My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
This amendment would remove the European Commission's right to propose EU legislation and so it goes to the heart of the project of EU integration. This right of proposal by the Commission has its origins in the big idea which gave birth to the EU and which still, in the eyes of its supporters, underpins it today. It is perhaps worth recalling what that big idea was. It was that the nation states had been responsible for the carnage of two world wars and so those nation states, with their unreliable democracies, had to be emasculated and diluted into a new form of supranational government run by a commission of wise technocrats. That is also why, once the Commission's proposals have been negotiated in COREPER—the Committee of Permanent Representatives, or bureaucrats from the nation states—which takes place in secret, and once the Council of Ministers has signed the proposals off and they have been rubber-stamped, where necessary, by national parliaments, the Commission becomes the executor of all EU legislation. It is supported, when necessary, by that engine of European integration, the Luxembourg Court.
New Artlicle 9D confirms this situation very clearly and it is worth quoting very briefly from it from the Lisbon treaty. It states:
"The Commission shall ensure the application of the Treaties, and of measures adopted by the institutions pursuant to them. It shall oversee the application of Union law under the control of the Court of Justice of the European Union. It shall execute the budget and manage programmes. It shall exercise coordinating, executive and management functions, as laid down in the Treaties".
Article 2, to which this referendum specifically refers, states:
"Union legislative acts may only be adopted on the basis of a Commission proposal, except where the Treaties provide otherwise".
Item 3 in Article 9D refers to the quality of these enormously powerful people:
"The members of the Commission shall be chosen on the ground of their general competence and European commitment from persons whose independence is beyond doubt".
I hope that it will be in order if I ask the noble Baroness the Lord President or the noble Lord who is to reply what they think about the recent appointment of Monsieur Jacques Barrot, who is the new EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner. I think that I am right in saying that Monsieur Barrot received an eight-month suspended jail sentence in 2000 for corruption and was later pardoned by no less a personage than Monsieur Jacques Chirac, who was involved in the same scandal. Are the Government happy that this man is now the EU Justice Minister?
Since most of our law is now made under this process, do we want to go on with it? Surely it is the very antithesis of our democracy, with the House of Commons and your Lordships' House wholly excluded from the process of making the majority of our law. I imagine that I will be asked: if the Commission does not have the quasi-monopoly on proposing legislation, who should have it? My colleagues and I do not believe that that right should be vested in the European Parliament. If it is to happen at all, it should rest with the Council of Ministers. But, of course, we do not want it at all; we want out of the whole thing. Were the project to continue, that would be our recommendation.
I conclude by asking the Government what they think of this arrangement, which now makes most of our law. I also ask the Conservative Party whether it is happy with it. I beg to move.
It is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, because he has directed us away from detail—although this is Committee—to what he called the "big idea". He may be broadly accurate in his idea of what the big idea originally was.
However, it has been clear to most people for considerably more than a decade that the big idea as he defined it was not going to happen. If the big idea was going to be carried into effect, the Commission would be in the driving seat. It would not simply be proposing and executing; it would be deciding. But the whole point and essence of the European Union as it has evolved is that that is not so: the driving seat is occupied by the Council of Ministers. The noble Lord briefly and rather hurriedly mentioned that there was such a thing as the Council of Ministers, but he gave us the impression that it was more or less being squeezed and abolished. But that is not so. One can speak only from one's own experience. Having been to dozens, or hundreds, of Council meetings, my worry during them, as the afternoons wore into the evenings, was not whether the compromise that might emerge would suit or please the Commission—that was a secondary emotion in my mind—but what my colleagues in the Cabinet, the Prime Minister and, above all, the House of Commons would think, and what would happen at 3.30 pm the next afternoon if I had to make a statement on the compromise which I had reached. That was my worry, and I suspect that it is still the worry of Ministers who come and go to Brussels.
This argument is familiar, particularly to someone who helped take the Maastricht treaty through the House of Commons. We were constantly warned by the noble Lord's predecessors, who were not equal to him in eloquence or persistence but, nevertheless, did not make a bad job of it. It was perfectly clear from everything they predicted about the treaty of Maastricht that all our laws would be made by the Commission and basic sovereign policies would be swept away, into the maw of Brussels. This was predicted during the Maastricht debates by people with great passion and conviction. I observe today that, contrary to their expectations, the Queen is still safe and happy on her throne; British taxes are put up by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with the approval of the Prime Minister; British interest rates are fixed by the Bank of England; and we go to war at the behest of the Americans, and not of Brussels. This is all absolutely contrary to the predictions so confidently made by the noble Lord's predecessors. That is the situation at present, and would be the situation if the present treaty were ratified into effect. The real, basic points, which ordinary people associate with political decision-taking, would and will remain with the Council of Ministers and, above all, in most of these matters, with the British Parliament and Government.
I rise to support the amendment of my noble friend Lord Pearson and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hurd. I will stick rather more closely to the amendment than he did in straying rather wider. We have always been enjoined by the noble Lords opposite to stick to the amendments. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, was not there when those strictures were first voiced. I simply underline that this is about the Commission's sole right to propose legislation. This amendment is about removing the Commission's right to do that. It seems extraordinary that both this place and another place are happy to accept that a large majority—I will not put an exact percentage on it—of our law is made in Brussels by the Commission. It does not come from the Council of Ministers; it does not come from Parliament; it comes from the Commission. That is the whole point of this.
We have it on the authority of the German ministry of justice, which two years ago produced a report, that some 80 per cent of the legislation relating to Germany is made in Brussels and not by the German Parliament, which prompted the German ex-President, President Herzog, to ask whether Germany can still unreservedly call itself a parliamentary democracy. On that basis, we should ask ourselves the same question. Almost exactly a year ago, a legal advice firm called Sweet and Maxwell produced an interesting report, which said that 98 per cent of British legislation over the past 10 years has been produced by statutory instrument. One of the advisers on that paper was professor of law at the University of Cambridge, Professor Len Sealy. He pointed out that over the last 10 years there has also been a massive increase in EU law that becomes UK law without being passed by Parliament, either as a statute or a statutory instrument. In other words, Parliament simply does not see it at all.
According to Professor Sealy, there were more than 2,000 of these regulations in 2006 alone. Their scope was quite astonishing. I rang him up because I could not believe that this was true. There were more than 2,000 pieces of legislation in one year alone that had become part of British law without Parliament ever seeing them at all. Professor Sealy confirmed that these regulations, which, I stress, are not seen at all by Parliament, cover a wide range of matters. Their scope is astonishing, ranging from cross-border insolvency to the importation of bed linen. I find that quite hard to believe.
People in this country are aware that Parliament has less and less say in making laws, yet the people whom they elected, they elected to make our laws. They can appoint them, dismiss them and elect them—but they cannot do the same for the European Commission, whose members are not elected and seem to be unsackable. So they are getting deeply resentful of a position in which a majority of our law is made not by the people whom they elected but by the European Commission.
I have a few examples of such laws that we have had in front of us in this House and the other place, which include the end-of-life vehicles directive, the landfill directive, the drivers' hours directive, the vibration directive, the fallen stock directive, the horse passports directive and the absolutely disgraceful curd cheese regulations—which was opposed by our colleagues on the Liberal Democrat Benches, I seem to remember. These were all Commission initiatives that had to be put into UK law. Yes, we can amuse ourselves, as we did, by debating them; we can have Prayers against them and spend long, happy hours of sunlit afternoons talking about them and saying why we agree or not with them—but, in the end, it does not really matter. They have to be put into UK law, willy-nilly, whether we want them or not. With qualified majority voting, a number of those initiatives that we did not agree with were put into British law. But Parliament is impotent to do anything at all about it; not a word, syllable or comma of any of those directives or regulations can be changed by the other place or this House.
Are we really happy with this state of affairs? I read this morning in the papers that Members of the other place are going to get a large increase of some £15,000 a year. I do not want to stray into territory into which I should not stray, but why are they getting that increase if so much of our law is made not in the other place or here but in Brussels by the unelected and unsackable European Commission, when our elected Parliament cannot change a word of it?
This amendment will bring laws much closer to the Parliament that the British people want, which may do something to reduce the lack of interest in elections here, which has been quite pronounced. People always wring their hands and say that they do not understand why the electorate is so uninterested in voting in British elections—and it is true that the percentage of voters has gone down and down. This is just a theory, but I think that it is because people realise that Parliament has much less power and that the people whom they elect do not make most of their laws and cannot amend them as they wish. We have to take these things, swallow them now and swallow them whole. I warmly support my noble friend's amendment.
I speak as a former member of the European Commission. The speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Pearson and Lord Willoughby de Broke, are essentially pure fiction. To pretend that the European Commission does not have regard to other bodies is utterly untrue. All sorts of representations are made to European Commissioners, when legislation is introduced, by outside bodies and the European Parliament. The Commission is ever mindful of its responsibilities towards the European Court of Justice. When I introduced legislation on transport or environment matters, I would invariably have before me Members of the European Parliament, who would make representations about the legislation. But it is not confined to that: other bodies also affect it, and they are not slow to make their representations heard. Quite apart from the fact that debates went on before the legislation took effect, to pretend that inside the European Commission everything was absolutely silent is utterly untrue. Inside the European Commission, the Commissioner responsible had to argue his case.
In my day there were no permanent members. It is absolutely essential that that should be the case. There is no passport to immunity, and undoubtedly it is untrue to say that the Commissioner is impervious to the representation made. In my day—admittedly a long time ago, in 1985 to 1989—the Commissioner responsible had to argue the case for the legislation before various bodies, and he was demonstrably concerned about getting the right answers. The situation which has been described today is, putting it mildly, frivolous.
It is no good anybody shouting "Minister"; my name is on the amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, describes what previous noble Lords have said as mere fiction; it is not mere fiction at all. Since 51—I think that is the government figure—items of policy have now been changed to QMV, this is the proper time to have a look at the process. The process is completely outwith what Members of this House and Members of the House of Commons are used to. We were used to Cabinet Government. We have a Civil Service, the head of the Civil Service and departmental Permanent Secretaries. They propose policies to an elected Cabinet, which then decides which ones should be put before the House of Commons and eventually this House, which then have to agree to them.
The position is different in Europe. The Commission really should be in the position of the permanent Civil Service in this country. Unfortunately, it is not because it has this monopoly of putting forward policy items, and nobody else—certainly not according to the treaties—has the right to do so. Therein lies the problem.
The noble Lord, Lord Hurd, said that when he was making decisions—and this applies to all Ministers who go to ministerial councils—he would come back and have to be answerable to the House of Commons. That really is not so. If the matters have been decided by QMV, they have become European law. That means that Parliament can discuss the matters as much as it likes and make as many amendments as it likes to the legislation that has been agreed, but it will have no effect because QMV means that European law has taken precedence over British law, and the House of Commons can do nothing about it. There is a misunderstanding of what in actual fact happens with European legislation, and it is a democratic deficit. Although the European Parliament is involved on an advisory basis, nevertheless there is this democratic deficiency.
Yes, there is codecision, but the view of some of us is that that amounts to an advisory and not a legislative capacity. The European Parliament has no legislative function. In the end the Commission, together with the Council, can override what Parliament has said. That is the true situation.
Will the noble Lord accept that that is not the case? In the majority of legislation now and in practically all legislation once this treaty comes into force, nothing can become law in the EU without the agreement of Members of the European Parliament as well as the Council. Last year I negotiated a measure called the visa information system and I directly negotiated with the German Interior Minister, Mr Schaüble, who was President of the Council. I assure the noble Lord—and I invite him to come to the European Parliament and see at any time—that in practice codecision means precisely that; it is codecided. Nothing can become law without the agreement of the European Parliament in the majority of cases now—and in almost everything from next January, if this becomes law.
That was exactly what I was saying. In fact, codecision means that the European Parliament is unable to throw out legislation which has been proposed through the Commission and through the Council. It can negotiate, but in the end the decision will be elsewhere. The noble Baroness is shaking her head, but I believe that is the case. As far as this country is concerned, once the legislation has been passed in Europe our Parliament can do nothing about it because European law is superior to British law. As we have seen in a number of cases, this Parliament has been told that there is nothing you can do about it whether you like it or not. As I said, this is a matter which concerns people. Apparently even those who study the matter do not understand exactly what goes on. The discussions are in secret. It is little wonder that the public are a bit confused about what goes on.
Given that this legislation is in draft form, does not my noble friend agree that all sorts of representation are made to the European Commission, not only by British organisations but by others as well? It is utterly unbelievable that the situation is as he has posed it. The situation, in reality, is that many people make representations and some of those are listened to, but eventually Parliament also has its voice heard.
I have no doubt that there much representation is made. The European Union Select Committee of this House often makes representations. It makes great reports which we are told are read by the European Union. But if the Government wish and the programme of the EU demands it, then there is the override procedure, which I understand has been used at least 187 times. The position is extremely complicated. I am surprised that noble Lords do not accept that the position is complicated; it is not understood by people outside and is not in accordance with the democratic procedures which we have built up over a very long period of time.
I am glad we have had the opportunity to discuss this matter because, to my knowledge, it is a very long time since we have done so. I am waiting to hear what the attitude of the Front Bench is.
No discussion on the European Commission can take place in this House without first acknowledging the front-line expertise of several of its Members. My noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis, who has spoken in the debate, and the noble Lord, Lord Tugendhat, who is in his place, had distinguished periods as commissioners in the 1970s and 1980s. The noble Lord, Lord Brittan, and my noble friend Lord Kinnock were vice-presidents of the Commission. The noble Lord, Lord Patten of Barnes, held the crucial role of external relations commissioner. Of course, the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, was for 10 years a distinguished secretary-general of the Commission. So this House speaks with a lot of expertise and knowledge on the subject.
As regards the amendment, the Lisbon treaty contains provisions on the appointment, composition and role of the European Commission and the President of the European Commission, as well as certain provisions governing the new post of high representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Amendment No. 10A, which the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, has moved, would exclude paragraph 2 of the article from the UK's implementation of the treaty.
Paragraph 2 sets out that the adoption of legislative acts will be based on the proposals of the Commission, except where the treaty provides otherwise. But the Commission has been part of the European institutional structure since the treaty of Rome in 1957. Frankly, Article 9D TEU draws on the existing provisions, making changes to enable the Commission to operate more effectively.
The point is that existing treaties already provide that the right of initiative for legislative acts rests largely with the Commission, except where the treaties provide otherwise. There is nothing new under the sun in that concept. It has been the position under treaties that have passed through both Houses of Parliament for many years.
The noble Lord, Lord Pearson, asks what is meant by,
"except where the treaties provide otherwise", and he asks for examples. The general rule is that the right of initiative for legislative acts rests with the Commission. The main exception is for certain JHA measures as regards the police and judicial co-operation in criminal matters. Other entities besides the Commission may propose non-legislative acts; for example, the ECB for monetary policy and the ECJ for court rules of procedure. I remind the Committee that as regards the CFSP, which no doubt we will be discussing this afternoon, the high representative and the member states have the right of initiative.
Perhaps I may mention one change that is important. Under the Lisbon treaty, any proposal in the area of justice and home affairs must be made by a quarter of the member states. As the EU Select Committee of this House set out in its report, this change will help to ensure a more co-ordinated and coherent approach to legislation, planned in line with long-term EU strategies rather than being based on topical national considerations. It is noticeable that the Law Societies of England, Wales and Scotland have welcomed this change.
Members of the Committee will also know that on
As far as the meat of this amendment is concerned, the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, in his effortless and extremely polite way, demolished completely the case put by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, ensuring that I do not have to attempt to do so myself. It is clear that the Commission has played a leading role in this field and although, as the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, made absolutely clear, all kinds of dire consequences have been threatened for years, none of them has come to pass and there is no reason to believe that they will as a result of the treaty of Lisbon. I invite the noble Lord, with respect, to withdraw his amendment.
I understand that the Conservative Party is not going to take part in this amendment, so we will be left in ignorance of its position. I meant the Conservative Front Bench—I was not suggesting that the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, who sits on the Back Bench with me, was necessarily speaking for the party. In fact, he says that he certainly was not. So we do not know where the Conservative Party stands.
As to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, it may have felt at the time of Maastricht that he had to come back and face Parliament. It may feel like that now. However, even at the time of Maastricht it was not like that and it certainly is not like that now. Parliament—the House of Commons and your Lordships' House—cannot propose this legislation. Of course we accept the point of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, that the Commission receives all sorts of proposals from countries and lobbyists. However, that does not alter the fact that it has a near-monopoly of proposing legislation, which is then negotiated in COREPER and passed in the Council of Ministers. Once it is through the Council of Ministers, there is nothing that the House of Commons or your Lordships' House can do about it.
My noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke mentioned several examples—I have two that are going through now. One is the tax on the resale of art, particularly modern art, which is doing immense damage to the art market in this country. The other is the control of food supplements—vitamins and health foods—that the Government are also opposing in Brussels although it does not look as if they will succeed. So it is simply not fair of your Europhile Lordships to pretend that this is democracy as we have known it. We accept that the European Parliament can block legislation, but we repeat that it cannot propose it without the consent of the Commission.
The Minister read out a list of eminent Eurocrats who inhabit your Lordships' House, and of course we acknowledge that—it is one of the things that makes your Lordships' House such a Europhile place. However, it really does not help if the Minister and other noble Lords say, "There is nothing to worry about here, because this was part of the original Treaty of Rome in 1957". Indeed it was—I said so myself. This has always been part of this project, but that does not mean that we have to accept it. Noble and Europhile Lords, and Europhiles generally, very often advance this point. They say, "This is nothing new, so it is all right". The answer is, "It is not all right just because it is there".
Nothing that any noble Lord has said will convince me that the ancient privilege of the British people to elect and dismiss those who make their laws has not been broken by our membership of the European Union. I refer to the House of Commons, not the elected Government. The people's pact is with Parliament; it is not with the transitory Government of the day. That is why more and more people—millions of them—do not like this project and want us out of it. However, I accept that we are not going to reach that conclusion now, so I am happy to withdraw the amendment.
This amendment is on a specific and narrow point, and I hope that it will gain some approval and a clear exposition from Ministers. It concerns not the procedures of the past but the procedures of the future as presented as innovation in the Lisbon treaty embodied in the Bill. The concern is with the new provision that the President of the Commission—not the President of the Council, which is also a new feature in its extended form—should be elected by the European Parliament. The precise proposal is that the new Commission president should be nominated by the Council by qualified majority voting and then elected by a majority in the European Parliament, which brings that post and the candidature for it right to the heart of the lobbying, factions and political blocs in the European Parliament.
The Government very strongly opposed that change at the time of the convention that drew up the original constitutional treaty, and the words of the proposal here are identical. The Labour Minister at the time, Peter Hain, said:
"Another suggestion is for the European Parliament to elect the Commission President. However, I am sceptical of that idea. My concern is that such an independent figure, who must be acceptable to the member states through the Council, will get caught up in the politics of the European Parliament".—[Hansard, Commons, 20/3/03; col. 309WH.]
I could not have put it better, and it was a perfectly sensible concern. Attempts were made in the convention to delete the proposal, but I am afraid they failed. The reason Mr Hain was worried and why the Labour Government of yesterday were worried and fought not to have it in this treaty either is that they feared the outcome that the dominant EP party blocs, whatever they happened to be, would have the initiative in choosing a name, and the European Council would have to go along with that candidate. I know that our excellent European Union Select Committee report rather bravely thought that this would not stop the Council coming to its decisions, although it was very candid in adding,
"the practical consequences of the ... provisions are as yet unclear".
The lack of clarity is now beginning to dissolve, and there is already a campaign website from the European Parliament to announce its preferred candidate in what it calls, "the first European presidential election".
All that will please many people who want things to go that way and who believe that Europe is moving in the right direction; a prospect that many of us are not at all sure about. This is light years away from the Monnet ideal that the Commission would be a genuinely independent college of wise men and women standing clear of national party politics and lobbies. It also shifts power away from national Ministers and national Parliaments—again this may be welcome to some but not to me—in which we on this side have argued again and again that the modern European Union should have its powers properly anchored.
The European Parliament does an excellent job and many of its Members work extremely hard but it really cannot be said, except by a fantasist, that moving powers to the European Parliament somehow fulfils the Laaken dream—it is only an unfulfilled dream—of bringing the European Union and its works closer to the people. That is why Ministers fought strenuously against the idea when it first surfaced in the rejected constitutional treaty; but here it is now in identical words. We believe that it should not be there and that a wiser, better Europe would be less prone to be centralised in this way. I beg to move.
I shall address Amendments Nos. 11 and 12 because they both reflect a shift—which one may or may not like, but which cannot be disguised in the treaty—towards a European Union that is increasingly establishing itself as an independent sovereign body rather than an association of member states.
Amendment No. 11 refers to a reduction in the number of commissioners so that there is no longer a commissioner for each member state. I understand the practicalities of the difficulty in having a large number of commissioners but there are other ways of dealing with that. For example, there are rather more Ministers than members of the Cabinet in the UK Government. Not every Minister has the same status and not every commissioner need have a front-line portfolio. The problem is that this proposal has not been thought through in terms of the impact that it will have on the linkage with member states. While a commissioner is not there to represent the member state directly, it is important symbolically for each country to see that it is involved directly in the commissioner body and has a voice within it.
The move to break the link between commissioners and countries is part of the overall trend that says that the EU is primarily not an association of member states but a governing body that is increasingly accountable first and foremost to a European democracy, represented in the European Parliament. As noble Lords have said, a number of shifts in the treaty increase the power of the European Parliament.
Amendment No. 12, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said, talks to that specifically in that under this treaty the Commission will be elected by the European Parliament. If the European Union is seen as an association of member states we might think that the Commission is there to do the bidding of the member states, which have appointed it. If we see the European Union as a democracy where the primary legitimacy comes from the European Parliament, of course we shift the responsibility of the Commission to that Parliament. Paragraph 8 of the Article 9D in the Lisbon treaty states:
"The Commission, as a body, shall be responsible to the European Parliament".
To my mind, that is a significant shift in emphasis and takes us away from the notion of the European Union as an association of member states. The Government need to explain whether their intention is to sign up to that direction, or whether they will stand on the principle that has hitherto been the case of Europe as an association of nation states of which we were a member.
We on these Benches welcome the proposals in the Lisbon treaty for the new developments involving the Commission and the number of commissioners. Therefore, we do not support the amendment, and hope that the noble Lord who moved it will kindly consider withdrawing it at the end of this debate, depending on the Government's response.
I am sure that it is coincidence—I referred to this on our first and second sittings in Committee—that amendments proposed by the Conservative Front Bench sometimes bear an amazing resemblance to the ones tabled in the House of Commons. On this occasion I refer to Amendment No. 92, tabled, yet again, by Mr William Cash and Mr John Redwood. Theirs was an umbrella amendment excluding the whole of Article 9D, and not just the relevant portions, as is proposed in the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford. It can be seen that the amendment appears word for word on page 564 of the Commons Order Paper.
Is the noble Lord suggesting that there is something improper, or not quite right, about Members of the Committee putting down amendments similar to ones which have been discussed in the other place, so that we can do so? It would seem a rather extraordinary doctrine if that is what he is saying; it sounded like it.
Unless I am mistaken, the noble Lord was not in his place on the previous occasions; that was all dealt with then. I was just making a passing reference. I shall make a number of brief points on the amendments and will not waste the Committee's time.
Perhaps I can help the noble Lord and save him having to repeat these observations again and again. Following my noble friend's intervention, is not the concern—and does he not share it—that a great many of these amendments were not discussed in the House of Commons? Through the guillotine, as we used to call it—now the timetable Motion, and various kinds of procedural Motion—a great many crucial amendments were not examined at all. The Prime Minister urged that we look at these matters line by line, and we are trying to do so. The noble Lord's observations do not help matters at all.
It is up to Members of the Committee to make their own judgments about the fact that there is a similarity of language in the amendments I have referred to.
As I was going to say, the provisions of Article 9D in the treaty text set out the appointment, procedure, role and functioning of the European Commission and the European President. Although it will be for any member state not to have a commissioner, as far as I recall, the Government originally said that they now welcomed the reduction in the size of the Commission, to make it a more practical and viable body. Certainly, we on these Benches share those feelings. An unwieldy Commission, with the larger number of member states, would be a future obstacle to efficient EU delivery and risk creating non-jobs, which would perhaps encourage legislation in non-priority areas. The EU must be made more efficient and effective to carry out the relatively small number of legislative and administrative tasks that it should on behalf of all the member states, leaving the vast mass of all national legislation to those individual member states and their national parliaments.
Similarly, we would not support Amendment No. 12A of the noble Lord, Lord Howell. The appointment procedures are admittedly being reformulated and reconstructed, but there is not much change in substance from existing procedures except for the beneficial aspect of bringing the European Parliament and Commission closer together in mutual support in the co-decision context. We on these Benches therefore oppose these amendments.
Can the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, help me on this question we have come to a number of times: the frequency with which we are having amendments retabled in this House that had been tabled in the other place? Does he share my surprise that all these amendments seem to be in the name of Mr Cash and Mr Redwood? If they were such paragons to be followed so slavishly by the Opposition Front Bench here, does the noble Lord share my worry about why they are not leading in the other place?
That was precisely the point I was making last week, so I do not want to take too much of the Committee's time on that today, save to thank the noble Lord for making that obvious point. I also reflect that in the final stages of the various Commons debates on the amendments, there were not even any Front Bench amendments; they were all left to Mr Cash and his colleagues on the Back Benches.
I start with a brief comment on the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Howell. He put all the emphasis on the European Parliament's power of decision on the President of the Council, and moved rather rapidly over the fact that any name put to the Parliament must be proposed by the European Council. He might draw some comfort from the fact that the only other international organisation where that system is replicated is the United Nations, of which we have been a member since the outset. It provides that a secretary-general is chosen by the General Assembly, but it can only do so on the recommendation of the Security Council. No recommendation of the Security Council has not been endorsed by the General Assembly. Perhaps the noble Lord can take some comfort from that. The European Parliament has the right to reject the name put forward by the European Council, but it does not have the right to propose a name. That is clear from the text of the treaty.
On the question of the size of the Commission, nothing has brought it into greater discredit, quite without any help of its own, than the continuing increase in the number of commissioners that has followed enlargement, to a point where there are now more commissioners than would be found in the Cabinets of any of the member states. That has occurred over time, irrespective of the fact that there is not that number of effective jobs to do. That has brought discredit as people with high-sounding titles and small responsibilities are guyed in the papers and given a rough time. It is not a sensible way to run a railroad, and everyone has recognised that for a long time. It was bad enough when there were 12 member states and 16 commissioners because there were not 16 jobs to do. Now there are 27 member states and 27 commissioners—quite shortly, there will be a 28th—and it is not sensible to go on in that way. There are functional defects that result in a reduction in solidarity and collegiality. Departments in the Commission are split up into ever smaller units to provide jobs for individual commissioners. An illusion is put forward that each commissioner represents a country which, under his oath, he must not do. That is the job of COREPER and the Council.
Therefore, I think this is a move in the right direction. In case people put excessive weight on commissioners representing their country of origin, has anyone complained that we no longer have a second British commissioner since the appointment of this Commission? That has not been a cause of complaint. Out in the country, people are not going around saying that the place has been going to the dogs ever since the second British commissioner was removed. What is now being proposed is a bolder step, but we must remember that every member state that ratifies this treaty is accepting that on some occasions its nationals will not be represented in the Commission. France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Poland—large member states that previously had two commissioners—are accepting that from time to time they will have none. I agree that this is an important step, and I think that it will produce more care and caution with the vital interests of member states in this college that does not have representation for every member state. The present situation is that there is often a rather unhealthy tendency to leave the members who come from that member state to argue their corner, which is not what they are there for.
Whenever the EU Select Committee of this House has looked at the system of one member per member state, whether in the Court of Auditors, which was looked at twice, or in the European Central Bank, it has come to the conclusion, which the House has accepted, that functionally the sensible solution is to have fewer than 27 or more members of these institutions. I hope we will have the courage of our convictions in this case and that the amendment will not be pressed.
Amendment No. 11 excludes paragraph 5 of new Article 9D. As the Committee heard, that paragraph will slim down the Commission so that from
The UK has long supported a smaller Commission. An unwieldy one would be an obstacle to delivery by the EU and would lose focus on those priority tasks that the Commission needs to carry out. Of course, the EU needs an effective, efficient and well-led Commission to ensure that it delivers on the policies that, as I have said, actually matter to people in Europe.
I remind noble Lords that the report of this House's EU Select Committee concludes that,
"the reduction in the size of the college of Commissioners is an important change".
Indeed it is. It continues,
"and is intended to enable the Commission to function more effectively".
A smaller Commission is, in any case, an existing obligation under the Treaty of Nice, which requires that the number of commissioners be less than the number of member states once the EU reaches 27 members. However, it is the priorities delivered by the Commission that are important and not, frankly, the nationality of the commissioner.
The current Barroso Commission is, of course, only one-27th British, but the priorities it is delivering on issues such as climate change, better regulation, the single market and competition and the Lisbon agenda itself are largely in line with our own approach. Commissioners are to be chosen on grounds of their competence and independence and we have benefited from their independence, for example, in driving forward market liberalisation. Once member states do not have permanent commissioners, the criteria of independence will be even more important under this treaty than ever before.
A further argument is that it is not only the commissioner jobs at the top that are important—they are crucial but not the only ones of great importance. We are very well represented as a country at the highest levels of the Commission below commissioner level. If I may just remind the Committee, we have four chefs de cabinet of commissioners, three deputy chefs de cabinet of commissioners, four directors-general, three deputy directors-general and 39 other directors who are also British. There was a debate in this House not many weeks ago in which it was generally agreed that we do pretty well at the top level of Commission appointees. Therefore, we do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Howell, who tabled Amendment No. 11.
Let me move to Amendment No. 12, which the noble Lord largely spoke about and which would exclude from the Bill the way in which the President and members of the Commission are to be appointed. The reformulation of the procedure is part of the process of updating the Union's institutional framework. The particular aspect of the appointment procedure which has attracted attention, and did this afternoon, is that of the appointment of the President of the Commission, under which the European Council will have to take account of the political complexion of the European Parliament when nominating a new Commission President and that the Parliament will "elect" that person if it agrees with the nomination.
As has been said—the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, made the point just a few minutes ago—the European Council proposes a candidate to the Parliament and the Parliament either elects that person or does not. If it does not, it goes back to the European Council to consider the position. At a later stage, the President-elect, if he has at that stage got the approval or the election of the Parliament, goes back with his team to the Council. We argue that what will happen is broadly similar to the existing procedure under which—and I remind the Committee of this—the European Parliament must approve the nominee for Commission President. What does that mean in practice? It means, surely, that the member states have to take account of Parliament's position in making that nomination.
The European Parliament already makes its views clear on possible candidates for the Commission President. We saw that with the process that led to the appointment of the present Commission President, José Manuel Barroso, in 2004. The European Parliament at that time made clear its intention to ensure that the Commission President reflected the political majority in the European Parliament. The European Parliament President, Hans-Gert Pöttering, made it clear that the largest political group in the Parliament, the centre-right European People's Party, to which, at the moment at least, the party of the noble Lord, Lord Howell, belongs and which in many ways has control as it has the largest number although no overall majority—I am sure that pro-Europeans like the noble Lord and others in the party will wonder why on earth the Conservative Party is thinking of leaving the European People's Party to move to the outer reaches of that Parliament—could not support a candidate of another political colour. That is what happened in 2004, and what is likely to happen after the next European elections.
As the noble Lord, Lord Brittan, told the Select Committee when he gave evidence to its inquiry into this treaty, the provision in the treaty for the European Council to take into account the political complexion of the European Parliament when choosing the Commission President,
"will mean ... that it would be difficult for Member States to come up with a proposed president who was known to be violently contradictory to and opposed to the weight of opinion in the European Parliament".
I do not think that it will make as much difference as all that.
We welcome the formal acknowledgement of the Parliament's role in the appointment of the Commission President—a role that it already exercises in practice. It underlines the democratic accountability of the person appointed, which is not an inconsiderable point in this argument. As the noble Lord, Lord Howell, fairly admitted when he moved Amendment No. 12, our own European Union Select Committee made this point at chapter 4.109:
"The need for the European Council to take into account the results of the parliamentary elections is not a bar to the European Council coming to its own decision as to its preferred candidate, but the Council will continue to be unlikely to nominate a candidate who could not command the parliamentary majority necessary for election. In that sense there is no fundamental change from the current system which requires the Parliament's approval of the European Council's nominee, but the practical consequences of the Treaty provisions are"— as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said, "as yet unclear".
We argue that this is a good move, not a bad move. It changes very little, and I invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
I am grateful to the Minister for his perfectly reasonable defence of the situation as we now find it; namely, that the provision is in the treaty before us. It does, however, leave one a little mystified as to why Ministers only a little while back were using vigorously arguments to the opposite effect.
Would the noble Lord consider the possibility that the quotation that he advanced from Mr Peter Hain is Mr Hain's view against the proposal made in the convention for the European Parliament to choose between nominees of its choosing and for the European Council subsequently to be asked to ratify the choice of the European Parliament? In other words, Mr Hain argued for the reverse of the procedure which the convention in the end recommended and which is in the Lisbon treaty.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, who—having been involved centrally to interpret what was decided in the convention—is obviously qualified beyond all of us. However, whichever way one slices it, there were considerable doubts about whether this would not mean, in Mr Hain's words, that the whole process would get caught up in European politics—indeed, there were other quotations which I have had a self-denying ordinance not to mobilise for the Committee.
