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Lords Chamber

Volume 691: debated on Wednesday 9 May 2007

House of Lords

Wednesday, 9 May 2007.

The House met at three o’clock: the LORD SPEAKER on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Salisbury.

NHS: Hospital Telephones

Lord Dubs asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What is the cost to hospital in-patients of making and receiving landline telephone calls.

My Lords, patients make telephone calls by using the bedside telephone system or hospital payphones. Bedside telephones are managed by three major service providers. Two providers charge 10 pence per minute for making an outgoing call and the other charges 26 pence per minute. Payphone charges vary at trust level according to local agreements with the chosen service provider.

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that Answer. Will he confirm that the company that charges 26 pence per minute for patients to make calls covers 75 per cent of all calling opportunities for patients? Given those high costs and given that telephone calling is an important link for people who are going through a stressful time while they are ill in bed, why can they not use mobile phones in the same way that doctors can?

My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right to draw attention to the issue. I am sure that there has been general concern about the very large increase in call costs in relation to the company that he mentioned. He is right that it has a large proportion of the units in NHS hospitals, but these have brought a great deal of benefit to patients. New guidance issued by the department this month makes it clear that mobile phones can be used in certain areas but not in clinical areas. One must feel for patients who want peace and quiet if there is huge use of mobile phones on a ward. However, I agree with my noble friend’s point about doctors.

No, my Lords. The benefit comes to the patients in using the units and having access to television channels and the radio. The trust gets no financial benefit. However, surveys show a very high satisfaction rate among patients who use the units, as they bring an additional service.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that research has been done in Melbourne Australia and at the Mayo Clinic in the United States? The latest paper from the Mayo Clinic published in March clearly shows that in 300 tests of mobile phones in 75 patient areas there was no evidence at all of any interference with medical equipment. Interference had occurred previously only when phones had been used within one metre of equipment, but, with modern technology, that no longer applies.

My Lords, my noble friend raises a very fair point. I understand that the MHRA, the regulatory body, has looked at this and has suggested that individual trusts undertake their own risk assessments, taking account of the research that my noble friend has mentioned.

My Lords, the Minister has already told us that the Government say there is no reason not to use mobile phones in hospitals. Can he comment on the accuracy of BBC reports that some hospitals have nevertheless banned the use of mobile phones because they are tied to contracts with pay-as-you-go phone companies?

My Lords, I have seen the standard documentation that related to the original licensing and there was no blanket ban on the use of mobile phones, although there were qualifications around it. Some trusts may have gone further than they needed to, but they will be absolutely clear from the guidance issued this month by my department that there is no reason for a total prohibition. However, a balance has to be struck here. Patients on wards—rather like passengers in railway carriages—do not want to be bombarded with very noisy people using mobile phones. Mobile phones can also be used to take pictures and it is not appropriate for them to be used in clinical areas. It is better that mobiles are used in non-clinical areas, where their use is entirely appropriate.

My Lords, everyone has telephones at home and everyone rings everywhere—gas, electricity and so on. In hospitals, if a phone rings and one is ill, will there be an answering message saying, “Press button 1; press button 2; if you are dying press button 3”? Are we really getting into that mode in the health service?

My Lords, there is probably a contrast between a general switchboard and the phone number of the individual ward. Of course, the whole point about these individual patient units is that relatives and friends can ring a patient directly. That is why, overall, this has been a very successful project. It has brought much benefit to patients. I understand the concern about the huge increase in price, but overall patients have very much enjoyed the new facility.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that one can pay in advance by credit card for these patient lines, but one cannot get the money back again? Over the past two weeks, I have paid, in advance, £10 on one ward and £10 on another ward for a patient line for my mother to use. She was then transferred to another ward but there is no way of getting back that money. It is money down the drain. For me, that does not matter, but for many others it would matter. Is that a convenience for patients? I have seen the phones used in many hospitals around east London, but I had no idea, until I had to use one myself, how expensive they are for patients to use.

My Lords, I am very sorry to hear of the financial loss to the noble Baroness. I am sure we all express our deep concern to her. The phones have brought a great deal of advantage to many patients and patients do not have to use the system if they do not want to. Pay phones are still available in hospitals and in some cases the old trolley phones can be rolled out. There has to be a balance. The introduction of the system has come at no cost to the National Health Service and it has brought great advantages to many patients. Noble Lords are understandably concerned about the huge increase in prices. That is a matter for individual trusts to discuss with the company concerned. Overall, surely it is best that patients have much greater access and immediate access to phones and television and radio services.

My Lords, despite the criticism of this service, I, as a user of it some time ago, have nothing but the greatest of praise for it. It provides access to a patient in hospital that is, to my mind, unique. I thank the Government for agreeing to this service.

Homelessness

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether they provide guidance and help for people of all ages in stressful situations who might become homeless and destitute.

My Lords, under the Homelessness Act 2002, all local housing authorities in England and Wales are required to have a strategy for preventing, as well as tackling, all forms of homelessness. This approach involves promoting a range of practical measures to help people who might become homeless, particularly early intervention and the provision of housing advice.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. I am particularly worried. What arrangements are there for those from other countries who come to the United Kingdom to alert them to difficulties regarding accommodation, jobs and other benefits? Secondly, when they have arrived here, perhaps near destitution and rooflessness, what co-ordinated arrangements are there to help them in their difficulties?

My Lords, I shall answer the question in terms of people coming from A8 and A2 countries, who I think are at the back of the noble Lord’s mind. The Government have invested in an extensive information campaign in those countries to ensure that prospective migrants are aware of their rights and their obligations, particularly their rights to seek work and to access social benefits. We are trying to ensure that at the very beginning people know what the prospects are when they come and their rights. The message is essentially, “Think before you leave”.

It is important to point out that, of the people who come here, 97 per cent of the A8 nationals are in full-time employment. They contribute to the economy. We know that in areas such as Westminster, which is traditionally the part of the city that has the highest levels of rough sleeping, there are people who find themselves destitute. I visited the Passage recently, which is a place to which many A8 migrants go and where they are helped. It is under pressure, like many other places. We have recently made available over £600,000 to central London local authorities to support intervention to work with those nationals who are rough sleepers. There is quite a lot of assistance and charitable help as well.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the well respected charity, Shelter, has repeatedly drawn attention to the overcrowded condition in which numbers of children are now having to live, owing to the shortage of housing accommodation? It is concerned that children’s welfare and future development is being damaged by these sorts of conditions. Are the Government doing anything about this?

Yes, my Lords. We know that it is a particular issue in London. We recently provided £19 million for local authorities to look at ways of increasing accommodation for children living in overcrowding. We have five co-ordinators working on overcrowding in London, and we have another £700,000 for the five London boroughs worst affected to develop better policies.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that it makes good sense to support vulnerable families so that their children do not run away or go on to the streets and become homeless? Does she see an important role, in terms of stopping youth homelessness, for the parenting academy that the Government have introduced and the new support for social work that they have been developing?

Absolutely, my Lords. One of the main causes of homelessness is parents or relatives who are unwilling to provide accommodation for young people. We have to work hard at mediation services, and there is much more investment going into those services. For example, we have a supported lodging scheme for young people that is making a difference, and we have a commitment that by 2010 no 16 or 17 year-old will be in the same position. It is absolutely right that parenting schemes have a large role to play in that.

My Lords, while I have every sympathy with the families and young people whom we have heard about so far, is the Minister aware that there are a great many single women who have been renting rooms, particularly in London, who now find that the people who were letting rooms to them do better by selling the properties so are giving them notice? If they have only a weekly tenancy, they have nothing to go to and no claim to remain where they are. As far as I know, there are no council facilities for homeless women. Is the Minister able to tell us about that?

My Lords, the noble Baroness raises an important point. Since 2003, all local authorities have had to develop a homelessness strategy. They should certainly be looking at people like that, identifying people who are vulnerable and providing the sort of housing advice services which can set out the housing options, pointing people in the direction of, for example, supported or key-worker housing. I will think about what the noble Baroness has said, in particular relation to that group.

My Lords, young girls who run away from home and are sleeping rough are at great risk of rape and assault. Sometimes they have run away to get away from assault. Does the Minister agree?

My Lords, yes, one of the primary feeders of homelessness is domestic violence. Much of the work we are doing with local authorities in setting up sanctuary schemes and so on is about ensuring that people are safe and that, if they leave home, they are picked up on the streets by outreach teams working with the police and given appropriate accommodation as safely as possible.

My Lords, the Minister has spoken a lot about young people. Young offenders frequently have difficulty finding suitable housing. If they are not looked after they are at risk of reoffending. What signposting is given to direct them to where they can find the housing?

My Lords, that is a terribly important question. The housing advice provision now being made in prisons to give early advice on accommodation is absolutely vital. We are working in partnership with the Home Office on reducing reoffending by creating pathway programmes into housing. We have some extremely interesting pilots, working in Holloway with women offenders, for example, which I would be pleased to write to the noble Lord about.

Wealth Distribution

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether they are concerned about the level of inequality in the distribution of wealth in the United Kingdom.

My Lords, the Government aim to tackle poverty and asset exclusion by supporting the most vulnerable without blunting incentives for enterprise or penalising success. To spread wealth more widely, the Government seek to make saving and assets accessible to all: the child trust fund will ensure that all children enter adulthood with that financial asset; individual savings accounts have extended saving opportunities more widely; and the saving gateway is exploring ways to encourage saving further among low earners.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Just before coming into your Lordships’ Chamber, I trawled through some websites, many of which said, “Pay no tax at all! Transfer your wealth abroad”. Does the Minister support the OECD’s programme for regulating tax havens, especially those that the OECD calls “unco-operative”?

My Lords, I can certainly give my noble friend a positive response to that. The Government have played a full part in the OECD to tackle this problem. The House will recognise that it is an international issue, but there is a drive towards requiring some of these areas that my noble friend called tax havens to produce standards of transparency with regard to tax accounts that are held in their area. We are making progress, but not as quickly as the Government would wish.

My Lords, I may have overlooked it, but my noble friend asked a direct question: whether the Government are concerned about inequality. The Minister could have answered, “Yes”, “No” or “Just a little bit”, but he did not say any of those three. He has given a virtual assurance that he has no intention of taking any money from the wealthy, so, if he is going to help the poorest just a little bit, does that mean that he—or a future Chancellor—has it in mind to use any future economic growth to help primarily those without any wealth?

My Lords, I am sorry that my noble friend was not happy with my original Answer. I could certainly have answered, “Yes”, but I thought that the House required the Government to demonstrate areas in which they are active, which is what I sought to do. As far as my noble friend’s second question is concerned, the answer is, “Yes”.

My Lords, the Minister’s Answer gave a lot of examples of how the Government say that they are encouraging saving, but the plain fact is that the saving ratio has virtually halved since 1997. If anything, wealth inequality has increased in the past few years. Do the Government’s policies have any credibility in this area?

My Lords, on the overall position on inequality, we have seen progress in its reduction. The noble Baroness is right to say that in 2003 there was a blip in progress, but we have made progress. The most crucial aspect of the Government’s strategy is to give greatest support to those most in need. I enumerated ways in which we intend to pursue and are pursuing policies that help those people.

My Lords, is it not a fact that if you are to reduce inequality, as the Minister seeks to do, you must tackle the problem at both ends and deal with the wealthy as well as the poor? Will he consider abolishing some of the tax reliefs for the wealthy, such as capital gains tax taper relief?

My Lords, the Government review our position in every Budget but, as I said in my original reply, we must balance such measures against the obvious advantages of increased investment in our society, which supports the development of growth in wealth overall. The noble Lord will recognise that that is a balance that the Chancellor has struck with considerable success during the past decade.

My Lords, does my noble friend accept that the proportion of wealth held by the richest 10 per cent rose in the 1990s from 47 per cent to 54 per cent? What has happened is that home ownership has given a great deal of wealth to a number of people, so it is not just what you earn, but what you own.

My Lords, that is certainly an important factor, but my noble friend will recognise that an increase in home ownership has also occurred: it has risen from 67 per cent to 70 per cent. My noble friend is right. One of the striking factors has been the very rapid rise in house prices recently. Of course, there is no guarantee that the rate of rise in recent years will necessarily continue.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that by raising the status of those working in social care, the majority of whom by far are women—for instance, in early years care—as the Government are doing, and improving their pay and conditions, one is not only lifting them out of the poorest percentile of the nation but benefiting their children in the process?

My Lords, I agree with the noble Earl, but I also emphasise that the Government are concerned about the fact that women still earn less pay than men for comparable roles in our society. We need strategies to tackle that.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that many poor families in this country are having to pay money back which was given to them as tax credits in error—and, in many cases, under protest—and which they spent in good faith? Does he agree that it is disgraceful that the poorest people in our society are being penalised in that way?

My Lords, the noble Baroness will recognise that tax credits are designed to assist such groups in our society. She is right to say that there are problems with tax credits, not least because family circumstances change over the year and the Inland Revenue is not always informed of those changes—hence the necessity for elements of payback. We recognise that, for tax credits to be a success, the assessment must be as accurate as possible. We want a reduction in the level of payback, as the noble Baroness said.

Housing: Home Information Packs

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What immediate reconsideration they are giving to their policy on home information packs in the light of the 18th report from the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee (HL Paper 92).

My Lords, the Government are grateful to the committee for its consideration of home information pack regulations and the regulations giving effect to the European directive on the energy performance of buildings. We have responded in writing to the chairman of the committee and placed further evidence in the Library of the House to show how home information packs, including energy performance certificates, will benefit people buying or selling a home.

My Lords, despite the pages of rebuttal that the department has produced of the report from the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee, does the Minister agree that, in the light of the highly critical report on home improvement packs, which cites comments received from organisations representing key interest groups in the housing market as showing at best scepticism and at worst hostility, the Government’s best plan would be to drop this whole proposal now?

No, my Lords, I do not agree with the noble Baroness. We listened to what the committee said in its report and, as I said, we were grateful that we could provide additional and broader evidence to support the case that we have been making all along. Bringing together essential information that consumers need up front at the first point of sale, to help them chose a home, will make the transaction more transparent, more predictable and less stressful. Bringing all that together with the energy performance certificate will make a great positive difference to buying and selling homes.

My Lords, will my noble friend consider moving towards the position that the Act originally intended? Far from getting rid of the pack, we should move towards greater extension. It is popular with people. As the noble Baroness opposite said, it is not popular with some estate agents and others, but their popularity level is similar to that of politicians and journalists, so perhaps we should not put too much emphasis on that. The issue is this: it is good for the environment, it is good for home owners and the majority of the public seem to want it, so let us move towards it, please.

Yes, my Lords, the evidence from our trials shows that home information packs are thought by sellers to be a good thing. Indeed, the polls suggest powerfully in favour of energy performance certificates: YouGov recently said that 71 per cent of people think that energy information is important and they want more information about how to make their homes warmer while reducing costs. This is popular with consumers and so it should be.

My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that it would be virtually impossible for Parliament to devise a system that is fair to both parties in the context of a real property transaction? One side wishes to have certitude as soon as possible and the other side wishes the matter to be in abeyance until there is an exchange of contracts. The scheme as now devised and considered by Parliament is in fact the worst of all worlds in that it does not require a home conditions report or, indeed, a record of local searches. It is expensive without being satisfying for either party. In the circumstances, should the matter not be prorogued until there is a sufficiency of home inspectors for the matter to be properly supervised?

My Lords, I understand and respect the noble Lord’s legal experience, but I do not think that the system is particularly equal at the moment: it is weighted against the buyer. The average time taken between offer and exchange is longer than it was in 1998. We have the most opaque system in Europe for determining at what stage documents are being collected and where you are in that process. What is the argument against bringing together useful information that tells you what you are buying at the beginning of the process, so that buyers can have a much more certain account of the choice that they are making?

My Lords, the Law Society, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the Council of Mortgage Lenders, Trading Standards and the Consumers’ Association are all saying that these packs should be withdrawn because they will not help consumers. Why does the Minister think that the Government know better than this array of organisations?

My Lords, many of the bodies that the noble Baroness cited have been opposed to these changes for a long time. We have listened hard and made changes; for example, the home condition report is now a voluntary element of the pack. We are trialling it to make sure that we understand the impact on the transaction process. We have evidence to suggest that the benefits of bringing together the information that I have described, such as the elusive leases and the energy performance certificates—she will understand how concerned the environmental groups are at the prospect of delay—will make a serious and important difference to the process of buying and selling homes.

My Lords, I can give the House the most recent information because we are in constant touch with the training and assessment centres. That information suggests that nearly 2,000 people have passed their exams and will be accredited shortly, and a further 3,000 are in training. As the increase in demand comes forward, the pool of available assessors will be growing alongside it.

My Lords, has the Minister ever considered what happens in France, where conveyancing is far more efficient and far less costly than it is in the United Kingdom?

My Lords, will my noble friend confirm that she will not listen to the various vested interests that are opposing this measure but will move very quickly to making a home improvement pack obligatory on every house sale?

My Lords, I did not say “vested interests”; I was careful in my language. We want to make a success of this, and we will listen carefully to what the noble Lord has said.

Business

My Lords, with the leave of the House, we will have two Statements later today. Shortly there will be a Statement on the Ministry of Justice from my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer and later a Statement on Northern Ireland will be repeated by my noble friend Lord Rooker. We will take that immediately after the Third Reading of the Serious Crime Bill.

My Lords, I thank the Chief Whip for making that announcement about the Statements. Will he confirm my belief that it is unprecedented that a Statement is about to be made by the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor which has already been made in another place? If I am correct that this is a new precedent, is there any reason why Statements should not be made in this House before they have been made in another place?

My Lords, the Leader of the Opposition’s memory of this place goes back a lot further than mine. If he is asking me that question, he presumably knows the answer, which is always the wise way to operate.

When you have two Houses starting at different times of the day, the sensible time to take major Statements is at the beginning of business. Had this Statement been on a Monday, a Tuesday or a Thursday, when the Houses start at pretty much the same time, this difficulty would not have arisen. It would have been very odd, however, if a major Statement of this sort had been delayed in the Commons until well into the proceedings; on Wednesdays the Commons start at 11.30 am, so the Statement would have come much later. If the Leader of the Opposition is suggesting that we should start a little earlier in the day, I am totally in favour of that.

My Lords, with respect to the Chief Whip, he is not quite right. The whole purpose is that the Secretary of State, wherever he is, makes the announcement, and a junior, whichever House he is in, repeats it later. Should that not be what is done?

My Lords, I do not think there is anything in the proceedings of either House that dictates which Minister shall make which Statement when. I am as much a guardian of the rights of Parliament as anyone, having been on the Back Benches myself for many years, but, with the greatest respect, it is not for Parliament to decide which Minister makes which Statement. There are all sorts of other opportunities open to Members of either House by way of Urgent Questions, Private Notice Questions, topical Questions or other means, but the Government are responsible for which Ministers make the Statements. As we have 100 splendid Ministers, neither House is at any great loss regarding who makes a Statement.

My Lords, will the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms look into this again? I cannot remember a single occasion on which the Secretary of State has not made the Statement himself first. If this is to be a total one-off, can we make absolutely certain that what happens this afternoon is not regarded as a precedent for future occasions?

My Lords, I suppose there is a degree of precedent about today, on which the Government should be congratulated. In my knowledge, which goes back around 30 years but admittedly not in this House, I cannot remember it being normal practice that Governments make Statements about the redistribution of ministerial responsibilities. I can remember many occasions when whole departments, such as that of the Secretary of State for Employment, disappeared just like that. There is some precedent in a Statement being made at all. However, I will undertake to the former Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms to do my research and see whether anything on these lines has happened prior to today, but I would not regard it as being of huge constitutional importance.

My Lords, will the noble Lord clarify whether the Statement that is about to be made is a repeat of the Statement in the other place or is it the original one? If it is the latter, what was the status of the Statement made in the other place?

My Lords, my right honourable friend David Hanson, who made the first Statement in the other House, made it plain that the Secretary of State would be making the Statement—we are dancing on a pin head at the moment but I will do my best—when this House sat, which is at three o’clock in the afternoon as opposed to half-past eleven. I repeat that I would love it if we all started at the same time. I would love it if we started earlier. A three o’clock start for a parliament is late indeed and any proposals for change would be welcome.

Ministry of Justice

My Lords, today the Ministry of Justice comes into existence. Creating the new department is the right thing to do—the next step after a decade of constitutional and criminal justice reform to deliver a world-class justice system that has the protection of the public and the reduction of crime and reoffending at its heart.

The independence of the judiciary is paramount to the success of any justice system and vital to the well-being of our nation. I will, as will my successors, continue to uphold this independence, as is my constitutional and statutory duty.

The Ministry of Justice deals with all criminal justice issues in conjunction with other criminal justice system Ministers. The Ministry of Justice and the Home Office are engaged in combating crime and protecting the public. The two departments—along with the office of the Attorney-General—will continue to work closely together to deliver this. Appropriate working arrangements will be put in place at official level to ensure this happens, particularly on criminal law and sentencing policy, where the relationship between the three departments will be vital.

