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European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - Second Reading (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:48 pm on 31st January 2018.

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Photo of Lord Naseby Lord Naseby Conservative 12:48 pm, 31st January 2018

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Judd, is right to comment and demand that citizenship is vital. I say that with some feeling because my grandparents came from Germany in 1913. They were about to get British citizenship but they did not achieve it. They were sent back to Germany but, thankfully, reappeared after the First World War, so I guess a quarter of my blood is German.

I have been pro-European all my political life. I joined the Young European Managers’ Association, along with my noble friends Lord Wakeham and Lord Vinson. We campaigned as young professionals to encourage the country to join Europe, and of course success was achieved. Just after that success, we had the 1974 election.

I campaigned in that election in Northampton, a marginal seat that had been Labour all its life, where I won by the princely majority of 179, thanks, I think, to the Europeans in that constituency who supported me. When I got to Parliament it was in the period when we had dual-mandate Members of the European Parliament; in other words, they were elected to our Parliament and also sat in the European Parliament. Then we had elected MEPs. Somehow, somewhere in that period, from 1974 through the years, there was the beginning of disillusionment. Then we had the 1997 election. I had been in the seat 23 years, in a marginal seat, and I had a Referendum Party candidate purposely put up against me. At that point I was Chairman of Ways and Means and not able to campaign very much and I lost by a few hundred. So Europe has been very important to me.

If you sit in a marginal seat you have to learn to listen. In this case I suggest to your Lordships that we now have to listen and accept the practicality of what has happened in the referendum. I voted to remain—that does not surprise anybody—but I do now listen deeply to industry, commerce, trade and, above all, the City, to ensure that we look after their interests. We have to accommodate both what the majority of people wanted and these key dimensions of our society. I do not need to explain the Bill to anybody here, but as I understand it we are transferring European law into UK law. I am not a lawyer, but it needs to be done in a stable and orderly way.

I had the privilege of handling the Maastricht Bill in the other place. I had a good team that worked with me and the first decision we took was to call in all the sides that had strong views about Maastricht, listen to them and decide what could be agreed before it got on to the Floor of the House and what could not be agreed. One of the problems, I suggest to your Lordships, is that we do not have a similar procedure here. We have a very good Constitution Committee, no doubt, but I believe, having read its report, that it leaves an area of confusion. Certainly, not all of its proposals are terribly practical. That is where we come to the problem of Henry VIII clauses. I do not think it is practical to have all these challenges in primary legislation: it is just not practical and if it is not practical, we need to ensure that there are safeguards. That, I believe, is vital.

There are three large areas of discussion. Should the Executive have power to accept the final deal without Parliament having a vote or, indeed, the people having another vote, or should there be further votes for Parliament en route? We must recognise that any Government has to govern and give the leadership that we, the people, want. I share the view that it is a great pity that the Cabinet today seems to be riven by various factions: that is not what I want to see in my Government. Secondly, everybody that has contributed has made it clear that this is all about the future of our nation. I, for one, am not in favour of a second referendum.

The challenge, though, is not just a constitutional one. We have to accommodate trade, industry, commerce and the City because they are so vital to our economy, to employment and to standards of living. There are trade deals out there. I know quite a lot about Asia. I have visited many parts of Asia, both as an executive and as a politician. Frankly, it is not good enough at the moment to be appointing MPs as trade envoys. That is second-hand. We need experienced negotiators out there with specific experience of those markets to produce future trade deals that will enable us, a single country, to trade extensively and successfully.

I finish with two quick points. I want to say on the record thank you to those who are doing the negotiating for us. To all those civil servants and politicians, I say a big thank you. At this point, frankly, our nation wants inspirational leadership and a goal that we can all sign up to. This is a time for a united Cabinet to decide what we really want, what we think we can get from Europe and what we can offer in return—not just in EU terms, but to defence, culture and so on. Do this, and the country will respond.