will not weaken but support the primary role of NATO in European defence.
1437 I hope that I have covered most of the detailed questions which your Lordships have raised. I realise that I may not have dealt with one or two questions. Indeed, I believe I should say something on the provisions regarding scrutiny.
We are committed to enhance national parliaments' role in the EU and to strengthen the UK scrutiny system. On the intergovernmental pillars, we confirmed to the scrutiny committees of both Houses our decision to reinforce arrangements for formal parliamentary scrutiny. My right honourable friend the President of the Council published a memorandum in January setting out our proposals to strengthen the scrutiny system. Those proposals include extending the scope of the scrutiny reserve and fuller reports to Parliament on Council meetings as well as greater scrutiny on the intergovernmental pillars. The memorandum was sent to the committee of the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, whose views on it we would warmly welcome. We look forward to hearing from the noble Lord and his committee in due course.
§ Lord Pearson of Rannoch
Would the Minister mind confirming a point which I put to her noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey in Committee on Tuesday about the effect of the scrutiny reserve? Is it still the position that Her Majesty's Government will not agree to any directive or piece of legislation in Brussels unless the scrutiny reserve of the scrutiny committees of both Houses of Parliament has been lifted? Is that still the position?
§ Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean
I understand that directives and legislation do not apply to the CFSP. I hope that that gives the noble Lord the information he was seeking.
§ Lord Pearson of Rannoch
I do not believe that regulations could apply. Any form of European action or legislation should be subject to the scrutiny reserve of both Houses of Parliament. Can the Minister say whether that is still the case?
§ Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean
I shall have to write to the noble Lord on the point that he raises so that we can be precise.
In closing, I should say something about the remarks from my noble friend Lord Bruce of Donington. I was sorry that he felt it necessary to raise questions about the Civil Service. I have had the privilege of working with civil servants over the past 20 years. I have worked with them in every single government department. My own experience is that civil servants are assiduous in their briefing. Indeed, the Foreign Office has been extraordinarily assiduous in briefing me for the very many debates that I have had in your Lordships' House. The wide range of briefing that I am called to bring to your Lordships' attention allows me to say that they are very thorough indeed. Any shortcomings in the way in which I have presented the arguments are entirely mine 1438 and not theirs. I hope that I have covered the major points raised by Members of the Committee and that they will now feel able to withdraw their amendments.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
I shall be very brief because my noble friend has done an extremely good job, and charmingly, in replying to the debate. I am concerned about three matters. First, in Article J.9 it says,In international organisations and at international conferences where not all the Members States participate, those which do not take part shall uphold the common positions".Can my noble friend comment on that in relation to our position as a permanent member of the Security Council? Can she also answer the question I asked about our position as a permanent member of the Security Council and that it will not be undermined? As regards the high representative, can I have her assurance that if ever she hears him call himself or herself, "the ambassador of the European Union" she will slap him or her down very quickly?
§ Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean
On that last point I hardly think that a junior Minister is very likely to—
§ Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean
I am sure that my right honourable friend will take all appropriate action with anyone who gets a bit above themselves.
The noble Lord asked about our membership of the Security Council. There is nothing in the treaty that undermines our position on the Security Council. The noble Lord also asked about upholding the common positions. I hope that I have explained that I do not believe that we would be in the position of having to uphold a common position in which we had not participated. Given what I have explained to the Committee about the unanimity of view required for a common position, I hope that the noble Lord will feel reassured on those points.
Lord Bruce of Donington
In congratulating the noble Baroness on the detailed manner in which she has dealt with these many questions which have arisen under the common foreign and security arrangements, has she taken into account one rather important factor? I refer to the Elysée treaty between Germany and France concluded in 1963 whereby the governments of France and Germany agreed to meet together before every meeting of the Council of Ministers in order to determine a common position between those two countries?
Is my noble friend further aware that in a process which I cannot identify, but which nevertheless exists, the European Commission seems to be singularly well informed of the common position arrived at between France and Germany before each meeting of the Council of Ministers? Bearing in mind my noble friend's emphasis on the importance of individual member states reaching their own decisions and the manner 1439 undoubtedly with which our ambassadorial staff deal with the individual countries as such, will she indicate to what extent she has taken that extra factor into account in what she has so lucidly put forward this evening?
§ 10 p.m.
§ Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean
I cannot for a moment claim to have anything like the extraordinarily detailed knowledge of my noble friend in his careful and painstaking study of European relationships; but I think I can safely say that those briefing me will have taken into account the treaty to which my noble friend referred. Perhaps I may also point out that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister is now making good the undertaking made in Labour's manifesto to move into a leading role in Europe. It is our business also to have good bilateral relationships with our colleagues in Europe. My right honourable friend is doing that—and he did it not only to his great credit, but to the credit of the whole country, in Paris this week.
§ Lord Shore of Stepney
Before my noble friend begins her well-earned rest—we greatly appreciate her excellent and detailed responses—may I put it to her that what she has managed to produce for the Committee has been a number of last resort vetos which are available to the British Government or, indeed, to other governments who are at the extreme end of their tether, as it were?
As against that, will she not recognise and comment on the whole thrust of the treaty? I quote the first sentence:The Union shall define and implement a common foreign and security policy covering all areas of foreign and security policy".Either those words are, quite frankly, misleading and should never have been accepted by any British Government or they really do indicate what in the real world is the actual tilt of the treaty and the pressures that we would come under from a majority within the European Union before we were able to use our veto. We must always see vetoing the European Union's activities in one area against the possibilities of the Union taking counter action against our veto in a number of other adjacent areas.
§ Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean
I fully understand the passionate and sincere views that my noble friend holds on these matters. However, I do not believe that he is right when he describes these measures as "last resort vetos". The Common Strategy is the point where common views come together. This is not a last-minute veto. The Common Strategy has, through painstaking discussion, not only to set out objectives but also deal with the duration and the means to be made available for delivering that Common Strategy. I think that what is presented to us in this treaty is a far more logical position—one that allows for a great deal more thought in putting together the strategies and position of the EU as a whole—than was the case in its predecessor treaty.
§ Lord Tebbit
I hate to risk the ire of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, by referring again to some of these matters, but I do not think that the Minister adequately dealt with the point that has just been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Shore. The noble Baroness appears to have fallen into the same trap as the previous administration in believing that such words are guff and do not mean very much, whereas we know that when the chips are down the interpretation of the treaty is based upon its broad ideals which always override the niceties that we in our parliamentary system regard as important but which under the continental system do not matter a damn.
I am distinctly unimpressed by the arguments of the noble Baroness in reply to my point that an incoming government may have the endorsement of the electorate to change the foreign policy agreed by their predecessor. There is no provision whatever in the treaty for that to happen. The views of the electorate are brushed aside; they do not matter. If a government have agreed to a policy that is the policy. This treaty states that it is not for an incoming parliament to say that it will not be bound by the deeds of a predecessor. The noble Baroness said that the predecessor government may have cautiously agreed that the policy should last for only six months, or perhaps 12 months, but that may not be the case. Does not the noble Baroness understand that there is something fundamentally offensive about a government, who have been elected on the basis of one policy, being required by this treaty to go about the world upholding a contrary policy? If she does not understand that, she does not understand anything about the parliamentary system that has grown up in this country over the past few centuries.
§ Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean
I believe that the noble Lord has sought to put words into my mouth. I do not believe that the words of this treaty are so much guff. He may believe that they are, but I do not. I have the greatest possible respect not only for those who negotiated the treaty but for our European partners. I rather doubt that there are any words that can reassure the noble Lord on this point. I am sure that the views of the noble Lord are extraordinarily well known and that he will not be reassured. I reiterate, if he is willing to listen to the point that I put, that international obligations are binding on a state, not a government. The noble Lord is aware of that. He chides me and says that I know nothing about the parliamentary system. I am sure that I do not know as much as the noble Lord, but I know a little. I am aware that international obligations are a matter for the state and not a government. I said earlier that in this treaty Common Strategies were time-limited at the time of negotiation. That is clearly laid down in Articles J.3 and J.4. Therefore, in practice a new government would soon find themselves able to renegotiate the terms of an instrument which they wanted to renegotiate. I am sure that I have not been able to reassure the noble Lord, but I have done my best. I hope that other noble Lords, who may have wondered whether the noble Lord had a point, are now convinced that he does not.
§ Lord Wallace of Saltaire
Can I tempt the Minister to go further and explain in a little more detail the concept of the emergency brake and the constructive abstention to which reference has been made only briefly? Article J.13(1) is a very carefully balanced article. Article J.13(1) refers to constructive abstention in order to enable decisions to be made when one member is unhappy. Article J.13(2), however, provides an emergency brake.
§ Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean
I hope that I explained that. I was at some pains so to do, and in answer to the specific point made by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan.