In addition, the Prime Minister has announced the creation of a new Cabinet committee on crime and criminal justice policy, which he will chair and on which the Home Secretary, the Attorney-General and I will sit. The Ministry of Justice has responsibility for the family and civil justice systems, human rights, freedom of information, data protection, constitutional issues and electoral matters—all items which remain of vital importance. In this first Statement from the Ministry of Justice I want to address and set out our approach to penal policy. Copies of Penal Policy—A Background Paper are available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.

The Government have made significant progress in tackling crime since 1997. Over the past decade, according to the British Crime Survey, crime has fallen by 35 per cent. Offences brought to justice are up by nearly 40 per cent since 2002. Ineffective trials have more than halved in the Crown Court since 1997. Fine collection is at 91 per cent, up from 74 per cent in 2003-04.

The Government have continued throughout to rebalance the criminal justice system in favour of victims and the community as a whole. The creation of the Ministry of Justice offers a significant opportunity to build on this success, with the following three-part programme.

First, we will continue to protect the public by ensuring we provide prison places for those who the courts determine need custody. This Government have already built 20,000 new prison places over the past 10 years—an increase of 33 per cent—built faster than ever before. Eight thousand further places will be built by 2012. We want to examine how to modernise the estate to provide more cost-effective facilities which are better equipped to reduce reoffending. We also want to identify whether the resources in our current estate can be used to finance new accommodation, be that new state-of-the-art prisons or smaller local provision for women and young offenders. I have asked my noble friend Lord Carter of Coles to provide an assessment of the plans for the 8,000 prison places and the longer-term issues affecting the estate, including the inter-relationship between prisons and the rest of the Ministry of Justice estate, to ensure that we have a coherent strategy.

Our prison-building programme will therefore continue to ensure that we have capacity to lock the most dangerous prisoners away for as long as they are dangerous and enable sentencers to send people into custody wherever they think this is required. The new indeterminate sentence for public protection is now in place, ensuring that the most dangerous prisoners are released only when it is safe to do so. More than 2,200 of these sentences have been issued so far.

The Government have always recognised that prison must be used for those who need it, and that sentences should be designed to reduce reoffending. However, over decades we have learnt that short custodial sentences are not effective in reducing reoffending. That is why we want to see greater use made of the best community sentences, where evidence shows that they reduce reoffending and offer more effective punishment than custodial sentences of less than 12 months.

Sentencing policy must support the use of our resources in such a way as to best protect the public, punish offenders and reduce reoffending. Prison should be used to protect the public to the extent and for the purposes necessary to deliver on the statutory aims of sentencing and in accordance with the Criminal Justice Act 2003, with alternatives to custody used when they are more effective in reducing reoffending and providing payback to the community.

We will ask the Sentencing Guidelines Council to review whether its guidelines fully reflect the principles set out in the 2003 Act. We will also ask it to look at its processes to ensure that it can operate in the way that it considers best enables it effectively to produce such guidelines as are necessary.

We will ensure that where serious and dangerous offenders breach their licence conditions, the punishment is a swift return to custody, for as long as is necessary. We will propose new arrangements for non-dangerous prisoners to be recalled to prison for 28 days. We will also propose that suspended sentence orders should apply to more serious offences, as we originally intended when they were created in 2003, not to summary ones.

Secondly, we need to increase confidence in community sentences, to support their greater use where they are more effective in reducing reoffending. Offenders will be required to undertake programmes to stop them reoffending, training to equip them with the skills to get into work, and carry out unpaid work in their local community, organised by the best available providers, whether in the public, private or third sectors. They will be subject to packages to restrict their liberty and movements, make them face up to the consequences of their actions and pay back the communities they have harmed.

The individual being punished, the community and the sentencer all have to understand that if the penalty is breached, punishment will follow, with custody if necessary. We will ensure that prison places are available for this purpose.

Thirdly, we renew our commitment to delivering in line with the vision set out in the Carter report of December 2003, including end-to-end offender management and public service reform. There is excellence in the public, private and voluntary sectors in the delivery of prison and probation services, and we want to build on this to reduce reoffending further. In particular, this means commissioning the most effective interventions which will best support the management and rehabilitation of offenders and making use of the fullest range of providers.

We have put in place the framework, the people, the programmes and the knowledge to make a massive difference to the way in which we deal with crime and protect the public in this country. We must make sure that this investment pays off. Above all, that means the right punishment, for the right length of time, for as long as necessary, with the right interventions and the right level of supervision for each offence.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble and learned Lord on his new name. His acquisition of political titles is positively Gilbertian. He has accumulated—not without incident—first, the Lord Chancellorship, then the Secretary of Stateship for Constitutional Affairs and now the Ministry of Justice. How interesting it is that the title he initially inherited, and was so keen at one stage to relinquish, is the one of real merit.

I must confess to not warming to the title, Ministry of Justice. Indeed, I find it rather forbidding. Are we soon to expect the Home Office to be renamed the Ministry of the Interior? That would lead to the true continentalisation of our justice system. But politics and justice do not sit together easily. That is what I thought the Constitutional Reform Act was about: to enshrine the principle of separation of powers in our constitution. Of course, we had that already but, to the Government, perception was everything. How typical—dare I say it?

In this amalgamation, the independence of the judiciary is an issue. In fact, it has become quite a big issue. Not surprisingly, the judges are deeply concerned about their ability to retain their own independence as a consequence of the creation of the new ministry. The noble and learned Lord is familiar with the arguments. Among them, the most important concerns the integrity of the court budget. Already the court budget is under tremendous pressure. One has only to talk to the leading figures in the world of either magistrates or county courts. Some of those institutions are in a desperate situation; and now they have the added threat of having to compete with money for prisons—and, heaven knows, more money is needed for those.

Then there is the real—or at the very least perceived—danger that judges will come under increasing pressure to tailor their sentences to the availability of prison places. There is also the strong likelihood of the Minister, not as the guardian of the independence of the judiciary but as a politician in charge of criminal policy and prison policy, being repeatedly judicially reviewed in the courts by the judges with whom he is supposed to co-operate.

As we all know, the process was rushed through with tremendous haste. There was no consultation with Parliament and no resolution of the concerns the judiciary expressed before today. This, of course, is redolent of a previous change in June 2003. Who was responsible for this change? It was the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary. Having achieved this split, they have now both decided to resign. Perhaps Mr Reid had second thoughts about the wisdom of the split. The broader issue is that the very individuals who have driven the split will not be around to take responsibility for the fact that it does not work.

We hear much from the Government about joined-up policies. But the conduct of the Home Office over the past several years has been anything but joined up. I suggest to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor that the split of the Home Office into the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice aggravates the very problems that were the reasons for the split in the first place.

The noble and learned Lord has hardly touched on any of these issues which I regard as absolutely fundamental to the change the Government have made. He has, rather, addressed an important new responsibility of the Ministry of Justice—prisons and sentencing. But it must be plain to everybody that the fundamental problem the Government face is one entirely of their own making. They have continually failed to act to provide the necessary places in prison to fit their prison population projections; and we in opposition have predicted that problem ever since 2003 with the passage of the Criminal Justice Act and all the implications that that has and will have.

The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor says that he will ask the Sentencing Guidelines Council to review its guidelines on sentencing. Why does he believe that necessary? Does the noble and learned Lord regard the current guidelines as too soft?

The noble and learned Lord concludes that short custodial sentences are of little use and predicts more relevant community sentences as a better answer. Which kind of offences does the noble and learned Lord have in mind? If short custodial sentences are of small value, what is the point of recalling those who offend on licence and incarcerating them for a mere 28 days?

The statistics deployed by the noble and learned Lord are impressive as far as they go, but highly selective. I was particularly struck by the point about increasing efficiency in the Crown Court service. As a supporter of jury service, I was extremely pleased to hear that. But what was lacking in those statistics was one about the problem that concerns the general public most—violent crime. On his first day in office, what are his thoughts on that issue and how will he confront it during his time in office?

My Lords, we, too, welcome the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and thank him for his Statement. I will not make any comment about his names. We welcome the creation of a Ministry of Justice and have long argued in favour of the desirability of having such a ministry to deal with all those justice issues involved in dealing with crime, the management of offenders, the prevention of reoffending and the protection of the public. There is clearly much still to be done in terms of fleshing out the details of the roles of both the new ministries. It is indeed a matter of regret that there has not been much more debate and consultation, both in the other place and in your Lordships' House, on such a vitally important matter as the division of a great department of state—the Home Office.

It goes without saying that the measure has huge implications over a wide range of issues central to the safety and well-being of our nation, and those have not been given the space and time that they need and deserve. Indeed, we would like to know how it was that only last June, the Prime Minister was assuring Menzies Campbell in the other place that there was no case whatever for the creation of a Ministry of Justice, yet by March it had become a fait accompli. What logic and thinking lie behind that change of heart? Why was that thinking not shared more fully? By the same token, we have heard nothing today about the details of how the Home Office, the other side of the same coin, will carry out its new role.

We welcome the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor in his new role as head of the Ministry of Justice. Will it be short lived, or can we look forward to benefiting from his wisdom and expertise beyond the next few weeks, when we can expect a new incumbent in No. 10? In particular, as we look forward to the next stage of the Offender Management Bill, will we see new Ministers at the Dispatch Box or will we look forward to continuity? Which Ministers will be responsible for what in this place? Will it be the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, as we might expect?

The three-part programme outlined by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has much to commend it. While finding little to commend in the enormous £1.5 billion outlay on new prison places at a time of such financial constraint in other and alternative parts of the system, the suggestion of smaller, local prison provision, particularly for women and young offenders, is greatly to be welcomed. We need to work towards far fewer people ending up in custody at all, but for those for whom it is necessary and appropriate, local and smaller provision is a significant step forward.

The new indeterminate sentence for public protection, however, needs to be revisited. It has been used much more widely than anticipated and the case for eligibility, particularly for young prisoners under 21 and for certain offences, indicates clearly that a review is necessary. We will be pressing for one.

The proposed review of the guidelines used by the Sentencing Guidelines Council is also desirable and should, with the right consultation, go some way to alleviating some of the concerns expressed by the judiciary. The proper application of suspended sentence orders is also necessary, so that they are used in appropriate cases, and the unintended widening of the net can be drawn in more tightly.

We particularly welcome the greater emphasis on use of alternatives to custody, where outcomes in terms of reoffending are much better and could be greatly improved with more resources, particularly for the Probation Service. Indeed, I greatly welcomed the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor’s unequivocal endorsement of the role of the Probation Service and its central part in the provision of these alternatives in his speech last week.

Confidence in community sentences is a major challenge to us all. Knowledge and understanding by communities is the key to this, as is, above all, engagement in the process by which offenders can make good some of the damage done to our communities. We will do all we can to promote this aspect of the ministry’s work.

End-to-end management of offenders is something that we all agree with, I imagine. It requires a clear duty on those working both in the community and in prisons to work together as closely as possible. It is logical, realistic and has the greatest chance of the most positive outcomes for all concerned.

There remains much to be discussed and clarified, both in the broad thrust of this Statement and, even more, in the detail. I hope the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor can reassure us that we will have this opportunity to look more closely at the detail, so that the concerns and different voices can be heard. These include many distinguished voices and different interests. Crucially, and as has already been mentioned, how and where will the financial needs of the various elements involved—courts, sentences, prison, communities and others—be met? One should not find itself benefiting disproportionately at the expense of the others. Prisons, for example, are a huge drain, where investment seems to have been agreed without a murmur. Community resources, on the other hand, have been relatively deprived. The independence of the judiciary is paramount as we all agree, but will the costs of the administration of justice be ring-fenced? We look forward to hearing much more. In the mean time we welcome all that is positive and constructive in today’s Statement by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor.

My Lords, I am grateful for the personal welcome, both from the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, and the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater. I also thank the noble Baroness for her support for the Ministry of Justice.

I completely agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, says about the importance of preserving the independence of the judiciary. It is vital that the Ministry of Justice’s arrangements do not affect that in any way. That is why there was discussion with the judiciary before the Ministry of Justice was brought into existence. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice said that, provided proper safeguards were put in place, he had no objection to the principle of a Ministry of Justice. The safeguards that he had in mind were ensuring that: the budget of the courts should not be depredated by, for example, the prison budget; there should be no difficulties because of judicial reviews; and there should be no suggestion of the Minister doing anything in relation to the court service that undermined the independence of the judiciary.

I agree with all three. As I made clear in answer to the Private Notice Question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, last week, I do not believe that a ring-fenced budget is the way to deal with it. Statutory obligations remain on the Lord Chancellor to ensure a properly financed court budget. I stand by that. The problem with ring-fencing is that justice sometimes requires that some money be diverted from, for example, the maintenance of court buildings to legal aid to ensure proper access to justice. That must continue, subject to proper safeguards for the court budget.

In relation to judicial review, although noble Lords will find this almost impossible to believe, I have been judicially reviewed as Lord Chancellor. Indeed, having checked the statistics, I see that last year I was judicially reviewed on 31 occasions. I am quite sure that they were all completely unsuccessful. It has been perfectly possible for me, as Lord Chancellor, to have a relationship with the judges that is not in any way affected by the fact that, from time to time, the Lord Chancellor finds himself as a defendant in court. Nobody in this country is outside the ambit of the law. The judicial review issue does not create a substantial difficulty.

The history of the split is that during the autumn last year and the spring of this year, consideration was given to where the right split should be. Two considerations apply. First, in the changed world that we face since 9/11, it is right that there be a Home Office able to focus specifically on crime, security, immigration and counterterrorism. It is also right—and one obvious lesson that we all accept—that the more joined-up the criminal justice system and the justice system generally, the better the results. The effect of moving prison, probation, penal and sentencing policies into the department responsible for the administration of the courts is that, especially in relation to sentenced offenders, there is much more joining-up. It also provides the opportunity for there to be two more balanced departments in Whitehall, where there can be political drive not only for security and counterterrorism issues but also for the penal policy issues.

The noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, asked what sort of offences I would expect the Sentencing Guidelines Council to look at. I shall give a wide range of offences, but they will primarily be acquisitive offences. He asked, too, what we were doing about violent crime; it is perfectly plain that, although the justice system has a significant role in relation to this, fighting violent crime is a much wider issue than simply the justice system. We need to ensure that communities themselves turn against violent crime in the most profound way. However, I completely accept the implication of the noble Lord’s remarks on this extremely important issue.

The noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, asked about the timing, which I think that I have indicated. She asked about the details of the split. If one looks at the background paper that I have put into the Printed Paper Office, one will find the details of precisely where the lines are to be drawn. I am grateful to her for supporting the remarks that I made about the importance of the Probation Service last week at a conference, and I am glad that I can repeat them here today in substance. I very much value the work done by the Probation Service. We must work in partnership with the service to achieve the results that we all want to achieve in relation to offender management.

I am profoundly grateful to the noble Baroness for her remarks about the various parts of the Statement on penal policy, which was the prime purpose of the Statement. I am very glad to be able to say that my noble friend Lady Scotland of Asthal will continue to deal with the Offender Management Bill. She remains in the Home Office, which is a source of great personal grief to me—but there should be continuity there. I have the advantage of having the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton of Upholland, with me, who will as time goes on deal with a range of issues of the sort that the department has dealt with. However, I am very glad that my noble friend Lady Scotland will be able to deal with that Bill; she started it, so I think that she should finish it.

My Lords, would the noble and learned Lord the Secretary of State for Justice not agree that one consequence of this change is that in future it will not be possible to describe the Home Secretaryship as one of the three great offices of state? The Home Secretary will be responsible for the police, who answer to local authorities, and for the security services. I would never underestimate the significance of those services, but the noble and learned Lord will know that they operate independently; they report to the Home Secretary but are not controlled by the Home Secretary. One virtue of the Home Office that disappears today is that it co-ordinated the criminal justice system, balancing the tensions between the conflicting interests of prisons, probation, immigration, sentencing and the police. That has now gone. We will now have two separate departments and it seems inevitable that there will be tension between them, not least in the battle for government resources and cash. The noble and learned Lord talks of having more co-ordination, but we are abandoning a co-ordinated regime for a bifurcated regime and we may well find that we lose more than we gain.

My Lords, the Home Office will always remain a great office of state. I do not know whether the noble Lord, when he was Home Secretary, had no disagreements whatever with the Lord Chancellor’s Department. I hope that I am not breaking any secrets here, but there were from time to time tensions between the Home Office and the Lord Chancellor’s Department. This is precisely the right place to put the division between the two. It means that there can be proper concentration on security, terrorism and reducing crime in the Home Office and proper political drive and co-ordination for the justice system. Both have their separate place in government and they will both be better served by the split.

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord will remember that during the passage of the Constitutional Reform Bill an amendment was moved by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, to the effect that the Lord Chief Justice should assume the title of head of justice. The Government agreed with the amendment. How is the creation of a Ministry of Justice with a political head consistent with that?

My Lords, the amendment concerned the head of the judiciary, not the head of justice. I see an entirely separate role for the political head of the Ministry of Justice, which is a part of a political Government, and the chief judge in England and Wales, which is an independent office completely separate from politics.

My Lords, surely the Attorney-General, who is the Government’s legal adviser, should not sit as a member of a Cabinet committee with responsibility for making policy as the Statement proposes. Is that not inconsistent with the necessary degree of independence from the Government? Of course he should be consulted by the committee, but he should not be a member of it. On another matter, I noticed that almost the entire Statement was concerned with offender management. Does that not increase the concern that prisons and other forms of offender management will dominate the ministry to the exclusion of criminal and civil law and justice?

My Lords, as to the first point, the Attorney-General has ministerial responsibility for the Crown Prosecution Service. It is right that he plays a full part in discussions as part of Cabinet government on the role of the CPS in relation to criminal justice. I accept that the Statement focused almost entirely on offender management. I hope that I made it clear at the outset that the Ministry of Justice has a much wider remit than that, but its first Statement focused on penal policy. I do not forget or underestimate the equal importance of all those other issues.

My Lords, I welcome the setting up of the Ministry of Justice. Will the Secretary of State ask our noble friend Lord Carter of Coles to add something to the review that he has asked him to carry out? Will our noble friend also look at an alternative way of treating those many thousands in our prisons who have a cocktail of mental health and addiction problems, and will he consider the establishment of secure units, properly staffed by specialists not prison officers, where they can be treated rather than simply punished?

My Lords, one of the things that the noble Lord, Lord Carter of Coles, will look at is how to deal with people suffering from mental health problems who have been sent by the courts into the prison system and not the hospital system, and see whether there are alternatives on an estate basis. I accept what the noble Lord is saying.

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord will recollect that when he gave evidence to the Constitution Committee last week he told us that he had no doubt that agreement would be reached between him and the judiciary on the important matter of safeguards. Does he accept that no such agreement has been reached and that, according to the Lord Chief Justice’s statement to the judiciary, important issues of principle remain to be decided? What will happen if agreement is not reached on those topics between those two parties on a level playing field? For example, will the noble and learned Lord impose his unilateral solution on the judges? How will the matter otherwise be dealt with?

My Lords, because the noble Lord was there and asking me the relevant questions, he will recall that I said that I thought that agreement would be reached. However, I made it clear that I did not think that agreement would necessarily be reached by 9 May. He asked what would happen if agreement could not be reached. I believe that the right thing to do is to focus on the work going on now. If agreement is not reached, we will see what the extent of disagreement is and how we can evolve circumstances to deal with that.

My Lords, does the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor accept that one of the ways in which this reform will be judged is how much people feel that the functioning of the courts has improved? I have argued for the reform for many years, so I am pleased about it. As someone who worked for years in courts as a probation officer, I can say that the courts often worked well for those of us who worked in them and for those charged with offences, but that they worked rather badly for the general public and, in particular, for victims of crime. Can we judge the performance on how that improves?

My Lords, that will be one of the measures, because a change such as this is not for the people in Whitehall or Westminster, but for the public in their experience of the justice system, particularly in the working of the courts. Yes, I agree entirely that that will be one of the factors by which to judge the success of this change.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble and learned Lord on the part of his Statement that dealt with the study and survey to be conducted by the Sentencing Guidelines Council, but does he accept that nothing that comes from that study, nor the most spectacular increase in prison places, will solve the problem of prison overcrowding in the short term? Apparently, we are now within some 500 places of crashing through the ceiling of 81,000. Nothing that is studied or recommended by the Sentencing Guidelines Council within its authority can change some of the fundamental problems, one of which is indeterminate sentences. The principle behind such sentences is very proper, but it may be fraught with considerable problems in the near future. Academics estimate that within five years no fewer than 25,000 people will be subject to such sentences. Would the noble and learned Lord consider extending the remit of the study to include the possibility of amending the 2003 Act to give judges much greater discretion than they now have under the trigger mechanism for indeterminate sentences?