The noble Lord, Lord Kerr, also tempts me to wider observations to the effect that the convention was, in many respects, a terrible trap for British Ministers into which they attempted and failed to inject their views. That gave birth to the constitution, which is largely identical to what we are dealing with now and has led to much trouble. My own view, from the start, was that the convention was a top-down arrangement from which no good would come. It was not bottom-up, democratic or anchored in the national parliaments, and it led indeed to disaster; but that is, possibly, a debate for another day.
I listened with great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, on the United Nations example. I am not all that much comforted as the modalities are so different that I am not sure the comparison stands up. Anyway, I am informed that the European Parliament has already started lobbying, with its various groups organising to work out their prepared candidate for Commission President in 2009. That does not look encouraging if we want the Commission President to stand above it all and have the complete confidence of the Council. Still, this is what will happen. It does not thrill me at all and should not thrill those who want to see the European Union move into a more modern, flexible and decentralised pattern for the future—one able to meet the challenges of the modern world more efficiently than it can at present.
I kept off the issue of the Commission's size, although it touches this amendment and was looked at and discussed by the Committee during the last amendment. That is because my own feeling is that one cannot really question the desirability of having a smaller Commission, but what are important here are its powers rather than its size. We could have a good, large Commission or a good, smaller one—ideally decided, again as government Ministers wanted, on the basis of the Nice treaty and not of the rejected constitution document as the outcome seems to have been. The key is always how many powers it would have, not its size.
The Minister mentions the priorities that this Commission has delivered—some good, some really very bad. We will, no doubt, come to debate later that disastrous posture in the Commission's attempt to form a common climate and energy security policy, which has led it into supporting the biofuels scandal. That is leading not merely to scandal but real suffering and harm throughout the entire world, which is a very big price to pay—and underlying it is a very big policy error, magnified by the Commission's apparent support for those things.
One is left uneasy about this matter, which seems not a step forward but one sideways or back. I repeat; it leaves one baffled as to why there has been such a substantial change of view in government circles. However, since the Minister has put the case reasonably—and because this narrow point may be part of a bigger picture to which we will return—I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
moved Amendment No. 12A:
Clause 2, page 1, line 12, after "excluding" insert—
"(i) Article 1, paragraph 18, inserted Article 9D TEU, paragraph 8, unless the Secretary of State has laid before both Houses of Parliament a statement certifying that in his opinion there is no evidence of fraud or impropriety within the European Parliament and that it is a suitable body to exercise this function; and(ii) "
In view of recent developments, Amendment No. 12A is extremely important. The Committee may or may not be aware that the European Parliament recently produced a secret, or covert, report that has uncovered extensive, widespread and criminal abuse by Euro MPs of staff allowances worth almost £100 million a year. European Parliament officials have tried to hush this up and Harald Rømer, the secretary-general of the European assembly, was asked, I believe, by Hans-Gert Pöttering, to take measures to ensure that there was no collateral damage from this report. A source said:
"We want reform but we cannot make this report available to the public if we want people to vote in the European elections next year".
Only Euro MPs on the Budgetary Control Committee were allowed to see the report. Even then they had to apply to enter a secret room, which was protected by biometric locks and security guards. They were not allowed to take notes or to divulge to anyone else the contents of that report. In response to criticism of this procedure, a parliamentary official said that it was,
"not secret. It is confidential".
"most definitely fall within OLAF's terms of reference ... They are so serious that it should be assumed that criminal proceedings may follow".
That is directly relevant to Amendment No. 12A, which refers to a certificate or document stating that the European Parliament is a fit body to operate. However, it is obviously not. OLAF has now asked to see the secret report and will follow that up. I am sure that Members of the Committee on the Liberal Democrat Benches will wish to support Mr Davies, who has said that,
"without transparency there was no way of checking suspicions that some members were using ... parliamentary allowances to cover their contribution", to their pension funds, which he said amounted to "embezzlement". That is a very serious charge, which, again, justifies requiring this certificate to be issued before giving the European Parliament any more powers.
The Parliament voted by a very large majority against making this report public, which is absolutely disgraceful. Mr Davies went on to say:
"These votes bring discredit and dishonour upon the entire parliament. Taxpayers could be forgiven for believing there are more honest people to be found in prison than sit in the European Parliament".
That is a direct quotation from Mr Davies's official website, which I looked at this morning. Far from cleaning up their act, a majority of MEPs seem to think that they are allowed to put their fingers in the till and carry on enjoying the gravy train, which is outrageous. Not only is there possible, or likely, fraud going on, but the MEPs do not want even to acknowledge it. They voted to keep this report secret or confidential, whichever terminology one cares to use.
The fact that OLAF is involved is not all that reassuring, because it itself was caught with its trousers down or its fingers in the till—whichever you choose. OLAF admitted that it lied to the European Court of First Instance over allegations that it had asked the Belgian police to look at the investigative journalist Hans-Martin Tillack's file. It told the European Court of First Instance in August 2004:
"Neither OLAF nor any other Commission staff have ever contacted juge d'instruction Franzen".
This was to ask for Hans-Martin Tillack's file. It has now admitted that it did do that. OLAF, the organisation against fraud in the European Union, actually lied to the European Union's own Court of First Instance, so the fact that OLAF is investigating possible fraud in the European Parliament does not give me any confidence. This amendment is entirely worth pursuing. Some MEPs have shown themselves to be, to use Mr Davies's words, verging on carrying out "embezzlement" and therefore one has to ask whether, in the words of the amendment, there is,
"evidence of fraud or impropriety".
I think embezzlement is definitely fraud or impropriety. I beg to move.
I do not want to say anything which would lose the friendship of my noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke or indeed that of my noble friends on the Front Bench who tabled this amendment, but is this not almost a wrecking amendment? Surely no Secretary of State could ever conceivably lay before the House a statement certifying that, in his opinion, there was no evidence of fraud or impropriety in the European Parliament. Any Secretary of State who laid down such an order would be laughed out of court; it is quite impossible that any man in his right mind could do so. I suggest to my noble friend that this is a wrecking amendment, in that he is putting up an impossible barrier, and that perhaps it would be advisable if this one were withdrawn until he finds a better way of formulating what is a sensible idea, after all. But no impropriety in the European Parliament? My goodness me, we might worry if it was about a parliament or a part of a parliament a bit closer to home.
This has been a very interesting, though brief, debate. The noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, by moving this amendment, gives me the chance to address some of the concerns that have been raised, notwithstanding the rather clever way in which the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, sought to make this a clearer proposition.
There is no question that it is very important to make sure that where there are concerns about personal terms and conditions and expenses arrangements for members of any parliament, but in this context the European Parliament, those are addressed. The Government expect taxpayers' money to be spent correctly and support the maximum transparency on this. That does not in any way deflect from the fact that the European Parliament plays a vital role in the European Union. Its Members are directly elected and they perform an important role of scrutiny, holding the Commission to account. MEPs are effective both at raising issues of great concern—for example, climate change in recent times—and at scrutinising and improving legislation. The REACH chemicals regulation, key financial service dossiers and the mediation directive—which I was involved in in liaison with the European Parliament and which covers mediation and civil justice issues across borders—are all good recent examples of where the European Parliament has added value, scrutinised and held to account. Strengthening the Parliament's role strengthens transparency and democratic accountability.
I listened with great care to the noble Lord and I agree that it is important to make sure that any organisation looks at what it can do to strengthen its transparency and accountability and to deal with issues, whether of perceived fraud or of propriety, for which transparency is often the answer. Noble Lords will know that the European Parliament has already strengthened requirements on MEPs to provide documentation on, for example, the use of office allowances and employing staff. Noble Lords will know also that, after the elections next year, the MEP Statute will be introduced, which will see the reform of MEPs' pay to provide a standard base salary across Europe. It will reform the expenses and allowances system for MEPs. We in the UK have long supported the statute as a fair, transparent and substantive way forward.
However, the amendment raises a specific question: is the European Parliament a fit organisation to have the power to censure the Commission? We support this parliamentary power. Being able to hold the Commission to account in this way is an important aspect of the Parliament's power, because it is a democratically and directly elected institution. Noble Lords know, too, that the power of censure is not new; it goes back to the treaty of Rome. They will remember, for example, the tough stance of Parliament on the perceived mismanagement of funds by the Santer Commission, which led ultimately to the resignation of the whole Commission. It marked an important step in supporting improvements in the management of EC funds and generated the political impetus that was necessary for the Reforming the Commission White Paper in 2000.
So the Parliament plays an important role in holding the Commission to account. Its ultimate sanction is the power of censure. It is important that the citizens who elect the European Parliament know that, ultimately, their direct representatives in Strasbourg can dismiss the Commission. I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment on that basis.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness for attempting to answer my concerns. I say to my noble friend Lord Tebbit that I do not accept that this is a wrecking amendment, although I agree with him that requiring the European Parliament to prove its whiteness is almost impossible. I suppose that it may be a wrecking amendment to that extent.
The noble Baroness did not answer my serious points about the alleged criminality of not just a few but a large number of Members of the European Parliament. It remains to be seen what OLAF will do about that and how many, if any, of them will be prosecuted. Will OLAF investigate its own lies to the European Court of First Instance? We do not know that. As in a lot of these debates, we have rather skated over the germane point that the European Parliament—by the admission of some of its members, particularly the Liberal Democrat MEP, Chris Davies—is riddled with irregularities and possible embezzlement.
Although I now give an opportunity to the Liberal Democrat Front Bench to support Chris Davies in his initiative to expose this nest of irregularities in the European Parliament, it is obvious that I shall not get any answer from them in spite of the bravery of their colleague. However, I do not see much point in pursuing this matter in view of the remarks of my noble friend Lord Tebbit. For the moment at least, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
moved Amendment No. 13A:
Clause 2, page 1, line 12, after "excluding" insert—
"(i) Article 1, paragraph 24, inserted Article 10B TEU, paragraph 2 on joint proposals to the Council for recommendations to the European Union on the strategic interests and objectives of the Union, unless binding arrangements have been made for the Secretary of State to report to Parliament, at least annually following the coming into force of this Act, certifying that nothing undertaken in pursuit of common policies and actions or promoted in any international forum has restricted or will restrict the independent foreign policy of the United Kingdom or otherwise conflicts with the United Kingdom's national interests in foreign and security policy; and(ii) "
We come to a whole group of amendments which covers the positioning of common foreign security policy and the foreign policy of this country within the pattern set by the proposed treaty of Lisbon. In essence, the amendments would secure something which the Government once wanted very badly out of this and the previous constitutional treaty but which they have failed to get. Perhaps that was too ambitious and we can now help them, because the Government's aim, and the clear aim of the Bill, is to try to ring-fence foreign policy and keep it firmly under national control. That is entirely creditable and makes sense in this world where, on some issues, we need tight and intimate coalitions with certain of our neighbours, allies and friends, but where the pattern changes from time to time and, on other occasions, we need either to pursue matters ourselves or seek a new alliance or coalition. The underlying aim of the Government was creditable, but they have failed and this Bill embodies their failure.
It is highly instructive to look back to the original convention, which drafted the constitution treaty where the words were born, and which we now have before us because they are identical. The essence of the matter was described well by Ministers then: it was to ensure that the European Union acts in all foreign policy issues on behalf of member states, and not the reverse. That is a very important qualification. They failed because they tried to delete the injunction that member states should,
"actively and unreservedly support the Union's common foreign and security policy".
That did not work. They tried to ensure that common foreign security policy would in no way fall, by any back door or side channel, under ECJ jurisdiction, and that with decisions under EU foreign policy there would not be grounds for appeal. They failed with that. They tried to define more clearly what common foreign security was, and what the boundaries were, with regard to which issues would be reserved for national decision and which should be within the competence of the Union, the Council of Ministers and the Foreign Affairs Council. They failed in that, too. Indeed, the noble Baroness, who circulated a very helpful letter giving her views on the role and work of the ECJ as a body, mentioned that the ECJ will,
"police the frontiers between CFSP and non-CFSP matters".
A gap was opened, through which all kinds of qualifications could creep.
Ministers tried to prevent Union delegations, as opposed to Commission delegations, always representing the Union in third countries or in international institutions or conferences. They failed in that, too. Above all, they struggled to prevent the birth of a big new European Union diplomatic corps, the so-called European External Action Service, which would be ambiguously outside national or intergovernmental control. That happened too, as we know; it is in the treaty and now being planned. According to the widely reported comments of Finland's Foreign Minister, Mr Stubb, it will make the EU,
"one of the world's great actors", and that,
"all over the world there will be EU embassies".
I do not think that was the intention; we will see whether that happens. Certainly, the treaty makes clear that the European Parliament, which we have discussed, should have hearings in appointing this army of ambassadors.
All this makes one query whether the Government have had the success that they claim—and as the Bill tries to ensure—in keeping foreign policy in national hands. It looks to me as though they have failed. Indeed, if one looks through the history of that ill-fated negotiation during the convention, which gave birth to the words we are dealing with now, it turns out to have been a rather dismal and futile negotiation. It was certainly an incompetent one, conducted by this Government, where they walked, again and again, into various traps from which they have not yet succeeded in escaping. Reading again the transcript of those negotiations and their outcome, which is in the treaty before us now, they sound as though they were being handled by a defeated nation, and as though we had to say yes to everything—as though we had no locus and leverage at all. It was a sad episode. Chances were missed completely at the Hampton Court summit of the European Council afterwards. All the opportunities were there to restore the situation; none of them was taken.
As for the general proposition that this has kept the CSFP out of the supranational zone, we know that in fact there are 11 areas relating to foreign policy—there are many other areas as well—in which the veto has been removed. They are the proposals from the EU Foreign Minister; the design of the EU diplomatic service; the setting up of an inner core in defence; arrangements for terrorism and mutual defence provisions; urgent financial aid provisions; humanitarian aid provisions; the election of the EU Foreign Minister; civil protection; terrorist financial controls; the new EU foreign policy fund, which we will debate a little later; and consular issues. There are 11, for a start. So please could we examine much more carefully the assertion, which the Bill tries and fails to underpin?
The truth is that Mr Stubb highlights our fundamental concerns on this matter very well. He wants a Europe with a lead role on the world stage—a place in the sun, as it were—and a single voice about foreign policy. That is his conviction and, from his point of view, he is perfectly entitled to hold it; but from our point of view the thinking is flawed. The wide range of overseas issues are such that the interests of member states vary—and properly so; it would be very odd if it was otherwise. On some they come together and member states operate beside each other and, on others, they differ. It depends entirely. The idea that we can rely on our European partners always to promote our interests and maximise our contribution to world peace and stability—which is potentially a very great one—has been shown to be totally unsound.
On the humanitarian side—and we shall debate later overseas development aid and support—once we had transferred a large part of our aid and development budget to the European institutions, the is much more toward the Francophonie. As we know, the interests of the Commonwealth, which is the potentially most powerful network in the modern world, with the rise of Asia, and one in which we have a centre, have been largely neglected in European development negotiations, while those of other countries with ex-colonial links, such as Spain, Portugal and France, seem to be in a much stronger position to develop theirs.
The treaty calls for an,
"ever-increasing degree of convergence of Member States' actions", in foreign policy. Those are the words out of the constitutional treaty—in other words, out of this treaty. Our foreign policy belongs in a networked world and, with the rise of Asia, has new needs and requires new platforms. We must have the flexibility to meet these entirely new conditions, which is why Amendment No. 15A is particularly important and one to which we should at least give some support, to give us the room to manoeuvre in this new world. The idea that we should have to consult the European Union Council on virtually every move before we take it, even when our direct security interests are affected in a new and original way, is unacceptable. We will no doubt come to that in more detail during the debate.
This is why the amendment needs to be moved. The amendments raise fundamental issues about how Europe can benefit its member states—and we are part of Europe—and how we can see the European region as something with which we want to be intimately concerned, as well as how, at the same time, we can have the freedom to operate in the networked world of foreign policy, which is different to the one in which the EU or the European Community before it was originally conceived. We need to raise our game, lift up our eyes to a different and modern world and develop foreign policy instruments that suit the world to come and not the world of yesterday. I beg to move.
I welcome this group of amendments. The whole element of common foreign policy is an important part of the amending treaty. There are some useful steps forward, and this Chamber needs to devote a certain amount of time to this group of amendments and the other things that come with it.
The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, referred to one amendment as a wrecking amendment. I thought that most of the amendments to the Bill were intended to be wrecking amendments. Certainly I take Amendments Nos. 113 and 165 in the group as being wrecking amendments to the treaty; that is part of the game we are all playing.
