My Lords, Amendment No. 1, standing in my name and that of my noble friends, concerns the wish to revise Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union. Before dealing with the amendment I shall make one or two preliminary remarks. All noble Lords would agree that, since your Lordships addressed the Bill in Committee, the context in which we are debating these matters has moved on considerably. Many aspects of the scene in relation to the European Union, its development, its policies and activities and this country's relationship with its European neighbours have evolved and altered.
That demonstrates a point made in Committee, and which will be made again on Report, that the Nice Treaty, which the Bill seeks to enshrine, was not made of lasting material. In many respects its foundations were ephemeral. It brings home a fact, which is dawning on many of those who want to see the best arrangements for the best kind of future European Union, that the kind of treaty-making exemplified at Nice is not necessarily the best way to proceed.
We know that enlargement rolls ahead. Those negotiations are very active. There are many difficulties but matters proceed, as some of us always said would happen, with or without ratification of the Nice Treaty. Indeed, we argued that if the treaty had been confined only to the mechanics required for aspects of enlargement, the whole thing would have gone much more smoothly. At present, it is stymied or blocked by the Irish referendum.
I turn to the amendment. In Committee, some of your Lordships indicated that they were not entirely satisfied with the issues raised when we discussed the revision of Article 7. I have therefore felt it right to bring forward the amendment. There were clearly some questions that your Lordships felt should have been answered which were not. Specifically—as your Lordships will recall—the amendment concerns new provisions offered in the Nice Treaty whereby, if there is a clear risk of a serious breach by a member state of the principles outlined in Article 6.1 of the treaty, then, acting by a fourth-fifths majority, the institutions of the European Union and the Council of Ministers may take certain actions and restrict the rights of member states.
Noble Lords will recall from the Committee stage that attention was focused particularly at the time on the Austrian problem which had arisen some time before with the moments in power of Mr Haider and his unacceptable and unattractive views. But the broader issue remains. To what extent should the central institutions of the European Union intervene in dealing with the principles and methods by which member states are governed. Should the European Union intervene as it sought to do with unhappy results in the case of Austria, or should these matters be dependent upon the democratic vigour and internal politics and internal rules and laws of the member states' democracies?
No one doubts that the principles outlined in Article 6.1 are those which should inform and guide every democratic structure and entity, including nation states, unions and any other alliance or club or group of people seeking a pattern of good governance. But the question hangs in the air: does the duty of enforcing this fall to the higher institutions of the European Union or does it fall to the nation states? Behind that there is another question raised by the Laeken declaration and since the Nice Treaty. Who has the legitimacy to assert that these principles must be enforced? Is it the member states with their elected governments and whatever solution or pattern those elected governments may throw up, or does the Union have some higher legitimacy somehow acquired from loftier levels and not from the fact that member states have signed treaties bringing it into being?
The authors of the Larken declaration clearly adhered to this higher theory. They stated:
"The European Union derives its legitimacy from the democratic values it projects, the aims it pursues and the powers and instruments it possesses".
Well, yes and no. The last part is correct. It is given powers and instruments by the member states. But the idea that its values and therefore its right to make judgments on member state countries and their internal affairs derives from something that it projects and the aims that it pursues is a completely false theory. There is no justification that one can think of for arriving at that view except a self-justification, which is wrong.
We have seen what has happened as a result of the policies enshrined in this article being pursued—the difficulties over Austria. Since then there have been suggestions—only suggestions I concede—from the Brussels authorities and from the presidency that Italy is in some way "under observation". Indeed, there were quite vehement personal attacks on Italian political leaders following the resignation of Mr Ruggiero—a general insinuation that in some way the dogma of Europe was being questioned and that therefore Italy was behaving badly and should watch out because otherwise along could come—if not the revised Article 7 because we have not yet ratified the treaty—the earlier versions of Article 7 to put Italy under pressure.
The view from these Benches is that a Union in which too much energy is expended by its members lecturing each other on how their internal affairs should be conducted will not be a very happy club at all. I could not resist a perhaps improper smile this morning when reading that we were receiving a lecture in this country from German Ministers about economic weakness unless we joined the euro. That is a question that I certainly do not want to raise now. But it seemed a rather inappropriate lecture to be delivered from a country which is going through considerable economic difficulties to the detriment of the whole European Union.
We believe that these powers are unnecessary. They are part of a broader trend and tendency which we shall be debating later. This has led to the current very strong pressures for two things; first, the full adoption of a charter of fundamental rights—not just basic rights like these, but a vast range of social priorities and rights which, important as they are, many of us believe belong to member states, and, secondly, the move now definitely afoot, to go to a constitution. We shall during this Report stage look closely at how these moves are being organised and the nature of the convention being set up to carry them forward.
We question whether the energies of the European Union, if it is concerned with greater democracy, should be directed in these ways to the member states. We feel that perhaps it might do better to concentrate on the severe democratic deficiencies in the current EU structure which are giving cause for enormous concern and raise the whole question of the legitimacy of the Union—a matter which has been raised by the Commission in its paper on future European governance. Again, that is a matter we shall come to later.
If the European Union institutions want to be in the business of improving democracy, we must turn to the Bible and suggest that there is a little too much in this article of a mote in thy brother's eye and not enough of considering the beam in thine own eye. It is in that spirit that I move the amendment. I beg to move.
My Lords, when I saw Amendments Nos. 1 to 14, I thought for a moment that it was a comprehension test for the House of Lords to prove that we were a good revising Chamber. It is notable that Amendments Nos. 1 to 14 give no indication of the subject matter, but, thanks to due diligence, I have cracked the code.
There is a serious question about all the amendments to Clause 1; that is, whether we can incorporate into the definition of "the Treaties" and "the Community Treaties" in the European Communities Act 1972 the parts of the Treaty of Nice that do not give rise to Community rights and obligations. I may come back to that point in respect of later amendments.
Amendment No. 1 would move Article 1 of the Treaty of Nice into Clause 1 of the Bill and then strike out again the provision relating to the possible determination by the European Council of a clear risk of a serious breach by a member state of the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. The amendment seems perverse, because the treaty, as it stands, provides that the Council may determine the existence of a serious and persistent breach by a member state, and, if that is determined, the Council can suspend some of the rights of the member state. That is quite harsh.
The effect of the addition, which is in the Treaty of Nice, is to soften the harshness already in the treaty, because the Council must now listen to the member state and may then determine that there is not a breach, but the risk of a breach. That does not trigger any suspension of rights. For that reason, there is a slight improvement in the Treaty of Nice, so I cannot support Amendment No. 1.
My Lords, we had a long debate about the subject in Committee. As the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, said, things have moved on somewhat since then. There has been an election in Italy, and we have seen a reaction from certain elements in the European Union that suggests that the only acceptable result of an election is one that the European Union finds acceptable. I am not sure that that is democracy. It is even less democratic when worries are raised about matters that have not even been mentioned.
It happened in exactly the same way in the case of Austria. Austria was warned not to do things that she did not propose to do. That seems to be putting the nation states, which are supposed to be the backbone of the European Union, under threat, if not blackmail. That is why the provisions are a serious undermining of the rights of the nation state and of accepted democratic norms. Therefore, I support the amendment.
As the noble Lord, Lord Williamson of Horton, said, it is difficult to sort out exactly what one is doing when we discuss Bills relating to the European Union. In the amendments, we cannot set out what we mean to say, and, therefore, any members of the general public who might take the trouble to read our amendment paper will have absolutely no idea of the seriousness of the proposal.
Many people will say that fundamental rights are fundamental, but what is regarded as fundamental depends on who is in power. While a certain political doctrine is in the ascendancy in Europe, the fundamental rights will be acceptable to the group that holds that view throughout the Community, but what happens if that changes? If most European Union member states have Right-wing governments, and they decide that extreme Left-wing governments are not acceptable, what will happen? That is why it is absolutely essential that the basis of the European Union should be the nation states and the constitutions that govern them and, as in the case of many, including this country, have governed them for a long time.
This is a serious amendment. It is serious in more than one respect. There is a punishment for a country that is found to be offending: it will lose all its rights and privileges. That may be all right, but the trouble is that that country must keep on paying the cost. Although it loses its rights and privileges, it must still make a contribution to the running costs of the European Union. That is not fair either.
The noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, referred to the article in today's newspapers saying that the Germans are saying that this country has no future without joining the euro. Of course, they can have an opinion, but, in many respects, that might be considered as gross interference in the affairs of a member state. I am not sure that that should be countenanced, especially as Germany has an interest in seeing that this country does not act independently. The Germans have intervened because they are jealous of the success that this country has enjoyed since 1992, when we left the exchange rate mechanism. Having got rid of their own financial and, probably, economic independence, they are afraid—now that they have had time to think—of having another country in the European Union that has not lost that independence and will still be able to act independently in respect of monetary policy, without inevitably being forced to accept the fiscal regime that is bound to follow economic and monetary union.
The amendment is important. It raises great issues. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, will press it to a vote. I hope that he will, and, if he does, I shall be delighted to support it.
My Lords, can I be forgiven for expressing a little bafflement about the arguments used by the supporters of the amendment? My bafflement is caused by the fact that the Council of Europe, which has been in existence for over 50 years, has rather more extensive powers on this matter and has used them frequently. It has suspended a number of countries from the Council of Ministers of the Council of Europe and from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. No one is suggesting that the Council of Europe is not an intergovernmental organisation, so I am a little baffled as to why this terrible incursion into the rights of nation states has suddenly been discovered in 2002, when it has existed since 1948 in another organisation.
My second point was made by my noble friend Lord Williamson. It is that part of the Treaty of Nice to which objection is made is a careful effort to ensure that the policy-making on the wing which occurred at the time of the Austrian election is not repeated. It is therefore an effort to systematise and make more objective the procedures which will be followed in any circumstances of that nature in the future. That is an act of wisdom and it would be unwise to try to strike it out.
Finally, as regards a certain amount of criticism flowing around the European Union between one government and another, I always thought that criticism and the ability to take it was one of the essences of democracy.
My Lords, the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, recall to my mind my early attendance at a meeting of the Council of Ministers at the Council of Europe when the rights of membership of the Greeks in the parliamentary assembly were withdrawn. That was back in the 1960s when I was a PPS. I remember my noble friend Lord Dahrendorf speaking most eloquently in support of the move for suspension and on that occasion doing so on behalf of the German government.
Be that as it may, I share the view expressed by the two noble Lords who have spoken from the Cross Benches. However, the noble Lord, Lord Howell, has raised an issue of some importance to which we will want to return not in the ambit of the Bill but in the negotiations leading up to the constitutional settlements for which we look in 2004.
It may well be that the measure which is encompassed in the replacement to Article 7 does not, strictly speaking, flow from the necessities underlying the desire to facilitate effective enlargement. None the less, the Community has been faced with a present difficulty and in proposing the new Article 7 those who are seeking to reach agreement have sought—and have to some measure accomplished satisfactorily—to provide for due process. They have sought to consider an allegation that there has been a serious breach by a member state of the principles mentioned in Article 6.1 of such seriousness that it might give rise to the possibility of members, individually even if not collectively, contemplating the necessity or desirability of suspending certain of the rights deriving from the application of the treaty.
That seems to be an admirably pragmatic response and one which should have the support of Parliament.
My Lords, I intervene only briefly. First, as regards the German intervention, my interpretation of the article in today's newspaper is exactly the opposite of that described by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford. I swore that I read that the Germans were saying that they needed us in, and welcomed us in, as much as we needed them. It was not a one-sided view; it was very much a point of saying how welcome we were and how much the writer wished we had been a larger part of the process. Indeed, I believe that he expressed a view about there being space on the new currency so that Her Majesty's picture could appear prominently on it. In other words, I took it as a positive rather than an unwarranted interference in our way of life and in our democracy.
I have a logical point to make which has arisen previously and I would like to hear the view of the noble Lord, Lord Howell, on it. I had understood the point to be that we have fairly stringent criteria, which we are about to apply to additional nations, as regards the conditions which must be met in order to join the Union. That is taken most seriously. The logical question arises—and it has troubled many of us whether we are pro or anti—is what happens if the internal governments and way of life of those countries change to the extent that if they were previously in that state they would not have gained entry. Rightly, member states are saying, "That is an interesting question and one that we ought to think of seriously".
We became involved in the Austrian case ad hoc and everyone has rightly recognised that that was wrong. Therefore, I support noble Lords who have said that this is a more gentle and generous way of enabling one to ask of countries, "What do you think you are up to in going against certain conditions which you met before you joined?". I would like the view of the noble Lord, Lord Howell, on how he would approach the matter if he does not like my suggestion.
