Convention on the Future of Europe

– in the House of Lords at 3:08 pm on 28th January 2002.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Minister of State (Middle East), Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Trade), Department of Trade and Industry, Minister for Trade and Investment and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also Department of Trade and Industry), Minister of State (Trade and Investment) Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also FCO), Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

My Lords, during our consideration of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill we have had occasion to debate the future of Europe process on more than one occasion. At Report stage of the Bill, I promised to bring before your Lordships this Motion which seeks the agreement of your Lordships' House to nominate Members of this House as representatives from the UK Parliament to the convention. Another Motion will be debated separately in another place on two representatives from that House: one member from the Conservative Party and one from the Labour Party. Consequently, this Parliament will have representatives from both Houses and from all main parties. I believe that that outcome is a good one. I am particularly happy to have succeeded in securing representation by two Members of your Lordships' House.

The heads of government decided at the Laeken European Council that the convention should be set up to take forward the debate and to prepare a series of options for change which an intergovernmental conference in 2004 will then consider. It is a huge task and a daunting responsibility that those chosen to represent the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom Parliament will be undertaking.

Each national parliament in existing member states and candidate countries will be represented at the convention by two members and two alternate members. Your Lordships' House was ably represented at the similar Convention on the Charter of Fundamental Rights by the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, and the noble Baroness, Lady Howells of St Davids. At that convention there were also, of course, two Members from another place.

At a meeting I held for your Lordships on this subject on 31st October 2001, the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, recounted to those present that membership of the convention that he attended had represented a great burden in terms of both time and commitment. The Government therefore feel that, as allowed to this and other parliaments by the Laeken declaration, it is sensible to nominate four members to share the burden of the convention we are now discussing. It will be even more wide-ranging than its predecessor and will last much longer. I hope, therefore, that all four nominees will be able to share the burden and, of course, have the chance to contribute their expertise and experience.

Following consultations, the Government have put forward this Motion nominating as alternate members of the convention the noble Lords, Lord Maclennan of Rogart and Lord Tomlinson. Both have excellent credentials for representing this House and this Parliament in the convention. The noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, is an accomplished lawyer, specialising in international law, and will, I am sure, make an effective contribution to the debate. My noble friend Lord Tomlinson was a Member of the European Parliament for 15 years. I am sure that he will be able to use his considerable experience of that institution and the European Union in general to effect.

If your Lordships are to make the most of the opportunity before us to shape the future of Europe debate, effective lines of communication between this House, its committees and the representatives of the convention will be very important. I hope that some system can be arranged for the representatives to have a continuous dialogue with your Lordships' House while they carry out their duties. I shall be happy to contribute whatever I can in my Foreign Office capacity.

The Laeken declaration states merely that members and alternate members may not attend meetings of the convention at the same time. It does not lay down how the four representatives divide the burdens and responsibilities; nor is this a matter for the Government. It is rightly a matter for each parliament to decide how the system will work for its own representatives in practice. I hope that the members themselves will be able to reach a sensible agreement on attendance at meetings and preparation of the issues under discussion in order to maximise the influence of this Parliament in the convention's deliberations.

It is true to say that never before has there been such wide consultation in the EU about its future. We have an historic chance to bring together some of the best minds in Europe to debate the issues and suggest changes to the EU that will make it more effective, more efficient and more able to deliver the real results that people expect from it. I am very happy that two such respected and well qualified Members of your Lordships' House will be able to play a part in that process. I commend the Motion on the Order Paper to the House. I beg to move.

Moved to resolve, That in the opinion of this House, the Lord Tomlinson and the Lord Maclennan of Rogart should be appointed the alternate national parliamentary representatives to the Convention on the Future of Europe.—(Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean.)

Photo of Lord Cope of Berkeley Lord Cope of Berkeley Conservative 3:15 pm, 28th January 2002

My Lords, this Motion was not agreed by the usual channels. I make that clear because normally these kinds of what you might call "housekeeping" Motions moved at this time of the afternoon are, after amicable discussions, agreed by the usual channels as fair and in the interests of your Lordships' House. However, this one is a diktat from Downing Street. It is a small example of how our current elective dictatorship treats Parliament in general and this House in particular.

As the Minister said, the Motion provides for the two noble Lords mentioned to be alternate members of the body being set up to be called the Convention on the Future of Europe, by which, of course, is actually meant the future of the EU rather than of Europe, but we shall let that pass.