Since I expect that our UKIP friends will quote a whole range of obscure documents which they say prove various consequences and so on, I have checked since our last Committee day one or two things that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, said. He quoted from an LSE paper. It took some time to trace it because it had only the loosest possible association with the LSE. It was actually written by two retired Israeli mathematicians, one of whom taught at King's College, London, until 20 years ago, but is loosely associated with the LSE voting power and procedures project. I will quote from it—and I have discussed this with Professor Machover, one of the authors. In the first page of the paper published by a small Brussels think tank four years ago, it says that the new voting rules will be,
"to the advantage of the four largest states", and disadvantage the smaller states below that. Britain is one of the four largest states, so that does not seem to me to support the arguments made.
I have not only read the other paper but have discussed it in e-mails with members of the research team at Sciences Po. It is true that selective statistics will take you a long way; the paper says that the speed of decision-making has increased since enlargement but the number of legislative Acts—the quantity of legislation—has substantially declined. You can prove or disprove a certain amount with statistics. One has to congratulate Open Europe and all those organisations with the immense care they take to trawl through all this academic work.
Underlying differences on European co-operation on foreign policy lie behind these amendments. These Benches see closer co-operation with France and Germany as central to British foreign policy, and the European Union as the most useful framework through which to work. The Conservatives, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, have made clear, see close co-operation with China as more important to British interests, and the Commonwealth as the most useful multilateral framework. Perhaps in his wind up he will explain whether a future Conservative Government will invite China to join the Commonwealth as a basis for closer co-operation between Britain and China in Africa, on which our interests are so clearly closely aligned.
I am puzzled by the Conservative Party's foreign policy in this respect. I recall a number of Conservative Foreign Ministers working extremely constructively for closer European co-operation in foreign policy. I refer, for example, to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, who in the British presidency sponsored in 1990-91 a report on closer foreign policy co-operation; I also refer to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, and the noble Lord, Lord Hurd. The Conservative Party at that point recognised that the intergovernmental procedures for concerting European foreign policies were very clearly in Britain's national interest. I am sorry that in opposition since 1997 the Conservatives seem to have forgotten that.
Some of these amendments go further than that. Amendment No. 113 of the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, has echoes of the unilateralism of the Bush Administration—the reputation of commitments made in the national interest by a previous Government. Those most unilateralist in the Bush Administration—Vice-President Cheney and others—would wish to repudiate most international obligations to which the United States has been subject, including many obligations to the United Nations, the Geneva Convention and so on. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, does not wish for a Conservative Government to go quite that far in that direction.
Amendment No. 165 seems to me—again this is a Front-Bench Conservative amendment—to be a defence of absolute sovereignty. As the noble Lord, Lord Howell, made clear, that involves no permanent allowances for Britain and balance of power politics—we shift from one set of temporary alliances to another, as good old England did in the 18th century. That is a very long way from where we are now. Closer co-operation for all countries is what we need to manage an increasingly complex and interdependent world, networked or not. The European security strategy—produced, as it happens, by a British author some years ago—was a useful focus on the ground on which we can build closer European co-operation. The institution of a higher representative for common foreign and security policy has provided us, particularly in the Middle East, with the ability to have a stronger European voice on a range of multilateral matters. The European Union External Action Service will also be of interest to Britain. The Daily Telegraph—that journal of record for Eurosceptics—noted on Saturday that Britain currently has resident UK representation in 139 of the 192 member states of the United Nations; that is, 53 states in which we do not currently have resident British missions. The European Union External Action Service will be very helpful in providing some resident missions in those additional 50 states.
The paranoia of Conservatives might be increased if I admit to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that Alex Stubb is a former student of mine—and, even worse, a former student of my wife. He received his PhD from the London School of Economics. Before that he was a student in the United States. He is an extremely bright young man who has a very clear idea about how European and Atlantic co-operation work and how closer collaboration is what we all need to be moving towards. Co-operation between European states on Iran has been highly constructive. The record in the Western Balkans—in very different circumstances—has been good. Common actions in Africa have been effective. We need now to develop further co-operative foreign policy towards Russia and—pace the noble Lord , Lord Howell—towards China. It is in Britain's national interests. The Conservative Party does not seem to understand that these are in Britain's national interests, but I would suggest that the Conservative Party does not, at present, have a coherent foreign policy or a coherent European policy. We therefore resist these amendments.
I want to ask some worm's-eye questions.
If this is going to happen, we are told that the EU missions will issue visas. Are they going to be issuing British visas? How are they going to be promoting, for instance, our trade interests, our defence interests and things like the British Council? You can be sure that if the Treasury sees any chance of closing our missions—on the grounds that there are these splendid new missions—it will. To some extent there will be an argument for it doing so. But foreign relations are bilateral relations between two countries. Of course we need what we are also being offered, but we do not need it instead of our existing, and very important, bilateral relations. There is a real danger in this regard. For instance, there are already around 7,000 EU people in special delegations around the world, and there will be a lot more. This will probably cost a lot of money. In a mission, are a Bulgarian, a German and a Finn really going to think, if there is a major trade opportunity, "We must rush and tell the British"? Are they going to be able to look after our defence interests? Are they going to be able to look after our cultural interests? It would not be reasonable to expect them to do so. I have considerable anxiety about the muddle that will result from having a situation where everybody is milling about, but nobody really knows who is responsible. I find it very difficult to imagine that we could issue British passports—or visas for that matter—in that way.
We are told at some stage—I cannot remember where—that the EU mission will be responsible for looking after our people if there is an emergency. I am sure that they would wish to do so, but there will be a lot of other citizens from other EU countries whom they will have to look after. They will not have the Navy or Army to do it. I can assure you—as somebody who has been responsible for getting people out of difficult countries—you have to have contacts with the police; you have to have contacts with the rebels or the putative rebels. I am not at all sure that an interesting, intelligent EU mission, without any real rooted relationships of that kind, would be able to do what a mission needs to do. I cannot help feeling that ordinary English people will get a bit worried if they feel that they may turn up in a country where there is no British representation.
Unfortunately, it would apparently make a lot of sense for us to close our missions and use the EU, but it would not in the end make a lot of sense: it would be a very dangerous thing to do. I cannot help feeling that the ordinary man in the street needs to understand that. That is why I feel deep concern about the prospective EU foreign service, although I am sure that its intentions are excellent. However, it is not the same as having a mission of our own that has long-standing relationships with the countries.
I shall give a final example. Let us suppose that in Argentina we have an EU mission and we decide that we do not need a British mission—we may even lead on that—and that the EU as a whole decides that the right thing would be for the Falklands again to become the Malvinas. What are we going to do about that? It will be a very difficult situation. I therefore believe that we must think about the practical consequences of what are otherwise admirable ideas.
I think that I am about to die. It is said that before an individual dies, their whole life flashes before their eyes. I have that sense now. For 11 of the 18 years we spent in opposition, I was Front-Bench Opposition spokesman for foreign affairs. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, and I used to parade around television and radio studios talking to diminishing audiences about the intricacies of European legislation. I therefore feel back home again in this desert of European-itis, hearing almost exactly the same arguments. They go back to 1981, when I became a junior foreign affairs spokesman under my noble friend Lord Healey. I had been sacked as a defence spokesman because the whole team was not unilateralist. I then became shadow Minister for the Navy, and was consigned to the foreign affairs team under my noble friend Lord Healey. My noble friend Lord Anderson was part of that team and we were once asked how we divided up the work. I remember saying, "It's actually quite easy. Denis does everything and we do the rest". However, my noble friend Lord Healey did not do Europe, so I got it almost from the beginning.
From the Opposition Benches, I saw through the Single European Act—the biggest raft of Community legislation that these House of Parliament have ever passed. It was a most integrationist of Bills. I remember that the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, voted for the Second Reading of the Single European Bill. I know that he found himself absent for subsequent stages of the Bill, but he certainly voted for it on Second Reading.
Of course I voted for the Single European Act. I was one of the Ministers who were concerned with that Bill, as it then was, which contained perfectly clear measures limited in scope for the advantage of this country in trade policy. That was a clear, closely defined Act in which our interest was preserved. We used qualified majority voting to overcome the veto of our allies—the French in particular—against anything that would liberalise European trade. I would do the same again now, but I would not do it for foreign policy.
The noble Lord makes the argument most succinctly, but he voted for it. The biggest extension of qualified majority voting since the treaty of Rome was established, and we saw that through. The noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, was a great proponent of the Single European Act, although she claimed afterwards that Malcolm Rifkind had confused her at the time. I thought that I was turning the same green as the Benches as we spent nearly a year dealing with the Maastricht treaty, which took us decisively into the realms of foreign policy. The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, was part of the unofficial Opposition on the Government Benches at that time.
I have heard before all the doom-laden prophecies of what would happen and I am hearing them again today. The reality is that in this world we need more Europe, not less. We need more unified voices on the complicated issues that face us all. I refer to the non-military threats that we face—we have a subsequent debate on military aspects. The list of challenges that we face includes terrorism, organised crime, economic instability, problems of migration, the effects of climate change and trafficking in narcotics, people, guns and cigarettes. None of these can be tackled, handled or managed properly on a single nation basis; therefore, the collective action of the European Union—the 26 nations which have voluntarily come together—makes absolute common sense. These are discrete issues that affect every citizen of this country; it is right and proper that the European Union should strive for a common policy on them, articulate that policy in as many avenues as possible and then do something about it.
Much is made of what the Lisbon treaty says about the achievement of a policy. The new, consolidated treaty says:
"Within the framework of the principles and objectives of its external action, the Union shall conduct, define and implement a common foreign and security policy, based on the development of mutual political solidarity among Member States, the identification of questions of general interest and the achievement of an ever-increasing degree of convergence of Member States' actions".
In a world where we face the kind of challenges that I have outlined—and that was not an exhaustive list—it seems eminently sensible and in the self-interest of the people of this country that we act together when we can, and diverge on the limited occasions when we believe that it is necessary.
I support Amendments Nos. 13A, 15A and 165. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, described these as "wrecking amendments". I make it clear that I support these "wrecking amendments" in a spirit of inquiry. In order to get answers to questions, it is necessary to have as wide a debate as possible. May I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, that his life is not about to end? I think that he will be able to witness his party, in opposition, repeating many of these arguments again and again in future.
Eurosceptic I might be, but I have no problem with the idea of a common foreign policy, provided that it is based on genuine, shared interest. It seems absolutely natural that people who are geographical neighbours, countries of the same land mass, are bound to develop common concerns in foreign policy and in defence. I have always felt that, within the European Union, co-operation both on foreign affairs and defence is right, provided that it does not cut across our relations with the United States which, realistically, will provide much of the defence equipment and the support we need. However, the assumption that our interests will always converge is only that—an assumption. So is the wonderfully rhetorical phrase "ever-increasing convergence" of interests. They will not necessarily converge. For that reason, I suggest that a common foreign policy should not be a straitjacket, because there are likely to continue to be differences between us and our neighbours. That is why I support Amendment No. 15A, which concerns that part of the treaty that says we should consult before taking any action that could conflict with EU interests.
The great hesitation that I have about an EU common foreign policy is that it seems that so often an EU foreign policy is just rhetoric; it is so often just the lowest common denominator. A very good example of that happened the other day, when the Foreign Secretary made an announcement about Kosovo in the House of Commons, which he called an EU initiative. I have no doubt that the EU is doing certain things—I know that it is—in terms of offices, financial help and preparation with the relationship between Kosovo and the EU, but to call it a great initiative and advance in foreign policy, when there is a profound division within the EU about whether one should even recognise Kosovo, seems to be ignoring reality. A number of countries in the EU will not recognise Kosovo, including important countries such as Spain.
Iraq was another example of where there was absolutely no agreement within the EU; I am told that Iraq was hardly discussed at a formal EU level. Perhaps if there had been a common foreign policy we would have been constrained and would have avoided a very ghastly mistake, but I would not want to constrain our action for that reason and that reason alone. It seems to me that EU foreign policy is too obsessed with process rather than substance and that it would be far better to concentrate on implementing what we have got rather than always building new structures. It is right that we should examine those structures, and it is right that there should be wrecking amendments, as the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, called them, to find out just how constrained our foreign policy is or is not.
As my noble friend Lord Howell said, it is important that foreign policy should not be justiciable and that it should be decided on a unanimous basis; I very much welcome Article 10C and what it says about that. Then you have the areas, as my noble friend Lord Howell pointed out, where the ECJ can adjudicate between the CFSP and external policy. There must be some doubt about that, because the Government got a declaration about foreign policy into the treaty, showing that—as in other areas such as the European Charter of Fundamental Rights—they are saying, "Oh, this is fine, this is watertight, this is absolutely secure; but just in case it is not, we also have a declaration". I think that we are right to pursue these things.
How is the office of the high representative different in substance from the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs in the constitutional treaty, which Mr Hain was very keen should not happen? He did not want there to be two posts, one for external affairs and one for foreign affairs, but they were merged in this treaty. The high representative will chair the foreign affairs council, even though he is a member of the Commission. That was something that Mrs Beckett tried to take out of the treaty at the last minute at Lisbon, and yet it is there. Why is that important? Surely it is just a minor point. Not at all, because to some extent it compromises the pillared approach that was in Maastricht; the approach that said that foreign affairs ought to be intergovernmental. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, said that we on this side seem to be forgetting our enthusiasm for intergovernmental co-operation; not at all. Our amendments are tabled precisely because this treaty appears to take us a little bit away from intergovernmental co-operation to something that is much more supranational.
Then there is the relationship between the high representative and QMV. I know that we have a separate batch of amendments coming up on that, which I will not talk about. Article 31 of the consolidated treaty lists a whole series of areas where QMV could come into being. There are the passerelle clauses. There is also the provision under the treaty whereby, if the Council unanimously asks the high representative to frame a policy proposal, that proposal can be subject to QMV. You can ask, "What is wrong with that; it is initially by unanimity, but it later becomes QMV?". That means that a Government have to take a position early on in the process on whether something is in the national interest. One can easily envisage circumstances in which a view might change as a situation in the world develops.
Lastly, I strongly support what my noble friend Lady Park said about the external—I nearly said eternal—action service. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, referred to the usefulness that it could have in countries where Britain was not represented, but it will not exist just in countries where Britain is not represented. As my noble friend said, in many countries there are already lavish EU embassies. That is how they are regarded; the heads of mission have diplomatic status. It is not so long ago—and I shall not embarrass him—that I was in one major Asian country where late at night the ambassador sat me down, gave me a whisky, and said, "Could you explain what on earth the EU embassy is doing here? Does it protect British citizens when arrested? Is it promoting British trade? Does it help people following some natural disaster? What is it and all its staff doing?". There is already ridiculous duplication. There is not enough focus on the external representation that the EU already has with the many offices—even those for small business creation—all over the world in countries such as India. This is among the most lavish provisions that are wholly unnecessary.
That is not the main point that I support in the amendment. The main points are those that probe whether the treaty is as watertight as the Government maintain. That is difficult to believe when they worked so hard at the convention and late at Lisbon to take out provisions that now remain in it.
The noble Lord's argument had a certain contradiction. He talked about the danger of our being put in an EU straitjacket in terms of foreign policy, yet he referred to Kosovo and Iraq where there were clear differences in national perceptions. Those differences remain. Clearly the declaration to which the noble Lord referred clarifies the position, but it was put in effectively as an abundance of caution.
I gladly follow my noble friend Lord Robertson of Port Ellen. We had many happy times together during the 1990s in my noble friend Lord Healey's team, when it was said that he was like one of those great African trees which spread its branches so wide that nothing grew under it. My noble friend Lord Robertson is perhaps the exception to that. Rather like a bad film, I have the view that this is where I came in, as there seems to be something of a whiff of the latter-day Bourbons who have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing about the European Union. The EU has indeed moved on and is a very different creature from the subject of our debates in the 1980s and 1990s.
I also follow with a certain puzzlement what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, about the Commonwealth. It is a magnificent obsession, but my memory goes back to the 1980s when the then Conservative Government almost destroyed the Commonwealth by their policies on South Africa. Only latterly have they discovered the Commonwealth, and I refer noble Lords to the speech of Don McKinnon, the outgoing Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, who had a far more realistic vision of what the excellent Commonwealth can do. I speak as someone who chaired the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK branch for four years and considered myself a Commonwealth man even during the 1980s when the Conservative Government were pursuing policies that almost destroyed that same Commonwealth.
It is clear that the opposition Front Bench has a view of the European Union as minimalist, if at all, and one that is out of step with our partner countries. I can envisage very great damage to our national interests if the Conservatives were to move into government because of how we would yet again become isolated in Brussels. There would be a constant tension between the realists and the fundamentalists; those who have a fairly realistic view of where our interests as a country lie and the fundamentalist, bitter-enders. It is absolutely clear that, for a great swathe of foreign policy, our interests and those of our European partners largely converge. One thinks, for example, of the Balkans, climate change and a whole range of issues where our policies as Europeans are rather closer than those between Europeans and our great partner, the United States.
