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I thank the noble Lord. I call this the "cat out of the bag" amendment. This is what the two noble Lords opposite and a third noble Lord behind me—which is always dangerous—have been waiting for. This is their big moment. All the other amendments that they have moved are, basically, beside the point. They do not want any improvement in the European Union. That is not the point. They want to leave it. This is their moment because they are able to say that. They have become, if you like, honest men. Now we are debating, for them, the big issue. This is, of course, official UKIP policy. There are a number of well known Conservative fellow travellers who have tabled amendments, particularly in the other place. It has been claimed that too many mainstream Conservatives are allowing themselves to be pushed along by this kind of pressure. I would not say that at all. I certainly would not go along with those who might allege that the noble Lord, Lord Howell, whom I have known for a long time and have much respect for, is a Cash with a human face. I would not call him that at all. He has his own face, which is charming.
I am strongly in favour of British membership. The European Union is one of the great achievements of the post-war world and has certainly been a force for good on the Continent of Europe. It has led to prosperity for the peoples of Europe. It has led to greater security, particularly because the old quarrel between France and Germany has, I hope, been healed for ever. Of course, it has also led to the strengthening of democracy on the Continent of Europe. To qualify to be a member of the European Union, states have to be a democracy, which is why the former dictatorships of Spain, Portugal and Greece are now democracies and the countries of central and eastern Europe, which were brought in in 2004, are now flourishing democracies. The whole of the Continent of Europe has basically been transformed by the European Union.
I also strongly believe that British membership is good for Britain. I would not expect Members of the Committee opposite to agree: I shall not ask them to intervene because they have intervened quite enough on my speeches already. In material terms, the European Union has been very good for British exporters, British consumers, and certainly for British travellers and British workers.
Of course, the much broader argument is that UK interests are served by us working together with our neighbours on trade, on the environment, and on foreign policy, defence and security. Those underlying, really strong reasons are why it would be a total disaster if Britain left the European Union. If it came to a referendum, I do not believe that the British people would vote for leaving the EU. But it is wrong to propose, as this amendment does, that we should have a referendum on British membership. I am very glad that, as I understand it, the Liberal Democrats will not support this amendment. It would be a retrograde step.
To sum up, I am strongly in favour of the European Union, which has been good for Britain, for Europe and for the citizens of Britain and of Europe. I hope very much that the Committee will reject this amendment.
It is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Radice, who I greatly like and admire. This is symptomatic of the debate on the European Union: we are at cross-purposes and we will never meet. It seems sensible therefore to put the issue to a broader jury to see whether they agree with the noble Lord and his followers—the Europhiles—or the Eurosceptics or even the extreme, swivel-eyed Europhobes who want to get out of the European Union altogether.
The noble Lord, Lord Radice, is right. The European Union has been very good for Europe in many ways. I have no quarrel with that. There is a mistaken view, which I hope is not shared by the Liberal Democrats, that UKIP wants to destroy it. That simply is not the case. Our case is that it is not good for Britain or necessary for Britain to be a member. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Radice, that it has been good for democracy in Europe and has made other countries in Europe richer, partly—I hope he would admit—with some of our taxpayers' money; for instance, French agriculture and Spain. None the less, it has had very good effects for certain countries in Europe, if not all, but not necessarily for Britain. That is where we part company.
In 1975, we had the referendum, which we talked about on earlier amendments, on the Common Market. There was no question of having a European army, qualified majority voting or even a European Parliament. It was on purely whether we wished to remain in—
The noble Lord has obviously not read the treaty of Rome very carefully. If he had, he would have seen that qualified majority voting was provided for in that treaty, which was negotiated in 1957 and entered into force in 1958, for all budgetary, agricultural and trade matters. It is no good his saying that. The speeches from himself and his noble friend are sometimes fantasies that leave all of us gasping at their extraordinary nature. It is important that you get the facts right. Qualified majority voting was part of the treaty of Rome when it was founded and ratified. It was part of the treaty that we acceded to in 1972. It was not invented later.
I am grateful to the noble Lord for saying that but hope he will agree that that is not what was put to the British people in the referendum. We were told by our leaders then that there would be no loss of central sovereignty. That does not sit happily with what has happened since. The noble Lord takes a different view from me and that is right, but it is time we lanced the boil and set this matter to rest by having a referendum. I believe that is the Liberal Democrat position. I hope they will support this amendment on whether we should be in the European Union. It would be healthy to have that debate. We do not want to have it just across the Chamber here with people who cannot agree even about what we are talking about.
I promise not to intervene on the noble Lord's speech again. If there was a referendum, would he accept the result? The record on that point in the past has not been too encouraging. I remember that Mr Anthony Wedgwood Benn was a strong supporter of a referendum. Within six years of losing the first referendum, he was calling for another one.
I am glad the noble Lord raises that as I was just going to come to it; he anticipated my remarks. What Mr Benn did is entirely up to him. He is—let us be polite—an eccentric and was eccentric over that. The noble Lord, Lord Radice, has raised the issue of whether UKIP or this side—let us call them Eurosceptics to use an awful shorthand—would accept the result of a referendum. Yes, of course we would—unlike the European Union.
During the interesting debates earlier, I made a short list of the referendums that have occurred within the European Union, or just without it, in the last few years. The Danish referendum on Maastricht voted it down. The European Union did not accept that; they had to have another go and then come up with the right answer. They were given a protocol on something, a bribe to vote yes—which they did. Next—these are not necessarily in chronological order; there were so many defeats of the European Union in democratic elections I cannot remember which order they came in—there was the Irish referendum on the Nice treaty. They voted that down and were given a bribe, told to go away and have another think. They did so. The Danish voted down the euro; they were asked to think again a couple of years later, then they voted it down again. There is nothing like a Dane.
Then we had the Swedish referendum on the euro; that was voted down. The French voted down the constitutional treaty, as did the Dutch. The Norwegians have repeatedly voted against joining Europe, despite, according to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, apparently being run by fax-democracy from Europe. Of course they are not; they are not in the agricultural policy or the fisheries policy. They do roughly what they want and put into law what is required. Just to mention the Swiss again, they have repeatedly by large majority voted against joining the European Union.
The European apparat simply cannot accept the result of a democratic poll—
Does my noble friend recall that the European Parliament has voted in the past few weeks that were the Irish to be so impudent as to vote down the treaty of Lisbon it would not make any difference and the project would go on? The European Parliament has said it will override any decision of the people of Ireland which would make the treaty null and void. But, of course, it will not because it never does.
