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 Wallace of Saltaire Lord Wallace of Saltaire Deputy Leader, House of Lords, Spokesperson in the Lords, Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs, Spokesperson in the Lords, Home Affairs 9:00 pm, 19th May 2008

I recognise that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, views the European Union as a foreign body over which the United Kingdom has no influence. That is not my understanding of the European Union, in which the British Government and British politicians, when they are effective, have influence. I have to say that I am not sure that the current British Government have a coherent European Union policy. However, I am rather more confident that the Government have a European policy than that the Conservative Opposition have one. We take part in these negotiations. We often make the proposals that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, then attacks as having been imposed on the poor innocent British people—but that is the narrative that the noble Lord wishes to prefer. The Conservative Front Bench and the noble Lord, Lord Owen, need to be careful not to slip too far towards the UKIP narrative that the United Kingdom will usually find itself in a desperate minority against a continental cabal. That is not usually the case and it ought never to be the case. Effective British negotiators ought to ensure that it is not usually the case.

The question asked here in what is—I hope that noble Lords will agree—a less partisan and more reflective Chamber than the House of Commons is how best to fulfil our scrutiny role. The clauses that we are discussing, and in particular Clause 6, propose a number of new procedures to deal precisely with changes in EU voting procedures in specific areas without treaty amendment. It argues that Ministers will not be able to agree to these until there has been a Motion carried by each House. I trust that the Minister will assure us that, before such Motions are carried, the relevant committees of each House will have had an opportunity to consider the proposals in detail in the circumstances agreed. Those are the sort of assurances that we on these Benches want from the Government before we decide how to respond.