§ Lord Pearson of Rannoch
The Minister disagrees with the noble Lord, Lord Shore, that what we have been observing here this evening is a constant stream of desperate vetoes which we may or may not be able to launch against the advancing tide of European integration. Can I put to her a question that I put to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, on Tuesday, and to which I did not get an answer? Perhaps the Minister can give it.
The original Treaty of Rome talked of creating an ever-closer union of the peoples of Europe in Article A, as it then was—Article 1 now. Can the Minister think of any amendments to the Treaty of Rome since that time—in the Single European Act, the Maastricht Treaty, or the Treaty of Amsterdam—which go against the ever closer union of the peoples of Europe? If she can, the noble Lord, Lord Shore, and I might be marginally reassured. I am afraid she will see that all amendments, sometimes with the British Government rather desperately trying to avoid them, putting in a little veto here and a little block there, go in that direction. That is because the intention of our partners in Europe is precisely to achieve what is written in the treaty:an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe".The ever closer union leads in the end to the Union.
§ Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean
The word used was not "desperate". That was not the word that my noble friend Lord Shore used, and it was not the description that I used back to him. The phrase was "last resort." I hope that I was able to indicate that these were not "last resort." They are built in to the process of establishing common strategies.
The noble Lord asked whether I could produce one example in all the treaties that showed the countries of Europe moving further apart and not coming closer together. I am sure that were I to say "no" or "yes" someone would prove that I am wrong. So I shall ask officials whether they can provide the noble Lord with the points that he wants.
I will say to the noble Lord, quite clearly, that there were those, when we were dealing with this latest treaty, who wanted closer integration between the EU and the WEU. The resistance to that was led by Her Majesty's Government. There were others who took part in that resistance but the resistance was led by Her Majesty's Government. So, although I know that I cannot reassure 1442 the noble Lord, I hope that I can assure him that we have been true to the Government's stated negotiating aims for Amsterdam.
§ Lord Moynihan
I congratulate the Minister and her civil servants on her response to the debate, and, above all, on her presence throughout the proceedings on Tuesday and this evening. She has tracked down both mice and mammoths with considerable deft ability and skill. We have had a comprehensive, valuable debate on the two issues—foreign policy and defence—which are of crucial importance in the context of the Bill.
I have no doubt that we will return to some of these issues on Report, especially since there are some explanations provided by the Minister which require further detailed attention. However, today, I thank her again and my noble friends and noble Lords for their valuable contributions. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 6 to 9M not moved.]
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ The Deputy Chairman of Committees
The noble Lord said "Not moved". Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 not moved, Lord Shore? Who wishes to move Amendment No. 10? The noble Lord, Lord Shore, did not move the amendment. The noble Lord. Lord Moynihan, wishes to move it.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
Amendment No. 10 was not moved and the Deputy Chairman moved on to Amendment No. 11.
Lord Shore of Stepney moved Amendment No. 10:
Page 1, line 13, after ("2") insert (", other than paragraph 19 (Title VIa of the Treaty establishing the European Community (employment)),").
§ The noble Lord said: I thought that we were still dealing with foreign policy amendments. There were a very large number, not all of which were read. I had not realised that we had moved to the new group of amendments. I certainly do not withdraw them, and with your Lordships' agreement and consent I formally move the amendment standing in my name. I shall develop one or two observations about them, being most careful to scrutinise the clock in the remarks that I make. The amendments are important and relate to important subjects.
§ It is probably as well to comment on the background to the employment chapter, introduced into the Amsterdam Treaty, with which the amendments are 1443 concerned. Once again, one must return to the Maastricht Treaty. The reason why we have an employment chapter is because the gentlemen who got together and drafted the Maastricht Treaty, in their remote and bureaucratic way, forgot entirely about the subject of employment and about the effects of rising unemployment upon the peoples in the countries of the European Union.
§ Waking up rather late in the day, and much encouraged by the Swedish Government who had always attached great importance to employment, they set about creating the chapter on employment. Frankly, it is not easy to take it seriously because it is spatchcocked into a treaty which is totally overshadowed by commitments to economic and monetary union, a single currency, stable prices and so forth.
§ It is as well to recall at the beginning what happened in Europe during the lead-in period to the Amsterdam Treaty, in particular in respect of the events which are to take place in a few weeks time in this country when 11 nation states of the European Union will, with the support of the Commission and perhaps the EMI, claimed that they have qualified to meet the convergence criteria in the Maastricht Treaty.