I am grateful to my noble friend for reminding me of that. Nothing surprises me when it comes to the European Parliament.
It is not right to say that the European Union has the monopoly on democracy. All noble Lords who have spoken against referendums largely seem to be a part of the "eurocracy" and they do not like losing democratic referendums. That is what has happened and so, of course, they certainly do not want a referendum on the treaty—and not even on in or out—because they might not welcome the result.
Let me remind noble Lords of the striking and groundbreaking speech yesterday of the noble Lord, Lord Owen, who was, after all, a Labour Party Foreign Secretary. He said:
"We consistently move forward with greater European integration against the will of the British people. We can argue about particular opinion polls at particular times, but there is a steady opposition to what we are doing in Parliament, which has been going on, I would say, since the early 1980s, which is a long time for Parliament to be in opposition to sustained public opinion".—[Hansard, 19/5/08; cols. 1328-29.]
It is worth reflecting on what the noble Lord said. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester said rather the same thing today.
The noble Lord is quoting the noble Lord, Lord Owen, but during the period to which he has referred the Conservative Government won three general elections while carrying through the treaties which he has pointed to as being significant to our membership of the EU. Does he not think that the British people might have shown some of the displeasure detected by the noble Lord, Lord Owen, at one of those three general elections?
Let me give the noble Lord a history lesson. There was a party that put a specific question during that period. In 1983 the Labour Party fought a general election on withdrawing from Europe albeit only eight years after a referendum, and it received its worst result since 1918. Again, does not the noble Lord think the British people were saying something when they had the chance?
I was defeated in that election in 1983 so I know a little bit about it and about the reason why people voted against the Labour Party. It was nothing to do with the Common Market or Europe; it was everything to do with the fact that at that time Labour Party policy was to get rid of the independent nuclear deterrent. I know that because on every doorstep that was the main issue that was raised.
I cannot see why it is so odd, so objectionable and so extreme to ask the British people finally to have their say. After all, 33 years ago they were asked for their opinion in a referendum on what was then the Common Market. I will not go into details but we all must agree that it is a very different animal now from what it was 33 years ago. Everything that has gone through since then has gone through without the British people being able to have a say. The Liberal Democrats are absolutely right to seek a referendum on whether we should be in or out and, yes, I think that UKIP would accept the result of such a referendum. It would be very healthy to have that. I do not understand why the Liberal Democrats are against it. They should support this. It is, after all, their policy.
I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, will be familiar with what happens in Canada when the Quebec nationalists call for referendums so that that Quebec can leave Canada; when they lose them they call for another one. I gather that in Canada these are now referred to as "neverendums".
Listening to this debate—and I rise in this packed Chamber where the UKIP amendment is clearly the focus of national attention—I feel as if I am listening to a performance of "The Mousetrap" for the 455th time. It is a whodunit but we all know who did it and it is quite a familiar plot.
The noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, has to be commended for his persistence and for his transparency. The amendment is intended to achieve two purposes: first, to embarrass the Liberal Democrats and secondly, if possible, to get Britain out of the European Union. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, that I am not embarrassable and, secondly, I wish Britain to stay within the European Union. I stand here with the great he-elephant himself, my noble friend Lord McNally, sitting alongside me looking at a rather crudely dug pit with some attempt at camouflage in front of it and with UKIP tempting us to jump into it. I am not going to do that.
One of the tests we all have in this House—I have talked to many others about it—is that you know whether you are doing the right thing when you look around you in the Lobby and discover who else is there. If the noble Lord is asking me to go into the Lobby with UKIP, I reply that I am not going to do it and I recommend to my friends not to. We spent several days listening to tales such as that the European gendarmerie is designed to operate on the shores of the United Kingdom to suppress honest British citizens or the suggestion that the xenophobic dimension of the treaty is intended to stop British citizens criticising Brussels, let alone burning the European flag. I am very sorry that we have not heard the story I came across in Eurofax the other day: that there is a new directive that will inhibit the rights of spiritualist workers to operate within the European Union by subjecting them to the test of whether their work as mediums achieves the results they claim. Never mind; perhaps that will come up another time.
I wait with interest to hear what the Conservative Front Bench will say on this. The question of where the Conservative Party stands on Europe is one which we are all interested to discover and I trust that sometime between now and the next election we may possibly discover it. Let me spell out, however, where the Liberal Democrats stand. Nick Clegg is a clear and gut European. He made the argument in the House of Commons for an in/out referendum because we despair of getting a decent national debate. I have to say to the Government, as I have said before, that it is one of the greatest failures of this Government over the past 10 years not to launch an informed public debate on why membership of the European Union and continued co-operation in the European Union is in Britain's national interest. The previous Prime Minister and the current Prime Minister share responsibility for that.
I have already explained why I am not inclined to support the UKIP amendment. My party has just agreed a new policy paper on Europe and we will be launching our own campaign on European issues in the autumn. I hope—perhaps it is illusory—that the Labour Government will by then agree with us and that some senior Labour Ministers will start to say some positive things about European co-operation, even if it upsets the Daily Mail and the Murdoch press.
We need an informed public national debate—that is what my party supports and underwrites—but we are clear against the transparent intentions of the UK Independence Party. It is in Britain's long-term national interests to remain an active and committed participant in the European Union.
The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, will know that I take no part of setting a trap for the Liberal party. As far as I am concerned, UKIP is a newcomer to the debate about Europe; it is a Johnny-come-lately. As I have told this House so many times before, I was never in favour of going into the Common Market, and I believe that it would be in our interests now to leave the European Union. So my position has been clear practically all my life. I have quite enjoyed being involved in this debate—one of very many in which I have taken part over the past 30 or 40 years.
What do noble Lords who do not support the amendment have against referendums? Why is it all right for the Scots to have a referendum on devolution and, indeed, on whether to leave the United Kingdom? Why is it so special that they should be allowed to have a referendum on whether they leave the United Kingdom, yet the United Kingdom cannot have a referendum on whether it should continue to be members of the European Union?
The amendment sets out a respectable position. The time probably will come when we have to have a referendum on whether we remain in the European Union. After all, things are not everlasting. The British people may very well insist at some time in the future that we have a referendum, so the current situation is by no means certain. Indeed, I believe it is perfectly respectable for people to call for a referendum.
Under our constitution, referendums are advisory. They in no way undermine the sovereignty of Parliament. As we have so often said, Parliament, in the last analysis, by repealing the European Communities Act 1972 and subsequent amendments to it, can leave the European Union. But it is good to get the opinion of the people.
