European Union (Amendment) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:45 pm on 19th May 2008.

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Photo of Lord Williamson of Horton Lord Williamson of Horton Crossbench 8:45 pm, 19th May 2008

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, that these are important provisions on the footbridges, which your francophone Lordships continue to refer to as passerelles. Footbridges are important because they enable you to cross the line. In this Bill, they are important because we are dealing with clauses which have been inserted by the Government that are additional to the simple insertion of the treaty provisions into the European Communities Act; that is, they are important enough to require special clauses. They are also important because they go beyond earlier treaties. The two general amending provisions to simplify revision procedure so that things could be changed without an intergovernmental conference—they are in Article 156 of the treaty—go beyond previous treaties and legislation. It is also extremely important that what the Government have proposed should be adequate to ensure that we do not get an unwanted crossing of a line, which is sometimes described as creep in the provisions of European Union legislation.

The Government have at least two forms of blockage on the potential use of these articles. The first is that unanimity, which has not been mentioned but is very important, applies, so that the British position can be protected. Secondly, there is the parliamentary procedure which we are discussing. Whether it is sufficient to have a Motion moved in the House, and each House agreeing to that Motion without amendment, is a matter of judgment. This is an important issue and I believe that the Government have put sufficient belt and braces in the Bill. If we are not satisfied, we are running some risk with these, what I shall continue to call, footbridge provisions, and not classify myself for the moment as a francophone Lord.