If other member states are not in a position even to query that with a view to taking action, I would like to hear from other noble Lords who support the amendment what they would do in those circumstances. Would they merely shrug if a particular member state moved in the direction of totalitarianism? I would hope not.
My Lords, I want to express a puzzlement at what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay. I am sure that my puzzlement comes purely from ignorance, but I understood him to draw an analogy between the Council of Europe and the European Union.
I may be wrong, but surely the difference is that the Council of Europe, in comparison with the European Union and the Council of Ministers, is a talking shop and always was. To use an analogy which would be more familiar to the noble Lord than to me, the General Assembly of the United Nations is a talking shop whereas the Security Council of the United Nations has real powers of international law. I do not understand the point which the noble Lord has made.
My Lords, I thought that he could if he were asked a question.
It seems to me that the arguments of the noble Lords, Lord Hannay and Tomlinson, fall into one of the categories of classic justification for the whole dreadful European saga. However, they have come in at the end of the saga and said, "Well, this was here anyway and bits of it were worse before. The Council of Europe is worse in its procedure than the European Council and therefore it is justified because two wrongs in the advancement of European unity always make a right.".
Perhaps I should remind your Lordships of the process which seems always to happen with new European initiatives which would be unpopular with the people of Europe were they revealed in their full horror at the start of their progress through the tortuous processes of the Treaty of Rome. One could apply that to the policy on social policy, for instance, and one could certainly apply it to corpus juris. Indeed, I have Answers from Ministers in your Lordships' House which confirm that process.
When a gang of academics, with the Commission somewhat secretly in attendance in the case of corpus juris in Spain, meets to discuss the new European legal order which is to be subtly and stealthily forced upon us, the first reaction is always to say, "Oh, no, the initiative does not exist. This is just the febrile imagination of lunatic Eurosceptics. Of course the European Community is not going to invent a social policy or a common legal area, corpus juris", and I could list many others. Therefore, the first thing is to say, "Oh, no, it does not exist". So we all go away and read the papers and scratch our heads and say, "Well, actually, it does exist and this is the proof of it".
The next stage from the Eurocrats is to say, "Well, yes, there is something going on in this area, but it does not mean anything like what you lunatic Eurosceptics say it means."
When a policy has been developed a little further, we go back and say, "Well, actually, it does." The next response from Her Majesty's Government over many years seems to be along the lines of, "Well, yes, it does exist, but don't worry because Her Majesty's Government do not agree with it. Lots of our partners do not agree with it either. Of course it won't happen. Go away, relax and stop bothering us".
However, that creates a little difficulty because, as we know, all these initiatives are hatched in secret by the various sub-committees of the Council, the Committee of Permanent Representatives—COREPER—and all the paraphernalia of the stealthy law-making processes of the European Communities. As I have said, we are given to understand that Her Majesty's Government may not agree with this initiative. The same is true for the other members and so we may relax.
However, inevitably the thing moves forward. It is put to a vote in the Council in one form or another, or often we do not put it to a vote because we know that we are going to lose. The line then taken is always the same: "Well, Her Majesty's Government fought valiantly for this one. We have made enormous improvements to it and there is to be a time delay". The Minister concerned is always able to come back with the comment: "This won't come into force for three to five years". The palliative of the time delay is always offered in the cancerous progress of European legislation. Once again, we are supposed to relax.
Finally, the time delay expires and the wretched thing happens. It becomes law and this Parliament is powerless. Then, of course, we Eurosceptics jump up and down and say, "This has happened. It is an outrage". We are told, "Well, it's too late. Of course it has happened. You were warned. It is there and you have nothing more to say about it".
It seems to me that the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, and to some extent those of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, fall into this latter category.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I think that the element of caricature has become a little extreme. The point that I sought to make about the Council of Europe was that it is an intergovernmental organisation which long preceded the European Community. When it was set up it was given certain powers that related to the observation of human rights and democracy. The exercise of those powers has in some cases involved the suspension of a member from participation either in its Council of Ministers or in its parliamentary assembly—and, incidentally, in circumstances in which the member concerned still has to pay its subscription.
I think that those who are moving the amendment are making something of a meal of an element which has been a standing factor of European organisations, even of one whose founding father was no less than Sir Winston Churchill, who I do not believe had a great deal of difficulty in recognising the importance of the nation state.
My Lords, are we not talking about a European Union, the deprivation of membership of which could in theory result in very serious steps against the country concerned, subjecting that country, for example, to tariff barriers which they had escaped as members. There are no comparative sanctions which could possibly apply as a result of someone having his membership of the Council of Europe taken away from him.
My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for making the point so much better than I could have done. Indeed, as the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, pointed out, paragraph 3 of Article 7 states:
"The obligations of the Member State in question under this Treaty shall in any case continue to be binding on that state".
Thus they are stuck with the costs of the thing as well.
However, what I do not understand about the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson—I do apologise—I refer to the noble Lord, Lord Williamson. Paragraph 1 of Article 7 of the Treaty of Nice is new. The whole thing is new. There is no doubt that we are moving into the area where the Council, acting with a four-fifths majority, may determine that there is a,
"clear risk of a serious breach".
Under the old Article 2, the Council had to act by unanimity on a proposal of one-third of the member states. There is no doubt that the thing is moving in the direction to which my noble friend Lord Howell objects.
I cannot see how anyone can advance the usual Europhile argument by saying, "Well, it is just as bad somewhere else. It has been here before and it was pretty awful. This really improves it". It does not do so. We are moving into an area where the Council can decide that there is a risk of something before it has happened. Whether it has any effect on the Austrian situation or, more recently, the Italian situation, I very much doubt. But I think that the attempt to give the Council these new powers is very regrettable and clearly anti-democratic.
My Lords, in moving his amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said that the context of our discussion on this matter has moved on considerably since the Committee stage. The European Union is founded on certain principles. Those principles include a common respect for fundamental human rights. In a continent which has seen so much division, so much conflict and so much strife in the past half century, the European Union has indeed been a beacon of stability, peace and respect for human rights.
Countries to our east have looked enviously at the rights enjoyed by individuals in the EU. We have rightly come to expect the highest standards of respect for human rights from all the EU member states. Our collective record adds weight to our efforts to see the same high standards observed elsewhere in the world. If the EU is to continue to provide a model of stability, we must ensure that others continue to have faith in our commitment to individual freedoms and, of course, to fundamental rights.
The ability to suspend the voting and other rights of a member state which does not live up to those expectations already exists in the treaties before Nice. After some of the contributions which have just been made to the debate, I rather feel that that point has been somewhat glossed over. It was introduced in the Treaty of Amsterdam. Nice does not change the procedures for action against any member state that has persistently breached human rights. What it does do is to introduce an early warning mechanism.
In Committee the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said that the article allowed the EU to intervene in what he termed a state's "internal affairs" on the grounds of speculation. If that statement really were an accurate reflection of what the Bill is trying to achieve, that would indeed give grounds for the unease which the noble Lord and some of his noble friends have expressed. I thought that that point was strongly reiterated in some of the contributions we have just heard.
Perhaps I may try to explain why I do not believe that that is an accurate position. First, there is no possibility of intervention in a state's internal affairs over and above what exists already. The treaty does not change the procedures agreed in the Amsterdam Treaty for suspending the rights of a member state which has seriously and persistently breached human rights. The noble Lord said that the EU would be intervening in an internal matter of a member state. However, there is no additionality in this treaty over and above what is already in the treaties that we have ratified. However, there is a new early warning system.
Perhaps I may also respectfully point out to the noble Lord that the suggestion that this is done on a speculative basis is also misconceived. After all, a speculation is an opinion which is formed without definite knowledge and without definite evidence, whereas the whole point of this procedure is to garner such knowledge and evidence and to investigate the possibility of a serious infringement of human rights before such breaches are committed—the better of course to prevent that happening again. So there are fundamental misconceptions about this article—some of which, sadly, we have heard repeated today by some noble Lords.
It has been claimed that the article will be used to suspend the voting rights of those who do not share, for example, the same political vision, the same federal vision or the same left or right politics. Other noble Lords have implied that the article may be used to intervene in British politics and in some of the decisions that your Lordships and others further down the line will have to take in regard to other matters on the European agenda. But, I reiterate, this article relates solely to serious and persistent breaches of fundamental human rights. It cannot be used in the contexts described by some noble Lords. That is stated very clearly in the treaty—and the treaty would be the fundamental basis on which nations would proceed.
I repeat, a four-fifths majority must be obtained to establish the risk of a breach of human rights. The noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, implied that this was to establish a breach. That is not so. It is merely to establish the risk—and the risk in itself does not automatically lead to suspension. Not at all. There would still have to be a different decision based on the same unanimity minus one that we have already in the Amsterdam treaty. Of course these are exacting hurdles—so they should be—but it is perhaps a somewhat cavalier attitude to imply that the four-fifths majority would establish the breach.
My Lords, the wording in the previous treaty referred to "serious and persistent". I agree that this is about a "serious" breach. However, I reiterate, a four-fifths hurdle is quite considerable and there is no change at all in unanimity minus one when establishing the breach itself.
The Government believe very strongly that breaches of human rights cannot and should not be tolerated in the EU. The clause gives the strongest possible message not only to member states but to applicant member states and the outside world that we mean what we say on this issue.
The noble Lord, Lord Howell, raised the question of Italy, an issue picked up by other noble Lords. There is no suggestion that human rights are being breached in Italy. The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, went on to say that this was perhaps a question of left and right in politics. If that is a serious view held by some noble Lords, I am not sure that we have clearly understood what the article is about. The fact is that this has nothing to do with the political nature of any government—whether of the left or right—or with the subject matter under discussion, whether it be the euro, fiscal rectitude or whatever. This is about fundamental human rights.
The noble Lord, Lord Peston, was worried about what would happen where there was a change in the nature of the government of a country after that country had acceded to the European Union and whether that might trigger any proceedings under this article. It would if the new government offended, and was seen to offend, against human rights. It is not a question of the politics of the government but of what the government do in relation to human rights.
My Lords, when we discussed Austria two years ago, my understanding was that a political decision was taken because a government-sharing party had been elected of which the member states did not approve because it was too right wing. That is the reason why Mr Haider was so harshly treated by his fellow Europeans, some of whom went around wearing anti-Haider buttons at meetings and so on.
My Lords, it is one thing to criticise a government one does not like; it is a quite different thing to move towards anything resembling a suspension of that government and that country from the EU. I respectfully suggest to the noble Lord that whatever happened two years ago in relation to Austria is not an issue for us here. What is in issue here is what would trigger a suspension. A suspension would be triggered not because of the political colour of a government and whether it was considered to be left or right, but only if such a government compromised fundamental human rights. That might be equally true of a government of the extreme left or a government of the extreme right. The politics are not at issue. What is at issue is the challenge to human rights—and that could happen to a government of any political colour.
The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, asked who decides whether there is such a breach. Article 7.2 sets out the procedure for establishing breaches of fundamental human rights by member states. This does refer to,
"a serious and persistent breach by a Member State of the principles mentioned in Article 6.1."
The noble Lord, Lord Williamson, helpfully reminded us that Article 6.1 states:
My Lords, the Minister referred to me and to some of my remarks. She will appreciate that Article 6.1 was in place when the Austrian people, on a 28 per cent vote, elected a party which then took a very junior part in the government. When that happened, outrage was expressed by the then presidency of the EU—I believe it was Portugal—and the attitude of various people in the Council changed. For example, the lady who was Foreign Minister—I cannot remember her name at the moment—was shunned and people refused to shake hands with the president of Austria. I believe that the European Parliament passed a resolution against Austria and things happened which worried many people throughout the European Union. That is why we are concerned to have a discussion about this particular provision in the treaty. I hope that the noble Baroness does not mind the House discussing it and probing it as far as we have.
My Lords, may I respectfully suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, that I have twice explicitly answered his exact point? Nothing will impede a country from criticising another country if that is what it wishes to do. The question at issue is whether such criticisms automatically put us on an inexorable, slippery slope to suspension through the treaty. The answer is no, it does not. Criticism of a government because you do not like some of their policies is a very different issue from proceeding to suspending a government from the European Union because of a fundamental breach of human rights. I cannot be more explicit. I am convinced of this and other noble Lords may be convinced of it, but I am afraid that the words do not exist in the English language to convince some noble Lords on that point.