I believe that we should leave the European Union. I have said so in this House many times before. I do not think that our membership brings the benefits which the noble Lord, Lord Radice, described. We were told that it would increase our trade and be good for our economy and our industries. But since 1973, our industrial capacity has fallen from 32 per cent of GDP to 13 per cent, and great industries have been destroyed during that time.
If you look at our position vis-à-vis the European Union in trade terms, we run a constant deficit with it in goods and services of about £40 billion per year. It is by no means certain that we make a profit by trading with the EU. In fact, we make a big loss. In addition, we pay about £12 billion a year via the exchanges as a contribution to this so-called club. Yet only 9 per cent of our total economy is involved with Europe. So we are by no means get the trading benefits but we are increasingly getting a reduction in the opportunities that Parliament has for deciding the course of this country. As the Government themselves admit, 70 per cent of all legislation emanates from Europe. It is no good the noble Lord, Lord Radice, shaking his head. Those are government figures and I am only quoting them. We are increasingly losing control of our destiny and being ruled by people whom we do not elect and we cannot dismiss.
The world is a much bigger place than Europe. People say that if you leave Europe you will be sidelined. Why should this country be sidelined? It built a big empire from a much smaller base than we have now. The world is a big trading place and the big opportunities for trade and co-operation are not in Europe; they are outside Europe, as all Members of this House know. They are in China, with a population of 1.3 billion and in India which is burgeoning as a great nation and a population of over a billion. There lie the opportunities for our industrialists, for the people who have things to sell and with whom we should be co-operating. There are vast opportunities throughout the world; we do not have to be confined to the backyard of Europe.
I wish that people would not accuse those who believe that we would do better out of Europe as being nasty little xenophobes and little Englanders because that is not the case. It is possible for Britain, with its great history and abilities, to co-operate freely with all the countries of the world, but it is constrained because of the regulation, decision and control from Brussels.
That is my view of the situation. I can certainly talk for a very long time, but I shall leave it at that. Most of us in this Chamber have spent many hours, late at night, discussing the Bill. I am grateful to the Government for giving so much time to discussion of this very important Bill and the treaty. We are going to have more days on it than we had on Maastricht. I believe that that is an achievement and would like to conclude by thanking the noble Baroness and the Government for allowing this Chamber to have a very full and open discussion.
I have put my name to the amendment because it really is time that we asked the British people again whether they think that they should be in the EU. We last asked them in 1975, which is too long a time ago. I remember the words of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, who said that the UK is seen as an increasingly reluctant member of the EU. That is right: it is the way that the British people see it and they should be asked again.
However, I do not support the amendment because I think that the country will vote to pull out. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Radice, that all the evidence is that the country will vote quite substantially to stay in. I accept the argument that one referendum does not solve the problem, but for those who want this country to stay in the EU, it buys a certain amount of time, and I do not quite understand all the reluctance to have a referendum because it would settle the issue for a few years.
The real benefit of a vote in a referendum which said that the United Kingdom wanted to stay in the EU is that it would destroy the last vestiges of credibility of the United Kingdom Independence Party. How could it stand in future elections saying, "We believe that we should pull out of the EU", when a vote had just taken place saying that the country did not want to pull out? That would be extremely helpful.
I agree that I speak in rather party political terms for the Conservative Party, because we have suffered in endless elections from the spoiling tactics of UKIP, which has achieved nothing in terms of its objectives. What have the achievements been? In any constituency it has always taken very many more votes of Tories than of anybody else, the result of which has been that Labour Governments have had bigger majorities than would otherwise have been the case. And let's face it, this Labour Government have probably been the most Europhile Government in the history of this country.
UKIP has always talked with a forked tongue about not putting up candidates against Eurosceptic Tory Members. I just think of the plight of my right honourable friend in the other place, David Heathcoat-Amory, whose Eurosceptic credentials could hardly be surpassed. In his rather marginal constituency he has a majority of 3,000, which he has had for the previous two elections. If UKIP had succeeded in standing against him—it did not; it managed to poll only 1,000 votes—it would have removed him in favour of a Liberal who, like all our Liberals, would have been a rampant Europhile. That is not terribly clever politics. One really wonders what UKIP is up to.
The timing of my erstwhile noble friends who have moved over to UKIP could hardly be worse. They have joined the party at a time of infighting, misappropriation of funds and unauthorised donations, and it seems to be a question of the rats joining a sinking ship.
I have been talking about UKIP. Perhaps the noble Lord has missed this.
A notable omission from the supporters of the amendment is the Liberal Democrats. As it was Liberal Democrat policy to have a referendum on "in or out", I was quite confident that there would have been supporters for the amendment. I do not accept the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, that he did not want to join in with UKIP—I am not a member of UKIP, as I have probably indicated already. Why did the Liberal Democrats not support the amendment? It used to be party policy. But of course that is too much to hope of the Lib Dems. Their party policy changes so quickly, does it not? It was their party policy a few weeks ago, but now it no longer is.
It has been the party policy of the Liberal Party for 50 years to support Europe; it was the party policy of the SDP, one of the forming parties of the Liberal Democrats, for 25 years; and it has been our policy since formation to support Europe. I am getting a little tired of hearing those who have waved and wobbled about Europe for the whole of their political careers talk about these Benches not having a policy. We have not only a policy but a principle on Europe, which could well be a lesson to some of the parties around this Chamber.
They are very weird principles. The Liberal Democrats were on record as saying that they wanted a referendum on "in or out". As a way of getting away from the problem of having a referendum on the constitution, they said, "No, no, we don't think we should have a referendum on the constitution, but we'll have a referendum on 'in or out'". As I have already explained, many of those in favour of Europe in today's Committee believe that they would win a referendum on "in or out", so I do not know why the Liberal Democrats are worried about it. Nevertheless, they then decided that they would not do that after all.
The Liberal Democrats' extraordinary flip-flopping on policy is unbelievable. I am not sure that it is doing them much good. It follows their approach to the constitution. They started off by promising a referendum in their manifesto. Next, they said that everybody in this Chamber and the other place should abstain. Not everybody did, and those who did not voted for a referendum. Now, they are going to vote against a referendum on the constitution. It is extremely difficult to keep up with Liberal policy because it changes so quickly. The Liberal Democrats certainly do not allow principle to weigh too heavily on their shoulders.