Under the agreement each country is entitled to one government member of the convention, plus two full members and two alternates representing the national parliament. Downing Street has decided that the two full members from the British Parliament should both be from another place, one Labour and one Conservative, and that the alternates should both be from this House, one Labour and one Liberal Democrat. Britain will, therefore, in total be represented by three Labour Members from both Houses, one Conservative Member and one Liberal Democrat Member.

One might have thought that the obvious and fair arrangement was for one full member and one alternate member to come from each House. One might also have thought—I certainly think this—that the Cross Benches have a much better right to one representative than the Labour Party has to a third representative. In some respects I think that the Cross Benches have a better right to a representative than the Liberal Democrats. After all, more Peers sit on the Cross Benches than sit on the Liberal Democrat Benches in both Houses put together. We all, including the Government, attach great importance to the independent Members of this House, although I find as I go about my day-to-day duties that all Members of this House are pretty independent! But .when it comes to appointing representatives to this Euro discussion group, the Government ignore the Cross Benches altogether.

There are, of course, some Peers on the Cross Benches with particularly high expertise in this matter who have risen to very senior rank working on exactly these questions. I shall not mention names but noble Lords will know of whom I am thinking. They have deep knowledge and long experience of how the EU works; of the people and the groups involved; of what has been tried before and with what effect. They and other Cross-Benchers are the kind of people who could make an impact on a body like this to be composed of the best minds in Europe.

I do not blame the Front Bench opposite in this House for the way in which the decision has been arrived at. The Minister has done her best. Indeed, she told us that she was doing her best last week, just a few hours before the Motion was tabled. I am sure that this is the best she can do. However, the fact is that the name of the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, has emerged from some process within the Liberal Democrat Party that I know nothing about and the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, is to be the third Labour name. I am sure that they will be assiduous in their duties.

Noble Lords:

Hear, hear!

Photo of Lord Cope of Berkeley Lord Cope of Berkeley Conservative

Quite. The noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, has been in this House only a few months. Not all noble Lords may know him as well as some of us do. Some of us have often heard him speak in another place, sometimes for a long time—well, it seemed a long time, anyway. As the Minister explained, the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, has long experience of the European Parliament. He is well known to noble Lords and often gives us his views, or, slightly more often, the views of the Labour Party. However, neither he nor the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, will be able to give the convention their views very often. All we can give them is a ticket for a back row seat at best. I understand that it may be in the public gallery. Certainly, they are likely to sit at the back with headphones on listening to the translation, but they will not have a microphone. Therefore, they will not be able to speak. If a vote is called, they will sit as still as the pictures on the wall. The EU is not driven from the back seats.

I am sorry that none of the Cross-Bench Peers with strong European experience put their name forward, although they had precious little opportunity to do so. Perhaps that shows what they think of this convention and particularly of a back row seat—and perhaps they are right. It is an unsatisfactory matter but we should not decline to appoint anyone. We shall take what is on offer and give the two noble Lords the two back row tickets. With any luck the convention will keep them amused in Brussels.

Photo of Lord Roper Lord Roper Liberal Democrat Lords Chief Whip

My Lords, from these Benches I welcome the rather unusual, perhaps unprecedented, opportunity for discussion of a Motion of this kind. The noble Lords proposed in the Motion are, I believe, both well qualified for this function. As has been said, the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, not only has experience as a Foreign Office Minister but also as a Member of the European Parliament and as a very active Member of the European Union Committee in this House. Although my noble friend Lord Maclennan of Rogart is a relatively new Member of your Lordships' House, he has been very actively involved in European matters in another place for well over 30 years. He, too, will represent us well.

I do not go quite as far as the noble Lord, Lord Cope, but I, too, regret the relatively limited time available for consideration of and consultation on the proposal and the choice of names, either between this House and another place or within this House. I also understand the concern that the noble Lord referred to about the position of the Cross-Benchers.

A Motion of this kind, whereby the House is asked its opinion in determining such a matter, is rather unusual. However, I notice that the Motion is not a decision by your Lordships' House but merely an expression of,

"the opinion of this House".

The decision, as the noble Lord, Lord Cope, made clear, is that of the Government rather than of Parliament.

The allocation of full members and alternates between this House and another place is less than satisfactory. On this occasion all of the former were given to another place and all of the latter were given to us. That is rather unsatisfactory, in view of the comparative advantage that your Lordships' House has in the consideration of European matters. In particular, the European Union Committee, which is chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, has done much work on this and comparable issues.