My Lords, as happens often, although not invariably, the Minister has given the House some thoughts which I find illuminating and, to some extent, reassuring. Perhaps I may be permitted, under our rules, to comment briefly on one or two points which have arisen.
The noble Lord, Lord Peston, shrewdly and characteristically, raised the question of the need for rules. I should say, as perhaps a not entirely valid but slightly valid counter argument, that if you have too many rules and mechanisms for deciding who you chuck out of the club, you may find that when the situation arises the mechanisms do not fit the situation. A classic example of that at the moment is the Commonwealth and Zimbabwe. If there were not such a rigid rule about who should be excluded from the Commonwealth, I have no doubt that we would have chucked out Zimbabwe long ago. But rules can be too tough as well as too loose.
The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, has vast experience in these matters. He refers to the Council of Europe. Contrary to my noble friend Lord Marlesford, I think that it is more than a talking shop; it has been a fine citadel and influence for democratic rights and freedoms throughout Europe. But the more strongly one states that the more the question cries out to be asked: why on earth do we need to duplicate it yet again and create yet another institution? The treaty not only repeats that the body is embedded in these principles—that is fair enough—but it is then given powers not merely to criticise but, under certain circumstances and with safeguards, to take actions against those it has criticised.
I sometimes wonder whether in the minds of some people there is any end to the need to create new institutions and new powers to tell us how to run our affairs and discipline us if we do not. One can go too far on that front. Perhaps we are almost going too far in this case. That is why I believe that it is a legitimate matter for your Lordships to debate again.
I do not disguise that the amendment was moved in a spirit of inquiry and seeking assurance rather than a clash of will. I do not know whether the discussion has made the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, happy. He is sometimes hard to please as a number of people have found out. He is right when he says that it is a critical issue. However, even more critical issues for discussion on Report lie ahead. In the light of that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, in moving the amendment, I shall address some of the amendments grouped with it. They involve the development of a common defence policy and the moving forward of what have been called European security and defence policy issues.
As in the general European context, a great deal has happened since we last discussed defence and security matters in Committee. It is right to take that into account in seeking to explain concerns about the Bill and to press amendments. However, neither a European security and defence policy nor a rapid reaction force has yet come into being. As the noble Lord, Lord Bach, said at the Dispatch Box only a few days ago, there is no RRF. Indeed, if reports in the newspapers are right, even the capabilities to make the RRF a reality have not been fully pledged and a third of them do not exist.
It is true that other aspects exist. The treaty adds the words "and security" to the title of the political committee. There is a military staff. I do not know whether the numbers are in the tens or hundreds; I believe that they are quite high. They have a new building but no troops. We have the old pattern of the ships and admirals: the fewer the ships the more admirals. In this case, that is carried to extreme. We have no RRF but we have a military planning staff, with papers and undertakings flying around and no doubt planning being undertaken.
In Committee, the noble Baroness said:
"There is a great deal of confusion about the issue of defence and the Nice treaty".—[Official Report, 15/11/01; col. 718.]
She is right. There is a great deal of confusion not only in the minds of politicians but of those who rush into print and write articles or declare themselves for or against various aspects of European development. The noble Baroness explained—she was right again—that the ESDP is not triggered by this treaty. The show was rolling already. Article 1 of the treaty gives encouragement to the progressive framing of a common defence policy and adds the words "and security" to the label of the standing Political and Security Committee.
Our worries are ongoing and are further triggered by what is involved in the treaty and the Bill. Those worries are reinforced by what has happened since we discussed these matters and the saga of events leading up to the mobilising of the counter-terrorist campaign following the horrors of September 11th. At that point the presidency of the European Union wanted the ESDP, and perhaps the RRF, to come into being. The plea was that the RRF should become operational and get ready to go to Afghanistan. It was soon clear that that was a hopeless endeavour and a fantasy: that no such aim could be achieved. Nevertheless, it demonstrates the degree of confusion about whether and how the body will go forward. In parenthesis, I hope that noble Lords will forgive my slightly croaky voice. As have another 11 million people, I have had the standard cold which does not improve one's oratory.
We have had the remarkable mobilising of the grand coalition and the remarkable activities of the Prime Minister, Mr Blair. He moved around the world at great speed and gave some significant dinner parties to organise these events and give practicality to the security and defence aspects. Dinner parties are tremendous fun to give but they are dangerous. The people you do not ask are those who become a little concerned and sometimes hostile. That occurred with regard to the Prime Minister's dinner parties. Those who had not been invited became extremely critical. They asked why they were not involved in the defence and security arrangements being organised and in the alliances and coalitions being mobilised with such energy by our American friends, and the Prime Minister in London.
It demonstrates—it is hardly a lesson the Government need because they recognised that reality as they set out on their tasks—that in dealing with defence and security matters, whether in the European theatre or in the wider global context, the need is for what Mr Michael Ancram called in another place a layered response to the different aspects of a new security situation which may be full of complexities, as Afghanistan has proved to be, which require different arrangements. Heavy and arthritic institutions and elaborate systems and pyramids of organisation cannot deliver those at speed. The doctrine and philosophy lying behind the yearning for the autonomous army, as the French called it, or the European security and defence capability begin to look tattered.
The Times cannot necessarily be condemned as a newspaper always criticising European matters. However, on 3rd December it wrote a devastating editorial stating,
"At best, the ESDP is a military irrelevance; and it is unlikely that the EU's many hawks, doves and birds of indeterminate feather would agree what to do with it".
"At worst, the ESDP will be a political disaster, an assertion of EU power to counter-balance the US that Washington might choose to test by reducing its commitment to Nato".
It added for good measure that the assigning of capabilities to the RRF was a,
"senseless mortgaging of Britain's military flexibility".
Those are devastating criticisms. They accord very much with the feelings of some of us that many of the energies devoted to this whole exercise—both in the treaties (further encouraged in the Nice treaty) and now being carried forward in further speeches, arrangements, planning, papers and so on—are energies diverted from the real interests of the security of Europe and from its security capabilities in contributing to global peace and stability.
Yesterday, the noble Lord, Lord Bach, fairly justifiably asked this side of the House if it wanted a better disposition of defence and to avoid overstretch, where we would cut out capabilities. My small contribution—it would not make much difference in terms of hardware—is that, just for a start, we should spend less time in "senseless mortgaging" of our capabilities.
Perhaps we should let this whole RRF business fall back into the context (into which it will fall back in the end anyway) that its contribution to security and defence will be marginal and that it will detract to a considerable degree from the European security and defence which is necessary, which must be backed by greatly increased defence budgets throughout Europe and which should be closely integrated with NATO at all points, as the Americans have always argued, and as we on this side of the House have always argued. That would be much the best way forward.
If, in proposing this amendment, we can bring to the attention of the House the view of those of us who want a strong European defence, and a strong European support pillar of NATO, that some of these efforts and treaty intentions are a diversion from the main task—which is a very important one—the amendment will have served its purpose. I beg to move.
My Lords, many of us are aware that the whole idea of a European common defence policy has great dangers. I cannot accept with equanimity the new impetus given to it by the treaty in the amendments to Title V.
I do not subscribe to the view that the more we are integrated in Europe, the greater will be our influence abroad. The events following 11th September show how disastrous it would have been had there been in place a fully developed European defence policy, if, indeed, the wish of the German Chancellor had been fulfilled, and national sovereignty in foreign and security policy had finished up as no more than a product of the imagination—which is how he had described it in a speech shortly before the events of 11th September.
Europe is an essential part of the coalition against terrorism—the coalition so painstakingly and, I have to say, successfully put together. It was possible to put it together because states in Europe were able to respond in different ways and at different levels—some much more enthusiastically than others. When one thinks of all the different attitudes to the crisis that began with the events of 11th September, what chance would there have been of an EU which was responsible for defence and security giving the kind of support to the fight against terrorism that Britain has given? Italy condemned the whole idea of bombing right from the start. Ireland said that it was neutral and could take no part. Sweden was wringing its hands and saying that it could not do anything either. The whole idea fills one with a great deal of dismay. I repeat that if there had been a European common defence policy, there could not possibly have been the response to the events of 11th September which in fact took place.
The European defence policy has never been about creating an additional military resource available to the EU. Recently, certainly, it has been about the EU having a say in how existing forces are used, and particularly how our own forces are used. It is about our committing to a European force a substantial part—perhaps the larger part—of our operationally available fighting forces, and the risk of our gradually losing the power to use those forces without the approval of our European partners.
We should be looking not just at the immediate effect of what was agreed at Nice, but at the general direction in which we are going. There is reason to be worried. The real risk is that we shall gradually be drawn into a European defence policy which prevents our acting unilaterally in support of America or in our own interests. The point made by my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch is particularly apt in relation to this amendment and when one considers this particular proposal. It is easy to look at the fine script and say, "What are you worrying about? We have a veto over this. We could deny them their wishes when they ask for a commitment of British troops". But the more we create a framework like this, the more we take on obligations, and the more difficult it is to resist the taking on of more obligations. I am very worried about the whole direction in which European defence policy is going. I repeat that we are jolly lucky that we did not have such a policy in place on 11th September.
My Lords, in support of my noble friend's amendment, perhaps I may ask the Minister to specify the new meaning of two provisions which were already in the treaty as agreed at Amsterdam—that is, they were not new at Nice—but which may be given a new meaning and impetus by what is new in the Nice treaty.
As my noble friend Lord Howell said, what used to be the Political Committee of the European Union, which judged and guided military and other interventions, is now the Political and Security Committee. There must be some significance in that.
More worrying are the new words, as I read them, in Article 25 of the Nice treaty:
"Within the scope of this Title, this Committee shall exercise"— that is now the Political and Security Committee—
"under the responsibility of the Council, political control and strategic direction of crisis management operations".
That seems to be a new departure and is clearly a big step forward, in terms of the powers of the military and other structures of the European Union, however useless they may eventually turn out to be. At present, we are dealing with the "European army"—as Mr Prodi so rightly insists on calling it—only in theory.
Bearing that development in mind, how does the Minister believe it will affect two clauses which, as I say, were already in the treaty? They are to be found in Article 17.2, which states:
"Questions referred to in this article should include humanitarian and rescue tasks"— that is probably fair enough—and,
I suppose so. Then there comes the phrase that we have queried before and which is now possibly more worrying given the departures to which I have just referred. It reads,
"and tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking".
I wonder whether the Government can tell us, if not now, certainly at the final stage of the Bill in your Lordships' House, what the people who design these frightful treaties have in mind by saying "crisis management" and "peacemaking".
Perhaps I may refer the Minister to Article 17 paragraph 4. Again, this was largely dealt with in the Treaty of Amsterdam. It reads,
"The provisions of this Article shall not prevent the development of closer co-operation between two or more Member States on a bilateral level"—
Presumably, that means two of us can collaborate to do something—
"provided such co-operation does not run counter to or impede that provided for in this Title".
That is, co-operation between one or more of us to do something in this field. To many of us that seems to possibly restrict the activity of Her Majesty's Government quite considerably in view of the new parts of the treaty which I read out earlier. Such words would certainly appear to be capable of severely restricting our action in future if we meet an international situation which we might even wish to deal with on our own. That might run counter to or impede what the others have decided to do under Title V. Two or more of us might wish to take action. Under these provisions it appears that we are prevented from doing so. It would be very helpful to have a clear elucidation of what the treaty means in this regard.
My Lords, I find it rather strange that noble Lords opposite keep praying in aid the American relationship and saying that all these matters are going to make our relationship with the United States more difficult. If that were the case, one would have thought that they would have said so, but they have not. They have said exactly the opposite. They have welcomed these arrangements.
As regards what the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, has just said, I remind him that the commitment of national assets to any EU-led operations would be based on "sovereign national decisions". So what is the problem? I do not believe that it is good enough for noble Lords opposite to continually tell us that all of this undermines our relations with the United States and undermines NATO. If that were the case the United States would have said so and they have not.
My Lords, I would like to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, that I am not speaking on behalf of my noble friend. But I do know the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, himself because he is often on his feet. I intervene briefly on these amendments because they are important, dealing with defence and security. Despite my earlier due diligence I do not intend to intervene on all the amendments that we are discussing at Report stage.
The amendments bring us back to the point which I mentioned before and which is set out very clearly in the Explanatory Notes to the Bill which state that,
"The new paragraph does not provide for those parts of the Treaty of Nice which concern co-operation in the sphere of foreign and security policy or police and judicial co-operation".