The trouble about all this is that the Liberal Democrats treat policies as other people treat clothes: they put them on and take them off as it suits the changing patterns of the political weather. Moreover, they are famous for policies which vary across the country. They have certain policies to woo voters in Labour constituencies in the north—
I am sorry. May I ask the noble Lord which Conservative Party conference passed a resolution in favour of a referendum on Europe?
May I therefore take it that the Conservative Party has no acknowledged national policy on a referendum?
If it was in our manifesto to have one on the constitution then I think that it is our policy. I do not understand the noble Lord's point.
Let us look at other areas. I was referring to the problem that Liberals say one thing to Labour constituencies in the north while quite different messages seem to come over in Conservative areas in the south-west. It suggests that the Liberals have got political opportunism down to a fine art.
The noble Lord makes quite proper play of the importance of principle and consistency in policy on Europe. I suppose that some of us do have to blush from time to time when that is mentioned. But will he confirm, in terms of consistency and principle, that the Conservative Party's policy is still to withdraw from the common fisheries policy while remaining a member of the European Union? Does he not recognise that that is a complete contradiction in terms?
I do not speak for the party on the common fisheries policy or anything else. I cannot claim to be a confidante of David Cameron. All I know is that the EU has promised—though not many people believe it—that there will not be another treaty for another 10 years. I think that we are going to get another one far earlier than that. I suspect that at the next election the Conservative Party will make a commitment—the Labour Party may do as well—that there will be a referendum on the next treaty. If that comes down the line in about five years' time, I am confident that at that point there will be a Conservative Government. I am also confident that at that point no treaty would get through the House of Commons, even with a referendum in the country. Something has got to snap somewhere. You will have to watch this space to see where the strain tells. I believe that we are on the threshold of change and am enormously encouraged by the fact.
All I would say to the Liberal Democrats is that if they could settle on a policy, it would do an awful lot for their credibility if they could actually keep with it and not change it biweekly.
As I am a Cross-Bench Peer, I am privileged not to have to intervene in the matter of the party policies on Europe, which have existed since time immemorial and continue to exist in one form or another, according to what I have heard from those on the Benches on the other side of the Chamber. I just wish to make a couple of points, which I make because they have been raised in the debate, and I shall do so very briefly.
First, there is an assumption that because we are in the European Community we are disadvantaged in our trade with China, India and other countries. There is nothing inconsistent in being present in a single market of considerable importance—although that is not often referred to by opponents of that market—in the European Union, and at the same time being capable of exploiting the possibilities in new markets in India, China—
I do not think that I have heard that argument being advanced by anyone, and I have been in the Chamber most of the time. I heard the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, advance the argument that Asia is the continent of the 21st century, which is a very strong argument, but I do not think that I have heard anybody say that this country would be disadvantaged in its trade with Asia by its ties with the European Union. Maybe somebody has said that but, if so, it has passed me by.
I suggest that the noble Lord looks at Hansard. He will see that the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart—and I was trying not to mention him by name, because I wanted to make my point in general—made that point. He referred very disparagingly to the internal market by comparison with the other markets. As I say, they are not inconsistent; it is perfectly possible to trade worldwide from the United Kingdom within the European Union.
My second point is that it is very frequently said that the United Kingdom makes huge budget contributions to the European Union. The implication is that we are paying for most or a very large part of it. This argument is often advanced. I have a long reputation, I think, of being very averse to spending the taxpayer's money, which is why I feel that it is useful for me to intervene briefly on this point.
The budget of the European Union is 2.1 per cent of public expenditure in the European Union member states, which is a very low figure. The division of contributions, as they are called, between the member states, is certainly not in line with the impression that is often given. I have the budget report for 2006; the figures indicate the operating budgetary balances—that is, the difference between the operating expenditure, which goes into a member state, such as the agricultural fund, the regional fund and so on, and the own resources payments, which is what a member state pays in, in the form of a VAT contribution, and so on. That takes account, as it should, of the budget rebate, which is part of the system that was brilliantly negotiated by the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher. The UK operating budgetary balance on this basis is €2,143 million. We are 10th in the list of countries expressed as a percentage of gross national income. France, for example, contributes €3,017.8 million, which is 0.17 per cent of gross national income.
I do not make much of this point. I would much prefer it if the expenditure on the European Union budget was lower and if what we put in was less. That would suit me extremely well. But I do not want the impression to be left that somehow we are bailing out the rest of the European Union and that others are not contributing, because in percentage of gross national income most of them are contributing more than we are.
This amendment has merit only because of the Government's response to the previous amendment on whether there should be a referendum on the Lisbon treaty. If the Government had accepted that there should be a referendum then this amendment would be entirely irrelevant. So in a way it really is the Government's fault for not standing up to their manifesto commitments to allow a referendum on the Lisbon treaty.
I assure the noble Lord that this debate is not my fault.
Of course it is not the noble Baroness's fault. But I believe that the Government, of whom she is part, must take some responsibility.
I spoke on Second Reading though I have not spoken so far in Committee. But I feel compelled to rise to my feet on this amendment. I have listened to many of the debates of the debates and read with great care the ones that I have not listened to. It is fascinating that, as the noble Lord, Lord McNally, reminded us, the Labour Party is the only party that has actually wanted to withdraw from Europe since I have been a Member of this House. I have heard senior members of that party—they were in another place at the time but are now in this House—standing up and giving us their European credentials. But never once did they explain how they managed to stay within that party in 1983 or give any excuses why they did so.
Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Radice, had the courage of his convictions. Unfortunately, many of his colleagues did not.
Of course the Lib Dems really are in a difficult position. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, said that they were not going to be pushed into a pit. Unfortunately, their leader has put them in a pit. They are there already and we watch them slowly trying to clamber out of it, with a certain amount of glee and slight sorrow that they have such a muddled policy.
If there was a referendum, I believe that there would be an overwhelming vote in favour of staying in the European Union. I firmly believe in staying in the European Union. My noble friend Lord Hamilton was absolutely right that if there was a referendum, that would be the end of UKIP. If that happened, I am sure that we would consider whether we should welcome the two noble Lords back into our party. Of course they might wish to join the Lib Dems if the Lib Dems change their policy sufficiently by then. You never know; the Lib Dems have always been very welcoming to noble Lords of other parties.
The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, made the point that he did not understand the Conservative policy. I listened to the speeches of my noble friend Lord Howell. I thoroughly understand the Conservative policy, and I think that my noble friend has put it extremely well. I am not in favour of this amendment. I am in favour of a referendum on the Lisbon treaty. It is a pity that we are not doing that. I shall speak to that amendment on Report. It has raised an interesting debate. It has made it clear that some who are in favour of Europe have the courage of their convictions and are able to say that if there was a referendum, we believe we would easily win it.