What also puzzled me about the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Howell, was that he was far more ready to accept the view of one Foreign Minister—the Finnish Foreign Minister—than the considered views of the House of Lords European Union Committee. It investigated in great depth and heard evidence from a wide range of witnesses. It is not a committee of Euro-enthusiasts or fanatics, but an all-party committee. In The Treaty of Lisbon: An Impact Assessment, it concludes at paragraph 7.16:
"These changes to the structure of the Treaties serve to consolidate, streamline and clarify the provisions on the EU's external relations. They do not change the overall objectives of the EU's external policies".
At paragraph 7.36, it concludes:
"The evidence is that the Lisbon Treaty has preserved the independence of the UK's foreign and defence policy, subject to the constraints arising when unanimous agreement does prove possible. The fundamental principles of the CFSP will not change under the new Treaties. In particular, the principle of unanimity and the search for consensus in decision-making will continue to apply to the CFSP".
In my judgment, those clear quotations speak for themselves. Indeed, as my noble friend Lord Robertson, proposed, there is a case for far greater co-ordination of EU policies and greater working together, particular in fields such as energy policy where we now see how we are being disadvantaged in respect of Gazprom and the Russian policies as a result of the pursuing of independent national policies by so many of our partner countries.
Our foreign policy interests are infinitely strengthened by working together in areas such as Iran. The noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, is perhaps unaware of the degree of co-operation that currently exists at all levels between the European Union representatives and national governments on what will be called the EU External Action Service; from first secretary through to regular meetings at ambassadorial levels, where joint representations are made and our clout is far greater because we are members of the Union.
Finally, the Opposition show a certain lack of confidence overall in ourselves as British people in the European Union and in the leading role which we have already played. They continue to view the European Union almost as if it is a hostile country which we are afraid to get close to. It is indeed in our interests to play a far more positive role within the European Union. I hope that every Member of the Committee looks carefully at the considered conclusions which the House of Lords European Union Committee drew, having carefully examined all the evidence before us.
I am happy to follow the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, because I agree with many of his sentiments and those expressed earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Robertson. Above all, I agree with his puzzlement about the arguments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford. I cannot work out whether I was more depressed or frightened by hearing the arguments put forward by those on the anti-European side opposed to closer European integration on foreign affairs and defence. I think I was more frightened overall because the arguments bear no relation to the changing world in which we are living or, above all, to the new threats that the nations of the European continent and the European Union are now facing. My puzzlement and bewilderment is about the strange positions taken by old friends. I have always had a very high regard for the voice of the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, on matters related to foreign affairs. I have always respected him, so it comes as something of shock to hear him mouthing the same arguments—indeed, sometimes even the same words—as Mr William Cash down the corridor in the other place.
However, I agree with him about one thing. At the end of his speech he said—I think I quote him precisely—that we need,
"foreign policy instruments that suit the world to come and not the world of yesterday".
That is where I find his arguments so extraordinarily deficient because the arguments that I hear advanced are arguments that come out of a vacuum and are completely unrelated to the reality of the new threats that we now face. They bear the same sense of importance as Nero would have recognised regarding his fiddle case as the flames leapt higher outside or the same sense and understanding of the strategic threat that we face as informed those who designed the defences of Singapore and put the guns resolutely facing out to sea while the enemy came from behind. I wonder whether people have been to Washington recently. Do you often hear the word "NATO" there? Do you often hear the word "Europe" there? No, you do not. Washington's obsession these days is one thing: homeland defence. If you are relevant to homeland defence, you are relevant, and Europe is not. Indeed, the European Union is regarded as a collection of countries that failed to come to the aid of their primary ally in its hour of pain in Iraq and failed to come up to the plate when it meant fighting our common enemy in Afghanistan.
Europe will occupy a much less important position in the pantheon of American interests in the future than it does today. I suspect that the new American Administration, whichever side they come from, will re-establish positions with Europe and improve relations. I welcome that. But the reality is that the United States is looking elsewhere in the world and the European Union and the Atlantic relationship, which will always be there, will be far less important than they were. Let us take a look at one fact. How many US soldiers are there today on the mainland of the European Union? How many US tanks are there? There are almost none. There are now 30,000 US servicemen in the European Union today, but almost all of them are manning the airbases that America finds it convenient to use to prosecute its war in Iraq and Afghanistan. I do not complain about that; it is a fact of life; but the reality is that the American security guarantee under which we have sheltered for so long and under which many European Union nations have abandoned the need for a strong defence, which I greatly regret, is not going to be there in the future in the way that it was in the past. If we in the European Union do not understand that the consequence of that is that we should deepen the integration of our foreign policy and defence institutions rather than weaken them, we are fools. We do not understand that realignment.
I am a passionate European—noble Lords will hardly be surprised by that—but I am also a passionate Atlantacist. I do not see a contradiction between the two. One of the ways we will refurbish and renew the Atlantic relationship is to strengthen the integration of the European Union, not diminish it, to make ourselves more effective, not less effective. We are not dealing with just a retrenching United States; everybody knows that we are also dealing with a more assertive Russia under a muscular new president who has found new leverage in the form of energy. If there is a clear example of how we fail if we deal with Russia on an issue as a fractured series of nations, each negotiating a bilateral treaty, it is energy because our failure to speak with a single voice has given Putin more leverage than he would otherwise have and diminished our bargaining power. We are not without bargaining power in the energy debate. Russia needs our markets and our investment quite as much as we need its oil. There are only two existing pipelines—a third is being built to China—and both of them come to Europe. However, the fact that we completely fail to speak with a single voice has increased enormously both the political leverage of Putin on this issue and the pain that we suffer in consequence.
As America is retrenching to our west and Russia is more assertive to our east, the right reaction from Europe is not to weaken the institutions of our foreign policy and defence but to strengthen that integration. We should look beyond Russia. We are not dealing with just an assertive Russia, but a rising China, a nation that is becoming more and more important. I happen to believe that China's ascent will not be smooth. It will not be a relatively easy rise. It will have to come to terms with the need to democratise its society following the liberalisation of its economy. However, there is no doubt about where China is going to end up—as a nation immeasurably more powerful than any single European Union nation and probably more powerful than the European Union put together. If we do not understand that in the face of these new powers—China is only one; India is following—the right reaction from Europe is not to weaken the integration of our foreign policy and defence, but to deepen it, we are fools.
Put your hand over the side of the little boat in which we sail, feel the way the tide is moving, feel how strong the economic tide is now moving from the nations gathered around the Atlantic shore board to those of the Pacific Rim. It is not impossible that we will wake up within the next 15 years and discover that we are not among the world's first economies any longer, but among its second tier ones. Imagine what that will mean for the governance of our countries. In the face of that, do we seriously believe that we want to consign ourselves to the role of little corks bobbing along in the wake of somebody else's ocean liner rather than integrating Europe to give us all a stronger voice, integrating and pooling our sovereignty on some of these key issues on which the decent lives of our citizens depend? If we do not understand that the right response to those circumstances is not to weaken the integration of our foreign policy, security and defence, then we are fools.
We are looking at a whole new different shape to world affairs. We are not looking at a world dominated by a single super power—a mono-polar world—but at a multi-polar world. It will no longer be good enough to shelter behind the apron strings of our neighbouring super power and say that that is a foreign policy.
The great British Foreign Minister, George Canning, used to talk about the European areopagus in the middle of the 19th century, the concert of powers in Europe—the five sides of powers in Europe. He said that Britain should always seek to counterbalance any coalition of others in order to preserve the equilibrium of the concert of Europe. In so doing, the peace of Europe was kept for 50 years and Britain was kept out of continental armed entanglements for more than a 100 years. That is much more like the world that we are going to look at and that we are going to be in. If we do not understand that, in these circumstances, Europe will have to be much more independent and more subtle to be able to play its role among this multi-sided, multi-polar structure of world affairs and therefore that we should not weaken the institutions of our defence and foreign affairs, then, we are fools.
There is a great poem, "A Shropshire Lad", that is said to have echoed in Churchill's mind in the 1930s, written by AE Housman at the end of the long hot summer of stability of the 19th century. One stanza talks about the changes coming—listen because we live on the cusp of just such a change. The lines run:
"On the idle hill of summer,
Sleepy with the flow of streams,
Far I hear the steady drummer
Drumming like a noise in dreams.
Far and near and low and louder
On the roads of earth go by,
Dear to friends and food for powder,
Soldiers marching, all to die".
You do not have to listen very hard to hear the distant drummer and the sounds of feet marching. We are living in an extremely turbulent world, one in which we will be facing possibly mass movements and migrations in the face of, for instance, global warming and starvation; a world in which conflict will, I fear, be more, and not less, common and in which the threats to our civilisation, future and security, will be deeper and stronger than any we have experienced since the end of the cold war and maybe even more so than that. If we do not understand that in the face of such threats, the right response for Europe is to deepen the integration of our foreign and defence institutions, then, we are fools. The problem with the Lisbon treaty is not that it is too strong but that, in this matter, it is too weak.
It is always a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, not least because it means that it is over. It was extremely kind of him to explain who Canning was. I am most grateful to him, in this place, for explaining such things in his speech. I hope it is a speech that he will make to our friends in Scotland at some stage, because it might almost be adapted to a defence of the union as well. I offer that to him. It is obviously a good speech and he should not just waste it on us again.
I also like to agree across the Floor of the House whenever I can. In particular, I agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, when he said that the EU of today is nothing like the Europe of the 1980s and 1990s. I will say that and why my view of it has changed since then and why, although I supported the Single European Act, I opposed the Maastricht treaty.
It was the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, who said today that we need more Europe, not less. Would he ever say that we have had enough Europe—that we do not need any more of it? That was the conclusion that I reached some years ago. I hope that he will follow me before too long.
My remarks appertain principally to Amendment No. 113, which the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, saw as something quite extraordinary. Well, it is, in a way, extraordinary that it should be thought necessary to emphasise in this House that no Parliament should have the power to bind its successors. I thought that was something about which we all agreed, but not anymore it seems. Amendment No. 113 would reassert that but the treaty, as it is written today, does not.
After all, our positions change from time to time. The European Union might take a position on foreign policy and subsequently wish to change it. Why not? Circumstances change. A British Government elected by the people of this country might come to a conclusion on foreign policy which falls into line with the conclusions of the European Union. However, what if, at a subsequent general election, that foreign policy issue is a matter of intense interest in the general election and a party is elected committed to change that British foreign policy? Is it not right that the British people's decision should stand about what their country's foreign policy should be? Should we not be able to change that? Should a Government elected by the people be bound to a policy that had been repudiated at that general election? Amendment No. 113 is dedicated to a simple purpose, to make sure that that could not happen.
My noble friend Lady Park raised the issue of the Falklands. I remember very well indeed being at the Council of Ministers in Brussels in the week following the Argentine invasion of the Falklands. You had to shop around pretty hard to find any of my colleagues who supported what we were doing. The general view was, "I suppose if you want to make this big gesture of sending the fleet, well, all right, but of course you won't do anything about it. It would be madness. It would be contrary to the interests of the world, particularly of Europe, to pick a quarrel with the Argentinians". There was one exception among my colleagues, one Minister who understood what we were doing: the French Minister. France unilaterally assisted us a great deal in the advice and information that it gave us about the Argentines' Exocet missile capacity, but so far as the rest were concerned, forget it. They were more interested in their trade with Argentina than our interest in upholding the right of freedom of the Falkland Islanders.
I, too, was in Brussels at that time and have recollections of the Council. I am sure my noble friend will agree that whatever private doubts some Ministers expressed about the wisdom of some aspects of British policy, the European Union—or the European Community, as it was then known—very quickly imposed sanctions against Argentina and very quickly maintained a united front at the Security Council of the United Nations. It came as a great shock to the Argentinians to find that whereas there was no common front in Latin America, even countries in Europe which they had supposed would be sympathetic to them stood by Britain in trade and in the United Nations. I recognise that the Irish and the Italians deviated somewhat further down the road—many people of Italian origin live in Argentina—but at the moment that it mattered, our European partners rallied around us with sanctions and in the United Nations.
I put it another way. They followed once we had acted. There would have been little chance of their doing so if we had been dependent on them to act or to allow us to act if they had the ability to prohibit us from acting. That was what I experienced on the ground. Again, it emphasises the fact that we must have the right to unilateral action at any moment, even in defiance of what our European colleagues want us to do.
The noble Lord, Lord Robertson, also spoke of the time when his party was unilateralist. That emphasises the fact that all our parties change their views at times, and that it is important that we ensure that we do not produce a mechanism by which our parties can be, if not forbidden from changing their views, then prevented from implementing their change of view. That is the important thing about Amendment No. 113.
I wonder whether the noble Lord remembers a debate that he and I had on Sky television at the time of the Maastricht ratification procedure. He made the statement, which made the front page of the Observer the following Sunday, that if Maastricht was carried through, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer would have no more powers than the treasurer of a rate-capped local authority. That was 16 years ago. Does he still hold with that proposition?
Indeed, had the provisions of Maastricht gone through in the sense of this country submitting itself to the euro, that would be just about the point. Does the noble Lord imagine that the French, Germans or Italians are very happy about their degree of autonomy over their economic policy? They are not, to judge by the noises that I hear coming from them.
The noble Lord reminds us that there could be changes in the politics of Europe more broadly under the stress of the economic problems that will be caused by the European single currency until there is one chancellor of the exchequer for Europe. We all know that a currency cannot have more than one chancellor. Those stresses will continue to bear heavily upon various countries in Europe. According to some on the left, Italy is veering towards a neo-fascist style of government again. There is much talk of neo-fascism on the Continent of Europe. I am not very comfortable binding my country and its foreign policy to countries over whose electoral fortunes we have no control.
I still believe that we should be an independent nation, and that there is a place for independent nations in the world. I do not take the view of the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, that that is all silly old stuff that belongs to the past and is sentimentalism. If a country cannot have untrammelled rights over its own foreign policy and to change that policy when it wills, it is not a fully sovereign nation. I support Amendment No. 113 to make that matter plain.
I hesitate to speak for obvious reasons. I will have a glass of water. I may have to stop, but I am tempted to speak because the issue that underlies this debate is so fundamental. I shall speak about the European External Action Service. We in this House must recognise that in the European Union we are dealing with a very varied grouping of nations. If you come from a very small country, your belief that the European External Action Service can be in your direct national interest is perfectly understandable. It is extraordinarily difficult for small countries such as Estonia to be represented in all the countries of the world—indeed, to be represented in anything more than the member states of the European Union.
When we consider the external aspect and almost all aspects of foreign policy, we must from time to time consider what it means to be a small member of the European Union. In fairness to such member states, they frequently look at what it means to be a large country with a proud, historical record—and in our case a very large empire—and with substantial armed forces. They realise that they will have to accept the recognition inside the European Union that large countries count for more than small countries. Of course that is not spelled out, but it is a fact with which people live very sensibly. Moderately sized countries must also accept that.
I well remember how Greece faced many of the issues affecting the Balkans. It disagreed, sometimes in my judgment correctly and with better understanding of the problems of the Balkans than many of the larger states did, but it accepted that it was in a minority. Even though it disapproved of some of the actions over Kosovo, for example, it allowed troops to come up through Thessaloniki and into Macedonia, even though that was difficult for it politically. There are many other examples.
I thereby come to the European External Action Service. As I understand it, this may be the only opportunity that we will have to discuss this question. Crucial to the service is the balance between people being under secondment from national Governments to it and those who come from the European Commission or Community institutions. If we are to keep common foreign policy predominantly intergovernmental, there must be a large element of secondment from the diplomatic services of the larger nations. I hope that this will be championed not just by the larger countries but by smaller ones, who will understand that the way to get the external service accepted is when it has to represent the fundamental elements of a common foreign service policy—not integration, but representation of the member states. It is a mechanism for getting greater measures of agreement and it seems not unreasonable to introduce that at this stage.
A common foreign policy is not a single foreign policy. In the parlance of the European Community, integration means a single foreign policy—and I understand that there are people who want that. If there is genuinely compromise, agreement and consensus then it is preferable to have a united foreign policy, but we are not talking about a single foreign policy, and we have to examine carefully any aspect in this treaty that could lead to one. That is why we will come, in later debates, to what I consider the most important amendment; namely, that we could not have a common foreign policy inserted on this country by moving to qualified majority voting without substantive legislation through this House and through the House of Commons. I believe no other issue lying within our powers and which does not affect the treaty, yet is a fundamental issue for parliamentarians, is more important for us. On that motion, I hope that the Liberal Democrats will be voting as they voted in the House of Commons—in favour of primary legislation, at least on that aspect of the passerelle clause.