That is because they do not give rise to Community rights and obligations. So we have to be careful that we do not try to incorporate what is actually inter-governmental into treaties which deal with Community obligations.
Furthermore, in Amendment No. 10 there is a proposal to carry a "declaration" into the list of treaties under the European Communities Act. A declaration does not have treaty force and I believe it is bad law if not totally inadmissible because the other parties to the treaty would not recognise the declaration as having treaty force. I make that point, but as we are at Report stage we need to be a little careful about how we propose to legislate.
I now turn to the substance of the amendments. The principal effect of the amendments to Article 17 of the Treaty of European Union is to take out many references to the Western European Union. I do not see any difficulty about that. Time has moved on and we do not need those detailed points in the treaty any more.
It is true of a number of the amendments, but I shall take Amendment No. 3 as an example. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, will be absolutely delighted to learn that its effect is to take out something which was included in the treaty by the Treaty of Amsterdam. That is where it came from. We ratified that treaty not very long ago. The words which it is now proposed to exclude through Amendment No. 3 are absolutely identical to those we ratified as a result of the Treaty of Amsterdam. We are reversing a situation. I do not want to do that, although some might wish to. We need to be quite clear as to the effect of Amendment No. 3 which we are now discussing.
I have one other point. I am sometimes a little sad—a feeling which I believe is shared by other members of Select Committees—because we work a long time on some of these issues. There was a very extensive examination of the European security and defence policy and in particular the proposed rapid reaction force, known in specialised circles as the rapid reaction capability, I believe. We reported to the House in July 2000 and again in December of that year. We are about to report again to the House in a matter of weeks. So there has been an extremely thorough look at these issues.
Quite rightly, the committee had some reservations and I shared them. It wanted the defence policy to create capabilities to strengthen and not to rival the alliance, but, subject to certain reservations, it welcomed the initiatives which had been taken. There was a thorough examination. It has been discussed in the House. I believe that the development of policy, subject to some of those quite justified queries and reservations, seems to have been generally welcomed. I welcome it myself. I would not wish to have added to the Bill the amendments we are now discussing.
My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, that we do not want to talk ourselves into a situation where European defence co-operation goes further than we want it to. But the problem for some of us is that, while we want desperately to believe the Government when they say that there is absolutely no question of building a European army or a European rapid reaction force, unfortunately other people in Europe of great stature and power are saying something rather different. They are saying that what is being constructed is a European army.
I wish that the noble Baroness would absolutely assure us that she is right and that all these other potentates in Europe are completely and utterly wrong; that there is no prospect of a European rapid reaction force being set up, nor a European army; that this is simply about European co-operation which will be under the control of the British Government and, in the ultimate case, the British Parliament; and furthermore that we have the troops and the resources to contribute to such a force anyway.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Howell, was quite right to quote me from Committee stage when I said that there was a great deal of confusion about defence in the Nice treaty and indeed we have seen that demonstrated again here today.
Let me start from his point about a rapid reaction force. That is not a standing force. It is a capability rather than a standing force. It is a capability which can be called upon. As the noble Lord almost implied in his remarks—and I hope he will forgive me if I put the point to him—there is no question of there being a group of service people—Army, Navy or Air Force—waiting somewhere to be called upon. It is a capability which can be produced from the member countries when it is decided that it is needed. The noble Lord said that it was not ready and waiting, but I would remind him that some 104 out of the 144 capabilities which were specified in the headline goal have now reached the point where they might be called upon.
The noble Lord of course was quite right to remind us that the arrangements for the European security and defence policy are not in the Treaty of Nice, and again he was right that a declaration attached to the treaty makes clear that the treaty does not need to come into force for the defence arrangements agreed by the EU member states to become operational. That is, I hope, common ground between us. I hope what is also common ground between us is the removal of references to the WEU in the treaty because they no longer reflect reality.
The other new element in the treaty is the one to which the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, referred, which is the reference to a new political and security committee which is already up and running and to which the Council will now be able to delegate the running of a crisis management operation. The committee is referred to in Article 25 and it is one of the lynchpins of the CFSP and the ESDP. It is a permanent committee of national officials based in Brussels. It is chaired by a representative of the Presidency and its role is to monitor issues that come within CFSP and then to make recommendations to the Council on action. It is also being charged with monitoring the implementation of policies already agreed and overseeing the work of the military committee, the committee for civilian aspects of civilian crisis management and various other working groups. I hope that that answers the points that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, raised.
From some of the points raised, not only by your Lordships but by others, it is hard to imagine that somewhere in the treaty there really is not an article which sets up a permanent euro army under the control of all sorts of people, including some foreign nationals, which either forces our Armed Forces into campaigns which we do not want to be in or refuses to allow us to participate in campaigns that we do want to be in.
The European security and defence policy is really about improving the military capabilities of European nations to conduct certain EU-led military operations. Let me reiterate, those operations are humanitarian; they are peacekeeping; they are crisis management; and they are operations in which NATO as a whole—that is, all NATO acting together—decides that it does not want to be engaged.
The ESDP is making a real difference by obliging member states to consider their own capacity for action. That must be good for everybody who believes in strong defence. When I had the honour of being the Minister for Defence Procurement, on numerous occasions I received many complaints about the inability of our European partners to put their money where their mouth was over some military capability. This focuses them on precisely building up that capability. Of course member states have committed to overcoming the important shortfalls that have been identified—shortfalls that are discussed regularly in your Lordships' House—such as the shortfall in strategic airlift. The capabilities improvement conference in November was a further and critical step in that process.
One of the most common objections to ESDP is that there is somehow a confusion or a conflict in the command and control structures that we are setting up. There really are no rival military structures to NATO. We have said that, and to avoid any doubt that anything has changed, I repeat it to your Lordships. Where NATO is not engaged, the EU may decide to lead an operation. The EU will clearly exercise political control, as the committee which I have just referred to would indicate, over any operations that it leads but it will use NATO's military operational tools or it will use national tools. Again, we have discussed the role of DSACEUR, the role of SHAPE, or the role of a national capability such as our own PJHQ. There is no stand-off here between NATO and the European Union. There is no rival operational structure.
The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, asked me again for some reassurance on what he quoted to us from European politicians and asked whether I could really give him that assurance. Perhaps I may I quote what the European Council agreed at Nice. It is not in the treaty. It is in the report on the European security and defence policy. That report was approved by all heads of state and government at Nice. The noble Lord said, "Here is what a European politician is saying", but I ask him to look at what the heads of government, the heads of state said, what they wrote down and what they all agreed to. They said:
"This does not involve the establishment of a European army. The commitment of national resources by Member States to such operations will be based on their sovereign decisions. As regards the Member States concerned, NATO remains the basis of the collective defence of its members".
We have emphasised that point over and over again. The agreement went on:
"The development of the ESDP will contribute to the vitality of a renewed transatlantic link."
This again acknowledges the transatlantic link which is so vitally important to us. It continued:
"This development will also lead to a genuine strategic partnership between the EU and NATO in the management of crises, with due regard for the two organisations' decision-making autonomy."
It is explicit in giving the very assurance that the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, sought of me. He asked me; I assured him. But somehow in the back of my mind I have a doubt that however explicit I am and whatever I can produce that is explicit from the leaders of the governments involved, nothing will convince the noble Lord on this point.
I really am most obliged to the noble Baroness for giving way and indeed for the full manner in which she answered my question. Can she go a little further and say whether the statement she has just made is a complete repudiation of the statement made by Signor Prodi on Friday 4th February in an interview with the Independent newspaper, that you could call it what you liked but as far as he was concerned it was a European army?
My Lords, I say to the noble Lord that the heads of government say that it does not involve the establishment of a European army. It is explicit. That is what I believe to be true. I have said that unequivocally. This is hardly the first time I have done so but I say it again to all your Lordships; and that is what was signed up to in the documents which are not in the treaty but in the report on the European security and defence policy.
We believe that the defence policy that we are putting in place will be good for Britain, good for Europe, good for NATO and good for the United States. That is why the United States so strongly supports it.
The noble Lord, Lord Waddington, referred to the action in Afghanistan and the reticence of some of our European partners about the bombing. The US bombing of Afghanistan was not a Petersberg task. Everything that we are talking about relates to Petersberg tasks. The bombing was not humanitarian action or crisis management. The International Security and Assistance Force now going in could be described as a Petersberg task. It is for individual countries to decide, through a coalition of the willing, whether they want to participate in it.
The noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, returned to what we mean by a Petersberg task. Petersberg tasks cover humanitarian conflict and peace keeping. The noble Lord asked what we mean by peace making—an issue that we have discussed on many occasions.
My Lords, I suspect that that is rather easier. Crisis management might be, for example, going to the aid of flood victims in countries such as Mozambique. I have used that useful example before.
My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that it is valid to point out that the events of September 11th showed how difficult it was to secure agreement among all members of the European Union on the correct response to a particular event? Surely that is relevant when one comes to consider the implications of a common European defence policy that looked after the defence of Europe. That was my point.
My Lords, I was trying to point out to the noble Lord that what has happened might be described as over and above a Petersberg remit. It was a matter for the international community and for a coalition of the willing. The ESDP is not a treaty issue, but the noble Lord seemed to imply that ratification of the treaty would somehow impede us from taking the action that we took. That is not the case. We would still be able to exercise our sovereign right, as would any other country in Europe if it wanted to support such action, as we have seen. Nothing in the treaty would impede that. If the noble Lord genuinely believes that what he said implied that it would, I hope that I can assure him that it would not, because the tasks involved are rather different.
I understand the problem about Petersberg tasks raised by the noble Lords, Lord Waddington and Lord Pearson of Rannoch. It is an old problem that we have discussed over and over in your Lordships' House and in the WEU, when it existed. The noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, invited me to write to him about the issue. I take it that he would like me to do so before Third Reading. I shall willingly and happily do so. I do not know how much further I shall be able to take a definition of peace enforcing, but I shall do what I can to meet him on that point and to send him a letter. I know that this is rightly a matter of considerable interest to your Lordships, so I shall put a copy of my letter in the Library of the House.
My Lords, when the noble Baroness is so generous as to do that, will she also cover the question that I raised about paragraph 4 of Article 17? The provisions were in the treaty before, but they have a new significance now. They say that closer co-operation between two or more member states on a bilateral level is not prohibited,
"provided such co-operation does not run counter to or impede" what the others may have agreed under that title. That seems to have acquired a new significance and we should be very clear about what we are talking about.
My Lords, I shall certainly cover that in my letter, but if action does not run counter to that provided for in the title, it does not run counter to that provided for by the definition of Petersberg tasks. That brings us back to the previous point. That is what I understand to be the purport of those words, but I shall write to the noble Lord and confirm that point.
The noble Lord, Lord Howell, quoted an interesting article of recent date from a journalist working for The Times. I am sure that there are many interesting contributions from very able journalists across the spectrum of the UK press, but I should much prefer to rest on the judgment of the President of the United States, who said in June 2001:
"All nations should understand that there is no conflict between membership in NATO and membership in the European Union. My nation welcomes the consolidation of European unity and the stability it brings".
Then, significantly, he said:
"We welcome a greater role for the EU in European security, properly integrated with NATO".
That is quite right. As the European Union acknowledged, it must be properly integrated into NATO.
"The risk to NATO, to the transatlantic link and to the Euro-American relationship, does not stem from what Europe is building. The risk could only come from Europe not doing it".
The noble Lord is a sensible, erudite and enormously well-read man. Does he really believe that the judgment of a journalist on The Times is better than the judgment of the President of the United States and of the United States Secretary of State? If the noble Lord does not believe them, surely he can believe General Sir Charles Guthrie—recently the Chief of the Defence Staff and now a very welcome Member of your Lordships' House—who said last year:
"I am interested in what is good for defence and security. It makes eminent sense. It is not a question of the Euro-sceptics or the Europhiles, it is about what is best for the country".
I believe that those are much more authoritative statements than what one journalist says one day, particularly as we all know that journalists can often say something completely different in subsequent articles. I would prefer to rest my case on authoritative comments from our real allies. I hope that when the noble Lord considers the amendments, he will decide not to press them.
My Lords, as I explained, the article to which the Minister referred is an editorial from The Times. That does not make much difference, but it was not just one journalist firing off; it was a considered piece by a team from a fairly distinguished newspaper. However, there is not much to be gained by contrasting that with a string of quotations about the importance—an importance that I fully endorse—of a stronger European contribution to defence. The question is how that should be engineered and whether some of the things that have been planned and said are a diversion from that.
