HL Deb 21 June 2004 vol 662 cc1030-43

4.4 p.m.

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos)

My Lords, I would like to repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. The Statement is as follows:

"With permission, Mr Speaker, I shall make a Statement on the European Council which took place in Brussels on 17 and 18 June.

"At this Council, the EU—now of 25 nations, soon to be 28—agreed a new treaty for Europe which sets out for the first time, in one single treaty, the powers, rights and duties of the EU. I have placed a copy of the Presidency Conclusions in the Libraries of both Houses. I thank the Irish presidency, under the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, for its skill in negotiating a successful conclusion. As the Taoiseach said, the Constitutional Treaty makes it clear that Europe is, 'not a super state; not a federal state but a group of nations'. This treaty makes it plain, again for the first time in a European treaty, that the EU has only the competences conferred on it by member states and states expressly, also for the first time, that member states can withdraw from Europe should they want to.

"This treaty makes clear where the EU can and cannot act. It provides for qualified majority voting where we need it—for the single market, for reform of the common agricultural policy, for action against international crime and terrorism. It keeps unanimity for the most important decisions and, at our insistence, in particular for tax, social security, foreign policy, defence and decisions on the financing of the Union affecting the British budget contribution. It keeps our ability to opt out of measures affecting our laws on asylum and immigration, and extends that so that we cannot be obliged to co-operate on criminal law procedures where we do not want to do so.

"For the first time ever, a power for national parliaments is provided to scrutinise proposals from Brussels at the draft stage and to send them back if parliaments are not satisfied. It provides, through the route of enhanced co-operation, for a flexible Europe in which groups of countries can take action together within the framework of the European Union, provided that they do not damage the interests of others. This is a flexibility within the framework of law, not the free-for-all which some have advocated.

"Above all, the treaty provides for the reforms in the working of the EU necessary if it is not to fall into gridlock with 25 members. It reforms the system of the six-monthly rotating presidency to provide greater continuity and coherence in a Union of 25, and replaces it with a full-time chairman of the European Council who will serve for up to five years. This is crucial in placing the power to set Europe's agenda in the hands of Europe's intergovernmental body.

"The EU treaty includes, in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the rights of the citizen under EU law. The charter expressly rules out establishing any new power or task for the European Union or any change in the powers of the European Union. In each area, the rights are expressly limited to those available under existing national law and practices and under existing Union law. So, for example, Article 28 of the charter says that workers and employers have the right to negotiate and conclude collective agreements at the appropriate levels, but only, 'in accordance with Union law and national laws and practices'. In addition, the charter contains explanations for each article, making it clear, for example, that the, 'limits for the exercise of collective action, including strike action, come under national laws and practices, including the question of whether it may be carried out in parallel in several member states'. The treaty requires those explanations to be given due regard by the courts.

"Some have also expressed concern at the references in the treaty to the primacy of EU law. In fact, primacy of EU law has existed since we joined the European Union and is there in the European Communities Act 1972. But, of course, European law takes precedence only where member states have agreed that Europe should have a competence. The idea that this is something new is nonsense. The treaty also completes and consolidates the existing treaties of the European Union. Some 75 per cent of it is a repetition of what is in earlier treaties.

"Among the many myths about the constitution that have been published over the past few months have been accusations that we would lose our rebate and our seat on the Security Council, that Brussels would seize control of our oil supplies, that the UK taxpayer would pay for other EU countries' pensions, that we would have to give up control of our Army to Brussels, be forced to join the euro or raise our taxes, have our foreign policy dictated by Brussels, and lose control of our borders.

"Now, the British people have before them the text of the treaty as agreed. It demolishes those myths.

"But the myths, and the propaganda which goes with them, are not really about the constitutional treaty. They are about whether Britain should or should not be a leading member of the European Union.

"The new Europe of 450 million people is a success for Britain. The new countries of Europe share our view that it should be run by sovereign nation states. They have joined the European Union for the stability, security and prosperity it provides; the same stability, security and prosperity that we have enjoyed as members of the European Union for the past 30 years.