My Lords, the noble Lord is right to identify the importance of the indeterminate sentence. It is, in principle, correct that people who a court determines are dangerous and who have committed one or more criminal offences should be released only when an independent board has determined that they are no longer dangerous. He is also right to say that the number of people on indeterminate sentences is increasing considerably. I do not necessarily accept the figure of 25,000, but the number is going up. It is not within the statutory remit of the Sentencing Guidelines Council to look at the issue of indeterminate sentences; my focus in referring matters to it is not the indeterminate sentence but the determinate sentence, as I made clear. Although I note the suggestion made by the noble Lord, I am not minded to extend the reference—not just because it cannot be done as a statutory matter, but because we must be clear that dangerous offenders will be kept in prison until, according to an independent assessment, they cease to be dangerous.

My Lords, can the noble and learned Lord confirm that the traditional constitutional role of the Attorney-General shall be retained without any hint of government interference?

My Lords, the traditional constitutional role of the Attorney-General remains completely unaffected by the creation of the Ministry of Justice and, of course, there will be no government interference in that role.

My Lords, while we would all welcome what the noble and learned Lord said he would like to happen in our prisons, one of the problems is that no one actually knows how much this will cost. We know how much money is given to imprisonment and we know how much things cost in themselves, but no one has added it all up. Until we do that, we will not know by how much it is impossible for people to deliver. We have heard an awful lot of rhetoric about what people would like to have done, but we do not know whether it is possible to do it because the resources are not there. Will the noble Lord, Lord Carter of Coles, have something like a regulatory impact assessment requirement added to his remit, so that he can look at the cost of what is being suggested and give us some idea of what that will mean and whether it will be possible to deliver?

My Lords, I completely agree about the difficulties that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has identified on costing. I should make it clear that there will be no additional resources during the coming spending review, but I anticipate that, although it would not be described as a regulatory impact assessment, the noble Lord, Lord Carter of Coles, needs to carry out precisely that sort of analysis in order to inform the coming debate.

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor paid tribute to the Probation Service for its relative success in reducing reoffending among the people entrusted to its care. I know, because I was a member of a probation board for many years, that that service has been under almost constant churn and change for several years. As the current change begins to operate, can he ensure that the quality of contact between all those involved in dealing with people on probation—not just the probation officers but those who manage, for example, the work programmes, who are absolutely essential to the success of probation—is maintained when the new system of sub-letting, contracting out and so on comes into force?

My Lords, I agree that those relationships are absolutely vital, and I completely endorse what the noble Baroness has said about the quality of the people engaged. Far from seeking to undermine that quality, the further changes envisaged by the Offender Management Bill are designed to increase it. However, I completely endorse what the noble Baroness said about the importance of ensuring quality in the Probation Service.

My Lords, would the noble and learned Lord now like to try to give me a coherent answer to my question about what will happen if he and the judges are unable to reach a bilateral agreement?

My Lords, I have listened very carefully to everything that has been said and I must ask the noble and learned Lord one or two questions. First, does he recognise that changes in the machinery of government are always disruptive and inevitably expensive and that the cost of getting them wrong is very high compared with the time needed to try to get them right? Secondly, does he recognise that we could not have had a better example of that than the astonishing attempt to abolish by press notice the office of Lord Chancellor and the immense cost of putting right that extraordinary way of proceeding? That must cause many of us real doubt as to whether this Government are taking constitutional reform at the sort of pace and with the sort of seriousness and proper thought that are due to this country.

My Lords, I completely agree that machinery of government changes can be extremely disruptive. Indeed, I completely agree that there will inevitably be disruptive consequences from such change. Any responsible Government must assess whether the ensuing disruption and extra cost are outweighed by the benefits obtained. We have thought very carefully about that and are in no doubt that the benefits to be obtained greatly outweigh the disruption and the costs.

Victims of Overseas Terrorism Bill [HL]

My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Administration and Works Committee

rose to move, That the first report from the Select Committee (HL Paper 74) be agreed to.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the House agreed a general ban on smoking within the House’s premises, with certain exceptions, on 21 December 2004. The House has since passed the Health Act 2006, which will ban smoking in enclosed or substantially enclosed premises open to the public and in workplaces from 1 July. Although the legislation does not apply formally to the House, it would be consistent with recent practice for the House to apply the Act by analogy, as is the case with health and safety at work legislation. The House of Commons shares this approach.

The Administration and Works Committee therefore decided to revisit the House’s smoking policy in the light of the new legislation. The committee came to the view that smoking should be prohibited in all parts of the Lords estate, except in certain outside areas. The committee therefore recommends that specified smoking areas should be provided in Black Rod’s Garden, State Officer’s Court and Peers’ Inner Court and in an area at the end of the Lords Terrace abutting the Commons Terrace.

It is proposed that this new policy on smoking should come into operation on 1 July, when the relevant provisions of the Health Act 2006 are commenced by the Secretary of State.

The Administration and Works Committee, in this report, has put forward a policy which balances the principle of the legislation with the needs of those who wish to continue to be permitted to smoke on the estate. I beg to move.

Moved, That the first report from the Select Committee (HL Paper 74) be agreed to.—(The Chairman of Committees.)

My Lords, I declare my interest as a pipe smoker. I regret that these regulations will come into effect on the parliamentary estate. I realise that I am going against the tide and that most Members in both Houses agree that there should be a ban on smoking on the parliamentary estate. Therefore, I can do nothing except raise my objections to the freedom, which I have enjoyed since I became a Member of this House 29 years ago, being taken away from me.

However, I plead for one thing: for many years, we smokers fought for offices of our own where we could agree among ourselves to smoke and I make a plea to continue to be able to smoke in our offices. Those of us who are working Peers and are regularly here during the course of the year need relaxation and some of us feel that we do not want to give up smoking. Therefore, I make a plea that, at some time, the committee should reconsider the recommendation and allow us to smoke in our own offices.

My Lords, I make no apology for swimming against the tide. I was once a heavy smoker, but I have not smoked for more than 15 years. At the same time, I absolutely deplore what I consider to be the cruel treatment of smokers these days. I do not see why smokers should not be allowed, as the noble Lord has just said, to smoke in their offices and why smoking rooms should not be available.

My Lords, this is a sad day for those who value the freedoms that we used to take for granted in England. I do not believe that the Administration and Works Committee, of which I once had the honour to be a member, had much choice in the matter. Clearly, there has to be equality of sacrifice—equality of misery, if you like—and legislators must bear the full consequences of their legislation, just like the rest of the population.

The Government could have protected the sensitivities and well-being of non-smokers by imposing major, but less punitive, restrictions, as in many continental European countries. Instead, most unfortunately, they chose the most draconian option. In parenthesis, what harm does the Truro Room, where smokers of all parties and none gather for a quiet cigarette, do to anyone else in the House?

On a more practical point, can the Chairman of Committees say what protection there will be for smokers in the designated smoking areas when it rains, snows or hails? Will there be any cover for them? Secondly, can he assure us that an adequate supply of efficient ashtrays will be provided? “Efficient” is a most important word here. Nothing justifiably irritates non-smokers more, in both senses of the word, and also many smokers, than smouldering, tar-filled cigarette butts. By providing ashtrays that extinguish cigarettes immediately—I shall gladly consult the noble Lord if he wishes to know more about them—that nuisance can be totally avoided.

My Lords, this is what one might call the last gasp of the smoking lobby in your Lordships' House. What the Chairman of Committees has described to us as being a new measure to bring us in line with the national legislation strikes me as entirely reasonable. Having passed the legislation with overwhelming majorities in this House and in the other place, it would be intolerable if we were then to exempt ourselves from the provisions of the legislation that applies to the rest of the country.

England is going smoke-free in enclosed areas and workplaces from 1 July; Scotland and Wales have already gone and Northern Ireland has now gone. For us to stand against that tide and imagine that for some reason we are entitled to continue to smoke, to the annoyance of others and, according to the Surgeon General of the United States and the Chief Medical Officer, to the impairment of other people's health through the inhalation of second-hand smoke, strikes me as absurd. It is not true to say that by smoking in one's own office or in the Truro Room one is not affecting anyone else. Who do my noble friend and the other speakers who have contributed to the debate believe is responsible for keeping that room clean and for keeping those offices serviced? By continuing to have smoking inside the building, we are exposing our staff to the dangers of second-hand smoke, and it would be quite wrong for us to do anything other than to approve this report.

My Lords, I declare an interest as a former smoker. I shall say two things: first, I agree entirely with the noble Lord who said that there should be some protection from the wind and rain for people outside the main building. It is, of course, right that we should not exempt ourselves from the law. The curious thing about the argument of my noble friend Lord Faulkner of Worcester is that smoking is not an illegal activity. People who smoke contribute a considerable amount of tax to the nation’s wealth, and I look forward to the day when the new Prime Minister bans smoking entirely and ceases the production of tobacco and cigarettes. Then we will be in the society where the puritans would have us go. We must protect our staff and those who clean rooms and so on, but those who wish to continue smoking should have the right to some sort of protection to smoke in an environment where they are doing no one any harm except, possibly, themselves.

My Lords, I had not intended to speak until the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, got to his feet and described people who are expressing concerns as “the smoking lobby”. It is not a smoking lobby; the people who have spoken and I are concerned about individual freedom. It is not a question of a lobby; it is a question of providing alternatives to what the Government and Parliament have decided, alternatives that were available. That was the issue when we discussed the matter in Grand Committee. It was possible to provide for separation with decent ventilation. If lobbying for the retention of individual freedom is a smoking lobby, then I fear that I have to disagree completely and utterly with the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner. I hope he now understands that we are in favour of individual freedom and of protecting minorities as well as the majority.

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate. I shall make the point that the report is very brief and simple. It makes no points on the merits or otherwise of smoking; all it does is to bring this House into line with what will be the law of the land outside it on 1 July. As more than one noble Lord said, having made the law—whether one agrees with it or not—we really have no choice. If we make the law for the great public outside, it is hardly for us to make exceptions for ourselves in this House. There lies the answer to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Blackburn, about offices. Smoking in offices is specifically banned by the legislation, and, therefore, we cannot do anything else. The points made by noble Lords about the merits of the legislation should have been made, and probably were made, during the passage of the legislation.

As the report says, it is hoped that we will provide smoking areas outside in the three locations that I mentioned. It is hoped that the shelters will have roofs and ashtrays. I shall make inquiries of the noble Lord, Lord Monson, about the specific type of ashtray he referred to because it sounded very good to me. There is a limit to what we can do outside because the legislation specifies the sort of shelters that we can put up. As far as I am aware, they can have either a roof and no walls or walls and no roof.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Serious Crime Bill [HL]

Read a third time.

Clause 46 [Supplemental provisions]:

1: Clause 46, page 28, line 18, at end insert—

“(5A) The Secretary of State may by order amend Schedule 3.”

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, these amendments have been retabled from the previous stage, when they were not moved. I turn briefly to Part 2 of the Bill, which deals with criminal law. I am pleased that we are all in agreement on this part of the Bill, with the exception of one minor point that is the subject of these amendments. Government Amendments Nos. 1 and 4 would allow Schedule 3 to be amended by affirmative order. As noble Lords will recall, Schedule 3 contains a list of offences that are statutory forms of incitement or other inchoate offences. They are offences that can only be encouraged or assisted with intent.

As I indicated, I originally tabled these amendments on Report. Following our discussions at that stage, and in particular following the report of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee on the morning of our discussions, I agreed not to move the amendments and to reflect on them. I have considered the issue carefully and have retabled the amendments as proposed on Report. The amendments are necessary and they are appropriate.

The ability for the order-making power to add an offence to the schedule is not contentious, so I will not repeat my arguments about why it is necessary. However, the ability to remove an offence from the schedule concerned a number of noble Lords and the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. We have taken those concerns seriously, and we have considered whether it is truly necessary to have a power to remove an offence from this schedule. We think it conceivable that there might in the future be concerns about restricting liability for offences currently in that schedule; we also think it conceivable that we might all agree that a certain offence should be removed from the schedule. Where that is the case, we think it sensible to provide a power to amend the schedule by order.

It is always possible that, in the event of there being no agreement, we would be able to debate this matter appropriately and fully. The House would be in a position to make its view known by way of an affirmative resolution, to which the House could agree or not agree, so that the resolution fails. The affirmative resolution procedure is the most appropriate way of ensuring adequate parliamentary scrutiny while maintaining flexibility. As such, I have not made any changes to the amendments that I tabled on Report. I hope that the further time given for consideration of the amendments has been helpful. It is also right to reflect on how well we have been able to arrive at consensus on these issues, and I certainly hope that we would seek to follow this model in future. I beg to move.

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for being prepared not to move her amendments on Report. I think that they were actually being moved by her colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, but I suspect that she offered some advice to him that it might be politic not to move them then, after we had made our objection that they had come forward at excessively short notice. We had had—for which we are grateful—the report from the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. The comments that the committee made at the time still stand and are worth underlining; the committee said that this was not an appropriate way of amending the schedule.

Nevertheless, the noble Baroness has given the amendments further consideration and we have had further time to look at them. We have had an assurance from the Minister that the resolution will be affirmative. So, with some reservations, we are prepared on this occasion to accept the amendments. I hope that the Minister will give an assurance that in future, first, the Government will try to give the House appropriate notice of such amendments and, secondly, that they will always take proper notice of anything that comes from the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. The House owes a great deal to the committee. We are very grateful for its advice, especially when it comes to us at such short notice, as it did on this occasion.

If I remember correctly—I stand to be corrected—the amendments were tabled on Monday; the committee considered them on Tuesday and produced a report that we received on Wednesday. I am grateful that on this occasion the Minister prevailed on her colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, not to press them and gave them further consideration. I should have been slightly more grateful if the amendments had not come back, but there it is; the Government have brought them back. With those misgivings, we will not oppose the amendments.

My Lords, I support what the noble Lord, Lord Henley, said. We backed him last time, when he suggested that the amendments ought not to be moved on the basis of the report of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. Has any further communication taken place with the committee? We would certainly have preferred something in the Bill rather than the affirmative resolution proposed but, in the light of what the Minister said and the undertakings that she gave, we are prepared to let the provision go forward.

My Lords, I cannot assure the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, on whether we have yet communicated with the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, but I join the noble Lord, Lord Henley, in congratulating the committee on its excellent work. Noble Lords will know that we always take very seriously all its recommendations and give them proper consideration. I also thank noble Lords opposite for the way in which they have responded to the efforts that we have made to reach consensus. They will know that we wanted to take very seriously the various comments made on this part to see whether the Bill could be improved in this House before it goes to the other place. We wanted to reach consensus, which was partly why the amendments came late. We gave good consideration to what was said and sought to meet the needs outlined.

I happily assure the noble Lord, Lord Henley, that we will make every effort to give appropriate notice and respond. On behalf of my noble friend Lord Bassam, who is not his place today because, regrettably, he is attending a funeral, I should say that he was very happy for me to give way. He has shown eminent good sense throughout consideration of this Bill and I would not want it thought that he was in any way a source of intransigence. I have found him a source of great wisdom, comfort and support.

I am grateful to the noble Lord. We think that the affirmative procedure is appropriate. It will give this House and another place a clear opportunity to express their view, and that view will be decisive.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

2: After Clause 65, insert the following new Clause—

“Role of Information Commissioner

(1) Section 51 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (c. 29) (general duties of the Commissioner) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (7), at the beginning insert “Subject to subsection (7A),”

(3) After subsection (7), insert—

“(7A) The Information Commissioner may, on his own initiative, assess any data processing conducted under sections 63 to 67 of the Serious Crime Act 2007.””

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the objective of the amendment is to give the Information Commissioner the power to initiate assessments of his own volition. He would not have to wait to be invited to do so by the Audit Commission. We consider it to be an important amendment that would ensure that there was more effective and appropriate supervision of the new data exchange that will occur as a result of the Bill.

I tabled this amendment for the first time on Report. I brought it back today at Third Reading in order to give the Government the opportunity to explain to the House what progress they have made with the commitment given by the Minister’s colleague in another place, Mr Vernon Coaker, that he would take away the amendment and look at it. The offer was made at the meeting held last month with the Information Commissioner, Mr Richard Thomas. I attended that meeting, as did my noble friend Lord Lucas, who I see is in his place.

The Minister said on 30 April:

“However, for the record, this issue is being looked at. Whether it will be ready by the time the Bill leaves this House is another matter”.—[Official Report, 30/4/07; col. 878.]

What progress has been made on the matter? I note that in the period between Report and Third Reading today the Information Commissioner has given evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee of another place. In that submission, he recommended that all public sector bodies should follow a new code of practice on how they pool information. Mr Thomas also argued that his powers should be increased to inspect and audit organisations without their consent when they are suspected of breaching privacy laws. That exactly mirrors the intent behind my amendment today.

In his evidence to the Select Committee, Mr Thomas stated:

“The Home Office have accepted in principle that we should have the power to go in and inspect”.

That was a welcome announcement. It goes beyond the indication given by Mr Coaker that, in the Minister’s words, he would take away the issue and look at it. I hope that we will have a firmer commitment from the Minister today to reflect the evidence given by Mr Thomas. I beg to move.

My Lords, I support the amendment. My noble friend has already alluded to the fact that the Information Commissioner has gone public on the matter. In that context, I would be grateful if the Minister could confirm one small point for me. I have it in mind that the Information Commissioner is the only regulator in the UK who does not have the statutory authority to intervene in the way that the amendment proposes. I may be wrong, but if not it seems ludicrous that he should be the only one so constrained. Perhaps the noble Baroness could clarify the matter.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for retabling her amendment, because this is an issue that we discussed in detail last time. As she says, her amendment would grant the Information Commissioner the power on his own initiative to assess any data processing conducted under Clauses 61 to 65 of the Bill. I must resist the amendment but, before I do, I would like to explain why and consider the substance of the amendment. In particular, I wish to look at whether the Information Commissioner already has powers to initiate such issues, which is another matter that has concerned us.

I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and to the noble Earl that, as I understand it, the Information Commissioner’s comments referred to the code of practice amendment and to his access, not to his access to inspect and audit. That was the issue to which he was referring.

Let me explain why we take the position that we do. First, where the amendment refers to Clause 65, I understand that it is meant to apply to Clauses 63 to 67 of the Bill as amended on Report, and I will proceed on that basis. I start by reiterating that the Data Protection Act already provides the Information Commissioner with the power to assess data processing of his own volition. Under Section 43 of the Data Protection Act, the Information Commissioner can, on his own initiative, serve the data controller of a body or organisation with an information notice requiring the production of information for the purposes of determining whether the data controller has complied or is complying with data protection principles. Any body or organisation dealing with or processing personal information must be registered as a data controller with the Information Commissioner. That includes all bodies using the powers under Clauses 63 to 67.

In addition, Section 40 of the Data Protection Act provides the Information Commissioner with the power to serve enforcement notices of his own volition if he is satisfied that a data controller has contravened or is contravening the data protection principles. The issue of these notices enables him to rectify instances of non-compliance with any of the data protection principles. Failure to comply with an enforcement notice or an information notice is an offence under Section 47 of the Act. A person guilty of an offence on summary conviction is liable to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum and, on indictment, to an unlimited fine. In any event, it is not in the data controllers’ interests to refuse access if they wish to satisfy the commissioner that their activities comply with the Act. We therefore believe that adequate powers are already provided to the Information Commissioner in that regard without further provision.

I understand that the Audit Commission has already made a standing offer to the Information Commissioner to assess the data processing that it undertakes in carrying out the national fraud initiative, particularly with regard to the security arrangements that are in place. I further understand that the Audit Commission and the Information Commissioner meet regularly to discuss good practice with regard to data matching and data processing generally. The practical reality is that the two bodies have a constructive relationship, which is likely to continue.

With regard to the code of practice for all those using the data-sharing powers of the Bill, I stated on Report that the Government hoped to return to the House with a more definite indication of our plans. I can now give an assurance that the Government will introduce an amendment to that effect; that is, introducing a code of practice, the detail of which will be discussed in another place. That is the issue that the Information Commissioner was most exercised about.

The Audit Commission’s national fraud initiative code of data matching practice contains a provision that under Section 51(7) of the Data Protection Act specifically invites the Information Commissioner to assess the national fraud initiative’s compliance with that Act. The provision also recommends that all bodies supplying the data for data-matching exercises should similarly consent to reasonable requests made by the Information Commissioner to assess their processing of personal data. It is envisaged that the code of practice for the disclosure of information to prevent fraud will contain a similar provision.

In summary, we believe that the Information Commissioner has at his disposal all the necessary powers to ensure that the data sharing and data matching carried out using the powers in the Serious Crime Bill comply with the Data Protection Act. For those reasons, the Government believe that the amendment is unnecessary. I am grateful to the noble Baroness and the Information Commissioner, however, for giving us the opportunity to look again at the powers to initiate, just to clarify whether the Data Protection Act is in fact able to deliver what was required. We believe that the powers that are already there will satisfy on that account.