The best measure of a stronger European contribution to defence is, in this case, budgetary. I do not always believe that more money produces better results, but in the case of defence it almost certainly does. When we look around, that is not what we see. The UK Government have made some steps in the right direction, but I see no sign of that elsewhere in Europe.
We are just as concerned as Secretary Powell and the President of United States, who have carried colossal burdens with great ability. Their concern is for a better European contribution to defence and so is ours. I am at one with the noble Baroness in welcoming the capabilities improvements and the increased interoperability between European equipment and tanks and those of American and other NATO forces. Those measures have been necessary for a long time and it is high time that they were given a more vigorous push. The only issue is that some of us question whether, in doing that, one needs to set up the elaborate pattern of not only making the EU a military power, promptly integrated into NATO, but beginning to develop what our French colleagues have called an autonomous and independent force.
The battle for quotes goes on. I listened with some incredulity to the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, who said that the Americans have not said any of that. I have a file absolutely jammed with quotes from senior American officials, both in office and out of office, who all—at the time of St Malo, and after, and until quite recently—were expressing considerable concern that there might be rivalry with NATO and that that would weaken rather than strengthen European defence.
The result of all these pressures and people flying to and from Washington to reassure the Americans that there would not be a split of NATO, a weakening and duplication, and that we were able to get the Turks on line and involved and not feeling that they have to obstruct everything, has been some rowing back by Ministers. That is not a party political point, it is on the record. Following St Malo, ministerial statements here have been modified very considerably towards the very important point, reiterated quite rightly by the Minister today, that the developments must be properly integrated within NATO. That is what we believe should have happened from the start. I think that, whenever we see signs that that is going to be reneged upon and we are drifting back towards the dreams of the independent and autonomous force proclaimed at St Malo, we are right as an Opposition to seek to call a halt and to seek to move amendments to express our feelings.
My Lords, I can only say that one hopes so. However, one's doubts are based on considerable disappointment. There is a constant danger, and there are constant pressures from certain quarters—with which I suspect the noble Lord is more familiar than I am—to push this whole project back towards the independent, autonomous force. It is a question of constant vigilance and constant warning that we do not drift that way and weaken the integration in NATO that the Americans rightly felt was necessary from the start, as did we.
The Minister said that double-hatting does not involve any movement of forces or reallocation of troops, and that is technically correct. However, as she knows from her defence experience, producing capabilities at short notice or undertaking to do so—double-hatting, in fact—requires huge preplanning and flexibility arrangements. It also requires adjustment of other plans. One cannot simply lift a whole division or group of manpower and equipment out of the current pattern of defence unless it has been previously crafted and redesigned as a module that can be lifted out. It requires huge effort and, I suspect, considerable expenditure to design the modules of our defence forces so that they can be made ready to go here, there and everywhere.
It is a little disingenuous to say that nothing is involved by happily double-hatting, thereby treble-hatting, some of our troops. A great deal of planning is involved, as all those who have been involved in these matters know very well.
Like many institutions, the institutions that have been created and that are given further encouragement in the treaty—they are effectively blessed by the Bill—have been carefully built up in response to events that have already happened. Rather like generals, these institutions tend to be planned for the last crisis and the last war. Our fear is that the more flexibility is taken away and the more one creates the new planning staff, the new military structures, the new arrangements, the new double-hatting and the new modules that can or cannot be moved at great speed here and there, the more difficult it will be when allies, the coalitions of the willing and nations of goodwill, determination and responsibility have to come together to meet the next crisis that we have not foreseen. We have no idea how those crises will shape up.
We, too, want what is best for the country and what makes Europe strongest in its contribution to global stability, security and defence. We remain full of doubts that the type of proposition in the treaty will help in that direction. Therefore, as we wish to express those doubts, we should like to test the opinion of the House on the matter.
My Lords, we come now to Amendment No. 5 with which is grouped Amendment No. 6. Both these amendments concern legal matters where I move with caution having been denied the inestimable benefit of a legal training. We are, of course, particularly focusing on Article 31 of the treaty which is given heavy reinforcement and encouragement by the Nice treaty and, therefore, by this Bill. In fact, the Eurojust idea, although it existed before the Nice treaty, was officially recognised and given body and substance at Nice. Here again, as in other areas, a number of developments have occurred subsequent to the Nice treaty and, indeed, subsequent to our Committee discussions on the Bill; notably the emergence of the proposal for the common European arrest warrant, which has been strongly advocated with its proposed 28 possible infringements under which arrest warrants can be issued. However, some of us felt at the time, and, I suspect, still feel, that the unhappy saga of the plane spotters in Greece did not give great encouragement to some of the central suppositions and assumptions behind the common arrest warrant idea.
As I understand it, the new principle behind the arrest warrant is that there should be automatic recognition of judicial orders for arrest made in another member state. That is a radical thought and obviously there were initial reservations, particularly in Italy, but I believe that those have been modified. Our own committees of this House had a scrutiny reserve on that idea going forward. However, I understand that that was brushed aside which is a reminder of something we shall debate in more detail in a further amendment; namely, the crucial need for national Parliaments to have a stronger and more adequate involvement in the whole process of decision-making in the EU in relation to all pillars but particularly in relation to pillar three proposals.
I shall not spend much time on this issue at this stage, I merely ask the Minister some questions. It was said—I think before Christmas—that the common arrest warrant idea within the Eurojust framework and the framework of the European judicial network—I frankly never understood the difference between Eurojust and the European judicial network—would come before Parliament within an extradition Bill. I should like to know what happened to that Bill. Is it on its way? Some of us expected to have seen it by now. When will it appear? Will the 28 infringements that were originally listed in relation to the issue of warrants for arrest remain the same? Does there remain a danger about arrest for and being tried for crimes for which one has already been tried? Is there any test of a case to answer being incorporated into the whole procedure? Those are the questions that arise out of developments since the amendments were first moved and since we first examined the Nice proposals, which carry into being the Eurojust framework.
At the end of such debates one is left with a vague unease about the momentum behind the idea of a Europe-wide judicial system. Over Christmas I read an excellent book by Mr Andrew Roberts comparing Napoleon and Wellington. It was Napoleon's dream to have a European system—a European code of laws and a European judiciary. Noble Lords will probably regard it as a fair comment to say that we should follow those ideas with caution. We were not aware that they had won but it appears that they are winning now. The amendment is intended to seek some answers to those questions. I beg to move.
My Lords, in time we will be able to consider legislation dealing with the question of a European arrest warrant. I have one important question to put to the Minister: does acceptance of Title VI, as amended—that is, acceptance of Articles 29, 30 and 31—mean that we are accepting in principle the idea of extradition from this country for offences that are unknown in this country? I pose my question because—I am sure that the Minister will agree—Article 29 specifically refers to preventing and combating racism and xenophobia and Article 31 refers to common action to facilitate extradition between member states. Is it not plain as a pikestaff that before we have even come to a Bill dealing with the European arrest warrant we have agreed to a whole raft of proposals that have cut the ground from under our feet? Those proposals amount to our having conceded that it is rather a good idea to have arrangements for extradition, including arrangements for extradition in respect of offences that are unknown in this country.
When I have previously mentioned xenophobia, the Minister has more or less accused me of having an obsession with it. I see that she is certainly not now willing to give that impression. I merely mention xenophobia as an example—it is the simplest example. One has to look no further than Article 29, which refers to an offence of racism or xenophobia or acts that, under the law of other countries, amount to an offence of racism and xenophobia.
I repeat my question: how can we accept those articles, as amended, with an easy conscience when they have that effect? Surely it is wholly unacceptable that we should commit ourselves to facilitating the extradition of British citizens from this country to face charges that relate to offences that are entirely unknown in this country and which we have never thought proper to stigmatise as criminal conduct. That is our objection to the European arrest warrant, which we shall be able to express even more forcefully when the legislation comes before the House. My point is that we are dealing with the principle of that issue here and now. That is why we should express our opposition to the amendments to Article 29.
My Lords, I shall not detain the House for long. I invite the Minister to comment on Article 31. It must be recognised that the third pillar arrangements do not call for great anxiety in so far as they remain matters that can be subject to national decision-making. Article 31 refers to common action on judicial co-operation in criminal matters. In particular, it refers to the progressive adoption of measures establishing minimum rules relating to the constituent elements of criminal acts and to penalties in the fields of organised crime, terrorism and illicit drug trafficking.
I have to admit that I find it difficult to understand the purpose of that provision. It is clearly desirable that there should be co-operation in the prosecution of cross-border crimes and of organised crimes in particular. Determining the minimum rules that will apply seems very vague. I doubt whether it should affect or influence our own law-making in those spheres. Is it—was it—the concern of Ministers in reaching the agreement that there were lacunae in the criminal law of individual member countries, or that the standards of law were in some ways inadequate and Ministers were seeking subsequently to replace those standards with other common standards?
I understand entirely the desire to expedite judicial processes and to remove conflicts about where jurisdictions are but, as to the substantive law and the amendment of that law, I am a little unclear about what were the objectives of the treaty.
My Lords, I have two questions for the Minister. First, there have been speculations in the febrile Eurosceptic press that the new European police force—Europol—will have immunity for its actions. I have not been able to find that in the treaty, annexes, declarations or whatever, but I may not have been sufficiently studious. I wonder whether the Minister could set our minds at rest on this point.
Secondly, in view of my earlier remarks about the consistent gradual progress towards the EU mega-state that many of us are convinced lies at the end of this process of treaty-making, does the Minister agree that the framework decision to which my noble friend Lord Waddington referred, and which has been so roundly condemned by many people in this country, is the first step on the way to corpus juris? Corpus juris, as Latin scholars among noble Lords will be aware, was the name given to the body of law by which the Romans controlled their empire. Therefore, the ambition and arrogance of our friends in Brussels when they name the whole process of judicial co-operation "Europol", "Eurojust" and all the other confusing ways in which they express it appears to have in mind a body of law which controls the new federal European state.
As to the arrest warrant itself, I understand that there is a framework decision, some of which—perhaps the noble Baroness will correct me if I am wrong—has already been agreed one way or another in COREPER or in events surrounding the Laeken conference. As I understand it, the elements of the framework decision on the arrest warrant which have been agreed are that a United Kingdom citizen can be extradited from this country to stand trial without habeas corpus or a jury in any of the other European countries purely on the say-so of the issuing magistrate in that other country. I also understand that the crime of xenophobia, to which my noble friend Lord Waddington referred, and, indeed, the crime of trafficking in rare plants, and several other crimes which are not defined in British law, such as swindling and so on, will be defined purely by the issuing magistrate. A British court will have no say over whether it is satisfied that a crime has been committed, and the Home Secretary will lose his discretion as to whether a British citizen should be extradited.
As I understand it—again, perhaps the noble Baroness will correct me, although I know that it is not quite her field; I fear that it may be more a Home Office matter—the Government have said that they are bringing forward the arrest warrant as part of primary legislation in an extradition Bill. But I fear that that is not being wholly honest with the British people if the elements to which I referred in the framework decision have already been agreed. I accept that they must be confirmed by the European Parliament. But I cannot see that Parliament turning round and disagreeing with any of these elements because, after all, the measure advances the European dream, or nightmare, as one prefers to see it.
Therefore, the Written Question which I asked this week, and to which I received an Answer that I do not understand, is: what is left for the national parliaments to decide on the arrest warrant? The elements that I have laid before your Lordships are, I believe, now set in stone, or at least the cement is drying very quickly. What do we have left to decide? Can we, for example, decide that we cannot be arrested for a crime abroad which is not a crime in this country? Can we be extradited for one crime and tried for another? Or can we be tried for a crime which we committed in this country but which is not a crime in this country? If the noble Baroness is able to give them, those would be helpful answers because it would show your Lordships and the world at large just how far down the road towards corpus juris we have already travelled, whether we like it or not.
My Lords, there is a good deal of concern in relation to these provisions and what many people term the "creeping corporatism" of the EU. Many offences have already been removed from the ability to be tried by jury. But the Government have not yet finished. They say that they will not accept the view of this House, expressed, I believe, on at least one occasion, that we do not want to see any further whittling away of trial by jury. However, the Government say that they are not prepared to accept that and that they will bring forward further measures to reduce the ability of people who are accused to be tried by their peers.
Many of us are concerned that that is all part of the idea of European judicial and, indeed, policy co-operation. I should like the noble Baroness to say whether trial by jury and the further whittling away of the ability of people to be tried by jury is part of what the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, described as "progress towards corpus juris".