The Committee should be aware that, in the effort to qualify for the single currency under the convergence criteria, most countries in Europe have had to sustain a policy of deflation in their economies for several years past. I do not say that on my own authority, as it were, hut it is worth recalling what the IMF's world economic outlook, published a few months ago, stated about the principal European Continental economies. It stated:
The unsatisfactory economic performance of the three major economies—of Germany, France and Italy—cannot he blamed on the external environment. External markets have been expanding strongly and exports have been the main source of stimulus in recent years. But, the source of weakness has been internal and in fact"—
and these words must be carefully considered—
domestic demand has expanded by less than I per cent. a year in these three countries combined during the past five years".
§ As the growth of productive potential is in the order of 2.5 per cent. per annum in each of those countries, it is inevitable that unemployment will rise, and so it has done.
§ I should now document that. In the five years from 1992 to 1997 in France unemployment has risen from 2.5 million to nearly 3.2 million; in Germany, from 2.5 million to, according to Eurostat, 3.8 million, although I have heard figures much higher than that for Germany; and in Italy from 2 million to 2.7 million. Those are increases in unemployment of around 30 per cent., and perhaps higher in one of those cases.
§ There is not much dispute about what has happened. In particular, in order to reach the 3 per cent. of GDP borrowing requirement, most or all of those countries have raised taxes and cut public expenditure. Therefore, they have suffered a diminution of demand and have seen unemployment rise on a fairly large scale. They have not been able to do much more on the export front. They have not been able to increase greatly their exports 1444 because they have exchange rates which are fixed in the ERM in preparation for the other qualification for joining a single currency.
§ Until those constraints are eased upon the borrowing requirement and the creation of increased demand, unemployment will continue either at its present level or will increase in the years ahead. They have the knowledge now, or at least from the moment that the single currency comes into effect on 1st January next year, that if they fail in holding down the 3 per cent. GDP borrowing requirement or if they exceed it, they will be subject to fines under the miscalled stability and growth pact. Those countries will be very careful indeed not to expand demand and therefore not to incur those penalties.
§ That is a fairly unhappy background and environment in which this chapter, which is supposed to promote measures to increase employment and decrease unemployment, has been inserted. Let us for a moment consider the language used. It is all in Article 109, where the objectives are set out. It states that member states shall co-ordinate their actions; the Community shall contribute by encouraging co-operation between Member States; the objective of a high level of employment shall be taken into consideration in the formation of Community policies; the Council shall draw up guidelines which member states shall take account of; the Council, by qualified majority voting, may make recommendations; the Council may adopt incentive measures; the Council shall establish an employment committee with advisory status.
§ Compare that with the command language of the chapter on economic and monetary union and the quantified targets in the chapter and the protocol. The feebleness of this cosmetic aspect is then apparent to all.
§ I am fully aware that some attempt was made to give a little more credence to its content in the Luxembourg summit in November. But that really did nothing except to publish the guidelines, which are perfectly all right as far as they go in relation to increasing training and education and one or two other measures. The European Investment Bank is to create a new facility or to divert some of its resources to assisting small and medium-sized enterprises—the SMEs which we hear about so often. I have no objection to that. But the idea that that will make any serious impact upon the level of unemployment in Europe is absurd and we shall have to return to that matter and discuss it in considerable detail.
§ I have to keep my eye on the time in the presence of the Liberal Democrats, so I must move hastily on to the other group of amendments which deals with the social chapter. Of course, it is rather a separate subject; but, nevertheless, time is pressing and the social chapter has to be encountered. The whole issue of this chapter has always seemed to me to be utterly bogus and artificial. The reason it came to assume the prominence that it did in the last Parliament in the other place was because of the tacit agreement between the two Front Benches that, in the great debate on the Maastricht Treaty—where, of course, it begins—there should be no serious discussion on economic and monetary union and the single currency. To my certain knowledge, no debate took 1445 place on those matters until well after midnight during the Committee stage when, fortunately, the Press Galleries were empty and no one could overhear what was said.
§ Meanwhile, with a great flourish, as it were, of traditional antagonism, like champions charging in some contest, the Labour Front Bench denounced the Conservative Front Bench for not accepting and including the social chapter in the treaty, and, equally, the Conservatives emphatically said that it would be the destruction of the British economy if it were brought in. Of course, it is in fact a virtually empty vessel. Indeed, I believe that two measures were agreed in the social chapter, and one, if I remember correctly, was about paid paternity leave. As I said, it was a bogus contest on a bogus issue, and we should acknowledge that. In the Amsterdam Treaty, the new Labour Government brought the social chapter into the main body of the treaty, whereas previously it had been thrust into the appendices or protocols under the heading of the "social agreement".
