Report (1st Day)

Part of European Union Bill – in the House of Lords at 7:15 pm on 8th June 2011.

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Photo of Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Crossbench 7:15 pm, 8th June 2011

My Lords, I need to recant. In Committee, I was against the amendment on the grounds that it complicated things. However, now it seems that it may be the only hope for dealing with a problem that I had hoped would be dealt with by another route. I was young, innocent and idealistic; I did not realise that we would end up cheering a government concession that means that, in the Bill, "support" is a term of art defined at the beginning, and the various prohibitions on Ministers of the Crown in any way supporting X, Y and Z does not mean that they cannot propose, advocate or support them in Brussels-just that they cannot vote for them. This is a huge advance and I am beginning to understand how difficult the legislative process is.

Clauses 2 and 3 have two different procedures, depending on whether the treaty amendment emerges by the classical method plus a convention, or by the accelerated method that is meant to deal with emergencies. We have two different procedures, and one of the paradoxes is that we have a significance test in the second but not in the first. Therefore, we envisage that any treaty amendment by the first, traditional method plus the convention must be significant. The second curiosity is that I thought that a treaty amendment was a treaty amendment, whichever route it came by. The third curiosity is that the accelerator method, covered in Clause 3, is meant to be used in an emergency, but we do not have any emergency or urgency test built in.

The charm of the amendment, as I now see, is that it brings in these tests. It would get significance into the traditional method, where it is not at the moment. It would also bring in urgency and the national interest, which perhaps is not a bad idea. It is a complication and it is a great pity that we have not had any clear rationale for the separate methods that depend on the origin in Brussels of the treaty amendment. However, we are where we are and clearly the Government are not going to give us any concessions on that. Therefore, faute de mieux, I support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Liddle.