I come back to the external service, on which I hope that the Minister will feel able to explain some of the Government's thinking. Now, the service will of course be discussed inside the European Union; as I understand it, that will be under a qualified majority vote because it will come on a recommendation from the high representative, having discussed it with the Commission. I would prefer that it were a genuine consensus and had to have unanimity.
If it will be unanimous, then I am encouraged to hear that and my understanding of the treaty is wrong. This treaty is very difficult to understand, but if there will be unanimity on that then I very much welcome it. It means that the British Government can and should argue strongly that the predominant element of an External Action Service should not be as a European Union diplomatic service, but one that will predominantly come from the member states. If that is the case, then the British Government can maintain that position and—since the Minister says that this is unanimous—even if they find themselves in a minority of one I would expect them to hold out.
I have found that in many cases, in negotiating on common foreign and security policy, British Governments had a perfectly sensible negotiating position that was then given up during negotiations. On this position, they must not give up. It is an essential element in keeping a common foreign and security policy predominantly intergovernmental, with some of the serious strength of the member states.
Ultimately, a foreign policy requires on your capacity to back your words up with actions. That is why defence is secondary to foreign policy, which has to be able to call on defence and on the sacrifice of the citizens of an individual country who are ready to risk their life for what their country believes to be an essential element in its foreign policy. Take that away, and you have nothing that means seriousness in foreign policy. Without the capacity to threaten military action, as we have seen so often in the past, foreign policy ends up as mere words. Therefore, that stiffening of EU foreign policy requires a number of member states' capacity to put their troops online for it. For that reason, each aspect of developing a common foreign and security policy has to reflect that it is predominantly intergovernmental.
I would like to add my support to the amendments in the name of my noble friend Lord Howell and to explain the thinking behind Amendments Nos. 111 and 113, which are in my name. As we have heard, these amendments drive to the heart of the contradiction between, on the one hand, saying that we want to be part of an increasingly common European policy and, on the other, declaring that we have retained UK independence. It is not a question, as some have said, of whether we want to co-operate with other countries, for of course we want to do that. It is a question of whether we want to be bound into the particular form of treaty clauses and restrictions introduced by the treaty of Lisbon.
The noble Lord, Lord Owen, set out a powerful analysis of how the world is changing. I, for one, would disagree with little of what he said about the sound of the drum telling us that the world has changed, but I completely disagree with the conclusion he draws there. In my view, that changing world makes it ever more important that we retain the flexibility to respond to countries around the world and to form alliances with them—not to be bound into an outdated, centralist and inward-looking club designed for the world of the past century. That is why we have different views on how we should respond, not on the underlying issues with which we are trying to deal.
The core question here is the extent to which we can retain our independence. The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, quoted the House of Lords report effectively saying that the UK had retained its independence except in those areas where the EU had formed a common position. In the tortuous language of a consensus report, that is effectively what that sentence said; of course, if it is turned around the other way—in a more common-sense way—it actually says that the UK is constrained in its foreign policy, except in those areas where no common policy has been agreed by the European Union. The question then becomes: how much of our policy will be in the areas of common agreement, where we are constrained and no longer have the ability to pursue an independent policy?
Indeed, and so the question comes down to how much of our policy we choose and how much we allow to be moved into a common position. Whether it is a single or common foreign policy in that position, as I will go on to describe, we no longer have a level of freedom and independence. The other questions are how that position is determined and how it evolves over time.
The Government would like us to believe that these areas of common foreign policy are few and far—that they would be constrained to the peripheries and minor issues. As others have said, that is not the impression one gains from the treaty. The phrasing quoted about achieving an ever increasing degree of convergence in member states' actions, and references to the ambitions of the External Action Service, make it clear that the intentions behind this treaty are that the European Union should increasingly command the major areas of policy issues in both foreign affairs and defence. The Government also stress that those areas where we will be part of a common foreign policy will largely be agreed by unanimity.
It seems to me that the noble Lord has failed to take the excellent advice from my noble friend Lord Owen to distinguish rather clearly between a single foreign policy and a common foreign policy. By my count, it was one hour and five minutes before anybody in the Committee faced up to the difference between those two; now that my noble friend has set it out, I would hope that the debate can follow down that path. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, could start where we are now. Could he tell me which existing aspect of common foreign policy—in the Balkans, to Iran, and so on—he is dissatisfied with? If he is happy with them all, he can take comfort from the fact that that is how the European Union makes policy—bit by bit and common element by common element.
We are not talking about past policies of the European Union. We are talking about how the policies of the European Union will be set under this treaty. When the common foreign policy becomes a single foreign policy the degree of discretion that individual members have will be constrained by that common policy, which, I believe, is exactly what this treaty brings to the European scene. As the noble Lord well knows, those policies will not always be agreed by consensus. Article 31.2 of the consolidated text makes it very clear that once the Council has agreed a general strategic interest or objective, the specific decisions on actions and positions that follow from that will be taken by qualified majority voting.
The agreement of a general strategic interest or objective in the Council of Europe late at night will be the subject of consensus drafting in order to reach agreement that will need many countries to sign up to statements about which, inevitably, they have some discomfort or doubt. But those statements emerge at the end of conferences as common positions. Under this treaty, once those statements have been put on the stocks as a common position, there will be freedom for the European Union to take actions or positions that extend those positions by qualified majority voting. That is the fact of the treaty. As my noble friend Lord Lamont pointed out, once the Council has asked the high representative to set out a position on an area, whatever he comes back to the Council with will be voted on by qualified majority voting.
In a number of areas we have a ratchet built in—a continual creep. The pressure will be for the UK to be a good citizen and to sign up to a general statement, not necessarily immediately, but perhaps one, two or three years down the road. It will form the base from which a decision can be taken by qualified majority voting. The problem—and the reason why I insist that a common position can become a single position—is that this treaty contains all the language which we have heard in the past requiring countries to abide by common policies once they are agreed. They would not be able to take any action, not to speak against them or to register any dissent once a common position has been stated. That is a very significant development in the extent to which these treaties bind us to a position where, ultimately, we may be constrained by countries with very different strategic and tactical interests to our own.
Under Amendment No. 111, I should like particularly to draw attention to how that affects our position at the United Nations. As the treaty makes clear, when we have a common position, the UK must request that the European high representative presents that position to the United Nations. Again, the House of Lords' report is very clear. It is not an option, a nice thing to do. If we have a common EU position, the UK must require that the EU representative presents that position at the United Nations. Where the EU has a common position, it is clear that when the EU representative addresses the United Nations he will be taken as speaking for Europe. That is his status and how he will be seen, not just in isolated areas, but increasingly in all the main topics where the EU, as we can see from this treaty, will seek to occupy the ground of representing a common position of Europe in the world as one of the superpowers.
Yes, the UK can speak and has its own vote. But once the European representative has declared the European position to the United Nations, under these treaties the UK is bound not to dissent, not to oppose, not to vote against and not to disagree even with the interpretation that the EU representative has given to the United Nations, even if, when that original common position was defined, the UK voted against under QMV, or if it were a decision taken by unanimity where the UK had abstained. As I see it, that is the threat to our ability to maintain an independent position to side with those countries with whom in the long run we may have a different interest on the world stage than the narrow interests of the European continent.
If the Government believe that my concerns are unfounded, as I am sure that the noble Baroness will argue, my Amendment No. 111 offers them a clear way out. Unlike earlier amendments, my amendment does not require changes to the treaty or any change in anything that the Government have signed up to. I distinguish it from Amendment No. 112 on those grounds. It is purely a statement that the UK Parliament retains sovereignty over independence of UK foreign policy. If the Government can assure us that the UK has that independence, I am sure that the noble Baroness will be delighted to accept my amendment to make that clear to the Chamber.
Amendment No. 113 addresses the related and very serious point made by my noble friend Lord Tebbit on the danger of a Government under these treaties binding a successor. The treaty appears to be a one-way street. Once a common policy has been defined, there is nothing that I can find in this treaty that allows a Government to dissent or to undo that common policy. As my noble friend has described, if a Government are elected who disagree with a number of policy positions taken by their predecessor and where they have had those endorsed at an election, there is no way that they can repudiate that position unilaterally. It is not like a country entering into its own treaties or agreements where a Government, if they so choose—they may not wish to do that very often—can change them. We will be bound into a common position by the European Union treaties where we have no facility under that treaty for a Government to change their mind. Any change would require the same legislative processes as we have described for introducing the change, which would largely be by unanimity, but, in many cases, by QMV. But we would not have the ability unilaterally to change our policy. These treaties undermine the important principle of no Government holding their successor into a straitjacket. There may even be Governments who of their own volition change their mind or find that circumstances have changed, but are not able to make that clear once they have signed up to a common European policy.
I would welcome the noble Baroness the Lord President allaying my fears by saying where in the treaties it is explained how this situation would be dealt with. Assuming that she can do so, I am sure that she would be delighted to accept my amendment, which simply makes clear, as my noble friend Lord Tebbit said, that these treaties do not require one Government to be bound by another. I hope that the Government will allay all my fears by accepting Amendments Nos. 111 and 113. If the noble Baroness does not accept my amendments, I hope she will make clear how the Government can allay my fears.
I am startled by the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell. He was among that group of people who slogged through the chapter of the report from your Lordships' European Union Committee on these issues, which agreed the position that we thought we had reached—or at least I thought we had reached—unanimously. The noble Lord says that he fears that this—I repeat, this—treaty compromises the independence of the United Kingdom in common foreign and security policy. I remind him that has put his name to paragraph 7.20, which says:
The section is clearly marked:
"EU powers in CFSP matters".
That is not a qualified statement; it is a sentence standing as it is which the noble Lord put his name to. The noble Lord has asked my noble friend the Leader of the House to assure him of independence. A moment of two ago from his Benches it was claimed that assurances of this nature, which actually appear in Declaration 13, are only evidence that the Government were not sure of their position. We have a very clear declaration in Declaration 13, which states:
"The Conference underlines that the provisions in the Treaty on European Union covering the Common Foreign and Security Policy, including the creation of the office of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the establishment of an External Action Service"— and here we come to the point—
"do not affect the responsibilities of the Member States, as they currently exist, for the formulation and conduct of their foreign policy nor of their national representation in third countries and international organisations"— that is, the United Nations. Here is an unequivocal statement, agreed by all the members of the EU, which is not quite good enough for the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, and he wants my noble friend from the Dispatch Box to repeat it. She is very welcome to repeat it but I am not sure why, if he was not convinced by this in the first place, my noble friend is going to have any greater success and on his Benches some will claim that my noble friend doing that is only evidence of not being sure of the position in the first place.
Let us turn to the UN. The noble Lord said that where the EU has a unanimous common position, the UK will be required to request that the High Representative present that position. That is what we said in our report but the noble Lord left out the opening sentence, which he put his name to, where we said:
"It is clear that the Treaty changes nothing in the UK's right to retain its seat on the UN Security Council, its role as a permanent member, its right to speak, and its individual vote and veto".
We went on to say that although we can invite the High Representative, that possibility does not displace the UK's right to speak or vote. The noble Lord could not have forgotten about those passages because he was there when we slogged out that wording. I am afraid he was very partial in forgetting what he put his name to.
It is very clear why that was done because it allowed both sides to interpret the sentences as they wanted. It depends where in the sentence you put the emphasis. Where the EU has a position, the UK will be required to suggest that the high representative present that position. I accept that the UK retains its seat, its role, its right to speak and its individual vote. I said all those things in my speech just now. What I went on to say, however, was that those things would be severely devalued by the fact that the UK was bound to support the role of the European high representative. I maintain that position.
That is very interesting butI do not know how even the noble Lord can argue that the words "changes nothing"—in the phrase, "it is clear that the treaty changes nothing" and in relation to the UK's right to retain its seat on the UN Security Council, its right as a permanent member and its right to speak individual vote and veto—can be turned to mean "changes everything". The noble Lord and I are clearly not going to agree.
This sentence was, as the noble Baroness said, long fought over, and she fought very strongly for it. The words "changes nothing" are followed by a specific list of things which do not change. What the sentence does not say is what does change, which is the influence and effect of the United Kingdom's position in the United Nations as a result of this treaty.
The noble Baroness, Lady Symons, has dealt formidably with the question of how far the UK can retain its independence in foreign policy, particularly in relation to its seat on the United Nations. It would be unwise to tangle with her and I do not wish to do so. I want rather to state the other side of the argument which she effectively pointed to in her very eloquent intervention, and that is the significant argument for a common foreign policy. I take the points of distinction made by the noble Lords, Lord Hannay and Lord Owen, between a single foreign policy—which we are not at present talking about—and a common foreign policy. In doing so, I hark back to what the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Swansea, said about the fact that the CFSP remains an intergovernmental structure and therefore one in which one has to seek the agreement of all to produce a single statement or a single policy.
To go back to the importance of a common foreign policy, the key question is not whether after a common foreign policy has been agreed the countries that agreed it are bound to support it. That seems a very fundamental principle, like the principle of the collective responsibility of a Cabinet, even where some members may disagree with the decision reached by that Cabinet. The much more important point is whether a common foreign policy in some agreed areas would give the European Union far greater influence and strength in international organisations than any one country could hope to have on its own.
My noble friend Lord Ashdown gave very powerful arguments in the military field for reaching common agreements to deal with some of the essential security considerations that we have to face. Incidentally, in that context it would be appropriate to point out the absolute necessity of such co-operation in dealing with terrorism, which no individual country could hope to deal with on its own. The same goes, in rather different ways, for organised crime, people trafficking and other areas, where no country defending its own borders can hope to have any impact on organised methods of getting around those borders and making them effectively unnecessary or dispensable.
The point I want to make is a slightly different one. There are certain areas where the European Union has a very specific approach and one that the world badly needs. Let me state a couple of examples other than those which have already been presented by my noble friend Lord Ashdown. The first is very close to my heart—nuclear proliferation and nuclear disarmament, probably the single greatest issue facing the world after that of climate change. We cannot hope to get anywhere as an individual nation state on issues of this kind, which necessarily require international agreement in order to be effective. To reach that international agreement there is nothing more effective than a grouping of countries which share common values and a common purpose.
Let me give an example where there is a divergence between the European Union and our single most important and closest ally, the United States. The United States has so far found it impossible to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Although the matter has been before the US Congress for more than 15 years, it has still not been ratified. That means that one of the great barriers against the further development of nuclear weapons into yet more and more effective and lethal mechanisms has been so far prevented by the failure to reach agreement. On something like the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty—essential in limiting nuclear proliferation—the compelling arguments of the European Union as a whole are far greater than that of any individual country, even our own, close as it is in many ways to the United States, if we are to move towards an agreement under which countries will begin to ratify that treaty. For example, the United States has in recent years come out in favour of the independent verification of test weapons and their development. It is clear that that does not work: one cannot have independent, national verification of the dangers of nuclear proliferation. I am delighted to say that the United States has changed its position and returned to accepting that multilateral verification is absolutely essential if one is to limit nuclear proliferation. However, there was a time when the United States strayed from that position into quite dangerous areas where others were only too inclined to follow, which is one reason why three nuclear-weapon powers are not signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and shows the importance in some areas of a common foreign policy.
Another example is disarmament in the crucial area of small weapons. The Conference on Disarmament at the United Nations in Geneva is still locked into unending arguments on small weapons, which have devastated Africa. Far more deaths have been due to small weapons than to weapons of mass destruction in the past 10 years. How does one then move towards international treaties that limit the trade in and supply of small arms? It is only by reaching agreement within international organisations such as the Conference on Disarmament at the United Nations. How does one do that without a powerful group of nations united in their determination to bring about an agreement of that kind?
As the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, pointed out in his forceful speech, it is easy to see that, in some cases, only a common European position will advance the very things that, as the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, said, the British public would like to see. They want to see security; they want to see peace; they want to see us move back from the danger of serious development of weapons of mass destruction. To do that, it is no good falling back on the independent foreign policy so eloquently described by various noble Lords, because it will not bring about the outcomes that we desperately need. They require a group of nations that are committed to pursuing them—not every single issue in the world, but some of the key issues that can be achieved only by collective decision to move ahead. I plead, therefore, with those who are listening to this debate to recognise that a common foreign policy in some areas—for our purposes, that must mean a common European foreign policy—is essential to bring about the very purposes for which our Parliament in the House of Commons was elected, and which we in this Chamber believe is an essential responsibility of our presence here to further in every way that we can.