As I have indicated, it gives me some pleasure to be able to say with regard to the issue of the code, a matter that was exercising more attention, that we will be able to satisfy this House in due course, but that this matter will be raised, and, I hope, dealt with well, in the other place when the Bill leaves this House—if, of course, your Lordships agree that it should do so.

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. She is right to point out the defect in the amendment; it should refer to Clauses 63 to 67, reflecting the Bill as amended on Report. There is always a danger in simply retabling an amendment from Report to give the Government the opportunity to respond when one knows that one is not going to press it and one perhaps is not quite as careful as one ought to be.

The Minister is saying that, after further reflection, the Government consider that they do not have to do anything about this because the powers already exist. She is also saying that the Government maintain that the Information Commissioner’s main concern was about the existence of a code of practice to be referred to in the Bill and the procedure that should follow from that. I have no doubt that my noble friend Lord Northesk may have something to say on that when we come to Amendment No. 3.

The Minister is right to point out that this House will have the opportunity—when and if the Bill returns from another place—to consider any amendment tabled by the Government about the code of practice. However, we are narrowly bound by this House’s rules on its consideration of Commons amendments. I suspect that we will still have an appropriate opportunity, even within those close rules, to properly scrutinise that amendment.

The Minister also says that the Audit Commission has given a standing offer to the Information Commissioner to come in and make assessments when appropriate. That is welcome; it is the right way for a body such as the Audit Commission to operate. The Audit Commission has always been impressive in the way in which it carries out its work—certainly in the past few years in which I have been observing it. However, that is not the same as giving a statutory guarantee to the Information Commissioner, which is what we had thought, in our meeting with him, that he was minded to seek.

We are now in the position where our colleagues in another place will have further opportunity to pursue this matter and to see whether the Information Commissioner’s views have moved since our meeting, given that the Government are bringing forward a code of practice amendment in the Commons. That might have had an influence on him; we cannot tell while standing at the Dispatch Box today. However, my right honourable and honourable friends in another place will no doubt pursue that diligently. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3: After Clause 66, insert the following new Clause—

“Functions of Secretary of State: sharing of information

(1) The Secretary of State has the following specific functions in respect of the sharing of information to which this section applies—

(a) to draw up and disseminate to the public bodies and other organisations to whom this section applies guidance as to the sharing of information between and amongst themselves;(b) to draw up and disseminate to the public bodies and other organisations to whom this section applies guidance as to the circumstances in which it is appropriate for those organisations to share information between and amongst themselves;(c) to maintain under review the guidance set out in paragraphs (a) and (b).(2) In drawing up the guidance under subsection (1)(a) and (b), and in reviewing such guidance under subsection (1)(c), the Secretary of State shall consult the Information Commissioner.

(3) This section applies to public authorities and any anti-fraud organisations specified under section 63 and any agencies, companies or individuals who may be contracted to work for them or to supply goods and services to them.

(4) The information for which provision is made under this section is information shared under the provisions of this Act.

(5) The Secretary of State may, by regulations subject to affirmative resolution of each House of Parliament, proscribe and penalise contravention of any guidance under this section as to the collection, sharing, use, holding and disclosure of information.”

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I do not intend to detain your Lordships for long. We all know where we wish to get to with this matter. Indeed, I—and, I suspect, my noble friend Lady Anelay—welcomed the Minister’s magnanimous assurances on Report. Your Lordships will recall that the Minister intimated that she might be able to give a more definite indication of the Government’s intentions today; she repeated that earlier. Accordingly, as with the previous amendment, my purpose was to give an opportunity to the Minister to advise the House of progress being made. She has already dealt with that in the main while speaking to the previous amendment. Nevertheless, I would be grateful if she would put, if possible, a little more flesh on the bones of the Government’s thinking.

I would have preferred to have resolved this matter before sending the Bill to another place. However, as the Minister said on Report, there may be something to be said for giving it,

“a little something to do”.—[Official Report, 30/4/07; col. 880.]

I beg to move.

My Lords, I support my noble friend. However, I also point out that the Minister said on Report that even if she could not bring forward an amendment, she would try to flesh out the Government’s plans and hoped to return with a more definite indication of them. The indication has been that there will be an amendment about the code of practice. While understanding that that amendment will not have been drafted yet, my noble friend and I seek a little more guidance for the House, if available, on what that code of practice will involve.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, for bringing this back. The amendment would give an outline of what the guidance should cover and who should be consulted on its production. The amendment also provides that:

“The Secretary of State may, by regulations subject to affirmative resolution of each House of Parliament, proscribe and penalise contravention of”,

this guidance. I understand—and indeed the noble Baroness and noble Lord will know—that I would like to assist in putting much more flesh on the bones. However, I have a little difficulty doing that today.

On Report, the noble Baroness once again undertook to raise the statutory code of practice to give me the opportunity of making a very firm commitment, and I was delighted to be able to give her that assurance. Because of the way in which the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, the noble Baroness and we have worked together in the past, I hope that they will accept that if I were in a position to give chapter and verse, I would be the first to do so here. But we are not quite at that stage yet. The Government will bring forward the amendment in the other place which will introduce the duty to produce and have regard to a code of practice. The detail is being discussed widely; these are matters which we believe we need to consider further. However, I reassure your Lordships that we have been working very closely with the former Department for Constitutional Affairs—now the Ministry of Justice—and will liaise with the Information Commissioner on the detail of the amendment, as the Minister in the other place, my honourable friend Vernon Coaker, undertook to do at the meeting with the Information Commissioner on 18 April.

I hope that noble Lords opposite will also accept that we will try to keep noble Lords and opposition partners in as close contact about that development as possible. My honourable friend and I have both indicated that we wish to work on a very collaborative basis on these issues. I do not anticipate that there is likely to be a great deal of contention in this area; rather, I anticipate that consensus and information are likely to prevail.

We recognise the concerns that have been raised by noble Lords and by the Joint Committee on Human Rights on the need for safeguards to apply to these provisions. We are drafting the new amendments with their comments and helpful suggestions very much in mind. I have not been able to be as helpful as I would ideally have liked to be in the short time we have, but I hope, given that undertaking, that the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, will feel able to withdraw the amendment. I will do all I can in the interim to make sure that noble Lords are kept in touch with those developments, as may be proper.

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for that response. Inevitably—and I suspected as much—it will simply be a case of “wait and see”. My noble friend Lady Anelay referred to some of the constraints of dealing with this matter under consideration of Commons amendments. No matter—I think the direction of travel is the same for all of us. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 79 [Orders of the Secretary of State and the Scottish Ministers]:

4: Clause 79, page 43, line 26, after “5(4),” insert “46(5A),”

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 8 [Abolition of Assets Recovery Agency and its Director]:

5: Schedule 8, page 93, line 16, leave out from beginning to “, in” and insert—

“(1) Section 316 (general interpretation: Part 5) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (1)”

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment No. 7 as well. The amendments further modify the amendment the Bill will make to the civil recovery provisions in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. The Assets Recovery Agency is currently the only enforcement authority for these purposes. As noble Lords are aware, its functions are being transferred to the Serious Organised Crime Agency.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the main prosecution agencies will also have access to the civil recovery powers. Accordingly, there will now be more than one enforcement agency with the ability to pursue civil recovery.

Part 5 of the Proceeds of Crime Act is drafted on the basis that there will be one body pursuing civil recovery proceedings, as this was previously the case with the Assets Recovery Agency. As there will now be multiple enforcement authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, clarification is required to make certain that references to “enforcement authority” in the legislation are read in a common-sense manner. Amendment No. 7 seeks to achieve that. Amendment No. 5 paves the way for that amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

6: Schedule 8, page 93, line 24, after “SOCA” insert “, the Director of the Serious Fraud Office”

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the amendments relate to enforcement authorities for the civil recovery of the proceeds of crime in Northern Ireland. They are further amendments to those already made to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. Under the Bill at present, the relevant enforcement authorities in Northern Ireland are the Serious Organised Crime Agency and the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland. These amendments add the director of the Serious Fraud Office as an enforcement authority in civil recovery for Northern Ireland.

Amendment No. 6 confers functions in respect of civil recovery in Northern Ireland on the director of the Serious Fraud Office. Amendment No. 9 is a consequential amendment to the Limitation (Northern Ireland) Order 1989, so that the Serious Fraud Office will be bound by the 12-year limitation rule within which proceedings for a civil recovery order must be brought. I beg to move.

My Lords, we support the amendment. First notice of it was received by e-mail last Friday afternoon. It reflects the fact that the Government were trying to put as many of the tidying-up amendments in the Bill before it left this House for another place. I alerted members of our Northern Ireland team in this House. They liaised with my honourable friend Mr Lidington. I am grateful to them for looking at this. Throughout, we have sought to ensure that our Commons and Lords team on Northern Ireland is involved where relevant. Its response was simply that, if the Government did no more than take account of the SFO’s remit in Northern Ireland, we would not have any objection to that matter. If that is the case, as the noble Baroness has assented to today, this would not need to be contested when it reaches the Commons.

My Lords, I am most grateful for the noble Baroness’s indication. I am grateful for the hard work that the Northern Ireland team has undertaken generally, but in particular in relation to this issue. I convey my genuine thanks to it.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

7: Schedule 8, page 93, line 26, at end insert—

“(3) After subsection (8) insert—

“(8A) In relation to an order in England and Wales or Northern Ireland which is a recovery order, a property freezing order, an interim receiving order or an order under section 276, references to the enforcement authority are, unless the context otherwise requires, references to the enforcement authority which is seeking, or (as the case may be) has obtained, the order.””

On Question, amendment agreed to.

8: Schedule 8, page 100, line 13, after ““the” insert “Director General of the”

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, these are additional amendments to the information gateways provisions which are required due to the amendments being made to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

The Bill provides that it is the director-general of the Serious Organised Crime Agency who is a permitted person able to disclose information to the Lord Advocate and Scottish Ministers for their various functions under the Proceeds of Crime Act. But the Bill has conferred different functions on SOCA generally and not specifically on the director-general. Amendment No. 8 amends the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to reflect this.

Amendment No. 12 repeals a provision which the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005 added to Section 436 of the Proceeds of Crime Act. As that provision is to be repealed by the Bill consequent on the abolition of the Assets Recovery Agency, the provision in the 2005 Act needs to be repealed as well. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

9: Schedule 8, page 103, line 20, after “Agency,” insert—

“(ab) the Director of the Serious Fraud Office,”

On Question, amendment agreed to.

10: Schedule 8, page 106, line 33, after “Agency)” insert “—

(a) ”

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, part 5 of Schedule 8 transfers the accreditation and training functions of the Assets Recovery Agency to the National Policing Improvement Agency.  In consequence of this transfer, certain amendments are made to the Police and Justice Act 2006 by paragraph 161 of Schedule 8.

Paragraph 161(2) adds a new sub-paragraph (ea) to paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 to the 2006 Act, referring to the National Policing Improvement Agency’s accreditation and training functions under Section 3 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.  Under the 2006 Act, one of the objects of the National Policing Improvement Agency is the doing of all such other things as are incidental or conducive to the attainment of any of its other listed objects. At present this excludes the object of the accreditation and training of financial investigators. The purpose of this amendment is to provide that the accreditation and training of financial investigators is included. I beg to move.

My Lords, I put on record how grateful I am to the noble Baroness for agreeing to give a full explanation of the technical amendments that the Government have put forward, not only in this group but in previous groups. When a Bill comes from another place and technical amendments are added here, it is not necessary to invite the Minister to explain. However, when a Bill starts in this place, we like to ensure that there is an explanation on the record, not simply for our colleagues in another place, who will have the benefit of seeing copies of letters from the Home Office to us on these Benches, but for those outwith this House who must not only seek to make representations when the Bill reaches another place, but who will have the duty of implementing the proposals within it. We support the amendments.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness. She will know that I am always reluctant to speak more in this House than is absolutely necessary, not least because I fear that the House will tire of me all too soon. But on this occasion, I was most happy to explain the amendments in order to assist.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

11: Schedule 8, page 106, line 36, at end insert “; and

(b) in paragraph (f) for “(e)” substitute “(ea)””

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 15 [Repeals and revocations]:

12: Schedule 15, page 127, line 27, column 2, at end insert—

“Paragraph 98 of Schedule 4.”

On Question, amendment agreed to.

An amendment (privilege) was made.

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass. In doing so, I thank all noble Lords who have participated in the Bill and worked so diligently to ensure that it goes to the other place in a heartened and improved form.

Moved, that the Bill do now pass.—(Baroness Scotland of Asthal.)

On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.

Northern Ireland

My Lords, with permission, I shall repeat a Statement made earlier today in the other place by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The Statement is as follows:

“I do not think it is possible to over-estimate the significance of yesterday’s events at Stormont.

“In effect we witnessed the final resolution of what has been, for centuries, the most intractable source of political conflict in the whole of Europe. Its significance is not confined to relations within these islands, because what happened on 8 May 2007 showed the world how a shared future can emerge from even the most bitterly divided and blood-stricken past, and we must never forget how much misery and suffering that caused.

“Many people, including Members from all sides of the House, have worked tirelessly to make yesterday possible. The foundations were set by the 1998 Good Friday agreement, with the principle of consent and power-sharing at its core. But, seeing the DUP and Sinn Fein going into government together on a fair and equitable basis, makes ‘historic’ seem a cliché. That they have done it without the DUP ceasing to be the DUP and without Sinn Fein ceasing to be Sinn Fein is all the more remarkable. When we witnessed that now iconic picture of the leaders of the DUP and Sinn Fein together for the first time on 26 March, we knew that Northern Ireland and the wider world would never be the same. Since then, the DUP and Sinn Fein, by working together, have shown that the greater good can be served without sacrificing either principle or integrity.

“Indeed, I was delighted that the first joint letter signed by the First Minister and Deputy First Minister was to ask me to leave my office in Stormont Castle to enable them to move in, in time for yesterday’s first meeting of the Assembly and the formation of the Executive. Never has an eviction notice been so eagerly anticipated or so warmly received. Meeting the First and Deputy First Ministers together, I have been struck by their businesslike approach to preparing for government and, perhaps even more remarkably, their cordial and warm personal interaction. Above all, they have shown that age-old enmities can be overcome. That is truly inspirational, as we saw yesterday when they preached together at Stormont a common gospel of healing.

“I am convinced that devolution is here to stay. It would now be as unthinkable for Northern Ireland to ask for a return to direct rule in the future as it would be for Scotland or Wales. Indeed, who would have imagined that, as of today, of all the devolved Administrations, Northern Ireland would have the only settled Government in place?

“The key to the future peace and prosperity of everyone in Northern Ireland lies in the shared future epitomised by the new Assembly and Executive. That shared future must go beyond the “big politics” of Parliament Buildings. Astonishing as the political transformation over the past two years has been, there is much more to be done. We must find a way of dealing with the past and addressing the needs of victims and survivors. Although last summer’s marching season went off more peacefully and with greater consultation than ever before, a global solution to parading still needs to be negotiated. I hope that the review team headed by the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, will help to achieve this.

“There are too many so-called peace walls that still divide communities in Northern Ireland and some parts of Northern Ireland which continue to feel isolated, marginalised, deprived and out of the mainstream. I am thinking especially of loyalism and its place in a shared future. We have always said that we will support and encourage those who want to work to a positive agenda, who wanted to bring about change and who had sustainable mechanisms for doing it.

“People have a right to have their identity, their culture and their traditions respected, but if loyalism does not get into the mainstream and catch the tide that is taking Northern Ireland forward there is a real danger that despite the best intentions, they will be left behind and further isolated because no one will understand why there are groups within loyalism that still cling to an armed past.

“Last week’s declaration by the Ulster Volunteer Force and Red Hand Commando that they will end paramilitary activity was welcome. Guns, drugs and crime have no place within a community whose people want the best for their families and the best for their community core values. I want loyalism to play a full part in the new Northern Ireland and a full part in the shared future, as we should all want it to do, because loyalism, anchored to peace, the rule of law and democracy, has an honourable place in that future.

“Northern Ireland has changed immeasurably since direct rule was introduced in 1972, the year that, as a student, I first visited. Apart from anything else, Northern Ireland is fast becoming a multi-cultural, multi-faith and forward-looking community, evidenced by the election of Anna Lo as the first person of Chinese origin in Europe to become a member of a legislative body: for Northern Ireland a first, just like the first civil partnership ceremony anywhere in the UK. This is all part of the shared future.

“The whole process demonstrates what relentless attention by government and persistent negotiations, regardless of crises, collapses and depressing stalemates, can achieve. This must give hope to those trying to resolve conflicts the world over. For generations the politics of Northern Ireland has been sometimes a murderous zero-sum game of winners and losers. Yesterday saw an end to that. Whatever the challenges that lie ahead, they will be played out on the field of politics and democracy.

“The MLAs who came together in Parliament Buildings yesterday, amidst a joyous mood of reconciliation, carry the hopes and aspirations of a people who have yearned for peace, stability and prosperity and have waited so terribly long to see it. I know that the whole House will support all those as we enter this new and exciting era”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement that was made in another place. The fact that we are here we owe to a large number of people—many politicians, perhaps starting with John Major; John Hume from the SDLP; Secretaries of State from various Governments, including my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew and my noble friend Lord Brooke, who are in their places; the Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has kept Northern Ireland problems at the top of his agenda for 10 years; his counterpart in the Republic, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern; and many others. Many others of similar ilk from other nations have also committed themselves to the problems of Northern Ireland well beyond the call of duty. However, the frontline has been held throughout by the RUC GC, the PSNI, our soldiers and the solid courage, determination and pragmatism of the population of Northern Ireland. I sincerely hope that the sacrifices that have been made by all those people in order that we may arrive at where we are today will not be wasted in future.

As the Secretary of State’s Statement indicated, the world must understand that there is still considerable unfinished business in Northern Ireland. Does the Minister not agree with me that a full decommissioning rather than a statement is required from all the loyalist paramilitaries? Serious crime and guns must be got under control. The Province must no longer be a home for that form of crime. Is the Minister aware that the Provisional IRA is still a proscribed organisation to which Her Majesty's Government are preparing to devolve the criminal system? I suggest that that is not in any way logical, and some thought needs to go into that.

Now is the time to remember all those who have lost loved ones in the past 30 years and especially the families associated with the 2,000 unsolved murders. What is Her Majesty's Government’s strategy in relation to the past? Does the noble Lord agree that in relation to all inquiries into the past a line must soon be drawn in the sand?

The people of Northern Ireland will continue to require help and leadership for time to come in coming to terms with the past. The Secretary of State may have been fortunate enough to have closed a winning innings and carried his bat but he and Her Majesty's Government still have plenty of diligent and difficult work to do for the future of the Province.

I and my party—and I am sure all noble Lords—wish all concerned in the government of Northern Ireland good luck and good fortune.

My Lords, I apologise for being slightly late when the Minister was repeating the Statement, but I had read it in advance because it was available.

Of course, yesterday was a truly historic day, although the word historic will be overworked in describing it. There is not really a word “superhistoric”, but that is what it was. Restoring devolution was absolutely vital.

As the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said, there are many debts that we in this House should acknowledge to those who helped to bring this about. It is quite true that it began first with John Major’s Administration and the role played by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, when he was Secretary of State. It continued apace, though with fits and starts.

When Stormont was suspended in 2002 it was, as I predicted at the time, a long suspension. The longer it went on the more difficult it was to see how devolved power would be restored, but it has been. We should acknowledge, as I have said before, the importance of the “ABC” trio; Mr Ahern, Mr Blair and Mr Clinton. I was privileged to be working in Northern Ireland at the time and never in the world’s history has so much head of government pressure been applied to such a relatively small place.

I have one quibble with the Statement. My former student the Secretary of State said:

“Indeed, who would have imagined that, as of today, of all the devolved Administrations, Northern Ireland would have the only settled Government in place”.

That is not the whole story; Northern Ireland has a plethora of government and a miniscule bit of opposition, which Ms Anna Lo will have to take on with her Alliance Party. In Scotland and Wales we have a plethora of opposition and not much government. That is a good exam question for the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, to ask his students to discuss in the summer.

More seriously we have the issue of the loyalist paramilitaries decommissioning, as the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said. It is vital that the Government press ahead with that. I am sure that the Minister will be able to reassure us on that point.

When plan A was touch and go, we were discussing plan B: that Northern Ireland business in this House would no longer be dealt with briefly. With regard to reserved powers, I hope that the Government will stick to that commitment and that we will not have Northern Ireland legislation or reserved powers by way of Order in Council. We should be able to devise a system. The reserved powers will be important; they are not trivial. We must have a mechanism in this House for properly considering them. Other than that, it is a great day for Northern Ireland and we must wish it well.