"We are in the European Union for the single market and customs union it provides for our goods and services, for the extra 1.8 per cent of GDP that membership brings us every year and the 3.5 million jobs which depend on that single market. We are in it for the strength it gives us in trade negotiations with powerful countries like the United States and Japan. We are in it for its network of aid and trade relationships with China, India and the countries of Latin America, Africa and Asia, relationships which make an important contribution to international peace and security and development. Of course there are frustrations and compromises. But the European Union is the most successful way anyone has yet devised of managing the relations between European countries whose national rivalries had, until 60 years ago, only ever been settled in a series of bloody conflicts.

"Now, we not only manage those rivalries, we pool our combined strength for our economic advantage, for influence in the world and for peace and security. The power of the European Union has helped eight countries of eastern central Europe achieve democratic stability. It is transforming Turkey into a modern democratic state. It is helping achieve peace in the Balkans. Not a single government of a single nation, either those in Europe now or those waiting to join, opposed this treaty. All welcomed it. All want it to work. Many share the British view of Europe's future.

"All that is what the opponents of this treaty would put in jeopardy for the sake, not of any real British interest, but of a narrow nationalism which no British government have ever espoused or should ever espouse if they have the true interests of the British people at heart.

"In the end, the final say will be with the British people in a referendum. But in that debate, we will argue this Constitutional Treaty represents a success for the new Europe that is taking shape, is a success for Britain and today I commend it to the House".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

4.13 p.m.

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, once again, I thank the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement. I was tempted to say, "Another week, another Statement". Last week the noble Baroness came to the House and underlined this Government's historic alignment with President George Bush in the world-wide war on terror. This week she has underlined the Government's historic alignment with the advocates of yet further EU integration.

Neither of those propositions is exactly ecstatically popular. As the noble Baroness knows, we think that the Prime Minister is right to back Mr Bush, but we have very serious doubts about what he did last weekend. Mr Blair has tied Labour's fortunes to a new EU constitution. It would be nice to think that he had a better eye for an EU constitution than he has shown for our poor old British constitution these past seven years. Looking at the communiqués coming out of Brussels. I do not see it.

Let us be clear. The issue will come down to a straight choice. Do we agree with this new EU constitution or not? Yes or no. However long the Prime Minister may want to put off the vote, there is no third way between "yes" or "no". The British people must resolve that question and the British people will decide whether what the Labour Party has done is what the British people wanted it to do. So, will the noble Baroness assure the House that, even if one other EU country votes against the constitution, the British people will still be given a chance to register their votes? When will that day come? Can it really be the case that Labour is plotting to put it off until 2006?

Surely the debate and the referendum should follow as soon as the text of the constitution is available. If Caxton could put the Bible into English centuries ago, how long will it take to translate the EU constitution? And if the referendum is put off until after the next election, why should we believe that Labour would grant one, if it won, any more than it allowed us a twice pledged referendum on the euro?

Whatever happened to the Prime Minister's cry of "let battle commence". His rhetoric is all conviction, but his every tactical duck and weave betrays the opposite. It is a strategy designed to encourage his opponents and frustrate his friends.

The latest catchphrase is about fighting myths with reality. We should agree with that. We want open, honest debate about a great national question. So, let us dispose of one myth right now. This is not a choice between staying in Europe or coming out. It is not the policy of this party to withdraw from Europe. Unlike the party opposite, or indeed the Prime Minister, it is not our policy today and it never has been in the past. To claim otherwise is not to confront myth with reality, it is to pervert reality with myth. It is a classic Downing Street tactic, but it will not wash. The lie says more about its perpetrators and how little they credit the intelligence of the British people than it says about us.