§ Frankly, the provisions are nothing like as fearsome—and I say this particularly to Opposition Members of the Committee—as people have been led to believe. Most of the really important issues are deliberately excluded from it, like the level of wages. Other very important matters, like social security business, are wholly held within the need for unanimity. However, I have to tell my own Front Bench that there is the possibility that it can develop and there is also the distinct possibility that, in areas outside those that I have mentioned and which are listed in the treaty, they could be carried by qualified majority voting.
§ I do not think that the content of these agreements would give me any trouble, but the constitutional issue is whether we should allow the EU to legislate for social policy in this country. I say no, no, and no again to that proposition: these are matters which properly belong to this Parliament and not to the European Union. I simply conclude my remarks by recommending the amendments which are tabled in my name, especially those that ask for a proper annual report on developments under both these headings—not for the European Parliament but for this Parliament in Westminster. I beg to move.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ Lord Taverne
I start by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Shore, on the brevity of his speech. I hope that I, too, shall be brief. I, too, will seek to deal with the employment and social aspects of the Amsterdam Treaty together. On this occasion, I agree with him that to some extent the importance of the Amsterdam Treaty has been greatly exaggerated. The importance of the social chapter has always been greatly exaggerated both for good and ill. It is not the great engine for social change which some have claimed it to be—and have supported it for that reason—nor is it the great threat which Members of the Opposition have often claimed that it is.
1446 It seems to me that the Amsterdam Treaty has certain provisions which are not dramatic but which are on the whole useful. Nothing is possible now as regards employment policy that was not possible before, but there has been a useful insistence on looking at the employment side to an extent which had not perhaps necessarily been in every government's mind before. We on these Benches welcomed the Government's signing up to the social chapter. That means that the social chapter is now a full part of the Maastricht Treaty provisions. Signing up gives us a voice and it gives us influence. Apart from that, the attractive side of the social chapter is that it seeks to present a common base for social rights. However, I do not think there is any ground at the moment for supposing that the social chapter will be a great threat to labour market flexibility. If one reads it together with the employment provisions of Amsterdam, there seems to be something of a move towards liberalisation and realism. The employment chapter which has now been added talks of a need for an,adaptable work force and labour markets responsive to social change".There was some difficulty over persuading the French to accept any degree of labour market flexibility, but they accepted that labour markets should be responsive to social change.
The references to employment have been coupled with competitiveness. Indeed, there seems to be a considerable move on the Continent now in many countries towards a greater degree of labour market flexibility. Part of the reason for the high unemployment figure—I agree again with the noble Lord, Lord Shore, on this—has been the deflationary policy particularly of the Bundesbank. This was the result of unification and the uncharacteristically unrealistic high wage claims made in Germany which led to the Bundesbank having to follow what it described as a punitive policy to maintain low inflation. This of course had its effects throughout Europe because of the influence of the Bundesbank.
As the OECD has pointed out, another reason for high unemployment in Europe has been the degree of rigidity in the labour markets. There are changes taking place. It is extremely significant, for example, that whereas wages in East Germany previously were some 90 per cent. of wages in West Germany on average, they are now some 70 per cent. So there is a considerable measure of wage flexibility now to be seen in Germany. There is also a determination to spread best practices which, again, is to be welcomed, and yet on the whole the principle of subsidiarity has been asserted. The main responsibility for high employment remains with the nation states.
However, as far as we are concerned, what is to be welcomed is the emphasis on co-ordinating employment policies and that this should now be part of the deliberate activity of the EU institutions. This, inevitably, is part of the greater emphasis on the role of ECOFIN. Indeed it has always seemed to me that with monetary union, the role of the so-called Euro X committee was going to assume vital significance. One does not wish the whole burden of containing inflation 1447 to rest entirely on the European Central Bank. If it rests on the central bank, as it rests on the Bundesbank in Germany, the result will be a deflationary policy. It is far healthier that there should be co-ordination of fiscal policies by the members of monetary union, and indeed the members of ECOFIN as a whole. That is one of the factors which the Amsterdam Treaty stresses. Anti-inflation policy is not just to be left to the central banks, or the European Central Bank. There is now a responsibility for Ministers to co-ordinate as closely as possible their various policies; and there is a responsibility on the European Commission also to seek to co-ordinate these policies. That co-operation on employment seems to us wholly beneficial. Although the steps which have been taken by the Amsterdam Treaty are limited, on the whole they seem to be beneficial steps. To that extent we welcome the treaty.