It is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, because I agree with much of what she said, particularly the note on which she ended; namely, that we are more likely to be able to achieve objectives working with our partners than working singly. It is obvious that compromises will from time to time be necessary, and the common position may not be the same as that which we would have wished the European Union ideally to have taken or which we would have taken if we were able to act alone. However, when one looks back over the experience of recent years, one finds that the extent to which common positions compromised the position with which we started when we were dealing with our European allies is infinitely less than has been the case when we have found ourselves dealing with our great ally, the United States. I agree with my noble friend Lord Lamont that nothing should drive us away from the United States and that our alliance with it is important, but we are not unique in wishing to have a close connection with the United States. Germany, France, Holland, Italy and every other state in Europe wishes to have that; it is not some British peculiarity. The position of the United States in the world is so powerful that everybody wishes to be closely connected with it.
The Iraq experience has perhaps taught us that, while the French were unable to make much of an impact on the United States by seeking to prevent it doing what it wanted, we were unable to have much of an impact on the United States by supporting it in everything that it wanted. Both the French and the British have learnt no end of a lesson. If one wishes to influence the United States, which one does—because it is obvious that nothing very much can happen in the world if the United States is not involved—it is much more likely that one will be able to do so if we are singing from the same hymn sheet as our partners in the European Union. If there is more weight on the European end of the see-saw than we alone are able to put on it, there is more likely to be an agreement with the United States that runs closer to our interests than has perhaps been the case in the recent past.
The noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, drew a distinction between Britain's outward-looking interests and the narrow interests of our Continental allies. That theme runs through the speeches of many opponents of the European Union and of this treaty, but it is mistaken. Just as everybody wishes to have a close relationship with the United States, so one will see in the patterns of trade of France, Germany, Holland, Italy or any of the other trading nations in the European Union that they, too, wish to export a great deal to China, India and the burgeoning economies in the East. One will see that they, too, are seeking closer relations with the new powers in the Pacific area. Looking outward to Asia and the Pacific, again, is not some unique British characteristic; it is something that any right-minded European country wishes to do. It is a slightly backhanded compliment to the way in which the Chinese view Europe that it is the French in particular whom they have picked out for retribution over the mishaps of the Olympic flame, although the flame had pretty much as bad a time of it in London as in Paris. That perhaps shows that, in a certain way, the profile of the French in China is perhaps higher than ours. It is therefore false to draw a distinction between narrow Continentals and worldwide Britons.
I agree that Britain must ultimately be able to act alone to preserve its right to independent action. But that is very much a last resort. If we find that we are unable to carry any of our friends in the European Union and are isolated in pursuit of an international objective, it might suggest, first, that our case is not as overwhelmingly strong as we would like to think and, secondly, that we are unlikely to be able to prosecute our position very successfully. We are much more likely, as the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, pointed out, to be able to pursue our objectives successfully in the world if we are able to do so in partnership with others. He and others here may remember that great American diplomat, George Vest, who at one time was the American ambassador to the European Union and ended his career as director-general of the United States diplomatic service or the State Department—I cannot remember his precise title. He always used to talk about the habit of co-operation in the European Union and how effective it was in enabling countries to reach common positions even when they started some way apart. He was always impressed by the degree to which the constant communication and exchange of information and views between the members of the European Union enabled them to begin to see issues from much the same angle, and to reconcile differences and bring their influence to bear. That is how the European Union develops, not according to the rather hard and fast, black and white rules that the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, was talking about.
Finally, I take up a couple of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Owen. He made a very important distinction, which is not drawn often enough, when he talked about the difference between a common foreign policy and a single foreign policy. It is an important distinction and I am absolutely in agreement with what he said on that subject, and his point about the external offices of the European Union. The European Commission, both when I was a Commissioner and since, has sometimes been too enthusiastic about wanting to set up offices here, there and everywhere. They have a purpose. The ambassador who was kind enough to give my noble friend Lord Lamont whisky late at night could, perhaps, have devoted more of his energies to finding out what the European office did. Often, they run important aid programmes or deal with trade relationships. I remember when Sir Roy Denman was head of the European Commission office in Washington. He played an important part in multilateral trade negotiations, as I am sure my noble friend Lord Brittan would concur.
At different times, the European Commission office in Japan has played an important role. Certainly, there has been a tendency to set up too many, with sometimes ill defined objectives. If we are moving forward with this external action force and having external offices, the noble Lord, Lord Owen, makes the point that their credibility will be enhanced if there is a strong representation from the larger European countries with the most experience of international relations and the most interests in the most far-flung parts of the globe. That would certainly be desirable. When one looks at the totality of the issues covered by these amendments, the treaty as it stands, though not perfect, enables the European Union to continue to develop.
In conclusion, I refer again to the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell. He said that the European Union was designed for the last century. Yes, it was designed in the last century and it did very well in helping to preserve peace in Europe, in helping to encourage democracy in the member states, and in contributing to the spread of democracy and human rights over a far wider area of Europe than has ever been seen before. It was devised in the last century and it did very well in the last century. Now we are putting it into a position to operate equally effectively in this century. As the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, and others have pointed out, this debate should be about how Europe performs in the future, as well as how it has performed in the past.
I do not want to spend too much time on this; we have had a long debate. I make one or two points because this part of the treaty takes us a long way forward. I think I have taken part in every debate on every treaty since we signed the treaty of Rome in 1972. Therefore, I remember some of the things that were said. When we were discussing the Maastricht treaty, when the issues of foreign policy and other matters were introduced, we were given the assurance that our essential sovereignty would not be affected because these matters would be considered on an intergovernmental basis. On those assurances, some of us felt reassured.
What has gone wrong? Those assurances, apparently, were not good enough. Now foreign policy is no longer to be on an intergovernmental basis, but part of the treaty and part of the European Union. It is clear from the treaty that there is to be an ever-increasing degree of convergence of member states' actions. The word "convergence" means getting towards a single objective. We have come away from intergovernmentalism and it is part of the treaty. We have a foreign minister, although he is called something different, the high commissioner for foreign affairs. He will chair the Foreign Affairs Committee. He is going to be deputy chairman of the European Commission, which is a powerful position. Make no mistake about that. Intergovernmentalism has collapsed. In certain circumstances we will be bound by decisions reached by the Foreign Affairs Council.
What is more, there is to be this External Action Service. I, too, over the weekend saw the Daily Telegraph article mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace. According to that, it is going to be a very powerful External Action Service indeed. It will have 160 ambassadors, as they are to be called. Some politicians, perhaps even in our own Government, are concerned about the influence they will use abroad to the detriment of the influence that can be maintained by our own diplomats. What is the Government's attitude towards the setting up of the External Action Service before the treaties have been ratified by all member states? That, I understand, is what is happening at the moment. Discussions are taking place, either in private or in secret. I do not know what the difference between the two words is. What, exactly, is the Government's attitude towards this? It would certainly weaken our position if the growth of the European External Action Service undermined our own Diplomatic Service. Furthermore, the External Action Service, unlike our own Diplomatic Service, will be in some way accountable to the European Parliament. There is no way in which our Diplomatic Service, except through a Minister, is accountable to this Parliament. There are some worrying aspects to what is proposed.
Why has it been necessary to go away from intergovernmentalism, into making this part of the treaty. What has not worked? Why can it not work? Will the Minister also say whether this is not yet another ratchet—I have always talked about ratchets—towards a single European state? People say, "Well, of course it's not". But if it is not a ratchet towards a single European state, why are we collapsing the intergovernmental position, which most people had accepted? We will no doubt have further discussions on various matters in which we will ask why we need these changes. But I should like at this stage to know why intergovernmentalism has failed, why the new arrangements will not undermine Britain's ability to pursue an independent policy and whether our Diplomatic Service is safe from being undermined by ambitious European foreign diplomats.
I know that noble Lords want to move on but I feel that I should speak very briefly to Amendment No. 14, which is in this group and in my name, and put a very simple question to the Minister, which arises out of the amendment.
The amendment would leave out 10 words from amended Article 11 of the TEU—the words,
"and shall comply with the Union's action in this area".
Do the Government agree that those 10 words represent an advance in EU solidarity in the Council? The words that we had before, in the treaty of Nice, read as follows:
"Member States shall actively and unreservedly support the Union's common foreign and security policy in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity".
That has been in the treaties for quite some time and is a pious hope of good intention and all the rest of it. But then the treaty says,
"and shall comply with the Union's action in this area".
Member states are no longer representing their countries' interests; from this moment on they are complying with the Union's actions, which are then reinforced by the actions of the new high representative, who is given new discipline in this area.
I trust that noble Lords agree that that contribution was refreshingly brief. I look forward to the Minister's specific reply.
I begin by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, on his brevity.
To the noble Lord, Lord Owen, who is not in his place at the moment, I should say that I am conscious of how difficult it is to speak with such a bad throat. However, I am delighted that he was able to do so because the point that many noble Lords have raised, on which he specifically focused—the difference between common and single—was extremely helpful.
I do not intend to go over all the issues that have been well aired. I shall focus my attention on giving some comfort to those who have tabled amendments, although I am not sure that I shall entirely succeed. I have been very taken with the almost wistful way in which noble Lords have reminisced about their time—either from those who sat on green Benches, as my noble friend Lord Robertson reminds us, for a year in deliberating on previous treaties, from noble Lords who had the privilege to represent this country at various Councils of Ministers, from those who have been involved in the Commission as Commissioners, or from those involved with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
I am conscious that I come as rather a novice to these well-trodden paths. I am not entirely convinced that I shall be successful in changing the minds of many noble Lords who have spoken today. The passion and determination with which they spoke suggests to me that minds have arrived made up, rather than necessarily to be altered by what I shall say. But I hope to bring some clarification to those noble Lords for whom this is not their natural subject and offer some thoughts that noble Lords can deliberate on before we reach the next stage of our discussions.
I should be clear at the beginning that it was with great wisdom that the Government in 1992 agreed to establish the common foreign and security policy. Without it we would not have had EU crisis management missions in Bosnia and Afghanistan or EU sanctions against Iran, which went beyond the position of the UN Security Council. I want to be absolutely clear that when we and other member states agree on a course of action at European Union level, it increases our influence, which is incredibly important in an increasingly interconnected world. The noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, talked about the future and other noble Lords referred to it as well. This is a changing world; it is not the world of 20, 30 or 40 years ago. Through all the developments that we see and the way in which the world is on the move, whether because of starvation, climate change or conflict, we are increasingly interconnected and increasingly have to think of ways in which as nation states we operate together. When we do not agree on a course of action, however, we shall continue to act independently, as this country has always done—and as it has always done under previous treaties, so it will continue.
The motivation behind the treaty of Lisbon in putting forward these reforms is that member states want to improve the delivery of shared foreign policy objectives. What they are considering is based on the experiences that we have gained in collaboration over the years. I believe that the move in this treaty is to build on that shared experience and take us forward—as I have already said, when we agree.
Noble Lords referred to the beginnings of all this in the Maastricht treaty. However, long before the Maastricht treaty, when the intergovernmental pillar of foreign policy co-operation was established, policy and funding instruments under the European Community were important to the delivery of our foreign policy goals. Trade policy, development and enlargement are all examples of what one might describe as traditional Community activity, ultimately decided by the member states but largely delivered by the Commission, which can have a profound and important impact on how we deliver our foreign policy objectives.
I question whether what one might describe as classic foreign policy tools could have helped the countries of central and eastern Europe towards a stable, democratic and increasingly wealthy and economically open status. The reform was driven by the prospect of eventual EU membership. A process delivered by the Commission was central to achieving that key objective of British foreign policy. When I spent time in Romania and Bulgaria before accession, discussing with the Justice and Home Affairs team in both countries ways in which we could support them to deal with issues with their courts, anti-corruption measures and collaboration on many issues, they were very focused on the opportunity that being part of the European Union would afford them for their future development, trade and economic and social well-being.
We also see environmental policy in global terms, with market-based carbon trading, which is a Community competence and an important element in tackling climate change. The consequences of not tackling it have been discussed in your Lordships' House during the passage of the Climate Change Bill and in many other debates. As we look at states emerging from conflict all over the world, we use both our own foreign and security policy instruments, delivered by member states and the Council, whether that is for policing or peace-keeping, combined with the longer-term tools—development agreements that could be delivered by the Commission. If we are going to help to bring long-term peace, stability and prosperity, whether in Afghanistan, the Middle East or Aceh, we have to ensure that these efforts reinforce themselves in the most effective and efficient way.
Improving the delivery of our foreign policy objectives through the European Union is a long-standing UK aim, to which all member states agreed at the Hampton Court summit during our presidency in 2005. I submit that it makes sense to bring these two ways of delivering external policy objectives closer together while respecting the fundamentally distinct intergovernmental nature of the common foreign and security policy. That is what the treaty does. CFSP remains intergovernmental and non-legislative. The decision making is by unanimity. European Court of Justice jurisdiction is excluded with two narrow exceptions. That is a clear and fundamental objective of what the treaty seeks to do.
Perhaps I may give a couple of examples of where that greater coherence could make a difference. If one thinks of what is happening in the Middle East peace process, Javier Solana, the high representative, is engaged in political dialogue with the parties in pursuit of the EU common, foreign and security policy objectives set by member states. Two European security and defence policy missions are decided by the member states. The first looks at the border crossings in Gaza which are currently suspended; the second looks at Palestinian security reform and police training.
At the same time the Commission under the EC treaty is engaged in activity to promote Palestinian economic development and institution building and provide funding to the Palestinian authority; and, of course, Mr Solana and the External Relations Commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, both represent the EU in the quartet. The treaty will bring together these activities in a more coherent and effective manner. The high representative, in pursuit of the political priorities agreed by the member states in the European Council and the relevant Council of Ministers, is able to do that under the treaty. That is an important example—I could give others—of how the coherence within the treaty could make a difference.
The noble Lord, Lord Howell, talked about the role of the European Court of Justice. I know that we will return to that issue. The noble Lord quoted from my letter. Three words—"as at present"—were missing from the quotation. My letter says that the court may police the CFSP/non-CFSP border. That is not new. That, as noble Lords who were involved will know, dates back to the Maastricht treaty. Interestingly, the treaty requires the European Court of Justice to make sure that there is no encroachment the other way; in other words, that non-CFSP policies cannot encroach into CFSP policies. I know that noble Lords have worried in the other direction, that maybe the European Court of Justice, for those who believe that it is a—I quote—"creative court", would see it in that way. Actually the treaty says that it is very important that the European Court of Justice polices that border and ensures that there is no encroachment. So the treaty strengthens the ring-fencing of CFSP, and the European Court of Justice will, if necessary, be able to restrict any other activity that impinges on the CFSP.
It depends what the noble Lord means by "deeper and further integration"? There is a lot of case law in the European Court of Justice. In our discussions on the previous day of Committee, when we referred to the European Court—we will again, I have no doubt, in our discussions particularly on justice and home affairs—we looked at examples. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Slynn, who is not in his place at the moment, as a former judge in the European Court of Justice, was extremely helpful in describing both the methodology of the court and the fact that it does not operate in a political fashion, but that a lot of the work of the Court in determining its role and function was established long before the UK joined the European Union. The noble Lord will know that for himself. Any suggestion that the Court was seeking to try to move beyond its role of interpreting the law was in the noble and learned Lord's view wrong. I am sure the noble Lord will look at the Hansard references for what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Slynn, referred to.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Slynn, was replying to what I had said. We thought that what he said was extremely helpful and supports the thrust of the question from my noble friend Lord Tebbit. In other words, it stands in Hansard. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Slynn, said yes of course the Court advances the project of European integration because that is what it was always meant to do. That is what is in the treaty. It has to support ever closer union of the peoples.
The interesting thing is interpretation, which is what I was saying to the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit. I have discovered in my days in Committee that interpretation is everything. As far as I am concerned noble Lords were divided in their interpretation. I think we go back to the words of the noble and learned Lord. He is not in his place at the moment, but I know that he intends to give us the benefit of further interventions. I am sure that he would indeed speak to the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, about these issues. I am very clear that this is about the role of a court in interpreting the law as it stands, which is what courts do. We have already discussed the value of that. The point I make in this context is that I believe that the treaty helps to define the boundaries more effectively between the role of the Court in terms of non-CFSP and CFSP.
The noble Lord, Lord Howell, quoted an Open Europe allegation about the moves to QMV within CFSP. It is quite clear within the treaty that unanimity remains a general rule for CFSP. Implementing measures can be taken by QMV where the original decision has been unanimous; so if all 27 member states decide they want to do something they can then decide to implement it by QMV. That is our choice. We are not bound to do it; we do it because we want to do it. Unanimity is the determining factor on the decisions that we take.
The Lisbon treaty has one case—and noble Lords referred to it—where the high representative returns with a specific request that has been given to him by the Council. It is not beyond the wit of this Government or another 26 governments to determine the precise boundaries of what the high representative will return with proposals on. Any noble Lord will know that as it will be a QMV decision, such proposals the high representative returns with will work only within set parameters and boundaries. Therefore they will make sure that those parameters and boundaries are set. As they are set by unanimity, we need to have no fear. We can point to examples. We talked about this in the context of our previous discussions where QMV can be an important tool to aid moving on and getting on with implementing decisions.