My Lords, I am grateful for the warm responses from the two Front Benches. I do not disagree with anything that has been said but it would not be appropriate for me to go into detail. Clearly, we want decommissioning. There is no role for paramilitaries. There is no means of taking society forward and bringing about a normal civil society other than through the rule of law and allegiance to democracy. That applies to all paramilitaries who retain their weapons and are outside the agreements. Work will continue to attempt to bring about full decommissioning.

The Statement referred to the Good Friday agreement. Both noble Lords made the point that there is no one Government who can claim credit for this. The agreement came about because the land had been fertilised some years previously by other Ministers and Administrations. There is no question about that. There may have to be a line drawn in the sand at some time, as the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said, but to the best of my knowledge the historical inquiries team is financed and is in place and will continue with its very important work.

As for Northern Ireland business in this House and the other place, I have been under the impression, perhaps falsely, that it will drop off. We will not get all the detailed legislation relating to Northern Ireland domestic issues wrapped up in an Order in Council with no ability properly to scrutinise. Frankly, that is what Assembly Members are paid to do and have been elected to do. I imagine that they will start legislating fairly soon. The reserved issues will be the normal flow that is reserved for the devolved Administrations. I cannot see any reason why Northern Ireland should be different from the others. There is the boast about having settled government in Northern Ireland but that is because of the clear power-sharing arrangements, which are set in statute—that is not the case with Scotland and Wales.

This is the beginning of a new era and we must be positive and look to the future. All the parties at the negotiating table can walk away and say that they have gained something from the process; all the people of Northern Ireland can certainly claim that they have gained something from this. It is very important that that is the case; people have made sacrifices—many made the ultimate sacrifice—and no one wants that to have been in vain. This therefore has to work; we do not conceive of a return to direct rule.

This is a new era of hope, peace and stability for Northern Ireland—it is the end of more than 30 years of direct rule and the start of genuine devolution. It will not all be easy; there will be lots of problems and it is very important that we in Westminster give what help we can. As both noble Lords said, other parties, in this country and abroad, assisted in bringing people to the table. It will not help those people who came to the table if everyone else now walks away and says, “You are on your own”.

The reserved matters are basically in the fields of policing and criminal justice—the Secretary of State retains responsibility; those matters are not devolved. Section 85 of the 1999 Act contains a power to make Orders in Council for such matters and, where it is appropriate—I emphasise that—that is likely to be used. Unlike the procedure that operated during the suspension of the Assembly, Section 85 requires that the draft on which the Assembly is formally consulted is laid at Westminster. In other words, no more legislation will come here, even as Orders in Council, that has not been consulted on by the democratically elected Assembly in Northern Ireland. That is very important. Only once that consultation takes place will the final order be laid at Westminster.

On the terms of the Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Act, and following the successful restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly yesterday, the Northern Ireland Act 2000 will be repealed on 10 May; consequently, the Secretary of State’s power to suspend the Northern Ireland Assembly will disappear. What happened this week is an important milestone in terms of legislation that was put through this House on the promise that those effects would follow once the Assembly was restored; that, of course, will happen.

My Lords, I welcome the Statement, as we must all do on this occasion. We all have our memories and recognise the time that this has taken. The Government rightly made it clear in the Statement that the principle of consent is at the core of the agreements that have been reached; that is, Article 1 of the Anglo-Irish agreement in 1985. Some of us will have some sadness that it has taken 23 years to achieve this position.

In being conscious of the more violent times with which I was involved, one recognises that there were then fewer peace walls in Northern Ireland than there are now. The challenge that still remains is to get, from the goodwill and happiness that was apparent yesterday in Stormont among the people, a real understanding and a real change of attitude right through Northern Ireland; that can only be in the best interests of everyone there.

If I had a criticism of the Statement, it is that a tribute is missing: we are here now because, above all, of the fortitude and courage of the people of Northern Ireland, of all communities, who were determined not to let violence win in the end. Although the security forces and many very brave people played a tremendous part, if the communities had not in the end been determined to make life go on, and to carry on in the face of some appalling outrages, there would not have been this settlement. I hope that this is a triumph for the people of Northern Ireland and I wish them every success in the future.

My Lords, any response from me is superfluous. The noble Lord is absolutely right: this is because of what has happened—the vast majority of people of Northern Ireland carried on with as normal a life as they possibly could. Local government continued to function, with 580 councillors being elected and representing their communities. It was important that that infrastructure was kept in place to show people that there was a future and another way of living in a civil society. It is now for the people of Northern Ireland to take forward that success. I repeat, while all the help and assistance will be provided, trust must still be built and won, so that the peace walls can disappear—because they will not disappear until there is that trust. That will be the real test of the success.

My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for the Statement. As has already been said, many people here today can be named for getting us to where we got yesterday. Good foundations were laid here, and I call to mind a host of people. People talk about the peace process in the 1990s, but I can remember communities coming together in the late 1980s. The noble Lord, Lord King, is quite right: people took real opportunities then and a number of my friends were killed at that time, simply because they were doing what they thought was right. So a lot of foundations were laid for this. In one sense that is good, and it is good that we got to where we did yesterday. But we should not disguise the fact that we still have a very segregated community in Northern Ireland, both in housing and in education. The only area that is not segregated is the workforce, because that is against the law. There is a lot of hard work for us to do.

Part of the Statement was critical of the loyalist paramilitaries. I would press the Minister and the Secretary of State not to let that drop. The IRA was pursued because it was given a carrot to be in government. In that sense, there is nothing to be offered to the loyalist paramilitaries, and I hope to God that money will not be offered to them—I would be seriously opposed to that. However, I hope that the pressure on them will be kept up. I live in a community that is run by paramilitaries; I know what goes on there and I know that we cannot afford to allow it to continue. I wish that everyone could have been as happy as the people in Stormont were yesterday, but many still live under the jackboot of people who know no better than to torture their own community.

Looking at yesterday and all the things that have happened, we have come down a long road. I must be frank; I never thought that I would see what happened yesterday. I am grateful, but there is hard work ahead. If we thought that the past years of the peace process were tough, the next five to 10 years will be very tough for Northern Ireland. Over the past 30 years we have been used to having money thrown at us by everyone, just to keep us quiet. We do not have that excuse anymore and we cannot come along and say, “Please give us money, because of the Troubles”. We are a normal society now, and that will mean tremendously hard work for everyone in Northern Ireland, not just for our politicians.

Finally, I wish everyone in Stormont a fair wind. A lot of responsibility is on their shoulders and I look forward to them delivering.

My Lords, frankly, there is nothing that I can add to what the noble Baroness has said. She has spoken with the authentic voice of someone who has lived in Northern Ireland.

My Lords, the noble Baroness’s comments were a most salutary warning. Nevertheless, we must all trust that yesterday’s most heartening event in Stormont will lead to the great success that all the participants and all the people of Northern Ireland deserve. For the present, will the noble Lord accept that it has been the steadfast work, during the whole of the past 10 years, to discover and to open up a way to devolution, and the perseverance, not to say the endurance, of the Prime Minister, that deserve warm congratulations?

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble and learned Lord. When I was in Belfast a couple of weeks ago, one or two people said to me at a reception that the fact that there had been this interest and guidance from the top of the Government had been a comfort, and that they sincerely hoped that, if the events forecast for yesterday came to pass, that interest and guidance at the top of the Government would be maintained, because it has been vital in the past few years.

My Lords, it is some years since I made any statements or asked any questions in Parliament on Northern Ireland, but I cannot let this occasion pass without doing so. I remind my noble friend, who was a Member of Parliament with me during the 1970s and 1980s, that it was regarded as virtually the end of one’s political career in almost any party to be given Front-Bench responsibility for Northern Ireland. One of the people who had such responsibility, the noble Lord, Lord Prior—then Jim Prior, MP—took an action that was profoundly important, by signing the Anglo-Irish agreement. That was a recognition that only by the two Governments acting together could we solve this problem. It is absolutely right that we respect every person who fought against the violence in Northern Ireland, including our own troops, but the contributions made by politicians at that time, including the noble Lord, Lord Prior, were very important in taking matters forward. There is no way in which we can thank everyone involved, but there is a way in which we can learn from the problems and take that forward. What has happened over the past few years has been deeply encouraging and, at times, quite moving. Everyone has compromised and, perhaps most importantly, no one has lost. Ultimately, the people of Northern Ireland have won.

My Lords, by referring to our membership and to most of the former Secretaries of State in the other place, my noble friend has reminded me of another Member of both the other place and this House—the late Gerry Fitt. We all remember the pictures on our TV screens of him standing against the men of violence to defend the democracy of his family and his community.

My Lords, the Statement that the noble Lord made is wonderfully welcome; I never thought that I would hear anything like it in my lifetime. In response, my noble friend made a point about drawing a line in the sand and not having more investigations such as the inquiry into—although he did not actually refer to it—Bloody Sunday. However, in responding, the Minister said that the investigation teams were all in place. I had a frisson of horror about that and thought, “My goodness, how many more Bloody Sunday inquiries are we going to get?”. Would it not be better if, over the next few years, we worked to get agreement on all sides that the past is the past and that today is the first day of the rest of our lives? I say, advisedly, that not doing so has been the problem of Ireland since the 17th century, and we really do not want to carry on like that. I just hope that there is no implied agreement that there will be a lot more of these inquiries.

My Lords, I can knock that on the head straightaway. In no way was I implying that. We have just had debates in this House about some legislation that is currently in the other place and will come back here. We were discussing the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the issue of retrospectivity or going back. The whole point about wanting the people of Northern Ireland to look forward is so that they are not constantly living in the past. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, is right that at some point a line will have to be drawn in the sand. That will come from the economic and social success of Northern Ireland, which will then rebuild the trust. Once the trust is there, demands for digging up the past will diminish.

My Lords, time does not allow one to pay tribute to all the people who have played a part in this matter from the Anglo-Irish agreement onwards, but does my noble friend agree that it is important not to forget the part played by John Hume right at the beginning of the process and the parts played by Seamus Mallon and the noble Lord, Lord Trimble? They showed bravery and the times were difficult. We would not be where we are today had it not been for the parts that they played.

My Lords, at Parliament Buildings yesterday, the Taoiseach, in a very sensitive and thoughtful way, referred to the words of His Majesty King George, who, while opening the Northern Ireland Parliament in 1922, appealed for people to take the opportunity to move forward together into a new possibility. The Taoiseach referred to those words and, in a sense, the sentiment is repeated by him.

If one looks back at the 50 or so years that followed His Majesty’s remarks, it might not be entirely out of place to suggest that your Lordships’ House and the other place have allowed matters to continue without entirely due attention and encouragement to move on to better things. While there is a reprise of the history and a celebration of the present and the success that has been achieved—and well achieved—and while tributes are being appropriately paid, I hope that that does not mean that your Lordships’ House and the other place will simply heave a sigh of relief and feel that it is now possible to put Northern Ireland out of sight and out of mind. There is still work to be done, attention to be paid and encouragement to be given for betterment, without which there is always the possibility that untoward events will begin to unstitch the situation. Does the Minister agree with me that we must celebrate this, but that we must not feel that it is an opportunity—even once devolution of justice and policing takes place—to put Northern Ireland and its people out of sight and out of mind, as they are not yet out of trouble?

My Lords, the noble Lord is absolutely right. I hope that I addressed that in my earlier remarks. There must be interest, guidance and assistance from the top of the United Kingdom Government and from other bodies—not interference. Devolution of the 11 ministries has taken place and locally elected politicians will make the decisions, but more devolution will come at the appropriate time. As the noble Lord implied, in the 50 years, the reluctance to interfere probably lasted too long. I remember representations to my former Member of Parliament, Chris Price, in the early 1960s—1964 or 1965—when people were unhappy about what was happening. Things were allowed and one would say that it was local democracy.

However, Northern Ireland cannot be put out of sight, as all could be lost. It would not be right, for those who have made sacrifices, to turn a blind eye and to say, “The situation is now settled so get on with it”. That would be wholly unfair and inconsistent. There will be much crossing over of the boundaries in the kind of civic society that has been built in Northern Ireland. There is much that we, in Great Britain, can learn from the people of Northern Ireland, and vice versa. It is very important to get across the message that they are not on their own and that they are part of a whole. Whether it is the south or Westminster, it is important to provide help and sustenance to the democratic framework, within the rule of law and with principles of a shared future.

My Lords, as one of the last two surviving members of the original direct-rule four-man ministerial team under Lord Whitelaw and at the end of a chapter—I was there at the beginning—perhaps I can say a good word for the Northern Ireland Civil Service. From the very first dramatic moments of the fall of Stormont until now, and no doubt into the future, the civil servants have been the most wonderful, dedicated and courageous people in maintaining government, as the Minister has rightly said, through the very worst times and now, we hope, through the very best of times.

My Lords, the noble Lord is absolutely right. Over the years, the direct-rule Ministers have encountered difficulties, but in the past decade, since the ceasefire, things have been fairly cushy. As people in the Chamber understand, it was far more difficult before. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, is quite right to say that, throughout all the Troubles, the government of Northern Ireland has continued. There were six departments, or 11 departments, and the 24,000 or so civil servants administered matters that in some ways were done partly by local government. Nevertheless, they undertook the normal, run-of-the-mill administration of the health service, the roads and so on. That was all done by the Civil Service under enormous pressures and sometimes without the guidance that they would wish to have had from training; they were not trained to take decisions. Direct-rule Ministers were not there every day of the week, so they had to rely on common sense and good governance arrangements. We should certainly pay tribute to the Northern Ireland Civil Service. I am very glad that the noble Lord has done that.

My Lords, I have a small, diffident, private suggestion to make. When I was a Minister in Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board conducted a market survey in the Republic to find out, first, how many people had visited Northern Ireland in the previous 25 years; secondly, how many people would be prepared to contemplate spending a night in Northern Ireland; and, finally, how many would not go to Northern Ireland under any circumstances. The answer to the first question was about 25 per cent; to the second about 25 per cent; and to the third about 50 per cent. Perhaps I may suggest that actions speak louder than words and Members of your Lordships’ House could contribute to their vote of confidence and interest in the Province by paying a private visit over the next 12 months to see how everyone is getting on.

My Lords, I endorse that. Northern Ireland is hosting international conferences on a very regular basis now. The people who visit Northern Ireland see a skyline of cranes, building activity and investment. I have to say that not enough of it comes from the private sector, and therefore the economy must seriously be attended to, but the inflow of people—who are coming not only to learn but also to understand the joy of Northern Ireland and its countryside—is enormous compared to what it was. Yesterday can only add to that. I fully endorse what the noble Lord said.

My Lords, I go to Northern Ireland regularly—at least twice or three times a year. It is a beautiful place, and I have many friends there. It is in many ways a buoyant country, and has been buoyant for a number of years. I am sure that the Minister will agree that it does not need to take off now because it has taken off, but not, until now, in politics. In every other way, it is a buoyant community. I endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, suggested. It is a place where one should go not just because one should, but because it is a super place to go and one from which one would benefit from going. If anyone has not yet been there, do go!

My Lords, I had never set foot on the island of Ireland until 2005, when the Prime Minister asked me to go there as a direct-rule Minister. I made that clear to him. I had to say on the phone, “But Tony, I’ve never been to the island of Ireland”. “Don’t worry,” he said, “they’ll look after you really well”. They did. I have gone back voluntarily; I think I was the first direct-rule Minister ever to go on a weekend when I was not on duty. It caused consternation because the people who looked after me said that there was already someone on duty. I had gone over to support the game fair, privately in many ways. The noble Baroness is quite right that Northern Ireland is an enormously joyous place to visit. It can only succeed following yesterday. It is not all about money and investment, but the fact is that it has lower unemployment rates than most of Great Britain. Things have really changed during the past few years. If anyone had any doubts about that, yesterday should put the final seal on them.

My Lords, we are all rightly celebrating the end of the trouble of the past 40 years. I am a Protestant from County Wicklow, the county of Parnell, and I point to the fact that the Irish question has troubled this and the other House for some 800 years. We are celebrating a moment of great historic significance in what happened yesterday. In history, the Prime Minister’s legacy will surely be tied up with the way in which he has handled the Irish question better than any other Prime Minister in the history of this country.

EU: Enlargement (EUC Report)

rose to move, That this House takes note of the report of the European Union Committee on Further Enlargement of the EU: Threat or Opportunity (53rd report, Session 2005-06, HL Paper 273).

The report can be found at the following address: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200506/ldselect/ldeucom/273/273.pdf

The noble Lord said: My Lords, enlargement is one of the weightiest issues facing the European Union today. Developments since this report was published confirm and reinforce some important arguments and conclusions in it. Today—Europe Day—we can reflect on the accession of Bulgaria and Romania on 1 January and on current disquieting developments in Turkey. Efforts to agree a road map for reform of EU institutions continue to be relevant to our conclusions on the pace and scope of future enlargements. I shall refer to these developments again.

I thank most sincerely all members of the committee at the time for the immense energy and expertise they dedicated to this long and comprehensive inquiry. We were aided admirably by our specialist adviser, Dr Katinka Barysch, an internationally recognised expert on this subject, and we are indebted also to Professor Anand Menon for his input. I also thank warmly Simon Burton, the Clerk, and Sarah Price, at that time the second Clerk to the Committee, who managed the inquiry with great skill and produced a draft of the typically high standard that we associate with our Clerks. I also take this opportunity to thank the Government for their comprehensive and thoughtful response.

Enlargement has been an integral part of the EU’s development over the past 50 years, and widening and deepening have always proceeded in parallel. The accession of Denmark, Ireland and the UK heralded the introduction of structural funding; that of Greece, Portugal and Spain, the building of the single market and the planning of monetary union; and that of Austria, Finland and Sweden, serious efforts towards a common foreign and security policy. Then in 2004, eight central and eastern European countries plus Cyprus and Malta came in. Was this the point at which public support for further widening and deepening began to weaken? Was that one of the messages that the French and Dutch voters sent when, 13 months later, they rejected the constitutional treaty, and, if so, why?

Our inquiry aimed to establish whether, to quote the title of the report, further enlargement would thus pose greater threats than opportunities. To do that we first assessed past enlargements, especially of 2004, to illuminate current attitudes towards further enlargement. That in turn meant looking at what we call integration capacity and the debate concerning the future borders of the European Union. This involved a detailed look at candidates and potential candidates for membership, which then led us to consider the possible alternatives to enlargement and, crucially, the probable costs of not enlarging.

What evidence did we find? On balance, the Union has coped well with growing membership. The 2004 enlargement in particular—the biggest in the EU’s history—has brought benefits to all members because the prospect and process of accession, exporting the EU’s brand values of democracy, human rights, openness and accountability, helped to transform so many former communist states into pluralist democracies and liberal economies. As Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn reminded us,

“the process of accession triggered a major democratic and economic transformation without a single bullet being fired”.

Yet future enlargement faces a major obstacle: lack of public support in western Europe, combined with a hostile or ambiguous stance by many political leaders in member states. Why, for example, did France change its constitution to make any accession after Croatia subject to a national referendum, with all the chances of negative results? We found that attitudes towards enlargement remain fluid, influenced as they are by unrelated developments such as economic growth as well as lack of information. Little attempt has been made to explain the benefits that enlargement has brought. Misunderstandings about the impact of past enlargements, especially that of 2004, have stimulated public opposition to future enlargements.

Member states’ Governments, parliamentarians and other opinion-formers, and the European Commission, must do much more to explain the impact of enlargement to Europe’s citizens, including issues such as migration, the link between enlargement and globalisation, and the need to find a way of living harmoniously with different religious communities. They must recognise that economic insecurity and employment are uppermost in citizens’ minds when evaluating EU policies, and that a full 40 per cent feel that enlargement has been bad economically for their countries and for the EU as a whole.

Our expert evidence almost unequivocally states that enlargement, acting as a catalyst of economic dynamism and modernisation, has helped the economies of both old and new member states to better face the challenges of globalisation. Much of the economic impact had begun to be felt in the early 1990s as the aspirant states prepared for acceptance as official candidates through the gradual demolition of trade and investment barriers, and with the adoption of the acquis communautaire benefiting business. The economic change induced by enlargement has been absorbed smoothly, without disruptive impacts on either product or labour markets.

There is also little disagreement among the economists that higher immigration levels boost the aggregate performance of the economy, raising the supply of labour, filling jobs that are difficult to fill, lifting demand as migrants spend money and boosting output. More than half a million nationals from the latest new member states have registered for work in the United Kingdom. While this has of course put some strain on public services in some areas, there is no statistical evidence that migrant workers from new EU member states mean increased benefit applications.

Many of the post-enlargement flows have been temporary. More than half of those registering for work in the UK intend to stay for less than three months—a proportion that has been climbing since the early days of enlargement. According to the Institute of Public Policy Research, there are signs that the early movers are starting to return home, having saved money and learnt new skills and languages. Meanwhile, arrivals from the three Baltic states—together the second largest group of migrants after the Poles—have fallen dramatically as economic conditions in their countries have steadily improved. This is the kind of message that member states’ Governments need to get out to citizens, to counteract lack of information and misinformation.