Lord Bruce of Donington
The noble Lord, Lord Shore, dealt with unemployment in Europe. As he said, it has increased by about 5 million despite all the policies that are alleged to have been so successful. Day to day—it is echoed in the press of this country—we are all prospering for some reason or other. We talk of rising prosperity. They talk of it in Europe.
Speaking for the correspondents, in particular those who spend a good deal of their time on the ground floor in the Commission buildings, where they are periodically fed by communiqués from the Commission itself, that makes a lot of sense. It saves them a lot of trouble if they broadcast the alleged prosperity within Europe. But the question of unemployment is not entirely confined to Europe. For example, in the Statement repeated by my noble friend Lady Hollis today we had an admission about our own unemployment. It will be in the recollection of the House because the Statement was made only a few hours ago. She said:I now turn to incapacity benefit. We all know that the last government used it to disguise the real level of unemployment. Since 1979, the numbers on incapacity benefit have trebled, pushing the cost of the benefit to almost £8 billion, more than we spend on the whole of the police in England and Wales".I welcome this recognition by Her Majesty's Government that the unemployment figures have in the past been fiddled. It is something that we have not emphasised unduly in the past. It is undoubtedly so. To talk of rising property either in Europe or in this country is a load of nonsense.
Europe as a whole has been influenced—and this country has not been entirely uninfluenced—by the provisions of Article 99, formerly Article 103 of the Treaty of Rome as amended in Maastricht at page 162 of the current Treaty of Amsterdam. It states—to do them justice, the governments have apparently responded—at paragraph (1):Member States shall regard their economic policies as a matter of common concern and shall coordinate them within the Council, in accordance with the provisions of Article 98".Paragraph (2) states:The Council shall, acting by a qualified majority on a recommendation from the Commission, formulate a draft for the broad guidelines of the economic policies of the Member States and of the Community, and shall report its findings to the European Council.1448The European Council shall, acting on the basis of the report from the Council, discuss a conclusion on the broad guidelines of the economic policies of the Member States and of the Community.On the basis of this conclusion, the Council shall, acting by a qualified majority, adopt a recommendation setting out these broad guidelines. The Council shall inform the European Parliament of its recommendation".That was the position after Maastricht.
I ask noble Lords to ponder a very important question. What expertise (if any) lies behind these recommendations? Who, with authority, is making an assessment of individual economic policies in each, of the countries? Who is in an intellectual position to make an economic pronunciamento to be adopted by member states as to the economic policy to be followed in Europe?
It seems to be current thinking that the moment something gets into print, the moment it is incorporated in an official document, that alone gives it some intellectual validity. In fact, what happened is very simple. The Commission brought out its pamphlet—or rather, its tome—on growth, employment and inflation, the famous White Paper, which recommended economic steps to be taken by Europe as a whole and by individual member states which have, frankly, proved disastrous. They have produced deflation in Europe and in the United Kingdom. All we are invited to do in the current article of the Treaty of Amsterdam is to carry on the same policies as before—except that Article 1090 states:Member States, through their employment policies, shall contribute to the achievement of the objectives referred to in Article 109n in a way consistent with the broad guidelines of the economic policies of the Member States and of the Community adopted pursuant to Article 103/".What has happened at Amsterdam? All that Amsterdam has done, instead of initiating a complete reappraisal of the disastrous economic policies that have been followed throughout the European Community since Maastricht, is reinforce them and endow them with a new sanctity. I do not believe that is in the interests of Europe.
The Amsterdam Treaty now proposes in Article 109q:The European Council"—let us note the "European Council", not the Council of Ministers—shall each year consider the employment situation in the Community and adopt conclusions thereon, on the basis of a joint annual report by the Council and the Commission".Who—what body of people—is in fact capable beyond all reasonable doubt of formulating sensible policies in relation to this?
§ Baroness Ludford
I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. He queried who would have the intellectual capacity. In view of the fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be on the Council and the Prime Minister would be on the European Council, is he saying that there would be no intellectual capacity to contribute to this exercise?
Lord Bruce of Donington
I have not yet had the opportunity of engaging in debate with either the Chancellor of the Exchequer or his representatives in this House on the merits or otherwise of the economic steps that he proposes to take. Should such an occasion arise, I shall enter into the debate with some zest.