I listened with great interest to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, who, contrary to the views opposite, did visualise circumstances in which a Great Britain outside the European Union was going to build this massive trade with China and replace what he saw as our £40 billion trade imbalance into surplus with such trade. That is a formidable achievement, if the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, can actually find plans to create that set of circumstances.
I merely suggest to my noble friend on the Front Bench that if we were ever to come to the circumstances—and I hope it does not happen—in which the noble Lord, Lord Jones of Birmingham, were to leave the Government, then perhaps in order to augment the Government of all the talents, she should at least keep the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, on her reserve list.
I would nearly like to support the amendment in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Pearson, Lord Stoddart and Lord Willoughby de Broke, and my noble friend Lord Hamilton. However, on balance, I disagree with them all them slightly for different reasons. There is a strong majority in this country in favour of remaining within the EU, as my noble friends Lord Astor and Lord Hamilton said, but that majority is becoming increasingly worried that the EU is moving towards becoming a kind of federal state. That is not the EU that it originally wanted to join. There is therefore an overwhelming and growing feeling in the country that we have had enough Europe. It may be all right, but we do not want any more.
It is often said that Britain should be at the heart of Europe. Well, we are more able to influence developments at the heart of Europe now than we will be if the Lisbon treaty is ratified. With the move towards more qualified majority voting in so many areas, we pool a much greater amount of our sovereignty whether we admit it or not. It is difficult to see how we can get it back. We currently have the influence and ability to persuade our European partners to do it a bit differently. Our influence to achieve that after the treaty is ratified will be diminished.
The noble Lord, Lord Radice, rightly pointed out that the European Union has been very good in many ways for many of its members. However, having worked outside the United Kingdom and in Asia for half my working life, I am not sure that the United Kingdom has gained as much from it as some of the other members. The United Kingdom could have made a fist of trading as a single nation state. I do not deny that the single market has been hugely successful. I spent a lot of time in Tokyo, in the 1980s and 1990s, telling everybody how wonderful having this single market was, but I did not say that it ever meant that we were going to give up crucial parts of our national sovereignty to Brussels, where we will be only one of 26 or 27.
I worry particularly about financial services. Having spent 2006 working in Brussels, as the director-general of the European Fund and Asset Management Association, I know very well that many of our continental competitors are quite jealous of London's success. They are more concerned with harmonisation than with the continuing success of London, the United Kingdom's financial services capital. Although we try to say that London is Europe's and the United Kingdom's financial services capital, London will nevertheless suffer as a result of pressure towards harmonisation of financial regulation. MFID has had some undesirable consequences. The financial services action plan is expensive. We must be careful in this area. The more we surrender our ability to decide our own regulation and financial legislation, the more threatened London's position will be.
I am very grateful to the noble Viscount for giving way and I apologise for interrupting, but is that not a misunderstanding? All the people whom one talks to in the City of London are very keen on all these entities getting together and creating greater strength from the collectivity as well from the success of London as the primordial financial centre. This country has a low manufacturing base, unfortunately, and therefore we tend to have a trade deficit with most other advanced countries, including within the EU, but we make up for it with the surplus from financial and other services and from Stock Exchange transactions and all the rest of the City's financial transactions. That is a huge asset, and there is no fear in the City that that will be taken away by greater co-operation with other Europeans.
I do not know whom the noble Lord talks to in the City but I assure him that there is very great concern in the City about MFID and about European intervention in our own financial services regulation. London has been a huge success, and I have worked for a British financial services organisation for most of my working life. I now work for a Japanese one but at least it has a London subsidiary.
We have to be very careful. I believe that the United Kingdom punches above its weight in the world and that we are in danger of transferring too much of our decision-making to Brussels when we can do better by retaining our own ability to deal with the emerging and expanding powers in Europe, Asia and the Americas and around the world.
I believe that the majority of people think that we have had enough Europe. Therefore, I would strongly support a double referendum asking, "Do you want the Lisbon treaty or not?", to which I think the majority of the people of this country would say, "No", and "Do you want to be in the EU or not?", to which I think they would say, "Yes, we want to stay in the EU". Thereby, we would persuade the EU to allow for a two-tier system where member states that wanted to retain their sovereignty could retain some kind of associated status and outer ring, and those who wanted political union could go ahead and achieve that. When I worked in Brussels in 2006, I was absolutely persuaded that that is what very many people in Europe want, but the British people do not think that that is what Europe is about. Therefore, I think that we have a dilemma. In these circumstances, it was right that all political parties promised a referendum and I think it is wrong that we should now try to fudge the situation and cancel the promises that were made.
I speak in favour of the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson. I greatly admire his knowledge and persistence in pursuing a course in which he passionately believes. We are all familiar with the arguments for and against further integration into the European Union. As we know, more than 70 per cent of our laws come from Brussels and we scrutinise thousands of regulations from it each year. We have no power to alter any of them and no evidence has been given to this House that we have done so.
If employees of Brussels speak out against the corruption that occurs, they are dismissed. You can lose your pension if you speak out against the Union. Do we want to belong to an organisation which is so unsure of its own authority? As the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, and others have said, we have a trade deficit with the EU. It needs us more than we need it. We are integrating further with an area with static, declining and ageing populations and with no adequate pension provisions. This country has a growing population, although sadly, thanks to the Government, one of the finest pension provision systems in the world has been virtually destroyed. None the less, we remain demographically much better off than our European neighbours.
The constitution—sorry, treaty—is yet another direct and creeping takeover of British sovereignty. We discuss it as though it is a static document. It is, as history indicates, yet another way for the EU to take over the running of more of our lives. Even though it is not yet passed, some decisions are already being pre-empted, such as the setting up of diplomatic missions. Health and safety, which we blithely entered into, extended its tentacles into areas we had never foreseen. Indeed, some Members have already indicated that further integration is on the agenda. An example of health and safety is the draft proposal that golf courses should have toilets at regular intervals all round them. My source is a toilet manufacturer in the UK. Is that sort of interference in our daily lives really necessary? The country has failed to renegotiate any major areas of conflict—the fisheries policy for one. We are barely supported by the EU in Afghanistan. The endless bureaucracy, the levelling down and desire to lower UK standards to EU ones, and the wish to make the City less competitive are all reasons why the time has come to review our whole relationship.