On the impact of the 2004 enlargement on the EU’s institutions, the increased number of member states and the concomitant wider spread of interests and positions have made aspects of EU decision-making more laborious and time-consuming. That said, most witnesses felt that the EU was working rather smoothly. Earlier suggestions that enlargement could lead to institutional gridlock are not borne out by the evidence.

Yet it may be too early to come to any hard and fast conclusions about impact on the institutions. The larger states may see the institutions as working mainly in the interests of the smaller members and would thus prefer informal decision-making outside them. The larger members already co-ordinate their positions before Council meetings, especially on foreign policy. That inevitably reinforces the broader trend towards more variable geometry, towards the use of enhanced co-operation. Voting weight in the three institutions also clearly needs to be sorted out before any further enlargement to take in, for example, the western Balkan states after Croatia.

What further lessons did we draw for future enlargement? First, an official date for accession announced too early in the process does not sustain momentum for reform and the EU’s leverage is diminished. A day should be set only when the negotiations are almost complete and the EU is satisfied that the candidate can assume the obligations of membership. This year’s enlargement makes that point very clearly.

A second lesson is that new members must not bring disputes into the EU. Countries with outstanding questions of border delineation, separatism or integration of ethnic minorities must settle them before membership. For example, the final status of Kosovo must be resolved before Serbia can expect to enter the EU, as do Bosnia and Herzegovina’s statehood and governance.

In that respect, one is bound to ask whether it was wise that Cyprus, still a divided island, following the Government’s rejection of the Annan plan for reunification, should have been admitted. I should mention that the high commission of Cyprus expressed to me its concern that what were intended as geographical references in our report had proved capable of interpretation in a more political sense. I replied that I regretted that.

A third lesson is that conditionality needs to be used in a consistent and credible way. The 2004 big bang enlargement rather undermined the credibility of conditionality because not all were at the same level of preparedness. A country must join only when the conditions have been met. The fourth lesson is that in monitoring accession preparations, the emphasis needs to be shifted from mere adoption of EU-conforming laws to implementation and enforcement. That lesson appears to have been learned with the recent introduction of benchmarking. In certain areas, Croatia has to provide evidence that it is applying EU law before negotiations on the relevant chapter can be opened or closed.

Our report addresses the difficult question of absorption capacity, which we now call integration capacity, and the question of whether a final boundary needs soon to be drawn around the Union. As the Maastricht treaty gives any European country the right to apply for membership, any attempt to draw a final boundary that excludes European countries would not be consistent with the treaty. Moreover, it will be politically undesirable for the EU to attempt to define its final boundaries, as that would weaken its ability to encourage positive change by potential candidates.

What of the political context for future enlargement? First, a larger EU will need institutional change and more efficient decision-making procedures, together with a rebalancing of the respective representation of large and small countries. Without those changes, the EU will not be able to grow and continue to function effectively. Sensible and functionally oriented improvements to the working practices of the Union, as set out in our report, could be dealt with in a new intergovernmental conference, as also recommended in our report, which we hope will now take place in time for changes to be made before the European Parliament elections and the formation of the new Commission in 2009.

We next looked at the options for achieving more flexible ways of making policy in a Union of 27 or more members. We rejected the idea of a “core Europe”, as proposed by Chirac, Sarkozy and Verhofstadt, and we are happy that Germany is against an idea which we concluded was unfeasible and undesirable. Of course, variable geometry in the form of enhanced co-operation as provided for in the Amsterdam and Nice treaties could, as we conclude in our report, be the method increasingly relied on in an expanding Union. That is no bad thing. Although variable geometry has not so far been formally employed, it exists de facto in, for example, opt-outs, Schengen and the eurozone. But any enhanced co-operation must be transparent, properly publicised, and open to all to participate. It must not endanger existing achievements such as the single market, and democratic accountability must be ensured.

The financial cost of future enlargement is not easy to forecast. The current 80 per cent of the budget for the common agricultural policy and structural funds will not change fundamentally during the 2007-13 financial perspective, but the budget review of 2008-09, intended to point the way to, inter alia, a radical restructuring of spending, must take into account the possible impact of future accessions. The western Balkan aspirant states are already receiving a great deal of EU aid, so the extra cost of accession should be modest, and there is reason to hope that Turkey’s continuing rapid expansion of its economy will diminish any demand for regional aid if and when it accedes.

If the countries of the western Balkans are to be able to address their many challenges in terms of economic reform, statehood and the integration of minorities, they must be offered a credible EU perspective. We made commitments to their eventual accession at Thessaloniki and we must keep them, however long the road may be for some, if not all of them. I invite noble Lords to read the convincing evidence of the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, on that perspective. I add that in the western Balkans, the EU is dealing with more fragile and fractious countries than any that came in in 2004. The EU therefore needs a more proactive approach, devoting sufficient expertise and money and finding ways to maintain momentum for positive change over the extended accession process.

Since our report was published, the Commission has decreed that, as we had urged, negotiations with Croatia and Turkey no longer be linked. Croatia has made good progress but there are still areas needing more, such as public administration, the judicial system and some branches of industry, and more needs to be done to implement the anti-corruption programme. That said, the European Parliament has specified 2009 as the date by which it should give its assent to Croatia's accession, even though the Commission stands by the Council's decision not to set any target dates.

We examined objectively and extensively the pros and cons of Turkish membership. Our findings are in paragraphs 205 to 225. We concluded that it is in both Turkey's and the EU's best interests that the accession negotiations, whatever the hesitation and hostility hanging over them, be pursued in good faith and with a will to bring them to a successful conclusion.

Noble Lords will recall that last December's General Affairs and External Relations Council agreed that eight of the 35 chapters of the acquis will not be opened until Turkey implements the Ankara protocol extending its customs union to the 10 new members of the EU, including Cyprus. Our report also insists that the economic isolation of the Turkish community in Northern Cyprus be ended. Turkey's accession, we argue, is of such strategic importance to the long-term development of the wider Europe that the Cyprus question must not be allowed to derail the accession talks.

Turkey has made significant progress on reforms—another good example of the power that the prospect of EU accession can have. But much remains to be done, not least on human rights and freedom of expression. The current crisis over the election of a new president, which we hope may soon be resolved, reminds us once again of the propensity of the army to intervene in politics, a practice wholly incompatible with EU membership. In Turkey, there has been a sharp fall in public support for EU membership, and the efforts of those who want membership are frustrated not just by Turkey’s internal problems, but also by negative views from many European players. As one pro-EU Turkish commentator put it over the weekend:

“Frankly, Sarkozy’s election is the last nail in the coffin of Turkey’s relationship with the EU”.

Yet Commission President Barroso has just said that the Commission's position is that negotiations should continue. In my view, so they should.

Last, we looked at possible alternatives to enlargement and at the cost of not enlarging. The EU needs to work with countries that have no immediate or even medium-term prospect of membership, and its European neighbourhood policy is a promising start, although it has had little impact so far. For the purposes of bringing about positive change in participating countries, its incentives are not attractive enough, its conditionality is not tough enough, and its policies not tailor-made enough for the different countries.

The EU rightly aims to integrate non-members into its single market and let them take part in selected EU policies. The combination of variable geometry among members and growing association and integration with non-members could blur the boundaries of membership. That would be no bad thing. A “fortress Europe” would be.

Some European politicians advocate a “privileged partnership” for EU neighbours as an alternative to further enlargement. Turkey, for one, would never accept that. With its customs union, it already has a privileged partnership. In the western Balkans, a privileged partnership would be seen, according to the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, as,

“closing the door on them”.

We agree. EU Governments should stop talking about privileged partnerships. It can only demotivate candidate countries.

When thinking about the costs of not enlarging, we had to distinguish between countries that have been told that they qualify for membership and those that have not. The political costs would obviously be much larger in the former. Remember the commitments at Thessaloniki. We must recognise that the EU 27 are surrounded by an arc of instability ranging from Russia through Belarus, Ukraine, the potentially explosive Caucasus and Balkan regions, to the war zones of the Middle East. So the EU’s toughest task in future years could well be dealing with the challenges in its own neighbourhood. Take away the prospect of EU membership, however distant, and the incentive to change and embrace the EU’s brand values in neighbouring countries may disappear with it.

Our witnesses—policy-makers present and past, economists, diplomats, commentators and many other experts—almost unanimously agree that the 2004 enlargement was a success on which the EU now has to build to make it more manageable. Governments have to explain better to their citizens what the real benefits have been and can continue to be; to show, for example, that migration, if properly managed, has been a plus can remove many unfounded fears. In the interests of peace, stability and prosperity in Europe, we must keep the door open to further enlargement and welcome the candidacy of any European state that shows itself capable of meeting the conditions. That is the essential message of our report.

The gains of enlargement have so far measurably outweighed the pains and we believe that they will continue to do so. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House takes note of the report of the European Union Committee on Further Enlargement of the EU: Threat or Opportunity (53rd report, Session 2005-06, HL Paper 273).—(Lord Grenfell.)

My Lords, it was a great pleasure to serve on the EU Select Committee for four years under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, and the report that we are discussing and looking at tonight was an investigation undertaken under his chairmanship. He has spoken tonight in a way that, as all noble Lords will agree, showed great competence, thoroughness and looking at all the different angles involved in the question of how far membership of the European Union should go. It is a privilege to follow him on this subject.

The report is indeed competent and thoughtful. We noted with satisfaction the growth in the economies of the countries that have recently joined the EU. That is well catalogued in some of the appendices to our report. We appreciated the expectations of Bulgaria and Romania. When we were investigating they were still two or three months away from joining, but it was clear how much they were looking forward to and preparing for it. But, when we turn to further enlargement, that was the difficult part of the report. We considered countries that used to be members of the Soviet Union; for example, Ukraine. We considered Croatia and the other Western Balkan countries and of course we considered Turkey, the most difficult of all. Was the EU, already 27 countries, biting off more than it could, in terms of administration and understanding by European people, reasonably chew? We came to the conclusion, as the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, has just said, that the process for Croatia would certainly continue; accession talks were on the way. But if Croatia joined—when Croatia joined, I should probably say—it would not be possible then to exclude other western Balkan countries. In that we were helped and advised by the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, who drew on his profound experience of the western Balkan countries. It was a great pleasure to listen to his advice on that subject.

For the Ukraine and the other ex-Soviet Union countries our conclusion was that that could wait; there was no one pressing at the door and therefore we did not have to hurry. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, has just said, Turkey was difficult. I make it covered in our report by three more paragraphs than the noble Lord; it is paragraph numbers 205 to 228 and it forms a large part of our report and of the appendices to it.

In summary, we believe that it is in both Turkey’s and the EU’s best interests that accession negotiations be progressed and should proceed. But six months have passed since our report was published and in that time Turkey has recently suffered difficulties about the future presidency. There is a rise of political Islam in Turkey and it is not clear how the Turkish people themselves intend at this stage to proceed to deal with that. Most of all, there has been the arrival of Nicolas Sarkozy as president of France. The noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, quoted one recent remark about him from a British newspaper; I should like to quote another. In its leader yesterday on the TV debate last week between Nicolas Sarkozy and Ségolène Royal the Times repeated comments that Sarkozy made in that debate. Sarzoky believes that Turkish membership of the European Union would spell,

“the death of political Europe”.

The Times added that it thought that that was mistaken judgment, but that that was Sarkozy’s judgment. Equally, in the Times yesterday, a spokesman for Angela Merkel said:

“In what is one of the crucial phases for Europe, it is important to continue the close, trusting and intensive co-operation between Germany and France”.

That surely means that we have to think carefully in Britain about what the next steps of our approach to the European Union should be. If there is to be a powerful alliance between France and Germany, between Chancellor Angela Merkel and the new president Nicolas Sarkozy, do we want to be part of that tripartite alliance or are we prepared to stand away from it, to be alone with some of the smaller countries but not in partnership with France and Germany? I suspect that this is a moment when Her Majesty’s Government must pause and think carefully on what their next step should be.

The issues of reducing the number of areas subject to veto by a single country and of a modified but much simpler written constitution are ones that will be debated in the future whether we like it or not. I do not think that at this stage we are clear in our own minds as to what we want to happen. There is no harm in standing back and careful thinking at times. There is an old Latin tag: tempora mutantur nos et mutamur in illis—times change and we have to change with them. Is that what our position should be at the moment? I hope that this is the moment when the Government will pause, take time and think out what the next movement is, and with an EU that I profoundly wish to see prospering, what the right steps should be.

My Lords, it is an indication of the effectiveness of the chairman of the Select Committee that he was able to arrange that we could have a debate on this topic on Europe Day. It is obviously useful that we should have a chance to celebrate what has been one of the real achievements of the European Union in this century, the fifth range of enlargement. I also want to say how much I welcomed the Government’s response to our report because it picked up and in almost every respect agreed with the points made by the Select Committee. I regret, as the report does, that less was done in 2004 to reinforce not only in this country but throughout the whole of the European Union the remarkable achievement we had made in making sure that there was an enlargement first to the 10 countries and then to 12—the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell. To some extent, that enlargement in 2004, finalised by the addition of Bulgaria and Romania at the beginning of this year, marked the end of the 20th century. It was a significant point in the historical development of our continent.

Despite its overall success I should like to say how much I agreed with two points made by the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, in his remarks about flaws in that enlargement. First, we may have made a mistake over Cyprus. Failing to ensure that it had solved its internal problems before entry may have been a mistake, but we have to remember that at the time the European Union was possibly faced with the risk of Greek action to prevent any enlargement unless Cyprus was allowed to come in. However, it was a very unsatisfactory solution, and, as we can see in the consequences for Turkish accession, we are suffering from the decisions we took at that time.

The second point made by the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, with which I concur, concerned the mistake—this applies particularly to the cases of enlargement to Bulgaria and Romania—of fixing target dates. The announcement of target dates in advance removed the leverage the European Union would otherwise have had to ensure adequate judicial administrative reform before accession. Certainly, recent developments and instability in Romania’s political structure since enlargement are worrying.

Before going on to look in more detail at the issues of the next round of enlargement to the western Balkans and Turkey, we should remember the members of the European Economic Area and Switzerland, four further countries—the others are Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein—that could all presumably become members fairly quickly if they so wished. We tend to think about the difficult countries, but there are four countries in Europe that would be very welcome if their people were prepared to look at membership. From time to time, we hear from Norwegian and Icelandic politicians, occasionally even from a Swiss politician, who would argue that enlargement to them should be encouraged.

Politically, the situation in the western Balkans has become probably more complex and more difficult than last year, when we were considering the countries en bloc in our report. I totally agree with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell: the Thessaloniki commitment of the European Union to the countries of the western Balkans must be maintained. We are pleased that Croatia is making such significant progress. The European Union Committee recently had an opportunity to hear the ambassador from Croatia, who was able to give us evidence of the progress being made. When we go beyond Croatia, however, we begin to find problems. I hope that the Minister will tell us why there has been a delay in opening negotiations with Macedonia, even though it was agreed that that country should have candidate status.

In two of the other smaller countries, things seem to be going somewhat better. The technical negotiations are complete on the stabilisation and association agreement with Montenegro, and Commissioner Rehn and the Prime Minister initialled it on 15 March 2007. It looks as if Montenegro is moving in the right direction. Similarly, although Albania has a long way to come and has a number of difficult internal political problems at the moment, there is slow but steady progress.

It is when we come to the remaining three countries in the western Balkans that we really have some difficulties. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, the situation has probably slowed down since we considered the matter last year. A Government has still not been formed. There will be a replacement for Dr Schwarz-Schilling as High Representative, but there are still noises from Mr Dodic in Republika Srpska suggesting that he will want to see the knock-on effect of a Kosovo agreement. We should obviously continue to work with Bosnia-Herzegovina, but the progress will be slow. It is necessary that the option of membership is maintained.

Serbia, if anything, is more difficult. The domestic politics are depressing. The news yesterday that the parliament has elected a speaker from the Radical party suggested that the rather more democratic parties were not able to hang together even to choose a speaker for their parliament. It is a paradox: if there is a country in the western Balkans that, in terms of its administrative structure and economic readiness, could be a member and begin negotiations relatively quickly, it is Serbia. The stabilisation and association agreement is virtually negotiated. None the less, it is difficult to be optimistic, given the continued “ambiguity”, to be polite, of Serbian attitudes regarding General Mladic and the failure to deal seriously with those who are protecting him.

The only grounds for optimism are that if a decision is made in the United Nations in the next few weeks over Kosovo, the Serbs will then perhaps have to accept reality and may be in a better position both to form a Government and to start some serious negotiations with the European Union. I will not say too much about Kosovo because, even as we meet here, discussions are going on at the UN about a possible settlement. If agreement is not reached, however, that will again be a problem.

Turkey is much more difficult even than the western Balkans. I support the view in our report that we should look forward to the continuation and, we hope, the completion of negotiations with Turkey. Since we completed the report, however, I have become more aware of a need for us in this country to have a dialogue with our partners in other European countries trying to deal with the fears and misgivings that exist in other member states about Turkish membership. It is no use Britain just appearing as a country that is in favour of enlargement for enlargement’s sake; we have to make the argument for why Turkish membership would be to the advantage of the European Union, and I am not sure we do that enough at the moment. We need to look at that.

I am less worried than some about the election of Nicolas Sarkozy. It is likely to be at least 10 years before Turkish negotiations are continued, and while some prime ministers remain for 10 years, many of them do not do so for much more than that. There may well be a different president of France in office when we come to the conclusion of the negotiations.

Here perhaps I am wrong, but I take a different view on the question of the current debate between the secularists and the political parties within Turkey. This is a dilemma in the development of Turkish democracy that is bound to occur, and needs to. The debate may be healthy for those in Turkey if they are able to work out a new and more appropriate balance—at least, I would like to think so.

In our report we referred to the European neighbourhood policy, which is sometimes suggested as an alternative to membership of the European Union. It would be a mistake to see it in that way. In some countries—those in North Africa, for example—it is a sensible alternative, but for those who are European neighbours it should be seen as a situation where they can work, modernise, improve and perhaps adapt themselves so that they become valid candidates for membership. I believe that we could see, not necessarily in my lifetime but perhaps in the next 20 to 30 years, European Union membership for the Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus. They should not be excluded, nor should they automatically be offered membership at this stage.

This is an important report. It points the way to a number of the areas of policy that we in this country have to take forward in the development of the Union in the years to come.

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Grenfell on his thoughtful and wide-ranging speech about the future of the European Community. He has presented certain recommendations that are embraced in the report and which we ought to take seriously.

The committee has undertaken a monumental and invaluable task. However, it is crucial that we should face up to the challenges and advantages which could accrue from the European Union’s enlargement. Before saying anything else, I should declare an interest. I had the honour to be a European Commissioner from 1985 to 1989. In that respect, I owe a great deal to two Members of the House. The first being the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, who I met before taking office—in 1984, I think—when he had moved from the Ministry of Agriculture to the Cabinet Office. He later became a most successful Secretary-General of the European Commission. I also owe a great deal to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon. He displayed an unstinting interest in the Commission’s activities, something which I could not say of all members of the then Conservative Government.

When the European Union was established, it was never intended to be a union of 12, still less of 27, or more, nations. However, it was designed—and in this regard has succeeded—to offer sound economic advice and, coupled with that, social progress. It stood for durable and strong values and ensured that Europe’s voice was heard when and where it counted.

As I have said, the European Union has largely succeeded but it has inevitably also encountered failure. Its principal success has been to establish peace over a wide area, one in which war was, all too often, a debilitating factor. It has also played a vital part in bringing democracy to the lives of so many where dictatorship of the right or of the alleged left was often the order of the day.

Enlargement brings its own problems but it also has immense rewards, which are insufficiently voiced by those in power and, as a consequence, are not felt enough by the people living in the various countries of the European Union.

In contrast to Euro-sceptic views, the United Kingdom has enjoyed huge benefits in trade, exports and investment from other countries within and without the European Union, all of which have grown exponentially and that trend persists. The UK, together with Ireland and Sweden, has benefited enormously from large employment growth and has accrued immense advantages in the development of the single market. In that regard, I say, in passing, how much is owed to my then colleague, the late Lord Cockfield. In three months—it took him only three months—he went from being a Euro-sceptic of the highest, or, should I say, the lowest, order, to being a valued member of the Commission.

In tackling international crime, the UK has enjoyed co-operation from other countries, but this is especially marked between the UK and other EU members. The UK has fully participated in environmental schemes and has helped make Europe’s contribution so much more meaningful. We face enormous challenges in that respect, especially regarding climate change. However, the leadership being shown by our country is of great value, not only to the European Union, but also more widely than that.