Paragraph 2 of Article 109q then states:On the basis of the conclusions of the European Council, the Council, acting by a qualified majority on a proposal from the Commission and after consulting the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions and the Employment Committee referred to in Article 109s, shall each year draw up guidelines which the Member States shall take into account in their employment policies. These guidelines shall be consistent with the broad guidelines adopted in Article 103/".The reference is to page 162 of the current treaty. They are living in Cloud-cuckoo-land. Can it be assumed that a responsible body of people, sitting in various parts of Europe, endeavouring to solve a problem common to all member states, can reach conclusions which are thereupon enshrined almost in law? As if any printed format of economic policy agreed to by member states can be appropriate to any one of them, let alone all of them taken together‡
The existing policies to which everyone now apparently genuflects have been policies disastrous to the whole of Europe and the United Kingdom. They certainly do not merit endorsement in a treaty signed by us which will bind the country from now on.
§ 10.45 p.m.
§ Lord Tebbit
It is rather nice to find myself from time to time in some measure of disagreement with the noble Lords, Lord Bruce and Lord Shore. It restores the normal healthy routine of the political process and, no doubt, brings a sense of relief to some of our Front Bench colleagues.
However, we still stand on a great deal of common ground. The noble Lord, Lord Bruce does not like the policy which is being implemented in Europe. I differ from him about some aspects of it. I think it is vitally important that we pursue policies which maintain the value of money and there may be difficult times in ensuring that that happens. But during the years when the German government and the Bundesbank were much more successful than we were at maintaining the value of money by rather restrictionist and perhaps what the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, would call deflationary policies, its record on unemployment was also much better than ours. So I do not think it is self-evident that inflationary policies are better for the economy than deflationary policies.
However, that is not the real core of the discussion which we should be having this evening. The discussion this evening is surely about in what manner economic policies should be made: whether they should be made within national governments, within nation states, and whether or not as a result of the electoral process those 1450 policies can be changed. That seems to me to be the key point. I would always accept that if the majority decide at a general election that they want the economic policies which the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, would wish to follow, then we abide by it. He has had some experience over the past 18 years of abiding by policies which he does not like. But there was always the opportunity for those policies to be changed.
I return to the question which I asked in an earlier debate and which was so unsatisfactorily answered. It was not answered—I had a response, but not an answer. We are now committing ourselves in this treaty to extending the area of economic policies which are covered by the treaty. That is what the social chapter is about. These are essentially matters of economic policy. Whether we should have a minimum wage will soon be a matter covered in this area. As the noble Lord, Lord Shore, reminded us in an earlier debate this evening, these things creep in. Once they are in the treaty, have no doubt about it, the bridgehead will be expanded. Since the creation of the Treaty there has been no record of a bridgehead contracting.
So what we can expect is that this bridgehead will be opened and expanded more and more in the future. Policies will be reached—sometimes the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, will agree with the policies; sometimes I might agree with them. But I have to ask the question again: what happens when the British electorate do not agree with the policy and want it changed? They change the majority in Parliament; we all swap sides of the Chamber; but the policy goes remorselessly on. We cannot change it.
Will any incoming government have any realistic chance of removing the social chapter from the treaty? Not a ghost of a chance. It is there. It is not going to get pulled out any more than the sections on foreign and defence policy will get pulled out. They will simply get bigger. They will spread out further and further. We will find that what the British people say in their elections has less and less influence.
In the last debate I was mildly chastised for not understanding that treaties entered into are binding not upon the government which entered them but upon the state. Quite so. But we have never before entered into a treaty which did not have the facility for renunciation. We have never before entered into treaties which have expanded over such a wide area of our national life. We have never before entered into a treaty under which, before very long, through the social chapter, the way in which we conduct our industrial relations shall be decided not here, but somewhere else; not by us, but by other people with ourselves in a minority of the people who decide. There is no provision for our having second thoughts. There is no provision for saying, "No, we have changed our mind and we want something different."
What happens when consistently, over one area after another at some time in the future, the British people say they want different policies? They will be told, "You cannot have different policies because a combination of 1451 the Germans, the French, the Greeks and the Finns"—or something or other—"amount to a qualified majority vote, and that is it." What has happened to the democratic process? I would agree that in many ways we have to accept that in a modern world the freedom of manoeuvre of nation states is much more limited than it was—though we see time and time again that some relatively small states seem to have a great deal of freedom of manoeuvre; they may indeed even defy the United Nations.