The millions of people who gave our party the largest backing of any in recent elections are not "little Englanders". The difficulties we have with the constitution that the Prime Minister has signed are genuine and significant. Of course, it is possible to point to aspects of the constitution that might of themselves be welcome. But it is the effect of the whole that has to be weighed, measured and, I regret, found wanting: a new state called Europe, with a legal personality and a legally binding constitution; a Charter of Fundamental Rights, carrying the risk of intervention by EU judges in yet more areas of British legislation, including over asylum and trade union rights; abandonment of 43 more areas of policy to decision by majority voting—including, crucially, criminal procedure; the creation of a new post of Foreign Minister; a new European public prosecutor and the risk of intervention in our very different legal system; failure to exclude policy from the constitution; and failure to achieve a real and unavoidable parliamentary lock on new European Commission legislation.

The Prime Minister's Statement says: This treaty makes clear where the EU can and cannot act". Will the Leader of the House point to the passage in the treaty that says precisely where that is made clear? There is much more. Where is the bonfire of regulation? Where is the halt to the onward march of integration?

The presidency's conclusions signal legislation on financial services, on professional qualifications and social security co-ordination; common action on copyright and patents; initiatives in consumer protection legislation; measures on air quality, maritime law, biodiversity and climate change; urgent work on corporate governance, action on chemicals, directives on services and a strategy on sustainable development. We have even instructed the Commission to draw up plans for a European gender institute—as if the Gender Recognition Bill before our Parliament is not enough. I shall not read on, but that is just the summary of what has been agreed at the weekend.

Europe has brought so much that is good, so much that we should unite to defend and support. But when will Mr Blair and the Government hear what people all over Europe are now saying? It is time for a new approach, for co-operation not coercion and a Europe of "live and let live".

Brussels was a giant missed opportunity and a further step along an integrationist road that is no longer relevant in the 21st century. What we needed from the Government was a lot less posturing about red lines and a lot more action with the blue pencil. Of 275 amendments submitted by our Government, how many have been accepted? Just 27: scarcely a diplomatic success to have the shades of Canning and Castlereagh craning their necks down from Elysium.

I have three closing observations. First, on Turkey, I welcome what was said. We have long argued for meaningful engagement with Turkey and I hope it will be pursued with vigour by the British Government. Secondly, on the succession to Mr Prodi, what candidate does the United Kingdom now support? Finally, on Zimbabwe, I have read the Presidency Conclusions carefully, but I find no mention of Zimbabwe. I find quite rightly the Sudan and Congo, but not Zimbabwe. Last week the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, told us of the near half a million refugees now driven into exile by the Mugabe regime. She also said that she could do nothing about the spectacle of Gideon Gono, President Mugabe's moneybags, swanning around Britain, because he was not on the EU list. Is he on the EU list now? There is a massive human tragedy in southern Africa, so when will this Government stir to use their influence in the Security Council, in the Commonwealth and in the EU to bring Mr Mugabe down?

4.22 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

My Lords, I thank the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement. I also echo what she has said about the remarkable achievement of the Irish presidency, to which I think we are all deeply grateful. Ireland now has the difficult job of trying to obtain agreement on a President of the Council, and we wish it very well in attempting that.

The Prime Minister, in terms of what he was seeking, has done remarkably well. He has established a permanent president of the Council of Ministers, which means that the Council of Ministers will be considerably strengthened vis-à-vis the Commission. He has achieved the exclusion of taxation, foreign policy and defence issues from the European Union treaty. He has also achieved, from his point of view, quite remarkable new measures on the role of parliaments. One-third of parliaments can now insist upon any directive or regulation of the Commission being returned to it for further consideration if they do not like it.

Those are all considerable achievements. They are part of trying to make the new Europe workable, but from the point of view of these Benches they fall quite well short of what we would like to see. We believe that a strongly integrated foreign and defence policy would give greater weight to Europe in the world.

But just for a moment let us consider raising our game. Some people will remember the remark of the famous post-War Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin, who said in 1945 that what he most regretted about Britain was what he called a "poverty of aspiration". Let us raise our aspirations.