The most intractable problem confronting the UK and the EU is the possible accession of Turkey, of which we have heard a great deal in today’s debate. Despite its abolition of the death penalty, improving the lot of women, the diminution of torture and many hard-won benefits, much more needs to be done. Turkey must guarantee the political and economic rights of Cyprus and, as far as I can judge, it has simply not done enough. My hope is that common sense will prevail, but in this important respect, we are entitled to expect that Turkey will exhibit its bona fides—so far, alas, the auguries are not very benign. To this end, the report expresses the view, which I wholly endorse, that the UK should do whatever it can to ensure that Turkey plays its full part in bringing the negotiation to an honourable and successful conclusion. It can do no less. How will Turkey respond? We do not know the answer to that vital question. We can only hope.

Further enlargement is key to the EU’s continued progress. However, I emphasise—as does the report and the Government’s response—that this has to be a two-way process. It will never be easy to manage a union of 27—perhaps more—member states but the European Union’s team, led by Mr. Barroso, is proving capable of achieving a great deal. As a country, we should actively participate in this endeavour and not simply snipe from the sidelines.

My Lords, I add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, and his committee on this excellent and informative report. Having sponsored a debate on Turkish membership of the Union in your Lordships’ House in December 2004, I wish to focus my brief remarks on that issue. As the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, stated, the report concludes in paragraph 293:

“Whatever the hesitation and hostility hanging over Turkey’s accession negotiations, we believe that it is in both Turkey’s and the EU’s best interests that the accession negotiations be pursued in good faith and with a will to bring them to a successful conclusion”.

The report deals with all the pros and cons of Turkish membership and rejects the idea of a privileged partnership as an alternative to full membership. But let us suppose that the Cyprus issue is resolved, that Turkey manages to maintain its secular status and to meet the Copenhagen criteria, and that full membership is finally achieved at some moment in the future. The European Union will then be changed in three important respects.

With a population, by then, of around 100 million, Turkey will be the largest member of the Union, which will have all sorts of implications for management and voting strength. It will also have more Members of the European Parliament than Germany, France or the UK. Secondly, given free movement of labour, there will inevitably be a substantial migration from Turkey to the west, and thus a substantial increase in the Muslim population of existing member states. Thirdly, Turkey’s geographical location takes the Union beyond the boundaries of Europe and links it more directly with the problems of the Middle East.

These are major changes and involve huge uncertainties. It is easy to see why, for some, the risks outweigh the proposed benefits. But, accepting the risks, we must agree with the conclusions of the report that it is in the best interests of both parties, at this stage, to pursue the negotiations in good faith.

My Lords, I was for a period a member of the European Union Committee, during which time I developed a considerable appreciation of my fellow members—the officials, the advisers and, above all, the chairman, then, as now, my noble friend Lord Grenfell. I am currently only a member of Sub-Committee E, which deals with law and institutions, but I try to keep up with more general EU matters through such reports as this one on enlargement.

In the early years of the EC and the EU, the approach to enlargement was appropriately cautious and gradual. Then came 2004 and the major addition, all in one go—a grand slam, as some people called it—of 10 new states. The increase in population, however, was relatively modest. But it was a tremendous breakthrough, particularly into countries of eastern Europe that had not long before been locked into the totalitarian regimes of the Soviet empire. That year was 15 years after the end of the Berlin Wall, giving those countries some limited exposure to democratic freedoms, the rule of law, economic liberalism and the enhancement of human rights.

I am doubtful about some of the countries admitted in 2004, in terms of their adherence to the principles that I have just mentioned, and about the latest two countries to accede, in January 2007—Bulgaria and Romania. I have graver doubts about further enlargement, particularly the enlargement covered by the noble Lord, Lord Cobbold. Somewhat contrary to the report, I believe that it is perhaps time for a pause—a period of contemplation for the absorption process to demonstrate clearer adherence across the European Union as it exists to European values and more positive results from the enlargements of 2004 and 2007. One particular difficulty has been referred to by at least two speakers. It has even been suggested by those who very much favoured the 2004 enlargement that perhaps one aspect, affecting the island of Cyprus, may have been worsened by the accession to the European Union of Greek Cyprus only, so soon after the Greek rejection of the Annan plan for reunification of the island.

I should like to mention something which has not been specifically mentioned, although I recall references to the institutions of the EU needing some attention. Each of the new members, no matter how small, is entitled to an EU Commissioner. So the Baltic states have between them three Commissioners, while Britain and, for that matter, Germany and France, have only one each. If each of the Balkan states formerly comprising Yugoslavia were admitted to membership, they would have six or seven Commissioners between them. Even the greatest enthusiast for European Union enlargement would balk at that unless some changes are made. Further enlargement of the European Union beyond the number we now have without institutional change regarding the number of Commissioners seems neither desirable nor credible.

Since about 2000, there has been a tremendous momentum favouring enlargement among those who wanted to join but were not members and among the existing members. However, there is a risk of it dissipating—in other words, the enthusiasm of the original members of the EU may have lessened. To eastern Europe, it should be no surprise that accession has been seen as a desirable completion of the changes brought about by the end of the Berlin Wall. However, I am not sure—and I think that some speakers would agree—that the EU has been exacting enough in its conditions for membership. I would put it this way: assurances and promises from candidate countries seem to have been accepted as equivalents of actual change prior to the grant of membership of the EU. Basic freedoms and the rule of law are not adequately respected in some countries. As a small example, I am anxious that in Poland freedom of speech is somewhat at risk. Academics and journalists are being sent questionnaires about how far they co-operated with Poland’s communist regime, which fell in 1990. Failure to complete those questionnaires results in the loss of their jobs.

High-level corruption and organised crime in Romania and Bulgaria, our two latest adherents to the Union, continue to be a serious problem. A report in the Financial Times last month said:

“Several EU member states claim Commission officials have been told privately to not be too critical of the two countries, even though Bulgaria has a non-existent record for convictions for high-level corruption”.

The report and my noble friend Lord Grenfell in opening the debate are surely right to say that the EU should not endorse target dates for EU entry in the future until it is fully satisfied that the candidate can assume the obligations of membership. The noble Lord, Lord Cobbold, referred to Turkey, which is on track to enter the EU by 2014. It could be 2017; it could be some later date. Aside from the particular problems of Cyprus, there are longer-term concerns about Turkish membership. The noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, referred to the anti-democratic threats of intervention by the army. That, of course, would not be the first intervention in recent years, but one of three or four. I am not sure whether that is the greatest worry or whether it is the other worry, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry, which I would term influence on government of Islamist ideology despite the country’s secularist constitution. It would not be a happy situation for the existing members of the EU if the new President of Turkey were to allow such ideology to influence the vital powers that he has to appoint judges, heads of universities and senior posts in the civil service.

Under Article 49 of the treaty on European Union, any European country may seek membership of the EU if it respects and applies European values of decency—I am sorry; decency would be all right, but I meant democracy—human rights, the rule of law and fundamental freedoms. The so-called Copenhagen criteria of 1993 put flesh on the bones of that list. It is most important to stress the significance of those factors in establishing and retaining a common purpose, identity and culture for Europe that those who started it all off in 1957 would still recognise.

In my view, the European values set out in these documents should not be unduly stretched, like a piece of elastic, in the cause of pushing ahead and continuing almost relentlessly the momentum to enlargement of which I have spoken. Apart from other considerations, it is recognised by the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, and in the report that public opinion on these matters is problematic or, if the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, prefers, fluid. Too often the EU fails to carry public opinion with it on a number of matters and, as we all know, the institutional and policy changes necessary to accompany enlargement have not yet taken place. That is why I believe that a pause is desirable.

My Lords, first, I reiterate my position on the EU, which is, as it has always been, that we should never have gone in and that we should come out tomorrow. Having said that, I congratulate the committee on the work that it has put in on the subject of enlargement. It is a highly important subject and needs a great deal of consideration and discussion. I wish to comment on some aspects of the report. I had thought that I should be an odd man out today, but that has not proved to be the case. I am very encouraged by the cautionary tone of some of the speeches. In some respects, I shall follow what has already been said, in particular about the accession of Turkey.

From my point of view and that of many others, widening has always meant deepening. Some people have taken the view that widening would lead to less deepening. I have always taken the view that widening is bound to lead to more deepening. That has been the case. The committee commented on current attitudes of the public to enlargement. The Government do not give the public enough credit for knowing what is going on. They feel that they need to explain the benefits of the EU and enlargement. When I have asked, “What are the benefits?”. I have always been told by the Government that they are self-evident. Clearly, the Select Committee does not feel that that is the case. In this case, the Government agree with it and want to convince the people one way or another. One of the ways in which they could do so with regard to the policies of the EU is to produce a cost-benefit analysis. That has been requested by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, who is present today.

Indeed, the public are not unaware of many of the implications, especially the dilution of Britain’s voting strength in the institutions, extra costs and the potential for large waves of immigration after each enlargement. Although the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, said that the general view is that immigration helps the economy to grow, and is beneficial to the economy, other people believe that that is simply not true; they believe that, when you take infrastructure costs, housing and what have you into account, far from there being a benefit, there is a detriment. There are different points of view among the public and they are aware of the difficulties.

The impact of previous enlargements has led to more centralisation—an increase in powers. Already some 70 per cent of policy emanates from the European Union. I do not know how much more there will be. There are the present demands to bring back the EU constitution in one form or another to deal with the latest influx of new member states. These suggestions include a two-and-a-half-year presidency, a foreign minister, a legal personality and the relinquishment of most of the remaining vetoes. If those are brought about, that would be a serious deepening of the European Union and a huge increase in its powers and influence.

On costs, the committee points out that the budget review will have to take into account future enlargements. So it will. The committee refers to the fact that discussions will take place in 2008-09. What, I should like to know, will happen to our rebate during those discussions? That has been under attack for a very long time. The French in particular see 2009 as the date when Britain will lose its rebate, in part to finance future enlargements.

What about future enlargements? I have read the details in the report with some astonishment. Under the heading “Candidates and potential candidates”, the report states:

“The Union could be faced with the stark choice between integrating … or having to take responsibility for running them as protectorates”.

Have you ever heard anything like that in modern times? It smacks of old-fashioned imperialism. The noble Lord, Lord Triesman, gives me a look of disagreement, but we are talking about “running them as protectorates”. If that is not imperialism, I do not know what is.

We need to know the limits of enlargement. Are there any limits at all? The treaties referred to an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe, but recent indications of government policy seem to envisage a much wider union embracing a geographical area beyond Europe. There are 13 possible entrants in Europe if Belarus and the former Soviet republics are included, but the present drive—and we have heard about it in practically every speech tonight—is to admit Turkey. Turkey is an Asian country. It has ancient roots and an ancient culture as well as an overwhelmingly Muslim population. By 2016, the target date for accession, the population of Turkey will be between 90 million and 100 million, as the noble Lord, Lord Cobbold, pointed out. That would make it by far the largest country in the European Union—far bigger than Germany, which is the largest country at present.

Turkey’s accession would have enormous implications for the European Union and our own country would suffer from them. These profound implications are not being considered by Governments, let alone their populations. If Turkey is admitted, there will not be a European union; it will be a Eurasian union. Make no mistake; you cannot get away from the geographical position of Turkey. It is an Asian country.

Furthermore, if we cross that Rubicon, once the precedent has been set, what is to stop further eastern expansion into Asia? How will the EU be able to refuse applications from countries such as Armenia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan if Turkey is admitted? That would add a further population of 70 million to 80 million to the Union and bring additional problems, including the governance of such a diversity of peoples.

There is now talk of the EU’s relationship with north Africa. Mr Nicolas Sarkozy, the newly elected French President, specifically mentioned north Africa in his speech following his election. Some people are arguing already that the colonial relationship of north Africa with many European countries gives it a superior claim to join the club than the likes of Turkey and other Asian countries.

We really ought to get down to defining the limits—if there are any in the minds of Governments and others—of EU expansion. If we do not, we will find ourselves facing unimaginable, insoluble problems and difficulties that could lead to a complete collapse of the whole edifice. The report is entitled, “Enlargement of the EU: threat or opportunity?”. I have made it clear that I believe it to be a threat.

My Lords, I am delighted to have been on the Select Committee that produced the report, and that we have an opportunity today to debate it. I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Grenfell for the way in which he led the committee and to the staff for their helpful support.

When the 10 countries joined the EU, I felt quite emotional as I watched the ceremony in Dublin on television. It was an important occasion. Eight of the countries had been communist, living under a dictatorship, and had moved towards accepting the principles of freedom, democracy and market economies. That was an important and significant occasion. Joining the EU was one of the main aims of many countries under communism, because it was their chance to demonstrate their commitment to democracy, freedom and human rights. Some of the countries said, way back, that one benefit of wishing to join the EU was that changes that they wanted to make anyway had to be made a bit faster under persuasion from the EU. They thought that that was a good thing.

I welcome the British Government’s positive attitude to enlargement and know that that stance has been much appreciated in the accession countries and others hoping to join the EU. I am aware that in many EU countries there is now less enthusiasm for enlargement; we see phrases such as absorption capacity, which has now been called integration capacity. We had a taste of that a minute ago from the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, whose remarks I will comment on as I go on.

One issue highlighted in the report is that public opinion in some countries in western Europe is not that enthusiastic about enlargement. However, I agree fully with the report’s finding that the Governments of the EU have made far too little effort to bring their populations with them, to explain the arguments and the benefits of enlargement, and to try to win over public opinion. If there is no attempt by western Governments to persuade our voters and educate them about the benefits of EU membership and enlargement, of course the only voices that we will hear are those of the noble Lords, Lord Stoddart and Lord Pearson. That is to the detriment of the whole process, and I hope that EU Governments will be aware of what is happening.

The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, said that wider meant deeper. I am bound to say that that assertion has no argument to support it. Most of the people I have spoken to who do not want a deeper Europe welcome enlargement, because they see it as a way of widening the EU and of not going down the federal path, which I do not think any of us here particularly wants. But one cannot do that by arguing in terms of assertions; one has to prove a point.

One of the difficulties for the Turkish Government, who want to join the EU, is that the negative voices towards Turkey from many western European countries are having an adverse effect on public opinion in the country. It is hard for a Government to maintain enthusiasm for their policy of trying to join the EU in the fairly distant future, if their own public hear such negative expressions from here. I will say a little about economic benefits and some of the countries on the route to accession, and then turn to some of the arguments about how we might look ahead.

I am satisfied that there are massive economic benefits for this country in European enlargement. The ultimate test has to be: what is in the interests of this country? Clearly, however, there are also benefits to Europe as a whole, which I equally welcome. After all, 14,000 British firms export to central and eastern Europe. There has been a big increase in trade between Britain and the A10 countries. We have seen benefits in Britain in our economic growth, at least partly as a result of the movement of labour from some of the A8 countries. It is certainly clear that the three countries that opened their doors to labour movements from the A8 countries have seen larger economic growth than the other members of the EU. I know economists differ in their assessment of this, but I have seen estimates of up to 1 per cent of GDP growth being attributable to the beneficial effects of inward migration.

In turning to specific countries, I shall start with Poland, also referred to by my noble friend Lord Borrie. I was at a party at the Polish embassy to watch the referendum and, because it achieved more than 50 per cent, to celebrate its success and the fact that Poland would soon be a member of the EU. I was very enthusiastic. I say to Poland that, when her friends are dismayed by some of the things that are happening, we are dismayed as friends and people who have supported Polish entry for a long time. I refer, of course, to the process referred to by my noble friend Lord Borrie, which is now called lustration.

It is very sad that people who held out against the communist regime, people who were distinguished members of Solidarity, should now have to stand out against their Government because of what they are trying to do. I refer in particular to Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Poland’s first non-communist Prime Minister, who has been dismissed from a particular committee; and Bronislaw Geremek, a former Foreign Minister, who has been threatened with losing his seat in the European Parliament. Why? Because they believe that the Polish Government are indulging in a witch hunt by making them sign statements when they have already been cleared. I am delighted that the European Parliament has come out in support of Mr Geremek. I am not clear whether the Polish Government are able to dismiss a member of the European Parliament, but the threat is there. It is not a happy policy to come from Poland. I hope that they will realise that it is against the spirit of human-rights-based policies that characterise the EU.

I turn now to Turkey. I was in Ankara a couple of months ago, where I was able to indulge in serious discussions with various people. I was, of course, critical of some of the things that are happening in Turkey. We should recognise the progress that Turkey has made. It is no good saying that we do not like what the army is doing and that it is not a good omen for the EU, if we do not, at the same time, realise that Turkey has made significant progress, is working very hard on this and wants to go on making progress. The people I spoke to were very keen on our understanding that they have made some progress, but they realise that they have some way to go.

It is clear that Turkey would not accept second-class status. They are a proud people and the idea, which some EU Governments might suggest, of having some sort of relationship with the EU is not acceptable; nor, indeed, would the countries of the western Balkans accept it.

Our report is clear about Cyprus, but it is important that this should not be allowed to halt the process of moving towards accession talks. We need to deal with Cyprus separately. The Turkish Government must take action on the commitments that they made some time ago. There also have to be moves on the part of the EU and the Cypriot Government. These difficulties can be overcome.

There are still difficulties over human rights and basic freedoms in Turkey. Article 301 of the constitution is a particular problem, but Ankara recognises that. We are all dismayed by the Turkish army’s threat to the elected Government because of the discussion about the future presidency. Whatever the Turkish army has done in the past was before Turkey wanted to join the EU. The situation is different now and it is totally unacceptable for a military force to operate independently of, and in opposition to, a democratically elected Government. I hope very much that wiser spirits will prevail in Ankara. I give way.

My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves Turkey, could I, as a friend of Turkey, raise a problem that he has not covered? The French and Austrian people have been given binding referendums on whether Turkey should be allowed to join the European Union when the time comes. Does the noble Lord see opinion in France and Austria changing quickly enough to allow Turkey to enter the European Union, whatever the political negotiations may be in the mean time?

My Lords, I do not want to underestimate the difficulties presented by an ill advised move by two Governments in holding referendums. That has never been the case before and it raises the possibility of some very unhealthy arguments taking place about the accession of Turkey. All I can say is that Turkey’s accession is, at best, many years ahead. Opinions can change by then. We shall see how things develop. That does not mean that we should say no to Turkey because the previous French President said that there would be a referendum. That would be a most ill advised approach.

I turn to the situation in Moldova, which I had the chance to visit last year. Moldova, with its close economic, political and social ties to Romania, is now separated from Romania by the European Union border. This has posed enormous difficulties, particularly as the country is also having problems with the policies emanating from Moscow. For example, Moldova makes more wine than any other product. Until the Russians boycotted Moldovan wine, 65 per cent of it went to Russia, so the country is under economic pressure. There is also pressure in a small part of Moldova called Transnistria, where there are still some Russian troops. These are all serious problems, exacerbated by the fact that their easy relationship with Romania has now been severed by the EU border. I hope that the Government will look at Moldova as almost a special case in the support and help we can give them, given that their difficulties are greater than those experienced by any other country adjacent to an EU member.

It would be wrong to set a limit on EU expansion, to say today that Europe will go so far and no further. Equally, I am unhappy with the idea of a pause, as put forward by my noble friend Lord Borrie, because it would simply destabilise the applicant countries. It is not clear what would bring a pause to an end. There is, anyway, plenty of breathing space in the fairly long process of negotiating accession agreements. A pause would not be helpful; in the present decade only Croatia is likely to be able to join the EU.

The countries of the western Balkans should be offered a credible EU perspective for their way forward; otherwise they face enormous difficulties. The EU would look odd in the long term if some west Balkan countries were members but others were not. The lesson of Cyprus is that we should be very careful about existing border disputes in any country that seeks to join the EU, but we should not give third countries a veto over the process, as the report makes very clear. The EU treaty gives every European country the right to apply for membership. It is better not to define Europe’s boundaries, because at present the EU can encourage positive changes in potential members. If we say that they cannot join, we discourage that.

I trust that the constitutional treaty is effectively dead, and the idea of a referendum with it. We need relatively small changes in EU governance to cope healthily with an enlarged EU membership. Those do not require a referendum and can be brought through fairly easily, without all the difficulties attributed to the constitutional treaty. It is important to bring the people of this country and the people of Europe with us. The process of enlargement is important; it will lead to a more democratic and healthier EU. I welcome the progress that we are making in that direction.

My Lords, I apologise to the House and to the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, for missing the beginning of his speech. I congratulate him and his committee on the report on EU enlargement. I am pleased to say that for once I agree with almost every comment or recommendation.

Enlargement has benefited not only those countries that have joined in recent years but also, in many cases, existing members. Although immigration into the UK appears to be uncontrolled, there is no doubt that the 0.5 to 1 million people who have come in since 2004 have stimulated the economy. The Government, we are reminded, forecast 26,000 over that period. However, with so much to agree with, I think that the Dutch would be disappointed to read that their GDP is only just greater than that of Malta, and it would have been informative to have included an analysis of population trends. The old EU has a rapidly ageing and declining population, as we all know, thus placing a huge burden on the working population. The new members tend to have younger and growing populations, particularly Turkey—although it is not a member—which will be absolutely essential if the EU is to grow and expand. I am sure that without the influx of foreign workers the UK inflation rate would have been immeasurably higher.

