European Communities (Amendment) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:30 pm on 20th November 2001.

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Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 6:30 pm, 20th November 2001

I said that in the knowledge that the noble Lord would rise to his feet to assert what is decreasingly true as the whole pattern of the debate on Europe shifts to a new direction. That will produce some surprising new divisions as Ministers will shortly learn.

The conclusion is that this is a matter of no great importance. I must not distort the words of the Minister, but he indicated that this was not a tremendously progressive and creative provision. He could not see any point in our objecting to it; nor could he see very much point in the provision in the document. We are left with the feeling that we are dealing with rather small matters, although interestingly these kinds of debate uncover deeper issues, which perhaps are not dealt with either in the other place or this Chamber, about the way that Europe and our own affairs in relation to the rest of the Union are developing. Perhaps that should be debated more thoroughly.

For the moment, we are concerned with two narrow amendments which are not vastly important, although the provisions are significant. We note yet again that they are small grandmother's footsteps in the direction of a qualified majority vote and away from unanimity. I suspect that in the end they will make some difference, but obviously we shall not get to the heart of the matter this evening. Therefore, in the same spirit that I moved the amendment, I beg leave to withdraw it.