The noble Lord, Lord Waddington, mentioned a number of matters which concern him. He is concerned that when the Nice treaty goes into operation we may move towards a situation where matters which we have almost laughed at in this country will be considered to be criminal offences; for example, xenophobia. Damn it, not so very long ago very few people in Britain knew what xenophobia meant. Now we find that we may be arrested under the European arrest warrant, to which reference has been made, because of the crime of xenophobia. God knows what it will mean, but there it appears among the huge list in the framework document, which I have obtained from the Printed Paper Office.
I have to say that when I read that document I was amazed at the scope of the arrest warrant. I believed that it would be confined to certain issues such as trafficking in human beings, drug trafficking or illicit trafficking in weapons, munitions and explosives. But that is not so. Corruption is one of the offences included. It is true that we have different standards of corruption in this country compared with other countries, but why is corruption included? Why is swindling included? As has been pointed out, there is no crime of swindling in the British body of law. Of course, our old friends racism and xenophobia are also there, together with counterfeiting, product piracy and, indeed, robbery. That just about covers everything.
I believe that we are completely right to be concerned about the extension of jurisdiction within this treaty. Although I realise that inter-governmental co-operation is still required, there is a creeping attempt to bring the whole matter within the treaty. Once it is within the treaty, it will grow and grow like Topsy until we sacrifice our own tried and tested system of law and adopt a system which, in the view of many, including myself, is totally unsatisfactory, undermines the freedom of the individual and does not guarantee a fair and free trial.
My Lords, it was the Tampere European Council in October 1999 that agreed to set up Eurojust. As the Nice Declaration makes clear, the intention was to improve co-operation between national prosecutors, aiding criminal investigations into serious organised crime. It does not, as one noble Lord suggested during our exchanges, try to establish a supranational euro police force. It is about inter-governmental co-operation for the good of all our citizens. Therefore, expressed very simply, Eurojust is a structure intended to facilitate co-operation between governments.
Perhaps I may further reassure your Lordships by quoting the declaration, which states that Eurojust is,
"a unit composed of national prosecutors, magistrates or police officers of equivalent competence, detached from each member state . . . having the task of facilitating proper co-ordination between national prosecuting authorities and of supporting criminal investigations in organised crime".
That seems to be an entirely unexceptional position and an unexceptional structure.
The noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, then asked what is the purpose of Article 31(e). Organised crime long ago stopped respecting national boundaries. We strongly support Eurojust and the benefits it will bring in tackling organised crime more effectively. In quoting Article 31(e) the noble Lord answered his own question. It is about progressively adopting measures establishing minimum rules relating to the constituent elements of criminal acts and penalties in the fields of organised crime, terrorism and illicit drug trafficking. It is about those very crimes which are all too often, if not international in nature, international in the way that they are conceived and carried out. Sadly, that is one of the horrible truths that we face at the beginning of the 21st century.
Eurojust will not mean, as I have seen reported—clearly, the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, has seen it reported, although I point out it was the noble Lord who spoke of the "febrile press" on this occasion—interference by the EU in national investigations and prosecutions. It will not mean an end to British traditions in our legal procedures. I believe that that covers the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart. This is nothing to do with trial by jury. Eurojust will not be a body which investigates and prosecutes in its own right. It will not mean a centralised European prosecutor. All those accusations have been made about Eurojust.
Investigations will be conducted by national authorities. The role of Eurojust will be to aid cross-border investigations by the co-operation of national authorities. It is a body designed to crack down on international organised crime, in the specific way pointed out to the House by the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, to help put an end, if that is possible, to the terrible misery caused by traffickers in drugs and human beings, and also to bring money launderers to book.
The noble Lord, Lord Howell, mentioned the European arrest warrant. Naturally, there are connections in all our minds with that. Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord that this is not about the European arrest warrant. It is about co-operation. As we have said, the arrest warrant will be the subject of Home Office legislation. The Government are committed to enacting the common arrest warrant legislation this year. I should like to be more specific to the noble Lord, but I cannot. I can give him an assurance that it will be this year, but I cannot state the exact date.
Much of what your Lordships are concerned about—certainly the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, and, to a certain extent, the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch—is whether this prejudices the consideration of that legislation. In that respect, I hope that I can help both noble Lords and, indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart. It does not prejudice the position of the Home Secretary in what he puts forward in that legislation and will not prejudice the views of both Houses of Parliament in considering what that legislation should cover. These are sensible measures about international co-operation. They do not set up police forces or international prosecutions. They are there to help national authorities pursue the kind of crime which, unfortunately, is so much a characteristic of the 21st century.
My Lords, before the Minister sits down, I accept that she wants to leave the questions on the arrest warrant to further deliberation and perhaps even the presence at the Dispatch Box of her noble friend Lord Rooker. However, I asked whether the new European police force, Europol, will have immunity. It is already in the treaty. Article 29, paragraph 2, indent 1 states all the marvellous objectives of standing up to crime in the European Union which are to be achieved through,
"closer co-operation between police forces, customs authorities and other competent authorities in the Member States, both directly and, through the European police office (Europol), in accordance with the provisions of Articles 30 and 32".
Therefore, Europol does exist. There has even been a squabble about where in the European Union its wretched head office should be. If the noble Baroness does not have the answer now, perhaps she could let me know whether or not Europol is to have immunity.
My Lords, perhaps I can reassure the noble Lord. Nothing in the establishing of Eurojust trespasses on the Europol issues which the noble Lord has raised. I shall do my best to put some more flesh on the bones for him, if that is possible at this stage. I understand why the noble Lord is so concerned. After all, this has been the subject of a great deal of discussion in your Lordships' House in the context of our anti-terrorism legislation. However, this is an entirely different issue. That is what I sought to do in stressing the structure of Eurojust and the purposes for which it is being created.
My Lords, these are policy issues which are being discussed at present in relation to the legislation which my right honourable friend will bring forward on the European arrest warrant. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, will bear with me. I am not an expert on that issue; I am sure that he would not expect me to be. It is a matter which we know causes concern. Together with my colleagues, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, I have listened carefully to the points raised on the anti-terrorism legislation. Both the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, and I took that legislation through your Lordships' House. We know that this is a matter of great concern. However, I cannot say to the noble Lord that in every single instance the United Kingdom Government would be in a position of not wanting to bring forward that legislation. The noble Lord will have the opportunity to debate that fully. Nothing that we are discussing here will prejudice his ability to do that.
My Lords, I realise that we have strayed a little into policy issues and, indeed, debates which lie ahead, although they are in this field of the third pillar on justice and home affairs matters. As the noble Baroness sought to explain in answer to our questions, a Bill will be introduced which will presumably contain matters which have been decided—if that is the right word—by prerogative at a Council of Ministers operating in the JAHA framework. We, in the two Houses of Parliament, will be asked to accept it. It will be a treaty matter which we cannot change.
There remains more than a vague worry. These are vastly important areas. I refer not only to the coming debates on the common arrest warrant, but to judicial co-operation which is promoted and developed by the whole Eurojust concept. There is a worry that such matters are decided in ways which do not give our Parliament adequate say early enough over what is happening. I know that we have a scrutiny reserve procedure. However, I am not sure that we should not be thinking in terms of even earlier debates on ideas which then give birth to legislative instruments and proposals before they come back for scrutiny reserve to this House, before in turn they go for approval—debate in the House—or they become law.
In the third pillar area of inter-governmental co-operation, we lack adequate national parliamentary involvement in the way that such schemes are developed. We shall have to come back to that matter and give it a good deal more thought in the future.
Having said that, the noble Baroness has sought to answer—she has not done so completely—a number of our questions. In the light of the need to make progress, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, I can deal with this matter briefly because we discussed it fully in Committee. Our objection, the noble Baroness and your Lordships will recall, was to the qualified majority voting element which has been brought into the enhanced co-operation procedure; also the fact that it appears that at Nice the Government agreed to the enhanced co-operation procedure and to the abandonment of the veto on it despite the important principles involved if a smaller number of nations are to go forward with a certain project without getting anything in return. So we had that debate.
What remains is a query as to how the enhanced co-operation idea, which is very important in relation to the future structure of the Union and the way it works, is getting on. Further, perhaps the noble Baroness can tell us what proposals are being considered whereby we in this country might try some enhanced co-operation? Have we any ideas for taking seven or more other member countries towards certain goals that we have for the European Union? The other day the Prime Minister said that the European Union "is going Britain's way". I have seen reports that at the spring Council in Barcelona it will all be beneficial for Britain because the European Union is shaping our way, a union of states, not quite a Europe des patries but a union of states rather than a federal structure. That is what he said. But in order for that to happen we must see various aspects of enhanced co-operation vigorously developed.
I should like to hear what the Foreign and Commonwealth Office policymakers are beginning to think about this matter. Those ideas can be shared with us, with discretion. I do not want to feel all the time that in the Quai d'Orsay they are brewing up initiatives while our Foreign and Commonwealth Office is left running behind. That is the impression that one gets over the years. The clever French, particularly in the Quai d'Orsay, are very good at creating new initiatives, some of them absolutely questionable but some of them ingenious, for various forms of co-operation and further integration, and we are left on the defensive, saying, "No, no".
Another question that is worth asking at this point is: can enhanced co-operation operate in a sense negatively? Can we co-operate with a number of other countries in not going ahead with certain propositions that are being put forward in the name of the Union as a whole? I hope that this does not sound too trivial. Could we opt out of the new directive on "lumpy sauces"? That is the question of how many vegetables one needs in a sauce before it ceases to be a sauce? Could we opt out of the directive on dumping redundant fridges, which is coming in much too quickly and which will cause considerable problems in this country? Could we get some enhanced co-operation with other member states in avoiding some of the ill-thought out propositions that occasionally come out of the European institutional machine?
I hope that those questions do not sound frivolous. This is a very important area on which there was much debate before Nice and on which there will be much debate in the future. We should like to know how it is working. That was my purpose in moving the amendment. I beg to move.
My Lords, the EEC was set up to deal with post-war problems. The problems facing Europe today, following rebuilding, reconciliation and economic growth, are very different problems. What has made the European Union a success over all these years is its ability to develop and change—its flexibility. But its ability to apply that flexibility and to make effective decisions is tested every time more member states join. In an EU that is expanding in the way that it is, it is increasingly difficult to get agreement to move ahead in all areas with all member states, as we know.
It is sensible that we look at ways where groups of countries can take action where some others cannot, do not want to, or are not ready to. But we are clear that this should not challenge the overall authority of the treaties governing all member states. The aim of enhanced co-operation is to create a mechanism aimed at facilitating effective decision-making in a Union of 27, as we hope that we shall be. It may possibly be 28. At the same time, we must guard against the creation of a two-speed Europe by allowing enhanced co-operation in whole new areas not covered by the treaties. That is the purpose of the general principles on enhanced co-operation which this amendment seeks to strike out of the treaty. I appreciate that the noble Lord has moved the amendment in a probing sense, but it is necessary to explain to your Lordships what in fact the effect of the amendment would be.
I am sure that the noble Lord does not really want enhanced co-operation with no safeguards for individual member states, and with no bar against operating in whole new areas, or with no entrenched right for all member states to be given the chance to participate. I am sure that that is not his position.
The provisions for enhanced co-operation already exist. They were introduced in the Amsterdam treaty, but they have not yet been used. What Nice does is to make them easier to use for those who want to, while strengthening the safeguards for those who do not. That is a sensible move to prepare for a successful enlarged Union. I stress to the noble Lord that in the view of the Government this is one of the building blocks which will be so important in that enlarged Union.
"Enhanced co-operation is an instrument to strengthen the Union from within, not an instrument of exclusion."
The safeguards here are very important. Perhaps I can remind your Lordships of them. Enhanced co-operation must be a last resort. It is not the rule. As many member states as possible will be encouraged to join in. Those wanting to join an existing enhanced co-operation action should later be given every opportunity to do so. Enhanced co-operation may not harm the rights of those not participating. Again, that is a very important provision. Finally, actions under enhanced co-operation will not form part of the acquis—what I said when we last debated this matter I thought was the position; I confirm that it is—or basic rules of the EU, so neither existing nor new member states will be required to take part.
It was right to strengthen the safeguards. It was right too, as we did at Nice, to amend the procedures so that—provided the safeguards are respected—no one state can veto a proposal for enhanced co-operation. There are of course exceptions around CFSP.