The point is that we are conceding that general elections in this country in future will not matter very much. What will be the result in our national life? Why do we think that the number of people voting in general elections is falling? Why do we think that our debates in this House and in the other place are less and less reported by the press and the BBC? Surely it must be that people are already tumbling to the fact that what is said here matters less and less, and what is said on the continent of Europe matters more and more. We are no longer masters of our own destiny.
As I say, in some areas, naturally, we have to concede that it is more effective for us to move jointly together than it is separately. I would certainly accept that we should enter into commitments with our trading partners about the manner in which we open markets and such like things. But the idea that we have to expand constantly that area over which the British people have no direct control is absurd, it is dangerous and it will undoubtedly lead to great troubles.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
Lest anyone thinks that the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, was scaremongering when he suggested that fewer and fewer people listen to what MPs say, I draw the attention of the Committee to The Times of Monday 23rd March 1998. An article by Peter Riddell, under the heading "Does anybody listen to MPs?", states under a sub-heading, "Ministers are increasingly ignoring the Commons". So if Ministers are ignoring the Commons, I should think many other people are as well.
I want to say a few words on the new employment chapter and on the social chapter because the employment chapter assumes that we are building and developing a partnership. But of course the countries of the European Union are not our partners; they are our competitors. When you talk about a partnership and when you talk about this new employment chapter you are working to further and cement that partnership—in other words, further integration.
Now it is quite true that within this new chapter there does not seem to be anything startling. There are bromide clauses, if I may put it that way, but those of us who have been au fait with this problem over a long period of time know perfectly well that innocuous clauses later on become binding decisions and binding articles. That is why I am a little worried about this new employment chapter—"title" I think is the right word. We have to be very careful about it.
1452 When one looks at Europe, bringing to mind the diverse economies there are, the diverse cultural backgrounds, the diverse employment policies, the diverse trade union and management organisations, one sees the huge difficulty within the present 15 states. But in the not too distant future, if those who want expansion have their way, it will he 21 diverse countries, systems, cultural backgrounds and what have you. How are we going to handle this in employment terms? Are we going to have a "gosplan"? Are we going to have five-year plans? What are we going to have? How are we going to reconcile the French system with our own system?
Our Prime Minister went to Paris and spoke to the National Assembly. He saw straightaway that within that assembly he had not quite got it right, because the Left were down in the dumps and the Right were cock-a-hoop. It was not supposed to he that way. It should have been the Left who were cheering and the Right who were growling. So one can see how difficult it is to understand what other people are about.
The French want to deal with their unemployment problem by having a reduced working week to 35 hours. In this country we prefer to deal with our unemployment position in a different manner by providing opportunities in other ways. Some of us believe that if the French have a 35-hour week that will suit us very well because it will put up their unit costs and enable us to export our goods more easily. These are the problems that we shall have to face if we go too far down this line of co-operation in employment. Co-operation, yes, but I fear what will follow co-operation. We really do not want a sort of sovietised kind of system in western Europe now, do we?
Time is getting on. I turn very briefly to the social aspects. I am very interested in this because, like the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, I was a trade union official. I used to negotiate. There is a difference between the noble Lord and myself: he was paid and I was not. Nevertheless, we had the same problems to deal with. Again, my background in the Labour Party is different from that of the backgrounds of some of our newer entrants. I was brought up to believe that the way to obtain good industrial relations was by free collective bargaining. That is what I had always been taught. I have always understood and accepted that in a free society that is the way one goes about it. Workers are free to accept or reject an offer and employers are able to make offers either high or low. That applies to conditions of service as well. I have always found it successful.
My own party for very many years was opposed to government intervention in the bargaining system because it believed that it would work against the interests of workers. In many respects, so it has proved. So I do not believe in a lot of government intervention in the bargaining process and I am sorry that the TUC in this country should be a little taken in by what is happening about the social chapter.
1453 Perhaps I may give another example. We are going to have imposed on us a consultation system where workers and managers will have a big "confab" at the top. I do not believe that is proper workers' consultation or involvement. I believe that one can only have workers' involvement if it grows organically from the bottom. I say that not because I am academic, but because I have been at the bottom and I know how these 1454 things work successfully. With those few words, I hope that I have raised some serious questions which my noble friend will be able to answer.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
I beg to move that further debate on Amendment No. 10 be now adjourned. Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
House adjourned at five minutes past eleven o'clock.