It is by no means clear whether the full members will be able to attend regularly. I read in the Financial Times this morning that the convention will meet 11 days a month for at least a year. As has been said, that will be a heavy burden. It will meet considerably more often than did the body in which the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, took part, which considered the charter of human rights.

Will the Minister explain whether the alternates will be observers when the full members are present? The Laeken declaration in English states:

"The members of the Convention may only be replaced by alternate members if they are not present".

That is clear; alternates can vote or speak only if the full member is not present. However, it is not clear whether they can have seats in the public gallery, a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Cope. That would provide an opportunity to observe and learn and to prepare for those occasions among the 11 days a month when the full members are not able to be present.

I have two further questions for the Minister. Will those members from this House and another place who are being nominated have support in terms of research facilities for what will be a fairly onerous responsibility? The Minister referred to the reporting arrangements. Clearly, there are two different sets of reporting arrangements. There are arrangements so far as Mr Peter Hain, the Government's representative, is concerned. I hope that it will be possible for him to report to this House—to the committee chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon—and to another place. It will also be important for the two Houses of Parliament to consider how parliamentary representatives from another place and from this House can report to the two Houses. They will probably do so by making use of the committee chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon.

Despite those reservations and the fact that the way in which the conclusions were reached was not totally satisfactory, we on these Benches hope that the two Peers who have been nominated will make a useful contribution to a matter that we believe is of great importance.

Photo of Lord Craig of Radley Lord Craig of Radley Convenor of the Crossbench Peers

My Lords, I am most grateful, as I am sure are all noble Lords on these Benches, for the remarks of the Opposition and Liberal Democrat Chief Whips on Cross-Benchers and their expertise. Some unattributable intelligence and a little spadework on my part last Wednesday evening revealed that one or two of the alternates might be drawn from your Lordships' House. I registered a possible Cross Bench interest with the usual channels, only to be informed on Thursday morning that there was now very little time: a Motion—the one that is before your Lordships' House—was to be tabled within a matter of minutes, and anyway the Foreign Secretary had agreed that the alternates would be from this House only that morning; that is, on Thursday.

I think that I may assert without fear of contradiction that on these Benches there are some very informed and knowledgeable Members of the House on affairs European. However, in the short time available I was not able to contact any of a number of them.

I was, however, a little taken aback and surprised to be told, when I was hoping to seek an extension of time, that the issue was all highly political. I felt bound to point out that the Cross-Benchers were all parliamentarians, and therefore politicians, albeit not from a party stable. The convention will be a major contributor to developments in Europe. Its membership deserves measured consideration.

I hope that the message will be received that, with more than 20 per cent of Members of your Lordships' House now on these Benches and an increasing number of them being regular contributors to the work of the House, the opportunity to draw on the individual and collective expertise that resides on them will be viewed from the right end of the telescope, and that time will be allowed to make contact with those who often have other than their parliamentary duties to attend to.

Those on these Benches should not be sidelined. I do not wish by these remarks in any way to question the calibre or quality of the two noble Lords whose names appear on the Motion.

Photo of Lord Elton Lord Elton Conservative

My Lords, when the Minister replies, I hope that she will elaborate a little on the process by which the Motion was arrived at. As I understand it, the invitation was issued not to the Government but to Parliament but that the reply has been sent not by Parliament but by the Government—dictated to this House, it would seem, by circumstances.

We do not, of course, wish to delay the process. I accept the ability of those who have been appointed in the second row, as it were, of the affairs in Europe, on our behalf. However, it is important to recognise the distinction between government and Parliament. Parliament is here in the end to oversee and control government. The power of government should not be so extended that it pre-empts the decisions of Parliament. On a matter such as this, which is not a party political issue, the decision in the House of Commons may be predictable but the Government cannot normally count on the decision of this House, which contains that body of talented Cross-Benchers and others. I hope that the Minister will show that in some ways this is not a usurpation by the Government of their function as part of Parliament.

Photo of Lord Bowness Lord Bowness Conservative

My Lords, as the representative from this House to the convention that drew up the draft charter of human rights, I shall take a moment of noble Lords' time.

As that representative, I understand that there was a desire in your Lordships' House for a much more open process. Some noble Lords were extremely surprised when they found out that I had been appointed. I also understand that it is inevitable that the usual channels will be involved. They have a part to play in ensuring that there is a political balance, in terms of parliamentary representatives, between only four people.