First, this treaty is about making an enlarged Europe workable. It is high time to celebrate that enlarged Europe and not to nit-pick about it. It is a remarkable achievement by any standards. Secondly, we need to give due weight to the fact that the European Union, for all its faults—and it has many—has managed to make human rights a central criterion for the membership of the Union, not only in Turkey but in central and eastern Europe. In doing so it has promoted one of the values most important, I would have thought, to this country and indeed to the democracies of Europe as a whole. That influence is spreading far beyond Europe and importantly so. Thirdly, I thought that we were people who believed deeply in trying to go beyond the endless military conflicts of our world, and God knows we see enough around us at the present time. The European Union has pioneered a method which has put politics in the place of war and of conflict. I believe it is high time that we in this country recognised that remarkable achievement.

Let me conclude by saying that we all have a very uphill path to climb. We are faced with an incredible tissue of myths and lies which has been steadily promulgated over the past five years, particularly in parts of the media. It is very difficult, as Adlai Stevenson once said, for truth to catch up with a lie. He observed that a lie runs around the world before the truth pulls on its boots. It is high time that the truth pulled on its boots and that we began to see the argument in favour of a European Union which is strong, powerful and, above all, a force for peace, democracy and human rights in the world. We on these Benches will accept and support the constitution, and we believe that what really matters is to go even further than it does.

4.25 p.m.

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, for their comments. I agree with the principles so clearly set out by the noble Baroness. I thank her for recognising that the Prime Minister and the whole team in Brussels at the weekend did extraordinarily well and came back with a package which is good not only for Britain but for Europe as a whole.

I also agree with her that we should be celebrating an enlarged Europe, recognising the fact that only 60 years ago we were a continent mired in conflict. It is a remarkable achievement. Using that experience and knowledge in the peace and security agenda, which has become so important in the way the EU is working across many parts of the world, is a great testament to that achievement.

I also agree with the noble Baroness's comments on human rights and their centrality as regards membership of the Union.

I felt that the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, was dealt a poor hand in terms of the comments he made. With respect to Britain's relationship to the United States and the European Union, yes, we want to see a Britain which is leading and strong in Europe and we want to see strong ties with our United States allies. The noble Lord clearly fears that his party could never deliver that leadership. It clearly has to follow where we lead.

On the referendum, the Prime Minister has made our position absolutely clear. A process must be gone through. The treaty needs to be formalised into a legal text, but it is not clear when that text will emerge. There will then be the parliamentary process of ratifying the document, followed by a referendum.

I cannot understand why, when all of us in this House talk about the importance of putting Parliament first and the importance of parliamentary debate, the noble Lord is now afraid of parliamentary debate. Perhaps he is afraid that it will inform the British public and begin to deal with the web of tissues and lies referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, so enabling them to make an informed decision in the referendum.

On a referendum on the euro, the noble Lord is well aware that the position on that has not changed. We have said—and the position remains the same—that when the economic conditions are right we will put that to the British people in a referendum.

On withdrawing from Europe, it is clear that the noble Lord's party wants to renegotiate existing membership. Not a single country in the European Union wants to do that and the leader of his party has been challenged on that many times. The noble Lord may have failed to notice that all countries must agree to get together to renegotiate a treaty. The noble Lord's party has absolutely no allies on that.

I am surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, is afraid of the word "constitution". It has come to my attention that even Kent County Council, that Tory heartland, has a constitution. The United Nations has a constitution. What is the problem with the European Union recognising that it needs to look at its procedures and the way it works, to consolidate its treaties and bring that together in one document which is being called a "constitution"?

For the very first time, national Parliaments will have a role in Commission legislation. It is absolutely clear from the document that the issues of defence, foreign policy and social security will have to be agreed by unanimity. There has been an extension of qualified majority voting in some areas—in fact, in a number of technical areas. The noble Lord raised the question of bureaucracy. I should have thought that he would welcome the development in that respect.

With regard to the amendment to the constitution, the noble Lord will know that we submitted a number of amendments to the treaty when it was in draft form. The draft treaty has changed substantially over the past year. This was a process of negotiation, and we have come out of the negotiations with all the things that we said were important to us.

With respect to the noble Lord's question about Zimbabwe, it is not our job to bring down Mugabe; it is for the people of Zimbabwe to do that. But we must recognise the humanitarian crisis in that country and deal with it.