The Government continually tell us that we are doing better than other countries in the EU so why do we wish to integrate further? Unless we indicate our seriousness by withdrawing and renegotiating our whole relationship we will never improve our situation. That is why I support the amendment to let the people decide.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, for trying to be charitable to the Conservative Front Bench. He did it in a slightly strange way by saying that we were ignorant and guilty, but maybe he is trying to stretch out a hand.
Of course, a case can be made for supporting the amendment. If it were carried and there was an in or out referendum, I agree totally with those who said that the vast majority of this country want to stay in the EU. That leaves open the question of what type of EU and what way it is going. We in the Conservative Party would campaign vigorously to stay in the European Union, and I am in favour of membership of this grouping.
Those of us who have been involved with this for 30 or 40 years would be in an extraordinary position if we were not in favour of creating the right kind of European region and Union that can overcome any difficulties by working together. I do not think that we have been at all clever in recent times in playing the European Union hand. We have missed every opportunity after the rejection of the constitution. Hampton Court was claimed to be a great success but it was a feeble disaster and bypassed all sorts of opportunities for the UK. I find that quite shaming. Generally, our negotiations in these matters during the convention were a disaster, which I repeat many of us foresaw from the beginning because it was a top-down arrangement and not a bottom-up calling together of the great national parliaments and the great states of Europe. The negotiating was abysmal and landed the British Government with all sorts of commitments they did not want. Much of that has flowed into the Lisbon treaty where many of the undertakings still reside. That is not a good story, but in no way does it detract from our wish to see a strong, modern European Union adjust to the networked world, revolutionised by information technology and globalisation, that is now before us. It is completely different from the world in which the European Economic Community and European Community were originally designed and conceived.
It is true that the EU serves not our interests, as the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, said, but some of our interests. Close co-operation in the European Union undoubtedly serves some interests, but not all, and in a fast-changing world the pattern of those interests is also changing fast. Noble Lords opposite or, perhaps, all round, were wrong to be too mocking of that part of the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, and others. They rightly said not that the new world of Asia is a substitute for, and opposite from, being members of the European Union—it was not at all right for the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, to seem to set those two against each other when, on the contrary, they go together—but that there are vast opportunities growing outside the European Union. Those who say that the European Union is our destiny— we do not hear quite so much from them at the moment, and that phrase seems to have disappeared, thank goodness—or that it is the only game in town do not understand that what is happening now in the world is very different.
I hope that that message has reached some parts of the Government, such as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which was, for years, very much convinced that we were on the losing side in Europe and had to be involved by giving everything to the European system in order not to be outwitted by the clever Quai d'Orsay and the Auswärtiges Amt, and so on. I think that that message is reaching the Foreign Office: its latest annual report is an interesting document showing real signs of appreciating the strength of our position in the world network, and that we cannot rely totally on our European partners by seeing everything through that prism in dealing with the world. It still has not got the message on the Commonwealth—the most powerful network of the future—but I am happy that it is making progress.
For the rest, I agree with the great majority of the people; my noble friends Lord Astor and Lord Trenchard, and others, want to stay in the European Union and see it develop in the right way, not the wrong one. The great majority want to stay in, just as they also appear to want a referendum. About our Liberal Democrat colleagues, I feel that enough has been said.
The noble Lord is in danger of asking the question that was posed by my noble friend in the last debate: briefly, what would the Conservative Party do post-verification? At this juncture, he is saying that he wants to work for a different Europe. Could he, without stretching imagination too far, put that in the context of the situation that we are likely to face after ratification of the Lisbon treaty? Given the noble Lord's striving to keep the United Kingdom in the European Union—I think I quote him almost precisely—what will he then do in order to secure the change that he professes to want, post-ratification, since the treaty governing the European Union is the one to which we are now setting our hands?
Well, it is that at the moment, but this is a self-amending treaty, as the noble Lord knows better than I; therefore, it will change itself in the future. We have had many arguments about how that should be done, what parliamentary accountability there should be and what stance the Government of the day will take—and the noble Lord's question assumes that it will be a Conservative Government. That is one way in which it will be a changing scene, not a fixed one. I would go further, in fact; as Lord Whitelaw once said, I never predict about the future, not even about the past. I hate guessing how the European Union will develop—
I can tell the noble Lord that we have not reached a settled, new pattern of the European Union but a position where, in the words of Mr Sarkozy, there is a huge range—
Would the noble Lord let me finish my sentence? He has asked a question, which I am trying to answer. That is reasonable, isn't it? Mr Sarkozy said that many issues are unsettled and that there are many new issues to face. Many others in France and Germany and in the UK have said that we should now be thinking about moving on to the next treaty. Some say we need further integration, and other people say that centralisation is out of date and we need a new direction. There are a lot of opportunities, and they have to be taken.
Events have escaped me. When did Nico Sarkozy become leader of the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom? I do not know when that happened. Can the noble Lord answer the very simple question I posed which was not about what a Conservative Government would do but what the Conservative Party will do post-ratification. Can he answer it now? He can take it out of his filing cabinet and respond candidly, for which he is famous.
The noble Lord is putting a debating question to me. He knows that perfectly well. I can answer only for the pattern of the future that I think will unfold when a Conservative Government are in power. If he asks what the Conservative Party will do supposing that, by some fluke, as is possible, I suppose, the Conservatives might not win the election, or not outright, which is just possible, but unlikely, we are in a completely different position. I cannot possibly forecast that, and he cannot expect me to answer. I can tell him that the Europe of tomorrow will be in perpetual flux. There will be new regulations, new provisions and attempts to change the treaty through the passerelle and possibly through new institutions. We shall not let the matter rest but will do a great deal. As my colleague William Hague said, we shall work hard to think of new constitutional safeguards in the future, and we shall see that any further proposed transfers of power or competences from the United Kingdom to the European Union would be subject to a referendum of the British people. It would no longer be possible for Governments to hand over power to the EU without the British people's explicit permission. I hope that answers the noble Lord's question. It is clear enough.
I was about to resist saying anything about the Liberal Democrats because they have had quite a beating this evening, and it is time to be kind.
The noble Lord has done what my leader did very successfully in the Commons, which is finally to get on the record the Conservative policy, which is not put on the doorstep. Although they talk about a referendum, which most people think is an in-or-out referendum, they want a referendum on Lisbon but want to stay in Europe. That is useful to know because it is not what is often implied in Conservative leaflets and Conservative propaganda.
While we are at it, I noticed that BBC News website has a comment on our vote earlier today:
"Peers reject euro entry vote call".