However, we should not delude ourselves this afternoon into believing that the current process is in some way transparent. It may be rather more open than that involving my nomination by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, on the nomination of the usual channels. We do not know anything—or at least I do not; others may tell me that I am wrong—about how the other place came to take both full places.

As has already been said, it is somewhat extraordinary that this House should be overlooked, in view of the remarkable reputation that it has for the oversight of European Union matters and the serious manner in which its reports are received. It is also extraordinary, as my noble friend Lord Elton said, in view of the fact that these places were for the United Kingdom Parliament, not merely for the other place. I do not know—I have not read about this—whether any representations were made by Her Majesty's Opposition in the other place to ensure that this House was represented. If no representations were made, I am sure that other noble Lords will understand that I would consider that to be somewhat unfortunate. Had the previous pattern been followed, the other full member would have been drawn from these Benches. Certainly, while there has apparently been a much publicised election, I know of no consultation with regard to who should be nominated or who, indeed, should take that place.

The noble Baroness, Lady Symons, said that I had referred to the considerable burden of the previous convention. It was a burden which I was very happy to undertake. It was an administrative burden, and I believe that that is a serious point which needs to be addressed. The process was very open. Many hundreds of documents were posted on the convention website, including the working documents. On many occasions the documents arrived late—only a short time before the meeting took place. Those who, like Members of your Lordships' House, largely look after such matters themselves, know that that involves searching for the website, running through documents and printing them off on, if any of your Lordships are like me, a rather slow printer at home. The whole process produces a great pile of paper. It is that administration which is burdensome.

I, together with a colleague from the other place, was fortunate to serve with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, before his elevation to Attorney-General. Although he was the Prime Minister's representative and a government representative, he and his civil servants were, as one would expect, extremely good to the parliamentary representatives. They supplied information and, if documents arrived late, ensured that we were advised.

However, he was, as will be the Government's representative at this convention, the Government's and not the parliamentary representative. I believe it is important that whoever is responsible in this House makes arrangements for those documents to be supplied to this House on a regular basis and in good time so that Members in this House who are interested in following the proceedings of the convention will be able to do so. That person also needs to provide an adequate service for the two noble Lords who are nominated as alternates if, indeed, they are called upon to serve.

Like other noble Lords, in making these comments I do not wish in any way to be seen or thought of as criticising the appointment of the noble Lords, Lord Maclennan and Lord Tomlinson. As others have said, they will bring great expertise and experience to the convention. If the convention is to be a success, it must not be too tightly governed by political parties. The previous convention, of which I had the privilege to be a member, had, to some extent among the parliamentary members, some freedom and was able to achieve results by consensus. If that process is too strictly controlled in this convention, I suspect that it will not work. We all want the convention to be a success. Certainly it requires among its members people who will bring a constructive and positive approach to the workings and future of the European Union.

Photo of Lord Monson Lord Monson Crossbench 3:30 pm, 28th January 2002

My Lords, I do not dissent for one moment from the noble Baroness's description of the excellent qualities possessed by the two noble Lords nominated by the Government. However, does she agree that at least 40 per cent of your Lordships oppose further European integration? Indeed, many of us believe that it has gone too far already. Conversely, no more than 60 per cent at the outside favour further European integration. That 60 per cent maximum will effectively have two representatives from this House, whereas the 40 per cent of sceptics will have none whatever. Is that fair and is it right?

Photo of Lord Stoddart of Swindon Lord Stoddart of Swindon Independent Labour

My Lords, as the noble Baroness informed the House when she opened the debate, the question of representation on the convention and other matters were raised during our debates on the European Communities (Amendment) Bill. It is hoped that we shall complete the final stage of that Bill today. I am not at all sure that the matters raised were resolved either in Committee or on Report. However, we now have the opportunity to discuss the appointment and, indeed, the method of appointment of parliamentarians from this Parliament to the convention.

My first question goes back to the one raised by the noble Lord, Lord Elton. I understood—I may be wrong; perhaps the Minister will put me right—that the invitations relating to both the Government and Parliament were sent to the Government. However, my view, and I should have thought the view of most, if not all, Members of this House and another place, is that the invitation to parliamentarians should have been sent either to the Clerk of the Parliaments or to the Speakers of both Houses. They are the proper routes by which invitations to Parliament for attendance at conventions and other such matters should go. I should like an answer to that point if possible.