My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has made it absolutely clear that he will engage in discussions with colleagues in the European Union about who is the best person to be President of the Commission. He has made it clear that he has never entered into that discussion publicly and does not intend to do so now.

Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, asked me where the constitution lays out the areas in which the Union can act and those in which member states can act. I suggest that the noble Lord looks at the headlines in Part I, Articles 11 to 16 and the detail in Part III. Paragraph 11.6 in Part III makes it clear that the scope for exercising the Union's competences shall be determined by the provision specific to each area in Part III. The noble Lord may wish to look at those sections, where it will be absolutely clear where the Union acts and where nation states act.

4.32 p.m.

Lord Tomlinson

My Lords, does my noble friend accept that the outcome of the European Council meeting was as favourable as it could be and that it was overwhelmingly not only in the national interest but in accordance with the express wishes of your Lordships' House, as set out in the various documents produced during the passage of the Convention on the Future of Europe?

Does she further accept that it is now imperative that we begin as early as possible in the new Session of Parliament the process of parliamentary ratification of the new treaty so that, before they continue to make statements about it, everyone in this House can be quite clear about exactly what the treaty states? I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, entered into areas which were alleged to be part of the treaty but which, in fact, are not contained within it.

Does my noble friend further agree that, in order to achieve the fullest possible participation and informed decision-making in a referendum, it is imperative that the Government find an appropriate way to provide factual information to as wide a group of the public as possible so that we can have a proper public debate based on real information about the treaty and its contents rather than the contents that others have imagined?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I totally agree with my noble friend. I cannot say what the timing of the process of parliamentary ratification will be. Obviously, we need to wait for the treaty to be formalised and it will then come to Parliament.

I absolutely endorse what my noble friend said with regard to the need to be clear about what the constitution says and the need for informed decision-making. I also agree that we need to inform the British public on a factual basis about what the constitution involves in terms of our rights as a nation state and our rights as part of the European Union.

Lord Maclennan of Rogart

My Lords, perhaps I may say how satisfactory it is to be able to underline my agreement with every word that the noble Baroness read out this afternoon and, further, to breathe a sigh of relief that this country has avoided the danger of isolation and has provided leadership in taking the European Union into a position where it can effectively make decisions not only for its own benefit but for that of the wider world.

Does the noble Baroness agree that the rampant Euro-scepticism to which certain Conservatives are now kow-towing risks obscuring the reality that Britain is at far less risk of having unwanted decisions imposed upon it by the European Union than it is by isolating itself from the potentiality of influencing those decisions for our own benefit and for the benefit of those whom we would seek to help effectively in the third countries?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right and I agree with his comments. It is important that we are not on the margins of this debate but that we are in the centre of, and leading, the debate and influencing the decisions which are taken. The noble Lord is also right that we need to ensure that we engage in a debate and a discussion with those who are peddling the myth and ensure that the debate is based on facts and reality. Here, we are dealing not only with some of our parliamentarians who hold a different view from that of the Government; we are also dealing with the press and other opinion formers who seek to move the debate into a different territory. They are dealing not with the facts and the positive aspects of our membership of the European Union but with underlying myths.

Lord Waddington

My Lords, did not the noble Baroness hear the Prime Minister say that the constitution protects our right to run our own foreign policy? Does she agree that for most people it seems absolutely obvious that we should maintain that right and inconceivable that we should lose it? But is not the difficulty here—I use this simply as an illustration—that what seems obvious to the noble Baroness and to me seems to be contradicted by the plain words of the treaty?

How can our right to run our own foreign policy not be adversely affected when the treaty creates an EU Foreign Minister who, shall conduct the Union's foreign and security policy", and when we are obliged by the treaty to support that policy actively and unreservedly, in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity, and when we are obliged by the treaty to refrain from any action contrary to the Union's interests? In those circumstances, if the words of the treaty to which the Prime Minister signed up are taken with their natural meaning, how on earth can anyone assert that our ability to run our own foreign policy is not adversely affected? If the noble Baroness is saying that, she is contradicting the plain words of the treaty.

