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Queen’s Speech - Debate (5th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:19 pm on 28th June 2017.

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Photo of Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan Labour 9:19 pm, 28th June 2017

My Lords, the gracious Speech is notable as much for what is not included as for what has been offered, but the Government’s failure to retain a working majority and the humiliating pork-barrel deal with the DUP are probably issues for another day. As the amendment of my noble friend Lady Hayter says, we need to prioritise jobs and the economy generally. The opening speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, reminded me of Ernest Bevin’s dismissal of a Foreign Office brief as containing “Clitch after clitch after clitch”. The recital of a wish list of Bills, with little indication of content apart from their titles, is no way to reassure this House or the country as to what will be taking place.

For us to have a secure economic future, we need an indication of how the endangerment of collaborative projects with our European partners can be avoided. As the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, just remarked, the nuclear collaboration that lies at the heart of the Euratom treaty requires more than a fleeting reference to the fact that it will appear in a Bill at some stage. This treaty covers a plethora of areas of co-operation that are currently in danger because of the lack of clarity or reassurance being given. We need to have a clear indication at this time, so that projects that require priming of the pump and topping up of the finances can go forward. Not only that, we know that the European co-operation that lies at the heart of Euratom is also likely to provide us with tremendous opportunities in the areas of decommissioning and fuelling of nuclear plants, particularly in central and eastern European member states of the EU. Of course, there are also things such as the nuclear element in healthcare.

In the last few weeks, we have seen the terrorism that stalks Europe at this time and the need for the continuing closest possible co-operation among European security and police forces. This will be jeopardised if we have to make a breach with fellow members of Europol and so on—a breach that, at the end of the day, will be down to the Euro bigots’ opposition to anything to do with the European Court of Justice. I heard the noble Lord, Lord Spicer, referring earlier to “alien” laws. Alien laws deliver quite a lot of good results for us. The European arrest warrant and such things require a far greater degree of involvement and co-operation with our European partners, which may now be jeopardised. In the events of the last few weeks, the security forces were able speedily to deal with what was happening in the UK and, in those instances where there was no European involvement or networks of terror, the public could be reassured with some degree of authority that these networks did not exist. We know for certain that the policing, security services and the intelligence that they throw up is dependent on co-operation, and for the United Kingdom that is dependent on our involvement. At the moment, as I said, the bigoted opposition to any involvement with the European Court of Justice prejudices future co-operation in this area.

If the Government think they can survive for the next few months, and perhaps for the whole of the negotiating period, simply by paying Danegeld to the DUP, they are mistaken. It is quite clear that the programme being offered in the Queen’s Speech is a tawdry, bankrupt set of half-baked proposals—the best they hope they can get through a divided Parliament. What we require is another Government offering hope and progress where now there is only despair and depression.