I listened with great interest to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, who, I believe, raised a very important point. If we are to have Cross-Benchers in this House, then they should be entitled to equal consideration with all other sides of the House. I am not suggesting that this corner of the House should have equal treatment; nevertheless, the Cross-Benchers should be considered. I am surprised that they were given such short notice of the proposal which we are now discussing.

I am also surprised—no doubt there are very good reasons for it—that the noble and gallant Lord did not table an amendment to the Motion. If he had done so, he would have given the House the opportunity to make a real choice. He must have been surprised to have been given such short notice on this occasion, but in future he may like to take that into account.

As other noble Lords have said, the noble Lords who have been proposed are excellent people; there is no question about that. They have given great service to both Houses. Certainly that of the noble Lord, Lord, Lord Maclennan, is rather shorter than that of the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson. Nevertheless, he has an excellent record in Parliament, as does the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson.

However, there is a problem. I believe that both are very much in favour of further European integration and, therefore, the other point of view will not be represented. During our debates at the Committee and Report stages of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, we questioned the noble Baroness as to how the views of the very large minority—I do not believe that it is a majority—of people in this country who are opposed to further integration, many of whom would like to withdraw from the European Community entirely, would be expressed. We shall certainly need to address, first, how those views are to be sought by the representatives and, secondly, how they are to be put across.

Another question that I want to ask the noble Baroness—if, indeed, she knows the answer—is whether Eurosceptic outside bodies will be able to submit papers to the convention. If they are able to do so, will those papers be considered by the convention and not merely summarised and brushed aside by the president, the two deputy presidents and the bureaucrats who serve them?

Those are the questions to which I should like to receive an answer. I believe that this is possibly the first time—and I am very pleased because I consider it to be progress—that this House has had the opportunity to discuss the nominations and the system.

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I strongly support the nominations before us. Both are eminent noble Lords with great expertise in European matters. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, raised the issue of independence because of the way in which he perceived the process to have taken place. For 15 years I was a neighbouring Member of the European Parliament to the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson. From personal experience I know that he has a great record of being extremely independently minded and will no doubt bring that to the work he will do.

I also know that he will put first and foremost his accountability to this House in reporting back to us on the work of the convention. Indeed, with his record on budgetary matters, action against fraud and on chairing our committee in this House he will be someone in whose hands our views, concerns and opinions will be extremely safe. I would also say the same of the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan.

Photo of Lord Pearson of Rannoch Lord Pearson of Rannoch Conservative

My Lords, I suppose that whether one supports the nomination of the two noble Lords to the convention, depends on what the agenda of the convention will be. I do not know whether the noble Baroness can enlighten us. Is there any suggestion that the convention should go back to basics and start by wondering whether the European Union should continue at all, or has the time come to wrap it up and rely on free trade, inter-governmental collaboration, defence from NATO, and so forth?

I imagine that the noble Baroness will reply that that is a very silly question and that of course that will not be on the agenda. Therefore, if that is so, we must assume that the idea is for the United Kingdom to continue as a member of the European Union, the future shape of which is somewhat uncertain at present. However, I think we can take it for granted that it will not be a shape which entails any less power in Brussels.

The Government say that they want a public debate on this matter. I do not see that we shall get that by the appointment of the noble Lords as proposed or, indeed, anyone else to this convention, which will, after all, be a convention of politicians and like-minded people. How are the British people to be involved in this debate? The noble Baroness will be aware that if opinion polls are to be believed, many British people, perhaps even a majority, now favour reducing our relationship with the European Union to one merely of free trade. How can the people decide this matter if they do not know what are the alternatives to our continued membership of the European Union?

I put it to the noble Baroness that the Government should now set up some form of cost-benefit analysis of our membership of the European Union so that the work of this no doubt excellent convention can be taken into consideration by the British public, who should then be allowed to make up their minds as to how this project should proceed, or otherwise.

Photo of Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Minister of State (Middle East), Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Trade), Department of Trade and Industry, Minister for Trade and Investment and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also Department of Trade and Industry), Minister of State (Trade and Investment) Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also FCO), Deputy Leader of the House of Lords 3:45 pm, 28th January 2002

My Lords, the noble Lords, Lord Roper and Lord Stoddart, got it right when they pointed out that the very fact that we are debating this issue is unprecedented. Although the invitation to participate has been a process evolved by the Government, that was in discussions with other parties. I believe that this opportunity for both Houses to comment on the names put forward is a welcome precedent. I hoped that perhaps it would have been given a rather more generous welcome from some noble Lords on the Benches opposite.

