European Union (Amendment) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:00 pm on 19th May 2008.

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Photo of Lord Blackwell Lord Blackwell Conservative 9:00 pm, 19th May 2008

I shall intervene only briefly after that powerful speech by the noble Lord, Lord Owen. If the Government reject the amendments, I can only believe that they will do so on the grounds that having primary legislation is too arduous a process. It is because it is a more arduous process that many of us believe that it is the proper democratic control of decisions of this importance.

However, there is another point to this. In those political negotiations in the middle of the night which precede the formal legislative Act of the European Council and which the noble Lord, Lord Owen, described, the fact that the British Prime Minister has a more arduous process to go through may be to our advantage. The UK may not be comfortable with many of the proposals pushed forward by the European Union. The noble Lord described compromises being reached in the middle of the night—we know that all kinds of things are agreed as part of a package—but the stronger the barriers to a British Prime Minister being able to say to his colleagues in Europe, "I cannot agree to that because I will not be able to get it through the UK Parliament", the stronger will be the UK's position in that negotiation. That is another important reason, on top of the UK democratic reasons—which are the most important—for making the process as arduous as possible on decisions of this importance.