The other cases cited by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, refer to non-CFSP action, where QMV already applies; for example emergency and humanitarian aid, and so on.
The noble Lord, Lord Owen, asked about unanimity on the External Action Service. The response was that that required unanimity. The reason I believe there may be some uncertainty about that is that the treaty says that the Council will act on a recommendation from the high representative in establishing an External Action Service. As the noble Baroness has said, elsewhere in the treaty it says that when the high representative is asked to come to the Council with a recommendation that may then be by QMV. I just want to be clear whether the Government have got precise legal interpretation on this point or whether there is scope for ambiguity.
I will reach that point as I go through the amendments. I will not forget the point about unanimity. Indeed, from a sedentary position, I spoke about the unanimity rule within the setting up of the EAS.
I shall comment briefly on some of the amendments. Amendment No. 13A calls for a report to be laid annually before Parliament certifying that nothing undertaken in pursuit of common policies and actions promoted in any international forum has restricted or will restrict the independent foreign policy of the UK. The CFSP is a tool which this Government use to further their policy aims. Where we agree unanimously a common policy with our European partners we stick to it, because we do not agree it if we do not think it is in the national interests of this country.
The declarations have been partly read out and partly cited, either to confirm that we have got this absolutely nailed or used, depending on noble Lords' views, to suggest that we do not have it nailed at all. I shall read out the two declarations. These were agreed unanimously by all member states. Declaration 13 states:
"The Conference underlines that the provisions in the Treaty on European Union covering the Common Foreign and Security Policy, including the creation of the office of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the establishment of an External Action Service, do not effect the responsibilities of the Member States, as they currently exist, for the formulation and conduct of their foreign policy nor of their national representation in third countries and international organisations.
The Conference also recalls that the provisions governing the Common Security and Defence Policy do not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of the Member States.
It stresses that the European Union and its Member States will remain bound by the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations and, in particular, by the primary responsibility of the Security Council and of its Members for the maintenance of international peace and security".
Declaration 14 states:
"In addition to the specific rules and procedures referred in to paragraph 1 of Article 11 of the Treaty on European Union, the Conference underlines that the provisions covering the Common Foreign and Security Policy, including in relation to the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the External Action Service, will not effect the existing legal basis, responsibilities and powers of each Member State in relation to the formulation and conduct of its foreign policy, its national diplomatic service, relations with third countries and participation in international organisations, including a Member State's membership of the Security Council of the United Nations".
I think that wording is crystal clear and that the UK's independent foreign policy is protected.
The noble Baroness, Lady Park, is not in her place, but she referred to the relationship between the External Action Service and the diplomatic services of existing European Union countries, particularly of ours. The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, raised the same issue. We have had EU Commission delegations in third countries and international organisations since the 1970s. At the present time, there are 131 overseas delegations. They will be renamed Union delegations under the authority of the high representative. We believe that makes them more accountable through the high representative of the member states and ensures that they represent the Union as a whole—as defined by the member states—rather than those of just one of its institutions, in this case the Commission. It is about making better use of existing Union resources and better policy implementations. That will be an important element of how the service will bring together existing work that is going on. Of course we make clear in the treaty that the External Action Service shall work in co-operation with the diplomatic services of other member states. That is an important part of the work it will do. It will not be issuing visas for any other nation. It will be working in collaboration with existing diplomatic services and consular services. It will not be in any way replacing them.
The treaty is clear on the establishment of the External Action Service. The EAS establishment is by unanimity. If it is decided to go ahead and establish it, that will be how it is established. Again, that is clear within the treaty. When I was in Brussels a couple of weeks ago, I spent some time talking about the potential for the External Action Service in terms of the opportunity it will give to bring together the different elements of the service to provide a better service through member states and provide opportunities for diplomats from countries all over the European Union who want to spend time working in the External Action Service. I see this as nothing other than a great move. I see nothing ambiguous about it. It will be important in terms of the development of supporting the policies of the European Union. I hope that noble Lords will agree with that.
Amendment No. 14 aims to exclude the UK from having to comply with EU action taken under the common foreign and security policy. The noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, spoke with brevity about this amendment. We have agreed by unanimity our policy in the Council. Of course, we want to see it delivered and respected by all member states, otherwise there is no point in agreeing it unanimously in the Council. If member states did not comply with what they had agreed, then the whole thing would be completely unworkable. That is just inexorable logic. The new wording requires that member states shall comply with the Union's action in this area. I would say that that is simply common sense. We have agreed something unanimously because we all want to do it. Therefore we all do it. That is it.
In reply to the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, about binding future governments, the noble Lord will know that it is a basic principle of international law that the signatories of a treaty respect the provisions of the treaty. That is why they have signed it. United Kingdom Governments, on coming into office, have always accepted the international obligations and rights which they inherit. To do otherwise would be to undermine, in my view, our international standing. There is nothing new in substance in any of this. The Maastricht treaty in 1992 stated:
"The Member States shall support the Union's external and security policy actively and unreservedly in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity".
It also made clear that member states were obliged to ensure that their national positions complied with the positions which they had just agreed in the common foreign and security policy. Of course, noble Lords who do not want us to be part of the European Union do not like that. I completely accept that. But the fact is, if you sign up to something you agree to it. It is as simple as that.
Amendment No. 15A calls for the Secretary of State—
Will the Minister be clear about this? Is she saying that there are no circumstances in which a British Government could be required to support a policy which had been clearly rejected by the electorate of this country at a general election, or is she saying that a British Government could be required to support such a policy which had been clearly rejected at a general election?
What I am saying to the noble Lord is that when one signs up to an international treaty, and the noble Lord would have signed up to international treaties—
I cannot answer yes or no because I want to explain exactly what I mean. The noble Lord asks the question in a very particular way and I am going to answer it in my own particular way. The long-standing tradition is that treaties that have been signed are respected by incoming Governments. That does not mean—the noble Lord will know this—that Governments do not on occasion go back to renegotiate their position. The noble Lord will know that when coming to power in 1997 this Government signed up to the Social Chapter, to which the previous Government had not signed up. So there are changes that are made. The tradition is that we come into treaties that we have signed up to. In the main, most of the treaties that this country is a part of are well respected on all sides and have often been negotiated through such long time periods that Governments have come and gone. The argument I am making is that that would be the position now. It is not a case that noble Lords would expect to come into a Government of a particular kind, who took a different view, and expect that that treaty was null and void. It would be required that a Government would have to renegotiate. I think that that is the position—
The noble Baroness is making a point about treaties. I am making a point about the policy which is to be carried out under a treaty. Those policies change from time to time under the European treaties, as she knows. I am not talking about repudiating the treaty. We know that we could repudiate the treaty of Rome if we so wished. It is the policy I am talking of, not the treaty.
Indeed. I was using the treaty as an example. The noble Lord is not incorrect in saying that if you look at the policies that follow from the treaty—if we had an agreement between 27 nation states—we would, for example, wish to support a mission in Kosovo of around 2,000 personnel. If a Government came in who did not wish to continue that, they would wish to open and re-open the discussions on that. My point is a different one. At the point of becoming the Government, one is bound by the obligations until one has renegotiated—whether it is a policy or a treaty.
This is an important point. It is important that we are clear on it. As my noble friend was saying, the difference here is that where, on a particular policy, which may be covered by a particular treaty, a Government may change their mind and take the consequences, in this case, the only way you can change your policy position is by repudiating the whole of the European treaty. There is no single treaty or policy around Kosovo or anything else with which we can associate ourselves. If the EU has a position to which we our bound, the only treaty we have to repudiate is the EU treaty.
The noble Lord has completely missed the point I was trying to make. It was that Governments have a long tradition of being bound by the international agreements that they sign and that incoming Governments who wish to renegotiate them can do so. However, they do not come in on the assumption that the treaty, or whatever, is ripped up. I think that I have laboured that point long enough. Members of the Committee either agree with me or disagree, but that is the point I want to make.
The point that the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, was making was important. If there is a change of Government who have previously disagreed with a policy that is subsequently agreed by the EU through the various parts of the treaty, do they then not become part of the acquis communautaire, which cannot be renegotiated away?
If we get into the acquis communautaire, we could be here for a very long time. I was trying to make the point that there is a legal effect in treaties, UN Security Council decisions, and decisions that come under common foreign and security policy. The legal effect is that they bind us, which is why we sign them. We do not have to, but if we choose to do so, we are bound by them. The long tradition—long before the EU, going back centuries—has been that if new Governments want to renegotiate that is their choice, but they are bound by the treaties when they come into power. No one has yet said anything to suggest that I am wrong in that. That is the way it has been, and that is the way it is.
The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, will know that there is an opportunity to renegotiate on the back of an election, with a manifesto in which specific things have been stated—for example, withdrawal from the European Union, which would be UKIP's manifesto. If that party were elected, the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, were he Prime Minister, could seek to renegotiate. Under this treaty, of course, the opportunity exists to leave the European Union in a measured way—and I notice that the noble Lord has tabled an amendment to oppose that, although I am sure that it is not really for that. There is nothing to stop member states doing so. The point I am making is very straightforward. I am going to move on.
Amendment No. 15A talks about the laying of a statement. I have already explained—Members of the Committee accept the point or they do not—that there is nothing in the treaty which restricts the freedom of Her Majesty's Government to act in the interests of the United Kingdom. The treaty does not change in any way the intergovernmental and consensus-based nature of common foreign and security policy. Member states are bound only where they have agreed policy in accordance with the provisions of the treaty. Agreement on CFSP remains by unanimity, and we will agree to it only where it is in our national interest. I therefore see no need to provide the undertaking that is requested in the amendment.
Amendment No. 111, to which the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, spoke, appears to take as its premise the idea that the Lisbon treaty will undermine the independence of our UK foreign policy. Indeed, I think that that is probably the noble Lord's position. It is clear that in the treaty the Government have successfully argued that the CFSP remains subject to rules and procedures that safeguard its separate character. Decision-making is on the basis of unanimity. It is a non-legislative policy area and the European Court of Justice does not have jurisdiction except in the two specific limited areas: first, the boundary between that and other policies; and, secondly, that were there sanctions against the individual, the individual would have the right to go to the European Court of Justice. These can all be found in Article 24 of the treaty of the European Union.
Our own Select Committee, which is much quoted with great respect, says:
"The evidence is that the Lisbon Treaty has preserved the independence of the UK's foreign and defence policy, subject to the constraints arising when unanimous agreement does prove possible. The fundamental principles of the CFSP will not change under the new Treaties. In particular, the principle of unanimity and the search for consensus in decision-making will continue to apply to the CFSP ... We conclude"— the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, was one of the "we"—
"that the Lisbon Treaty will provide for safeguards against encroachment of other areas of EU activities into the area of CFSP. This should protect the intergovernmental character of the CFSP".
Indeed, Javier Solana, in my conversations with him in Brussels, was clear to me that the intergovernmental nature would not be undermined in any way shape or form by the treaty.
On the ability to represent views at the United Nations, again the treaty is clear. The high representative for foreign affairs and security policy will be able to put forward agreed EU positions, but there is nothing new in that. The rotating presidency and the current high representative already present agreed EU positions to the Council. It is clearly in our interests that when we have agreed an EU position, we make it clear to interested parties, of which the UN Security Council would be one, that it has the backing of all 27 member states. But that has not and will not change our role and responsibility at the UN as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. That is made explicit in the treaty at Article 34 TEU, and underlined in Declaration 14 of the treaty, which I shall not repeat.
I turn to the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Lamont. We look forward to further discussion on whether passerelles could lead to QMV in foreign policy. The condition that would have to be met under the treaty for that would be that all 27 member states decided to do it. In addition, both Houses of Parliament in this country would have to agree it. Each House has a veto. Any decision to trigger the passerelle provision which allows moves to QMV in common foreign and security policy—
It would not be by separate primary legislation because under the provisions relating to the decision to trigger, both Houses of Parliament would have to debate, vote and agree. Each House has a veto. But national Parliaments have to agree—that means that every national Parliament has to agree—so that if there were any attempt to move to QMV under CFSP, it would have to be agreed by every one of the 27 national Parliaments. In our case, and in other bicameral systems, both Houses of Parliament would have to agree. If anyone does not agree, that is a veto. Perhaps I may also be clear that you cannot use a passerelle clause for issues that have any kind of military implications, or in the area of defence. They cannot go to qualified majority voting.
Let me speed on to Amendment No. 113, which we have partly dealt with in our discussions on international treaties. The noble Lord spoke eloquently particularly about his time during the Falklands War and discussions in the European Union. Of course, his noble friend Lord Tugendhat may have a slightly different emphasis of memory on what happened, but I am not going there—I know better than to tread in that territory. I have made it clear that we are bound by decisions with which we agreed. It is as simple as that.
Amendment No. 165 would require that we renegotiate everything.
I have tried to set out as far as I can why I think the moves in this treaty are of great benefit. I said when I began that it was about building on the experience of member states. If we rewind to the beginning of our deliberations on the purpose of the Lisbon treaty, it is in part to recognise that we are 27 strong and potentially growing a little, if not much, further. We want to ensure that we have a treaty that takes us into the next steps of working together, and this is but one part of that. The proposals, while retaining the unanimity which is so important, and retaining our independent action, will enable us to collaborate where that is important. As many noble Lords have spoken so eloquently about the need for collaboration in today's and tomorrow's world, I think that the case is made. I hope that on that basis the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.
This debate has elicited contributions of staggering authority that I have felt privileged to listen to and that have almost compensated for missing the nicest day of the year outside. I assure the noble Baroness that being a novice in the establishment of British foreign policy is no bad thing—on the contrary, it could bring fresh light to a rather messy situation.
I do not have time to answer all these superb insights. I am sorry that I shocked the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, who has been so effective on the world stage. Of course we want a more effective foreign policy—any suggestion to the contrary would be ridiculous. The question concerns what kind of tools we use and how we use them in a constantly changing, sometimes near-anarchic international situation. Of course I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, that there are situations when it would be wonderful, indeed essential, to have a common 27-state agreed foreign policy going through all the procedures laid down in this treaty, and indeed other procedures as well. That is what we must work for. Call that "collaboration" if you like—call it "co-operation", call it "intimate collaboration". Certainly, let us do whatever we can and whatever is practical and prompt in the search for genuine consensus. As the noble Lord, Lord Owen, reminded us, let it be genuine and not a consensus that has to be agreed because the procedures so insist.
The central question has been why, and to what extent, we need to be locked into a straitjacket from which, as we have heard, there may in some circumstances be no escape. That is the question rightly asked by the Government all through the negotiations on this and the previous, near-identical treaty. The Government have sought to answer it by trying to ensure that foreign policy is locked into the intergovernmental system—there it is in the Bill—and that our freedoms are protected; perhaps not all the time, but at least in the last resort. As my noble friend Lord Tugendhat said, in a very profound speech, we could face all kinds of unexpected situations—who knows? We are told nowadays that the fashionable phrase is "black swans"—unexpected things that happen. Are we geared up and flexible enough to deal with these things, or have we tied ourselves down? That has been the debate and one is left with an uneasy feeling of uncertainty about the degree to which the Government have succeeded in these matters.
We believe that we must maintain the distinction between, on the one hand, practical togetherness in common foreign policy—and flexibility about how we approach that togetherness—and, on the other hand, codified top-down procedures in a single legal pattern. That is the aim—that is what the Government were trying to do and that is what we believe is still in doubt in this treaty, despite all their efforts. At least let us close our discussion of this stage. We argue in Amendment No. 15A, for instance, which the noble Baroness mentioned, that the Secretary of State, before the coming into force of the treaty, should assure the House in a statement that,
"he will uphold the freedom of Her Majesty's Government to undertake any action on the international scene that he perceives to be in the interests of the United Kingdom without consulting the European Council if he thinks that the security interests of the United Kingdom so require".
That is a very modest amendment. It is not a treaty-wrecker, so the Liberal Democrats need not worry. It is well within our powers to propose such an improvement and reassurance on this central issue of our sovereignty, direction, purpose and national identity. It is a modest amendment behind which lies a mighty principle. I would like to test the opinion of the House on Amendment No. 15A. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 13A.
moved Amendment No. 15A:
Clause 2, page 1, line 12, after "excluding" insert—
"(i) Article 1, paragraph 35(b), amending Article 16 TEU, unless before the coming into force of this Act the Secretary of State has laid a statement before both Houses of Parliament giving an undertaking that—(a) he will uphold the freedom of Her Majesty's Government to undertake any action on the international scene that he perceives to be in the interests of the United Kingdom without consulting the European Council if he thinks that the security interests of the United Kingdom so require, and(b) each of his successors as Secretary of State will be required to lay a similar undertaking before Parliament within fourteen days of his coming into office; and(ii) "