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I remind the noble Lord that the common foreign and security policy and the text regarding the issue of loyalty are contained in the Maastricht Treaty, signed up to by John Major, Prime Minister of a Conservative government. In respect of the common foreign and security policy and the European Foreign Minister, the treaty will make the CFSP more effective and coherent by introducing a set of common objectives for the CFSP and the Union's wider external action. That issue was left open following Maastricht.

I also remind the noble Lord that two current jobs in the European Union—the external relations post and the Chris Patten post—will be brought together to create the European Foreign Minister post. At the moment, the presidency is able to speak at United Nations' meetings, but that will be substituted by the European Foreign Minister. The text to which the noble Lord objects so strongly was signed up to by Parliament under the Maastricht Treaty.

Lord Williamson of Horton

My Lords, as the Government are now on a steep uphill path to the top of mount referendum, will the Leader of the House agree with some positive advice from a veteran of various European treaties? The advice is, first, that the Government should explain to the public that, despite comments in the media and elsewhere, the European Union has always been for greater freedom—freedom for our citizens—exchange students and house-hunters, for example—to go where they wish in the Union; freedom for trade in a single market with a massive reduction in red tape compared with the situation that existed before; and freedom for capital exchanges. "Friends" may have ended on television, but "friends" continues to run in the European Union. My second piece of advice is to concentrate principally on part one of the Constitutional Treaty, which is very short and clear and contains almost all the significant changes of substance and presentation in the new treaty.

Baroness Amos

My Lords, the noble Lord is, of course, a veteran of negotiations at EU level. I am very happy to take his advice. He is absolutely right. We need to explain to the public exactly what the European Union stands for. His use of the term "freedom" is very important indeed. The noble Lord is also right about part one of the constitution and its clarity in setting out the areas that it addresses. It is important to recognise that the Constitutional Treaty is also about greater flexibility. Let us not forget that.

Lord Radice

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the agreement of last weekend on the Constitutional Treaty is good for Britain and good for Europe? It is good for Britain and good for Europe because it prepares the European Union for a Europe of 25 and at the same time skilfully preserves a proper balance between the nation state and action at a European level. Is she also aware that colleagues on all sides of the House look forward to exploding the myths and misinterpretations that we heard about the Constitutional Treaty long before it was agreed and long before it was even in draft form? We look forward to putting the positive case about the treaty and about our membership of the European Union, a case that I predict will be supported by the British people.

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I totally agree with my noble friend. As a result of the decision that was taken on holding a referendum and as a result of the skilful negotiation conducted by my right honourable friend over the weekend, we can now move the debate forward and concentrate on the positive case and, as my noble friend said, on the proper balance between the nation state and action at European level. We can also focus on the fact that this is not only good for Britain, but also good for Europe and for Europe's role in the wider world.

Lord Taverne

My Lords—

Lord Lamont of Lerwick

My Lords—

Baroness Crawley

My Lords, we have plenty of time. There are several minutes left so I suggest that we hear from the Liberal Democrat Benches and then from the Conservative Benches.

Lord Taverne

My Lords, do the Government agree that it is quite extraordinary that almost unanimously the rest of the European press has declared the negotiations to be a victory for the British view of the European Union, while certain quarters now apparently declare that this is a further step towards a federal Europe? Do the Government accept that it is important that they should put boldly the positive case for Europe and that they should not shy away from the apparently difficult issues? Will they stress, for example, that majority voting in Europe has been overwhelmingly in the British interest; and that, where possible, Europe speaking with a single voice on foreign affairs is in the interests not only of Europe but also of this country? If the Government are not prepared to speak out clearly and with courage, it will be much more difficult to transform the somewhat parochial view of our national interests that now prevails in certain quarters.

Baroness Amos

My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right. The press across European countries—France, Spain and Germany—all herald what they see as a British victory in terms of getting the balance right between the nation state and action at a European level. Le Figaro, but one example, talked about the draft constitution sealing the victory of the nation states over the European super state.