We first discussed this matter in a Question tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, in October. On 31st October last year I held a consultative meeting in your Lordships' House to which every one of your Lordships was invited and to which every single Member of this House could have come, had your Lordships so wished. That was three months ago. To describe this as having been a very rushed job is somewhat gilding the lily. We have had three months. Sadly, that meeting was poorly attended. With some honourable exceptions, noble Lords did not avail themselves. The noble Lord, Lord Bowness, was very kind insofar as he was able to give us the benefit of his knowledge about what had happened on a previous similar occasion.

Noble Lords say that this matter has not been agreed through the usual channels and that it is a great pity that the two full members—

Photo of Lord Stoddart of Swindon Lord Stoddart of Swindon Independent Labour

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. Does she not agree that an invitation to the very important meeting which she has just described should have been made in a different way rather that in an answer to a supplementary question in your Lordships' House? I have no doubt that the noble Baroness was trying to help and wanted to hold the meeting as soon as possible. However, perhaps in future when she holds such meetings she will give better notice and in such a manner so that all people, even those who cannot catch up with Hansard every day can respond?

Photo of Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Minister of State (Middle East), Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Trade), Department of Trade and Industry, Minister for Trade and Investment and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also Department of Trade and Industry), Minister of State (Trade and Investment) Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also FCO), Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

My Lords, I would always wish to give noble Lords the maximum opportunity to attend meetings which might be of interest to them. Having made the announcement on the Floor of the House, naturally it was published in Hansard. I understand that the Whips' offices of the main parties represented in your Lordships' House were given notice of the date of the meeting. Again, that meeting was unprecedented. It was a genuine effort to try to do everything within my power, meagre as it is, to hold consultation.

There has been criticism that the two full members will come from another place. I have no problem with the two full members coming from the elected House. I am bound to say to the Opposition that if they had a problem with that, it was within their power to make their arguments to their own Front Bench in another place that it should be a Member of this House who was the full member from the Conservative Party. It was within their power so to do. I do not know whether they did that. Whether they took that up is entirely a matter for them. However, I find no problem with the arrangements as far as concerns the representation from my own party.

The party opposite is also very worried indeed about the representation from the Liberal Democrats. That is a matter for the Liberal Democrat Party. The Liberal Democrats were generous enough not to make comments about representation from the Conservative Party, although I understand that at one stage there was a certain amount of conjecture about that. We have to tolerate each other's ways of doing this. It is right and proper that we respect each other's processes.

The point has been made about the Cross-Benchers. Again, the Cross-Benchers had the opportunity, not only to attend the meeting to which I have just referred, but every opportunity in the past three months to make their representations. The noble Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, says that he did. As he said, to be fair to him, that was pretty late in the day, but there has been that opportunity. The Order Paper has been before your Lordships and any of your Lordships could have tabled an amendment. That has not been the case. I do not want to encourage amendments; I shall be extremely grateful if we can reach the end of this matter in fairly good order.

The noble Lord, Lord Roper, asked whether the alternate members can be observers when the principals are there. The answer is yes. The noble Lord asked about support. These are parliamentary representatives. It is up to the House to arrange that. I sought to imply that the Government will be happy to provide whatever briefing the representatives from Parliament may wish to have. In making that suggestion, I hope that I am not encroaching on any of the understandable distinctions that noble Lords would wish to draw—I say this to Members of my own side—between the Government as government and the Labour Party. The parliamentary representatives are representing the Labour interest and not the Government.

The noble Lord, Lord Roper, asked about reporting back. It is not possible for me to guarantee an amount of time for that. That will be for the usual channels to decide. However, it is important to have full reporting back. I believe that all information should be made available. I hope that the usual channels will be able to facilitate that.

The noble Lord, Lord Bowness, was kind enough to talk about the arrangements made last time. I fully appreciate that he would rather have received his paperwork independently. I hope that he agrees that where the Government were able to help—the system may not have worked as effectively as it might have done—that was useful. I believe that the Government's attitude on future occasions will be no different.

