European Union (Amendment) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:15 pm on 19th May 2008.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Tugendhat Lord Tugendhat Conservative 9:15 pm, 19th May 2008

I very much agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, has said. I would like to address my remarks largely to the noble Lord, Lord Owen. I agree with his description of how business is done; it is a long time since either he or I were at a Council meeting in Brussels, but I am willing to accept from his description that the way in which business is done has not changed a great deal, although it must now , with so many more members, be much more complicated. He overlooked one crucial point. When he talked about the whole mechanism of confessionals and people being taken to one side and deals being done, and all the rest of it, he was referring to a situation in which the outcome is fluid—in which the Ministers, whether they are heads of state in government or Foreign Ministers or whatever, are not bound by a previous decision. They are people who are in a position to deal.

I attended a great many Council meetings, albeit some while ago, and my experience of them was that if a Minister said that there was no possibility of his moving because he was bound by a parliamentary vote, a coalition agreement or something else—perhaps, as in the case of the Danes, by a vote of the very effective Folketing committee—the whole business described by the noble Lord, Lord Owen, did not come into play because the Minister concerned was not in a position to move. Indeed—