The website says:
It is fascinating to read. Until a few minutes ago, one of the great mysteries of this debate was where the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, was. I hope that the noble Lord can assure us that when we come to Report, the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, will be brought to the Front Bench to join him in explaining Conservative policy because we have missed him over these seven long days.
I am sure that should my noble friend Lord Strathclyde hear these kind invitations, he will listen to them very carefully, but he will be in his rightful place as leader of what is now Her Majesty's Opposition, which will no doubt become Her Majesty's Government in due course, and he will continue that leadership with the vast ability that he has shown all along. As to the need to be here at various stages in the Bill, it is possible that he will be and it is possible that those of us who are looking after the Bill will be able to guide the noble Lord and his friends through the quagmire into which he seems to have led them.
I was about to say that I was not going to say anything nice about the Liberal Democrats or anything nasty either. I want to assert that we are not trying to lead them into another trap because they have become a self-trapping party. As one of my noble colleagues said, they are permanently wedged in a situation that must be extremely uncomfortable and excites, in a way—from one Member of this House to others and from one fellow ex-MP to others—some sympathy. It is very difficult for them. For the rest of us, this amendment is not necessary. I have heard the views of some of my noble friends, and they can make up their own minds. The vast majority of the country is in favour of staying in, and of working probably rather harder than the Government have worked to improve and modernise the European Union. Therefore, a referendum on that issue is not necessary, although it is in the view of the Liberal Democrats. I would advise my noble friends to vote against it this evening. That is where we stand. We have a very clear view of the kind of Europe that we want to work for, and we will work for it. We will not simply give in and adopt the defeatist pose of too many people, both in the Government and, it seems, sadly, in the Liberal Democrat Party.
I do not doubt for a moment the passion and conviction that noble Lords have brought to this final debate in our deliberations in Committee. I congratulate all noble Lords who have spoken or intervened. I have sometimes felt as though I am intruding, slightly, on some conversations that have taken place. I know that this issue is the pinnacle, in a sense, of the issues for the noble Lords who have tabled this amendment. It would be very good for us to be able to vote this evening, although that does not rest with me.
For me, one of the big issues has been to try to recognise the description of Europe that has been put forward by some noble Lords, not least because, as noble Lords know, I had the privilege of playing a tiny part through my work with the European Justice and Home Affairs Council. Indeed, when I was away this weekend, I spent time with Mr Solana, who is the high representative, Mr Barossa and colleagues from Italy, Malta, Slovakia, Sweden and so on, with whom I served on the Justice and Home Affairs Council. It was a great privilege to meet them again and reminisce about our discussions and deliberations about Europe. It is clear that what matters, above everything, when we have ratified this treaty, is that we get on to the agenda for Europe and our role in it, working with our 26 partner nations to tackle the issues that our people expect us to tackle, whether we are Government, Opposition or Parliament. Our responsibility as politicians must be to provide the people of this country with solutions to some of the big issues that face them.
Noble Lords will know, because we talked about this on the first day in Committee, if not at Second Reading, about the agendas for the European Council, which have looked at such issues as the economic questions facing the globe, particularly the European response to them, and issues to do with climate change. We have worked together on the international situation, not least my noble friend Lord Malloch-Brown, who has just returned from Burma, having been the first British Minister to go there since 1986. These are the issues that we, working closely with our European Union allies, should be part of. I take nothing away from the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, in his commitment to the Commonwealth. I said at Second Reading that the Commonwealth is an important part of the work that we do internationally. I see the European Union and the Commonwealth as both/and, not as either/or. I know that the noble Lord feels strongly about that; I support him in so doing.
I have also enjoyed the history debates. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, was there for many of these debates and, sadly, will not be writing his memoirs. Perhaps he will; you never know. It would be interesting to read them. I encroached on some party grief for the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, whose erstwhile friends are now in the UK Independence Party. That was interesting as we look across the complete spectrum of opinion on the opposition Benches. We have, I would argue, a complete spectrum of opinion sitting on the Conservative Benches. Although the noble Lord was kind enough to open his filing cabinet and get a little bit out for us to look at, there are some serious issues for the Opposition to consider. I say this with great sincerity. I look at the quality of debate and understanding of the European Union, but also at the breadth and depth of disagreement that exists within the party in your Lordships' House and, equally, in another place. That will be incredibly difficult for Her Majesty's Opposition to resolve.
For me, the big issue is what this Bill seeks to do, which is a separate question. The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, suggested that we had to have this debate because we somehow had not managed to do what we should have done on the treaty. I shall not repeat everything that I have said about the constitution and the treaty. I suspect that we will go through that at least one more time before we get to a resolution. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, was suggesting to me that we might even do that twice.
I do not buy the two-tier system of Europe. For me, it is pretty hopeless. You are either part of it, working together and collaborating effectively, or you are not. I shall not repeat what the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, said on those countries that trade and work with Europe and would find themselves having to simply ratify or deal with regulations over which they had no control, no say and no participation. I do not want to be part of that Europe. It would be inappropriate and not right for the British people.
During past weeks, we have talked about the benefits of being part of the European Union—for instance, the jobs, the trade and the benefits to pensioners who live in other parts of the EU. That also applies to the City. On Rome I, the contract law, I had the privilege of working with many City firms, which were incredibly helpful as we moved towards the position where we are able to consult on opting in, having originally not opted in. I know the value and importance that the City of London places on trade with Europe within the right context. I am sure that the noble Lord would agree that in our contract law we did not risk losing the market to either America or the Far East, which we have successfully not done, by making sure that we have the capacity to separate out if we need to or to join in if we can. But I do not doubt the commitment of the City of London to this in anything that I have seen.
The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, is right that we need a national debate. I put my hands up if I have failed to spend my time discussing Europe. All I can say is that I spent a huge amount of time in the presidency trying to interest our media outlets in what I was doing on civil justice issues, albeit to little avail. It was incredibly difficult to get them to take seriously what I felt was important provision for our citizens. But I do not take anything away. A national debate is quite different from setting up a referendum, on which the quality of debate may not be as good.
Members of the Committee have referred to opinion polls. I often say: how long have you got? If you ask people about a referendum on anything, they will say that they want one. People feel that that is an important part of being involved, as noble Lords have said. But if you also ask people what we should not concentrate on, the EU treaty comes second in a long list. I will tell noble Lords later what comes first. Perhaps we can play a guessing game on that.