A great deal has been made of this change. I hope that I am not misreading the noble Lord's moving of the amendment, but I thought that he spoke in a rather different way than in our previous discussions. I stress to the noble Lord that we are clear that it is not reasonable in an enlarged EU for one member state to hold up those wishing to proceed with enhanced co-operation, provided that those rigorous conditions, which I stressed to your Lordships a moment or two ago, have been met.
The noble Lord asked for examples. Were we leaving it all to the Quai d'Orsay or had we got some jolly good ideas coming out of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office? Perhaps I can take an example from each of the pillars where we might want to see enhanced co-operation being used to take matters forward where there was not entire unanimity.
In the Community pillar, for example, the UK might want to join an initiative on scientific research which some other member states do not. That is a very important part of the Government's policy. My noble friend Lord Sainsbury, the Minister for Science, has been working a great deal on this matter through the DTI. There may be initiatives that we are able to co-operate in with other member states. We might want to participate in an initiative to improve transport links between the United Kingdom and neighbouring states. That may be something that could go forward on this kind of basis.
I shall now turn to the second pillar. With regard to CFSP, the United Kingdom might want to join with other interested member states to implement a common EU policy in Africa, such as managing election monitors. That might be a kind of co-operation towards which we and others who have close links with Africa for various historical reasons might feel more impelled.
The third pillar is justice and home affairs. It is possible to imagine the United Kingdom perhaps joining with a group of member states to agree tough action on an issue that directly affected only a small group of us. An example might be drug trafficking across the North Sea, a matter in which we and some of our European neighbours would have some specific interest, while other colleagues elsewhere might not.
I hope that that will give the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, some examples and some reassurance that the Foreign Office thinks closely about such things. I am sure that the noble Lord needs no reassurance on that point; he knows that the officials in the Foreign Office are an enthusiastic lot, who will be thinking of ways in which the interests of this country can be furthered through such a mechanism.
All in all, the improved and enhanced co-operation arrangements are a valuable feature of the treaty. We strongly support them. I hope that I have not misread the way in which the noble Lord moved the amendment, and I hope that he will agree that we should not throw those arrangements out of the treaty. I hope that I have responded to the noble Lord's probing amendment in a way that is helpful to him.
I listened carefully to the Minister's reply, and I do not think that it will emerge from the pages of the Official Report that enhanced co-operation does not have any sort of reverse gear. I would be grateful if she could confirm that, if it is true. In other words, groups of countries can co-operate in one direction only, towards greater integration. The Minister mentioned the acquis, and that is what it says. Articles 2, 3 and 6.4 of the Treaty on European Union and Protocol 30 of the Treaty establishing the European Community make it absolutely clear that the process can never go back. My noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford asked whether it would be possible for half a dozen of us to get together and happily avoid the worst effects of the whole project. It would be nice to have a clear answer from the Minister to the effect that it would not.
Under any form of enhanced co-operation, we cannot avoid the directives to which my noble friend referred. We cannot avoid the vibration directive, under which no one can drive a tractor for more than two hours a day, the new directive that requires someone to be at the bottom of a ladder when one goes up it and, I am reminded, the directive on the use of chainsaws. Finally, there is a directive on dietary requirements for sedentary workers on the way. No doubt, that will interest your Lordships in due course.
My Lords, there is no mechanism for enhanced co-operation to go into reverse in the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, has just described.
Enhanced co-operation must take place within the provisions and scope of the treaties. However, if the noble Lord were to collect a sufficient number of his friends and colleagues in the EU who did not agree with a specific element of enhanced co-operation, he could block it thereby. No mechanism exists in the form that the noble Lord suggested. We went through the numbers involved and the rather different mechanisms on different pillars of the European Union's activities, as the noble Lord knows. The answer is not to take part in enhanced co-operation in cases in which one chooses not to and to seek for others to think likewise.
My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the Minister for answering my queries in such specific detail. The areas that she mentioned sound very interesting.
The Minister's answer—and the intervention of my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch—prompted the thought that the rules set out in revised Article 43 are fairly rigid. First, eight members must be found. I hope that eight could be found for some of the attractive ideas that the Minister put forward, but it might be difficult. The Minister reminded the House, when she identified precisely what enhanced co-operation meant, that the conditions required for enhanced co-operation are fairly austere. Such co-operation must reinforce the process of integration and the acquis communautaire must not be touched in any way.
To many of us, those are extremely old-fashioned, centralised sentiments, which do not relate to the kind of network Europe or more flexible Europe that, many feel can come into being, provided that we have the confidence to push for it and do not fall in too easily with the old, backward-looking and centralising tendencies and hierarchical ideas that may have served the European Union in the past but will not serve it in the future.
However, the Minister was very forthcoming in responding to my questions. As I said, we debated the matters fully in Committee. In the light of that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, we come now to the proposal in the Nice treaty—and, therefore, enshrined in the Bill—for new regulations governing the distribution and handling of the procedures for funding European political parties. That is in Article 191 of the treaty establishing the European Community.
In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, in his usual reassuring manner, told us that the proposals in the treaty were excellent and that there was no need to amend them, because they closed up a few loopholes that had been abused. That would make everything so much tidier, so that the public funds involved—funds provided by the taxpayers in this country and others—would not be spent in dubious ways. He put that case persuasively, and, at the time, the Committee was inclined to accept it. Certainly, we did not vote on the matter.
Since then, however, I have done a little more research, and a few facts have dribbled into the public domain. In fact, the background to the issue is shocking. Perhaps we should have pressed—and I shall certainly press now—a little more vigorously to find out why those abuses arose and whether the loopholes have really been sealed off by the new regulations.
We learn from debates in the European Parliament about the matter that the problems were numerous. European political parties would provide staff for their own corresponding national parties back home and would then carry the cost of the staff on their budget and use the funding available to them for European purposes for national purposes. That was considered to be deplorable, and, not surprisingly, the Court of Auditors came down on it extremely hard and said that it was totally inappropriate. I suppose that that is what gave birth to the idea that the matter required more attention, which is what it received at Nice.
There was another wheeze. I am not sure whether it is addressed by the regulations. In order to attract funds, some small parties—there was a major debate on how small was "small" and how many votes they had—could come together for the afternoon, as it were, call themselves an alliance and say that they were, therefore, entitled to funds. As soon as they received the money, they could share out the spoils and disintegrate again. That was also identified in committee work in the European Parliament as a thoroughly undesirable trend.
Do the regulations deal effectively with such abuses? If we must have such arrangements for funding Europe-wide political parties, do we now have in place a mechanism for proper verification of budgets and party expenditure? Is there a clear threshold for deciding what is a European party? How many states have to participate in a political party before it becomes a genuine European party? At one stage our Austrian friends were arguing that the answer was one. They had one Austrian party which they said was nevertheless a European party and was entitled to funding from these sources. I do not know how the matter is now to be settled. Is it three, as some have suggested, five, or what?
Running alongside that issue is the question whether other enterprises, private corporations, can be permitted to contribute to the European political parties. Our French neighbours take a vigorously negative view on the matter. They do not like the idea at all and I believe that it is still being discussed. If we are dealing with the matter and if there have to be such arrangements, those questions arise.
I say "if" we have to have such arrangements. I do not fully understand why European political parties, their encouragement and funding should be a purpose of the European Union. I know what the doctrine is; that somehow, somewhere a European identity must be manufactured, riding over and above the nation states, which will give some additional legitimacy to the central institutions of the EU. That is an entirely wrong way of looking at the EU, where the democratic thread comes to the Union through the nation states and through national politics.
The commissioner, Chris Patten, described the original draft of the regulations which gave birth to the whole arrangement as flawed in principle, unworkable in practice and discriminatory in effect. Even now, I am not sure that those criticisms have ceased to be valid. They cut out parties which happen to have decided as of right—as has my own party—that they do not want to be trans-national multi-parties with branches in other European countries. They do not want to be European parties in that sense; they want their politics to be organised through legitimacy of the nation state and for the nation state to delegate the appropriate powers, instruments and legitimacy to the European Union and its institutions. Despite many proclamations to the contrary, that is the way in which it should work and indeed does work.
Therefore, what are the Government going to do to help decide which are the trans-national parties? Is it right that small parties which are not trans-national should be left out? Is it right that the arrangement should exist? The changes which we are discussing are in the Nice treaty, which is not yet law. Therefore, on what grounds are abuses being tackled at this moment? Are there legal grounds for halting some of the goings-on, the curious customs, the thoroughly undesirable misuses of hard-earned taxpayers' and public money? There certainly should be.
Even if and when the Nice treaty is ratified in law, and that is obviously some time ahead, what is to be done in the meantime to check a clear abuse of a system which has many questionable attributes? I question whether it should have been arranged at all, but it exists and it ought to be made to work in an honest, open and transparent way. I am not entirely convinced that these regulations or the existing legal structure are achieving that. For those reasons, I beg to move.
My Lords, I am not sure that the debate provides us with an opportunity to discuss the regulations so much as the regulation-making power. I would not therefore propose to consider the adequacy of the regulations but rather to raise the question whether it is the wish of the noble Lord, Lord Howell, to deprive the Council of that power because his own party does not want to take advantage of arrangements that are being devised, by common acceptance, to apply to the majority of political parties which operate within Europe or at a European level.
The need for transparency and accountability is clear. We can make our own arrangements domestically to ensure that moneys received by our own political parties are properly deployed according to the purposes for which they have been voted. However, following the line of reasoning about non-intervention in the internal political affairs of other countries which has been deployed in respect of other amendments, it might, if we were to accept that, deprive us of the opportunity of investigating the misuse of funds voted by the Community if such trans-national laws were not adopted.
We have a great interest in ensuring that the regulations are equitable and fair; that they are being applied according to the purposes which underlay their distribution; and that the measure marks a useful addition to the armoury of the Commission to take effective action where the Court of Auditors or any other EU authority draws attention to what looks like misfeasance on the part of a political party.
My Lords, I object to the state funding of political parties. I object as a matter of principle. I object to being required to support a party whose views may be anathema to me and may be attacking the values I hold most dear. I also object in practice because I believe that a party which is firmly based on the contributions of its members is far more likely to reflect the wishes of the electorate, or a part of it, than a party which is the recipient of funds which it has in no way earned.
If I object in principle to the public funding of political parties in this country, it is not surprising if I also object to the public funding of parties in Europe. I am blessed if I see why I should be required to support financially a European party which may be dedicated to destroying Britain as a nation state.
I believe that the particular proposal—the amendment to Article 191—is a threat to democracy. It is said that the amendment to Article 191, which states:
"The Council acting in accordance with the procedure referred to in Article 251, shall lay down regulations governing political parties . . . and in particular the rules regarding their funding", is necessary in order to stop abuse. That may be true, but no one can deny that the power taken in Article 191 is immensely wide. It is so wide that it would never be acceptable in domestic legislation.
The article is certainly wide enough to allow regulations which denied funding to, or even banned, parties which opposed the ever-closer union referred to in the treaty. It is wide enough to ban parties or deny funding to parties taking the wholly acceptable view that closer union than the one we have at the moment would involve a wholly unacceptable erosion of the sovereignty of nation states. And how can it be said that the risk does not exist when one reads Article 191 as a whole? The article, including the amendment to allow the regulation of political parties, begins by stating:
"Political parties at European level are important as a factor for integration within the Union. They contribute towards forming a European awareness and to expressing the political will of the citizens of the Union".
What about democratic parties which do not want further political integration? That is the question which must be asked. They do not seem to be covered by Article 191 either before or after amendment.
I take no comfort whatever in Declaration 11, to which I would draw the attention of the House. This was referred to in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey. Perhaps I may remind noble Lords of the terms of that declaration. It states that:
"The conference recalls that the provisions of Article 191 do not imply any transfer of powers to the European Community and do not affect the application of the relevant national constitutional rules".
I do not see what that has to do with the points that I have raised or how it in any way dispenses with my worries. I know of no national constitutional rules which have any bearing whatever on the funding of parties in Europe. Which national constitutional rules have a bearing on this subject? What on earth has Declaration 11 to do with the matter we are debating today? It is absolutely plain that, if properly used, the power which is sought in Article 191 will engender no mischief. However, no one can deny that it is an immensely wide power which could be misused. That is why I am frightened about it.
I am against the funding of political parties. I am against the funding of European political parties. As a taxpayer in this country I object very strongly to being required to cough up to support European parties which are out to do something which is anathema to me. I therefore object strongly to this proposal and that is that.