I say to the noble Lord that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and this Government have no intention of shying away from difficult issues. When one considers the action that we have taken, not just on the constitution but also on other areas of foreign policy, that has been made absolutely clear. Yesterday in an interview, the Prime Minister spoke of the need to lead the debate and to ensure that the British public understand that he was acting in the best interests of Britain.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick

My Lords, can the Leader of the House explain why, prior to last weekend, the Government stated that they were opposed to the concept of the public prosecutor, even if it were to be preceded by a unanimous decision? Such a post was stated to be unacceptable, even with the unanimity qualification. Why have the Government changed their mind?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, we saw no reason to create the post. We have ensured that under the treaty a public prosecutor could be created only by unanimity. That means that our consent would be required to create such a post. However, at the moment we see no reason to create such a post.

Lord Lea of Crondall

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that before the parliamentary procedure takes place there is a case for a White Paper setting out in more popular language what is in the constitution? Whatever side of the argument one takes, the constitution is not a document that one would put in every post office. Is there not a case for an explanation of the Constitutional Treaty in popular wording being provided around the country so that people can see what Parliament will debate on the ratification of the treaty?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, my noble friend is quite right to bring to our attention the need to ensure that the treaty is understood and put into day-to-day language. I am not sure that the best vehicle or route to achieve that is a White Paper, but I share the underlying point made by my noble friend about being positive on what is in the treaty so that people can relate to it and understand it.

Lord Howe of Aberavon

My Lords, is the Leader of the House aware—she may be too young to remember it—that the foundation of the search for a common foreign and security policy was laid in part three of the Single European Act in 1985? It was based on a draft treaty that was handed, in my presence, to Chancellor Kohl by my noble friend Lady Thatcher and the search has continued to this day. It is founded on a principle that I am sure will appeal to my noble friends, that we want to enhance Britain's influence around the world. If one applies Archimedes' principle, Give me whereon to stand and I will move the earth", the place whereon this country should stand is at the heart of the European Union.

Will the Minister further accept that if that case is to be accepted, as it should be, the longer the referendum is postponed the greater the burden of responsibility upon the Prime Minister and his colleagues to argue that case vigorously and tenaciously? Meanwhile, will she do everything possible to secure a president to the Commission who has the driving energy and integrity to tighten the administration of the Commission and to implement the urgent Lisbon agenda for economic liberalism to be applied not just in this country but throughout the European Union?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I certainly hope, in light of the wise words from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, that we will be able to argue that case vigorously and tenaciously together. We need to work on this across party lines in the interests of the British people. I say to the noble and learned Lord that I am not too young to remember the 1985 Single European Act, but my memory, I have to say, is not as good as that of the noble and learned Lord. I thank him very much for reminding us.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, in her Statement in the context of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, the Leader of the House said that the treaty requires those explanatory statements to be given due regard by the courts. In consideration of an express provision which shows incompatibility between the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the wording of the text itself, what, if any, relevance has the charter?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I will have to write to the noble Lord on that. My understanding is that the charter is enforceable in British courts when it interacts with EU law, but it does not give the European Union any wider powers. I should like to go back and check the detail and write to the noble Lord if I can amplify the matter in any way.

Lord Elton

My Lords, will the noble Baroness give further thought to the very good suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Lea of Crondall, about a White Paper? The prospect is of proceeding by other means with campaigning organisations expressing their slanted views of the various issues. For those of us who stand in the middle, it will be very helpful to have something which has some evidence of impartiality.

In the same vein, does the noble Baroness realise that the great majority of the public and a large number of Members of this House subsist for their views on these negotiations on broad assertions made by one side and broad denials made by the other? Will she assure us that in the debates on the Bill that will become the Act of ratification there will be an opportunity to go through the constitution more or less line by line?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I totally take the point being made by the noble Lord about the need for impartiality. Having looked in detail at the press over the weekend, I recognise the point made about broad assertions being made by our political commentators.

On the issue of how we discuss the Bill and the treaty, we will do that in the same way as in the past when we have debated other treaties. I am sure that when we reach that point this House will make its own decisions about the best way of doing so.