I accept that polls are important. I would say to the UK Independence Party that the poll that matters is the general election. The UK Independence Party is a political party. It will put up candidates. It will stand for election on a manifesto that will have as its centrepiece—I have no idea what else might be in it—the idea that Europe does not benefit this nation. Then the UK population can go out and vote. Noble Lords on the Liberal Democrat Benches and on these Benches will campaign for people to say, "Actually, we would like to be in Europe, given what Europe means for us". That is what I recommend, ultimately, the UK Independence Party does.
I have enjoyed listening to these debates. I hope that the noble Lord will test the opinion of the Committee, because that would be important. None the less, if he does not do that, I hope that he will withdraw the amendment.
As usual, I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have supported this amendment. I shall say just a few words about the contributions of those who did not. The noble Lord, Lord Radice, was generous in calling me an honest man and saying that I had finally let the cat out of the bag. However, I have been in favour of leaving the European Union since I was somewhat surprisingly put on your Lordships' Select Committee on the European Communities in 1992, when I made the mistake of reading and understanding the treaties of Rome. Ever since, I have been firmly convinced that this country must get out of the organisation as soon as possible.
I shall leave the Liberal Democrats to the end. I shall deal first with the remarks made by my noble friend Lord Stoddart, who rightly says that, compared to him, I and the UK Independence Party are Johnnies-come-lately in this matter of our EU membership. He wisely made the point, as I would remark to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, that only 9 per cent of our economy trades with the European Union; 11 per cent trades with the rest of the world and some 80 per cent trades in the domestic economy. The mangy 9 per cent tail is wagging the 91 per cent healthy dog.
The views of my noble and very old friend Lord Hamilton of Epsom were to some extent shared by my noble friends Lord Trenchard and Lord Astor. I am afraid that he descended into the well known Conservative position that UKIP is damaging the Conservative Party. That is flattering but always requires the rejoinder, "What about the country? Which do we put first—your party or the country?". I know which I would put first. My noble friends were also firm that, if there were to be a referendum on whether we should stay in the European Union, the country would vote to stay in. That would depend on leadership and vision, two qualities missing from the modern Conservative Party. One word of truth outweighs the whole world.
My position is nearer that taken by my noble friend Lord Blackwell, who cannot be with us this evening, as chairman of the Global Vision think tank, which is that we should return to a relationship of simple free trade with the European Union and abandon the rest of the political baggage. That means leaving the European Union, although Global Vision does not put it quite like that. I agree that when you put to the people the question, "Do you want to leave the European Union?", the percentage wanting to goes down to 40 per cent, whereas if you say, "Do you want to return to a simple free trade relationship?", you are up in the 80s. It is a question of education, leadership and the debate that would take place in this country were we to have the referendum that this amendment suggests.
I say to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that I did not accuse the entire Conservative Front Bench of being ignorant about matters European. I accuse the current leadership of that and the party of guilt in having taken us into this quagmire. The noble Lord said that the Conservative Party wants to see a strong EU responding to the networked world. He wants to see the kind of Europe that, he says, we would want to work for. I say to him that, while we stay in the European Union, with some 8 per cent of the votes and the rest of them determined to do something else, we have not a hope.
Finally, on the Liberal Democrats, I will concentrate my remarks on those of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire—
I thank the noble Lord for giving way. As he is giving out marks to everybody here, I hope that he will not forget to congratulate himself on putting down an amendment that assumes that this treaty will enter into force. I am most grateful to him for that and hope that he will test the opinion of the Committee. We will then make the treaty enter into force.
I would not have wanted to do it like that but as we are debating the Bill on the treaty, I had to earth the amendment to come out of the European Union in the Bill. That is why the amendment is worded as the noble Lord sees it on the Marshalled List. For myself, I would not even bother with a referendum. If I were the Conservative Party I would simply go into a general election saying, "If we win we will come out", and it would do very well. I hope that answers his question.
Turning, finally and briefly, to the Liberal Democrats, the pièce de résistance of the whole debate.
I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Lea, who asked that question. I cannot believe it was the right reverend Prelate, although they are sitting very close together.
I must reaffirm to the noble Lord, Lord Lea, that I am a good European. I speak fluent Italian; I have 157 Italian cousins from my first wife; several dozen Austrians from my second wife; and I have business in every European country. I am a good European and I love the Europe of nation states. I just do not like the project so favoured by him and the noble Lord, Lord Kinnock, and his Europhile and Eurocrat friends. That is the difference.
The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, declared that he was unembarrassable and therefore he could not go into the Lobby with the UK Independence Party, by which I think he meant he would be too embarrassed to do so. I do not quite follow his logic there. He had a dig at the eurofacts magazine—which should be very much commended to your Lordships as a beacon of light and truth in this somewhat murky debate—and he accused it of suggesting that the EU was about to inhibit the rights of spiritual mediums. I have not the faintest idea whether or not it is, but I would not put it past it. The EU has, after all, invaded the whole field of food supplements and herbal medicines to the detriment of our health food stores and so on. I am not suggesting that they are in the same category but it has passed many absurd directives, including the working at heights directive—or the ladders directive—which stops you climbing a ladder unless you have someone holding the bottom of it; and you cannot build a rocking horse if it is over two and a half feet high, or whatever that is in metres, and so on. The European Union is guilty of the most absurd legislation and interference in our national life.
We were told by my noble friend—as he then was—Lord Hurd that Maastricht was the high watermark of integration; that no longer was the European Union going to interfere in the nooks and crannies of our public life. But, as I mentioned earlier, since then we have had the vibration directive, which refers to driving tractors and so on, and the 56-page condom directive. The beast is incorrigible. It goes on spewing out legislation because it has nothing else to do, which is extremely damaging to people on the receiving end.
I conclude by pointing out that we might have gone through the night tonight; the Committee is lucky that I withdrew the amendment on cost-benefit analysis, which could have kept us here for a long time. I am glad to receive the gratitude and appreciation of the noble Baroness the Leader of the House.
Finally, the Liberal Democrats say that their leader, Mr Clegg, is absolutely clear that he despairs of getting a proper debate on the European Union. The noble Baroness the Leader of the House also says it is difficult to get a proper debate on our membership of the European Union. So why do not the Liberal Democrats at least support a referendum on Lisbon? That would give a national debate. As I mentioned earlier, it would not go as far as we in the UK Independence Party want, but it would be a start and it would give that debate. I have to conclude that the Liberal Democrats do not want this debate. They want the project to proceed with as much bureaucratic and political shenanigan and support as they can muster. They do not want the people involved. I want the people involved, so I intend to test the opinion of the House.