The noble Lord, Lord Monson, said that 40 per cent of your Lordships opposed further integration and that, therefore, the "eurosceptic" view—that was the term he used—should have greater representation. It is difficult to say that someone who opposes further European integration is a eurosceptic. I do not believe that that is true. But we have had a lengthy debate on the Nice Bill. I am mindful that we have Third Reading later today. Despite the 40 per cent to which the noble Lord refers, the Government have not done too badly in getting through their agenda. The Nice Bill was firmly placed in the Labour Party manifesto which went before the country in June last year and we know what happened in that election.

Photo of Lord Pearson of Rannoch Lord Pearson of Rannoch Conservative

My Lords, this is a difficult argument which is often produced by the Government to justify their stance on the European Union. Surely the noble Baroness will agree that the manifesto contained nearly 200 commitments, of which this was only one; that the people voted for it en bloc; and that only 59 per cent of the public bothered to vote of which a minority voted for the Labour Government. I cannot envisage how one can take the general election as a justification for the Government's europhile stance.

Photo of Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Minister of State (Middle East), Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Trade), Department of Trade and Industry, Minister for Trade and Investment and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also Department of Trade and Industry), Minister of State (Trade and Investment) Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also FCO), Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

My Lords, I remind the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, that it was his party, not mine, which sought to put Europe at the top of the general election. That is the nature of democracy. It is a fine debating point but the noble Lord knows that in this country we publish election manifestos. It was clear and unequivocal that this Government would take forward the Nice treaty. Yes, it was one of many commitments made and honoured by this Government. That is the nature of democracy, difficult as the noble Lord may find it.

Photo of Lord Pearson of Rannoch Lord Pearson of Rannoch Conservative

My Lords, I cannot allow the noble Baroness to say that the Conservative Party put "Europe" on the agenda at the last election. We did not. We put the currency on the agenda which the people knew was to be subject to a referendum. Therefore, the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Monson, stands; I tried to underline it. In this convention we are talking about the future of Europe. We are not talking about the currency. There is a big difference.

Photo of Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Minister of State (Middle East), Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Trade), Department of Trade and Industry, Minister for Trade and Investment and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also Department of Trade and Industry), Minister of State (Trade and Investment) Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also FCO), Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

My Lords, the noble Lord has not answered my other point on Nice: that this takes forward the agenda. The noble Lord and I have had interesting and sometimes extremely lengthy exchanges on the Nice Bill. The noble Lord may toss the matter to one side, saying that the outcome of the general election on the basis of a clearly articulated promise to the British people is neither here nor there. I take a somewhat different view.

The noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, was entirely right to say that the representatives from your Lordships' House will be independent. I agree that they are independent not only on their standing with regard to the convention but also by the nature of the noble Lords concerned.

The noble Lord, Lord Pearson, asked whether we would go back to first principles. The noble Lord will not like the answer which I gave in the recent exchange. We said that we shall take Nice forward. We have taken Nice forward. I hope that we shall get through Third Reading. I do not think that the Government's position could have been made clearer.

We are where we are on this. I did my best genuinely to obtain representations from your Lordships' House. I do not believe that the argument is between the Government and Parliament. The arguments adduced have been more about the balance between the two Houses. As I urged noble Lords last week to do, it was the responsibility of us all to take forward that argument through our party political channels. I say gently to the Cross-Benchers, for whom I have the greatest possible respect, that if their arguments were so pressing they could have been put some time ago. They had the opportunity for amendments.

I understand that there is still a little unhappiness. However, we shall have the opportunity to discuss the convention. We shall get our views over through the usual means: questions, debates and our own excellent committee on the European Union. With that assurance, and with the assurance that the Government will do everything they can to facilitate—

Photo of Lord Stoddart of Swindon Lord Stoddart of Swindon Independent Labour

My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, will she answer the important question on whether the invitation to send delegates from Parliament was sent to the Government or the Clerk of Parliaments and the Speakers of both Houses?

Photo of Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Minister of State (Middle East), Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Trade), Department of Trade and Industry, Minister for Trade and Investment and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also Department of Trade and Industry), Minister of State (Trade and Investment) Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also FCO), Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

My Lords, I am sorry. I thought that I had answered that point in my opening remarks. It was for the Government, as all other governments, to decide the process for determining parliamentary representatives. The noble Lord should not be under the misapprehension that invitations were sent to Parliament. We discussed this matter when the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, first raised the question. I said that it was a matter ultimately for the Government to decide: that the Government would do so on the basis of as wide a consultation as possible. I believe that our tabling today of this Motion on the Order Paper fully fulfils that commitment.

On Question, Motion agreed to.