"Political parties at European level are important as a factor for integration within the Union".
I know that my noble friend has quoted that statement, but I have repeated it because the noble Baroness really must start by getting around that one. I agree that the statement was included in the treaty before Nice, but there it is.
Now, by the usual process of Eurocreep, we have the new procedure added by Nice, which I should point out to your Lordships is under Article 251, covering the co-decision procedure of the Communities. That starts off with qualified majority voting in the Council, which then has to be ratified by the Parliament. Thus the regulations we are presently talking about could in effect be decided beyond our control.
I should like to make a final comment on Declaration 11, the first sentence of which my noble friend Lord Waddington quoted to the House. There follows a truly amazing statement, even by the standards of our friends in Brussels:
"The funding for political parties at European level provided out of the budget of the European Communities may not be used to fund, either directly or indirectly, political parties at national level".
If ever I have heard of a pious hope, it is that one. How does one differentiate between the travel expenses of a political party? Who will audit this? Clearly it is impossible to separate, shall we say, the Labour Party or, indeed, the Conservative Party in this country which is funded for its European interests not to use those moneys or not even to have to raise money for something else that takes place in this country?
As usual, the object of the exercise is perfectly clear. Our Eurocratic friends in Brussels want to control the political parties. I would remind noble Lords that that was how the Soviet Union was controlled. There was no bar on political parties: you just could not stand at elections or receive funds. If you spoke your mind, you went to the gulag. I expect that eventually that will be on its way here, but I think that we should test it now.
My Lords, I am sure that those noble Lords who had the pleasure of sitting through the Committee stage of the Bill will agree that this was a question extensively debated at that stage. Furthermore, as one might expect on an issue of this nature, it was extensively debated in another place.
In Committee my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey explained that negotiations are already well advanced under the provisions of the present EC treaty on a regulation which will provide for funding and to ensure—this point lies at the root of the problem identified by the noble Lord, Lord Howell—proper transparency and accountability. I could not agree more with the sentiments expressed by the noble Lord about ensuring that that is the case. That regulation will have to be agreed unanimously and we hope that it will be agreed to soon.
As the noble Lord said, it is important that we put a stop to the abuses which have been recognised and which have, I believe, received a good deal of publicity. That is the reason for looking at the regulations under the current legislation before we move on to looking at any further regulations under the legislation before the House.
I can assure noble Lords that the details of funds received by the European political parties under these arrangements will be made available to the House. That forms an important part of the scrutiny. Indeed, I would suggest that they already have been. The present draft regulation, which proposes total annual funding of £4.6 million for European political parties, has been made available to, discussed in, and cleared by, the European Union Committee of this House. An opportunity has been provided for those noble Lords serving on that committee to scrutinise the regulation.
This regulation requires annual reports on the funds received by European political parties under it. Those reports will continue to be made available to the House. I hope that that will be a welcome assurance.
The regulation now being negotiated will expire two years after its entry into force. Another regulation will then be agreed, following a report from the Commission. We would expect that to be agreed under the new provisions; that is, the provisions of the Nice treaty, provided that the treaty has entered into force by that stage.
Both the future regulation and the Commission's report will be deposited for parliamentary scrutiny in the usual way. This House and another place have effective means of scrutinising European Community documents. Of course Her Majesty's Government will continue to support that scrutiny.
Thus Members of this House have had and will continue to have all the relevant information on this issue. Furthermore, I hope and believe that your Lordships have had and will continue to have ample opportunity to debate it. However, the fact is that Nice provides a new legal base for a measure to regulate European political parties, in particular their funding arrangements.
I turn to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Waddington. The provisions provide for an amendment to Article 191 and it is the amendment to that article which we are discussing here. It creates a legal base for a statute to regulate European political parties. Of course the parties are not new; nor is their recognition in the treaty; nor is the funding new. I think that the noble Lord objects not so much to what is now in the treaty by means of regulation, but to the fact that some of those provisions already exist. Of course he is perfectly entitled to his opinion and many may agree with the cogent points he has made as regards the ways in which political parties are funded. However, what we are discussing here is the regulation of that funding. Surely the noble Lord would agree with his noble friend that the regulation of that funding is enormously important, in particular in light of what has been said by the Court of Auditors.
My Lords, the Minister should understand that what I object to, among other things, is the gobbledegook in Declaration 11. We were told by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, that we had nothing to worry about because the regulation power would be seriously circumscribed by the wording of Declaration 11, which refers to the fact that Article 191 does not imply any transfer of powers to the European Community. That is sheer nonsense. How can the funding be taking place at the present time unless there has already been a transfer of power to the European Union? What relevant constitutional rules exist which have any bearing on the subject at all? I object to that.
My Lords, this is about funding to political groups within the European Union, not to the European Union itself. What is at issue here is the leakage that there has been from the legitimate passing of those funds and the kinds of abuse referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, in moving the amendment.
The problem is the steady growth in the importance of the groupings and the parties—we have both groupings and parties, as your Lordships know—and the consequent need to ensure that they are properly regulated to meet the point put forward by the European Court of Auditors, which has said that these abuses must be dealt with. That is what the amendment is designed to do.
Many believe that it is right that people should be able to form parties at European level as well as at national level if that is what they wish to do.
My Lords, the Minister is missing the point I was making. I ask again whether Declaration 11 circumscribes the power—and is therefore something from which we can take comfort—or am I right in saying that Declaration 11 is completely meaningless and in no way circumscribes the power?
My Lords, my noble friend Lord McIntosh was right in the point that he put to the noble Lord. I shall check exactly what my noble friend said. I have the relevant Hansard but, as I am on my feet, perhaps the noble Lord will bear with me. I shall read very carefully what my noble friend said in Committee and look again at the point made by the noble Lord. When the noble Lord intervened previously, I thought the point that he was making was that the funding somehow helps the European Union. I shall have a welcome opportunity to discuss this point with my noble friend later and to read what he said. I hope that I have not misunderstood the problem drawn to our attention by the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, that this might be funding which would somehow go to the European Union and not to the political parties or the groupings within it. I make that distinction.
I then endeavoured to make the point that this problem has increased because of the growth in such parties and the consequent need to ensure that they are properly regulated. There are many opinions about the growth of these parties but, none the less, it is the right of individuals and those in the European Parliament and elsewhere to form such parties if they wish to do so.
The problem has come forward very starkly, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, pointed out. The political groups within the European Union receive money from the European parliamentary budget for their day-to-day organisation, and it does indeed leak to the European political parties. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that we need to stop this and to ensure that the funding of European political parties is fully transparent and properly audited. Regulation was therefore recommended by the European Court of Auditors in order to combat the financial mismanagement about which the noble Lord was so concerned.
The principles of this regulation are supported by the Party of European Socialists and the European Liberal, Democratic and Reform Group—to which the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats respectively belong—as well as by the European People's Party, which may be of more interest to the Benches opposite.
Explicit language is used in a declaration at Nice that no EC money going to European political parties would be transferred, either directly or indirectly, to national political parties. That is explicitly stated and is made clear in the draft regulation which we are currently negotiating. I can assure your Lordships that not a penny will go to the Labour Party or to any other domestic UK party. Nor are the funds for federalism, which is perhaps another point at issue for the noble Lord, Lord Waddington.
There will be no discrimination against parties because of their attitudes to EU integration. The noble Lord did not make that point explicitly, but I suspect that he was worried that this would somehow seep back into the integrationalist tendency, if I can so label it. I can assure the noble Lord that I do not believe that that is an issue about which he need be overly concerned.
The noble Lord, Lord Howell, was worried about smaller parties. I know that there is a feeling that the arrangements discriminate against the Conservative Party, but this is about the funding of European political parties, not national ones. The fact is that—for the best possible reasons, I am sure—our colleagues in the Conservative Party have chosen not to join a European political party. That is their choice. If they wish to join a European political party—or, indeed, form a new one—which meets the objective criteria laid down in the regulation, that, too, is up to them and they will be free to do so.
The noble Lord asked how many are needed to form such a party. The proposed regulation that we are discussing at the moment states that there must be three or more member states and each party must have 5 per cent support in national or European parliamentary elections. Those seem to be sensible safeguards and thresholds and I hope that we will be able to agree that. The money will be allocated annually and there will be a verification mechanism to counter any abuse.
I have done my best to answer the series of question that have been asked. As to the one outstanding issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, I shall check the text, come back to him and endeavour to put a letter in your Lordships' Library before we next have the pleasure of discussing these issues.
My Lords, the Minister may have been guilty of a slip of the tongue in answering a question that I put to her or I may have misunderstood what she said. I believe she said that these regulations will be agreed by unanimity and then brought to Parliament here for scrutiny. Obviously, we can scrutinise them as much as we like but we cannot change something which has been agreed by regulation. Perhaps we can get this straight because it is very important. The new wording at Nice states:
"The Council, acting in accordance with the procedure referred to in Article 251, shall lay down the regulations governing political parties at European level and in particular the rules regarding their funding".
Article 251 relates to qualified majority voting, so the whole process could be taken out of our hands in any case.
My Lords, let me be absolutely clear. There are two sets of regulations. The regulations that we are currently discussing fall under current treaties and will be decided on the basis of unanimity. As I have indicated, those will lapse in two years' time. This of course raises questions about ratification of the treaty, but let us leave that point on one side. Further regulations will then come forward in a way that covers the point to which the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, drew our attention—the amendment to Article 191—and these regulations will be agreed under the qualified majority voting procedure provided for in the Nice treaty. I am sorry if the noble Lord did not follow my reasoning. There will be two sets of regulations. The first set will be decided unanimously; the second set under qualified majority voting because they fall under this treaty.
"Political parties at European level are important as a factor for integration within the Union".
When you read that with the amendment or the new provision that we are discussing, which states that,
"The Council . . . shall lay down the regulations governing political parties", that refers back to political parties which are a factor for integration. Will the regulations deal only with those parties, or is there some vague possibility—
My Lords, will these regulations be framed to make it more difficult for parties that oppose integration? At the moment it reads as though it is saying, "Yes, you can get this funding under the rules, but only parties which are in favour of integration and forming a European awareness". One does not want to form a European awareness. Will the regulations allow one to oppose the European dream, or nightmare, according to taste?
My Lords, let me be categoric. I hoped that I had made this point in relation to the matters raised by the noble Lords, Lord Howell and Lord Waddington. These are not funds for federalism. There is no discrimination against any political party or group of parties on the grounds of their attitude to European Union integration. European political parties which oppose the EU hook, line and sinker, or those which oppose further integration, are every bit as eligible as those which think the opposite.
I hope that that reassures the noble Lord. The matter has nothing whatsoever to do with the attitudes taken by the parties but with their performance in elections—the 5 per cent threshold. There must also be three supporting member states. Those are the thresholds. The regulations we are debating at present will be agreed by unanimity. The issue has nothing to do with the policies of the parties about integration. I hope that I have answered the point as explicitly as I can.
I can set out simply our attitude to what the noble Baroness said. I do not for a moment question her sincerity and determination that the funds should go, without discrimination, to parties regardless of attitude, and so on. Nor do I question the right of people to form trans-European or trans-national parties of any group of countries. They are perfectly entitled to do so. The question is: by what argument can one justify them being handed taxpayers' money to the tune of £46 million? We do not like that.
My Lords, I think that the figure is £4.6 million.
My Lords, I do not like the figure of £4.6 million but I should like it even less if it were £46 million. We question whether the concept of Europe-wide political parties is the driving force in creating a true democracy in Europe where the need for democracy is so great, the democratic deficit so large and the legitimacy so strongly questioned. It is on the nation states and the political processes within them that the future acceptance, existence and development of a democratic Europe will depend.
We do not like what is being done. We do not like the exclusiveness of the arrangements. We do not like the implication. The noble Baroness has vigorously denied it, but however one reads it there is an implication that parties which want "integration"—it is a very old-fashioned, centralised concept, as we have said again and again—will be all right.
We do not like the ambiguity in the treaty and declaration about the transfer of powers, to which my noble friend Lord Waddington has drawn attention with such characteristic clarity and robustness. Is something hidden here? We are left uneasy about this use of taxpayers' money promoting such activity at European level. We hope that the abuses will be halted. However, experience tells us that abuses tend to occur where large sums of money are splashed around and made available at European level for parties which have national connections. Perhaps it is possible to build a wall between the two, but we have not been told how to do so or whether the regulations will work. In order to express our disquiet, I should like to test the opinion of the House.