European Communities (Amendment) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:11 pm on 20th November 2001.

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Photo of Lord Tomlinson Lord Tomlinson Labour 5:11 pm, 20th November 2001

I invite my noble friend, before he replies to that question, to reflect on the fact that many members of the population of this country, many Members of the Committee, and certainly many members of the European Community think that President Delors was an excellent president. In him, we managed to get as President of the European Union a good federalist who pursued a good federal line. He was there by virtue of a British Prime Minister exercising a veto. I am in many ways grateful for the exercise of that veto. We got a splendid President of the Commission as a result. The only problem was that he was frequently abused once we had got him, because he managed to do what he had said that he would do.

On the other hand, a British Prime Minister used his veto later, when the excellent candidature of Mr Jean-Luc Dehaene, the President of Belgium, who was a rather robust individual—certainly one who would have controlled his Commission—was blackballed. As a result of that use of unanimity and of the veto that arises from it, we had President Santer. By common consent, President Santer was a nice man—in many ways, an amiable man—and I had much regard for him, but not even his best friends would call him a successful President of the Commission.

I ask Conservative Members of the Committee to reflect on the two stories of the use of the necessity for unanimity, and to determine of which of those two events they are most proud. I am certainly more proud of the former than the latter. Especially as we now have a treaty that looks beyond the Community of 15 to a Community of 25, 26, or 27 member states, that process of horse-trading, which has not automatically served us well in the past, is now past its sell-by date. It is now appropriate that we move to qualified majority voting.