I was encouraged to read that new members have a preference for a Europe of nations, because they fear that in a federal Europe their voices would be lost. However, I was discouraged to read that there was no evidence that enlargement had led to gridlock in EU institutions. That might have forced a reform of them, which most agree is desirable.

The conflict between the deepeners and the wideners, as they are termed, reflects a disenchantment with the EU as it now is. To have the EU as a large and growing single market is surely better than having continued political integration. Let us hope that the desire to sort out the constitutional question is not speeded up at the impending June meetings, and is not shuffled through as minor changes not requiring a referendum in the desire to agree to further countries eligible for enlargement.

I was delighted to read that the committee recommends that the constitutional treaty described by the Prime Minister as a tidying-up exercise should not be adopted in its present form. I very much hope that Turkey will be offered full membership; to offer less would be insulting to a great nation and not in our best interests, although how that can be reconciled to President Sarkozy’s views will be difficult.

In June, Europe’s leaders meet to try to revive the European constitution. Their desire to do so is contrary to the desires of many of their electorates and, what is more, electors want a direct say in any decisions that are taken. Some 75 per cent of them in a recent poll said that they wanted a referendum. As I have said, our Prime Minister said that the earlier constitution was a tidying-up exercise. In the same breath, he said that he recommended it as a success and a major step forward in creating the kind of Europe that the British people want. It is strange that he did not have the courage to put it to the referendum that he had promised us. Now we are told that we should have a mini-constitution and that without it the EU would stop functioning. However, as the committee so ably points out, the EU has not ground to a halt since the no votes in 2005. Indeed, nearly 5,000 directives and/or regulations have been produced in the past two years.

Our leaders are now trying to bring in a mini-constitution by the back door, without referendums—a single legal entity with a single foreign policy and full authority over home affairs. The word “constitution” is of course not being used, and the suggestion is that the contents of the Charter of Fundamental Rights should be cross-referenced to give it the same legal value. If only some effort were made to roll back the EU’s powers from the largely unaccountable Brussels bureaucracy, to repatriate employment and fishing and reform the common agricultural policy or even sign off the accounts, the electorate might be more interested.

In this age of globalisation, the EU needs to look outward, not inward, and adapt to the challenges of a fast-changing world, to recognise that restrictions and regulation will not meet the opportunities awaiting China, India and the developing world with a population of nearly 4 billion compared to the EU’s 460 million. In the absence of this, a core Europe with the UK excluded or variable geometry, as it is called, may be the way forward. But the EU must go on taking new members for the many reasons so eloquently set out in the report. The more members there are, the more diverse will views become and, one hopes, in the absence of reform of Brussels from within, the larger EU will become ungovernable and will be forced to perform the rationalisation that most agree is now urgent. So my objective is the same as that of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, but I believe that it will be achieved by enlargement, creating so many problems that the EU as we know it today will cease to exist.

My Lords, I join those who have thanked the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, and all the members of the committee for this helpful and reflective report. The committee has a distinguished membership with a lot of experience and I believe that the House is fortunate to have people of that calibre following European affairs so closely on our behalf.

At the outset of my remarks I endorse what my noble friend Lord Dubs and others have underlined. I welcome the honesty of the committee in recognising that an obstacle to enlargement is the existing state of public opinion. I also welcome the candour of the committee in bringing home that one reason for this is the inadequacy of political leadership in explaining exactly what the community has achieved, what it means for the people of its members, what its potential is and in taking a positive approach to building it for the future, instead of that leadership wanting to come home from every meeting claiming how it has fought for our exclusive interests more successfully than anybody else.

The community is not, was never conceived as being and must not be allowed to become just an administrative top-down arrangement. The quality of its democracy is crucial to its success. Perhaps it is worth pondering what we mean when we say that democracy is crucial to its success. The words flow easily, but what do they really mean?

First, democracy matters in terms of the values and culture of the society of which it is the political system, but it matters equally because it is a sound step towards stability by ensuring the accountability of government. Therefore, when we talk about the importance of the quality of democracy in the European Union, that is not just a light refrain; it is absolutely fundamental to its effectiveness and sustainability.

We all know—and the committee has certainly recognised it—that for most people in this country Brussels appears to be a remote, authoritarian body. We also know that if Brussels seems to be remote, the Parliament—whether it is in Brussels or under this absurd arrangement in Strasbourg, commuting backwards and forwards at God knows what expense to the taxpayer—is even more remote. The challenge is to bring democracy nearer to people. Here I want to take issue with Polly Toynbee. I do not often do that, but I read a recent article by her, and although I normally regard her as almost infallible as a political pundit I found myself very much in disagreement. She suggested that the recent elections in our country demonstrated not that people wanted localism, but that the voting system was unsound and what people wanted was proportional representation. I must not allow myself to be drawn into a long analysis. That is an unfortunate contrast; I think that they want both. I am certain that people want to feel that they have more influence and that decisions are made in a context which they can feel part of and understand.

Let me go further. In recent years I have become convinced that identity matters desperately to stability in national and world affairs. People need a meaningful sense of identity. In its absence there is a danger of alienation. Therefore, I, for one, am a positive enthusiast for what the Government have done in terms of devolution. They have acted ahead of time, rather than finding themselves with an increasingly impossible unstable situation in the United Kingdom. It was imaginative and essential to our future—I sometimes wonder whether they realised just how imaginative it was.

Of course, identity and devolution are not enough in themselves. The other reality that we are faced with is the world’s total interdependence, not least in the age of terrorism. We have a world in which international co-operation must be seen as not just a nice option but absolutely essential to the management of human affairs. Therefore, the challenge to political leadership is, having established a sense of identity, to lead people to support the international institutions and the co-operation which are essential if any of us are to have a future.

In the sense of what I have argued, enlargement is to be welcomed. If I am committed to enlargement, there must be no question but that undertakings which have been given must be honoured. The instability and dangers that could be provoked by rejecting people who have set out upon a particular course in good faith, and by taking the ground from under the imaginative leaders who are trying to work for what we all want, is incalculable.

I do not find myself in agreement with some of those who have spoken on Turkey. My thesis is that we, and certainly our children and grandchildren, need inclusive and not exclusive political institutions—institutions which face diversity and turn it into a rich and positive dimension of society, as distinct from something to be feared and rejected. Therefore, an increasingly democratic Turkey—of course there is a way to go yet—with an Islamic culture is going to be a positive asset for the Community as a whole, not least for the stability of our multicultural society in the United Kingdom. The Turkish army has given grounds for concern. Surely our message to the army should be, “Please understand: it is because your country is an increasingly democratic country in which the army must be servants of the political order, and because it has a strong Islamic tradition—which we value—that we want you within the Community”. If the army does not recognise that then it had better be told in no uncertain language that the road that it is taking is the one thing that could wreck the progress of Turkey towards membership.

My noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis spoke movingly about the values of the Community. It is good to hear that from someone who has been a Commissioner. There is one dimension to enlargement which we all have to take seriously; that there could be a tendency for the values to become aspirational rather than substantial. That is a possibility that we must not discount. For a number of years I have been on the delegation of the Council of Europe. I have no doubt that it has changed. Its culture now is more aspirational and rhetorical, rather than substantial in its commitment to the values about which we are speaking.

While I am making this observation and talking about the experience of the Council of Europe in this context, I will make another observation. There is a temptation to see European Union institutions as preserving the human rights that we see as central. It would be a retrograde step to move away from the European Court of Human Rights as it is today. What might begin to happen is that members of the European Union would be seen as having a commitment to human rights and a court to underwrite them but that they did not apply equally to wider society in Europe, its fringes or beyond. The point of and strength of the court is that it has a wider application.

The logic of how I see it all is that we should be more relaxed about the principle of a confederal rather than federal European Community, as we used to call it, because I want it to be strong and effective—a European Union of co-operating states with which ordinary people can feel a greater identity. Back in the 1970s when I was the Minister of State in the Foreign Office responsible for Europe I sometimes felt, with some sadness, that the European Parliament had gone down the wrong road—that it was a mistake to have a directly elected institution. It would have been better to have an indirectly elected Parliament. The responsibility is not soundly based. That might have been a better arrangement, but so be it. Whatever the intention was, it is perceived—if it is not all fear and reality—that we have parliamentarians who are not engaged with the daily reality of substantial politics in their societies. Parliamentarians in the individual member countries can make a lot of fuss, get a high profile and news coverage by being hostile to Europe and its institutions.

I will finish by saying, with conviction, that I am certain that the way history will judge us all in this period of the 21st century is by how we build the European institutions—the way that the European Union adds to the quality of accountable government and democracy as I described it earlier, and to the effective contribution that Europeans are making to the stability of the wider world—and on recognising that the problems of our children and grandchildren, whether the environment, security or economic affairs, cannot be solved in a European context alone. They can only be solved in a global context. The test of the institutions, therefore, will be how they play in to the global institutions which have become so vital.

My Lords, I wondered for a moment whether the noble Lord, Lord Judd, was going to take us on to the implications for British politics of the recent local elections. I am tempted to follow him for half a minute. For me, the most glorious point in those elections was watching the newly elected Member of the Scottish Parliament, the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, saying, in an irritated fashion to a “Newsnight” presenter, “But you have to understand: we have a four-party system”. I am glad that he now understands that, and I look forward to his altered behaviour the next time that he visits us in this Parliament.

This was an extremely valuable report. It showed us a number of important issues, which I hope the committee will continue to study. Enlargement, it points out, has been a continuing process since the British application in 1961. I tell the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, that I, as a young researcher, wrote an article in 1976 called “Widening and Deepening”. It argued that widening—in those days, that meant taking Spain, Greece and Portugal on board—would necessarily involve deepening rather than the reverse.

The issue of what the borders of Europe are has been with us since 1989. I then had the mildly painful experience of getting the LSE maps unit to draw some maps on European fault lines for a Chatham House paper and giving a presentation at Harvard. An elderly professor called Samuel Huntington got rather excited at one of those maps and reproduced it to demonstrate that Croatia is European but that Bosnia is on the other side in the clash of civilisations. That is one of the reasons why I very much hesitate to go along with the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, in suggesting that after Croatia we have a pause. That is the Catholic western Europe that some right-wing Americans and some in the Vatican wish us to hold to and which many of the rest of us wish to move away from as far and fast as we can.

I am not at all sure that Cyprus is really in Europe, as one defines Europe. I am not entirely sure, if you want to be deeply geographical, that Iceland—or at least the western half of Iceland—is in Europe; it is certainly the other side of the Atlantic divide. We need to be very careful when playing around with these geographical ideas.

We have had awkward states in the European Union for a long time. Many of us remember how difficult Greece was in its first 10 years of membership—it looked after its own national interests and did not think that it had anything to give in return. Sadly, Cyprus has now clearly taken on that role. That is part of the reason why we have to take much greater care in assessing the criteria for future accession. The report clearly says that the most recent enlargement has been an enormous success. The transformation of central and eastern Europe since 1990 has been astonishing. The support for economic transformation and the conditionality imposed on political and administrative reform has worked remarkably well.

However, I think that we all accept that the transformation of Romania and Bulgaria still has some distance to go and that allowing those two countries to join the European Union, though necessary in order to maintain the pace of reform, strengthens the argument for much stronger mechanisms for scrutinising the implementation of EU legislation and the quality of courts and public administration post-joining in all member states. After all, this is not just a question of Romania and Bulgaria; the water standards in Brussels are in many ways lower than those in Warsaw because of the difficulty of the Flemish and French-speaking communities in sorting out problems of sanitation. The noble Lord, Lord Triesman, looks surprised; I thought that that was a well known fact. Agricultural funds in southern Italy have not always been distributed entirely without corruption; nor, indeed, have structural funds in Spain or fisheries policy in any country that one might care to name—not to mention the acceptance that cross-border smuggling between Ulster and southern Ireland was something that one could not prevent.

We need stronger scrutiny. The European Parliament is beginning to address that; it could have a very useful role in that regard. We must also recognise that this involves not just the resistance among our publics to further enlargement but the resistance of many of our publics to eastern enlargement. That was a factor in the French and Dutch referendums—people felt that they had not been consulted about Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic coming in and that that threatened their jobs and social welfare and would bring higher taxes. That was certainly part of the negative response to the constitutional treaty. There was a clear failure of political leadership and communication by all member Governments, including our own. But that is, of course, part of the greater failure of our Government to make any greater effort to carry their own public to understand the advantages of European integration. Further enlargement has some distance to run. The question is: how much further should it go?

On the western Balkans, I argue, as do all of us on these Benches, that we have obligations that we must fulfil. I say in passing that my noble friend Lord Ashdown very much wanted to have been here tonight but, unfortunately, is attending a ceremony to unveil his own portrait in the National Liberal Club. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, that we on these Benches used, jokingly, to refer to my noble friend as the viceroy when he was in charge of Bosnia; it was, after all, a protectorate—and, so far, it has been a relatively successful protectorate. Does one prefer to allow parts of south-eastern Europe to deteriorate into disorder or do we recognise that it is in our shared interest to help to reconstruct conflict-ridden societies and rebuild broken states and weak economies? That would allow us to stop transnational crime, drug smuggling and people smuggling—those are all things that south-eastern Europe and the western Balkans were exporting to the rest of Europe—and, over the long haul, bring those weak and small states into full membership of the European Union.

We do not need to have deliberate pause after Croatia. There will be a natural pause, because the process will be long and hard—more like 10 years than five. However, the cost of leaving those countries out might well be too high, even though the process of bringing them up to the standards required for membership will be long and painful.

We have all agreed that Turkey is a much more difficult issue. It is a far larger and much more diverse country. I remember at a conference in Istanbul two years ago that a professor from Ankara University said to us that we had to understand that there were four different societies in Turkey: there were half a million Turks who were fully part of the sophisticated cosmopolitan global society; there were 5 million Turks who were urbanised and educated, and would adapt very easily to European Union membership; there were 35 million Turks who were first generation in the cities; and there were a further 35 million Turks who were still in the villages and living in conditions, he said very brutally, that were not totally unlike those of Pakistan.

Turkey is a very diverse society, which is developing very rapidly and which now has the least corrupt Government since the Second World War; the current Government have many very attractive features. I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Judd, about the development of an Islamic democracy. I find deeply unattractive the army and those representatives of the deep state, who are nationalist, authoritarian and brutal in their attitude towards minorities and the Kurds in particular.

I wish that Her Majesty’s Government had thought through more fully the implications of offering unconditional membership to Turkey at an earlier stage. As with so many other issues, this was an area in which Her Majesty’s Government took our policy from the Americans, who wanted us to offer membership to Turkey without thinking through its implications for the European Union. We must maintain negotiations with the Turkish Government in good faith, because the reform process is well under way, which means that we have to bring increasing pressure on the Government of Cyprus to fulfil their obligations as a member of the European Union on opening their ports to trade with Northern Cyprus. However, it is quite possible that the long-term process of negotiations with Turkey will not end in full membership.

The question of the states beyond is more difficult. It is partly an issue of integration capacity and is certainly a question of relations with Russia. I very much hope that the committee will return to the issue of neighbourhood policy, into which it rightly states the European Union has not yet put much effort, nor has the committee defined what it wants neighbourhood policy to achieve. The report did not say, although I wish that it had, that the European Union needs a much more active approach towards the “frozen conflicts” in Moldova, Georgia and elsewhere, of which the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, spoke. We need a much better accompaniment to enlargement to provide the sort of partnerships that the countries around the EU, if they ever approach membership, will need to offer—and that will require 15 or 20 years or more.

What about the institutional implications? Again, I welcome the report’s argument that we need some further institutional reform—not as an end in itself, but as a means of ensuring that a widening European Union retains the capability to take and implement decisions that represent the common interests of its members. The report makes the case, therefore, for an amending treaty and for some further extension to qualified majority voting. I note that; I trust that, when we in this House come in a few months to debate the proposals for an amending treaty, other Members of this House will take it fully on board.

There will be real problems for the workings of the Council when there are 27, 28 or more members, and for the patience of representatives of larger states, because they will have to listen to the representatives of smaller states. I sometimes wonder whether our next Prime Minister will have the patience to sit and listen for long hours as the heads of Governments of smaller states, of which he is dimly aware, go on at great length.

I wish that the committee had been a little more critical about the number of Commissioners, which is a taboo subject. We have to break that taboo. People in Brussels now say that no one will ever give up their Commissioner, but that is part of the treaty that we would wish to break. It is in Britain’s interest for there to be a small and efficient Commission, even if that means that, from time to time, there is no British Commissioner. I wish that the British Government would say so.

The consensus of the report, which I welcome and with which I agree, is that we must be committed to a long haul in the western Balkans that ends in full membership, that we should maintain continued negotiations with Turkey, which is also a long haul that may or may not end in full membership, that we should strengthen the neighbourhood policy both to the east and the south, and that the necessary institutional changes must follow, including the extension of scrutiny to implementation within the EU after states have joined.

My Lords, like all other noble Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, and his team on another most authoritative and informative report. Although there has been a time lag before your Lordships’ House has been able to discuss it, the timing has turned out to be extremely apposite. This a good moment to look at the issues raised. I must confess that I am concerned about all such reports that tackle the issue of the future shape of Europe and what kind of Europe we want.

I shall put my concerns in the following way: of course there is a case for an integrated European bloc—if not a superstate, which we are told is not on the cards, then at least a tight-knit grouping which is mainly western European and may be extended to the geographical areas of historic Europe, but with substantial features of political union. It would be a harmonising, gathering and integrated body. That is what Jean Monnet and many others wanted and what many leading Europeans still want today. They want an efficient, strong-centred, integrated entity that is capable of turning out fast decisions and of reaching a unified world view. We have heard that case put by some noble Lords in this debate. With that goes the idea with which not all people wish to be associated of a much better protected Europe, maybe even a fortress Europe, which in this age of global challenges has somehow to defend itself. That vision finds a clear echo in the pronouncements of Monsieur Sarkozy, who is to be the new French president. He has spoken explicitly about the need for more protection of Europe against outside forces. That is one view.

By contrast, there is a different case for a wider and more open association that stretches far outside western Europe and far beyond the Europe of geographical definition, including not only the east and west Balkans, which are in our idea of Europe, but Turkey and, in due course, Ukraine, Belarus and even Armenia and Azerbaijan. All those countries have aspirations to join the EU, which would then reach deep into central Asia and be more Eurasian than European. Such an arrangement could certainly share the so-called brand value of the Union, as one witness to the committee described it. However, it would not be economically uniform in any way; indeed, it would be deeply divided, with vast contrasts in incomes and cultures. Realistically, it could never be the tight-knit body that the old federalist Europeans dreamt of. It would be bound to be more confederal than federal, as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, said.

Whatever has happened regarding past enlargements, that prospect for the years ahead means that you can have one Europe or the other, but not in the end—or even from now on—both. Nor can the fundamental differences between those visions be papered over for much longer by calling it variable geometry. There comes a point when the variable geometry stretches so much that there is no geometric pattern left. The position to which we and Europe are now moving is a matter of careful choice. My noble friend Lord Renton of Mount Harry commented on that in a typically profound speech and I am not sure that we can continue to fudge the issue.

My concern is that this excellent report only touches on that central, old dilemma between deepening and widening, but it does so in a new context. That is mentioned specifically in paragraph 157, which is probably the most significant section of the whole report. However, the report sails on past, without recognising that now is the time for that issue to be addressed and for strategic choices to be made on the kind of Europe that we want. The report simply states that there should be no boundaries to Europe or to the EU. That is okay and, in a way, it is realistic so long as one does not then argue in the same breath that the EU should, at the same time, become more integrated and more centralised with tighter rules, more efficient decision machinery and more political integration, as, I am afraid, the report is slightly inclined to do in the paragraphs that follow the crucial paragraph 157. We have reached the stage where it cannot; nor, anyway, is it so obvious that more efficient decision-making procedures are necessary or beneficial.

In practice—here, the report is on very good ground and makes an interesting section—the already enormous enlargement and widening, up to 27 members from the old 15, nine or six before that, has all gone rather smoothly with no real sign of slowing the Brussels speed or capacity for reaching new decisions and making new laws. On the contrary, as the Economist recently pointed out, more regulations and directives than ever are now flowing from the Commission and there is no slow-down there, as the committee rightly confirms in its report from the evidence it heard and as my noble friend Lord Stevens of Ludgate reminded us. That is the choice that those who are serious about dealing with these issues now have to face. The report helps us to go that way but it does not quite face up to those issues.

I now come to the subject of Turkey, on which some fascinating comments have been made. In one sense, it is indeed a real and immediate problem. Turkey is huge, as noble Lords have said; it has the second biggest army in NATO; it has moments of deep turbulence, as now; and there appears to be a growing anti-European Union sentiment, which mirrors the strong antagonism from within the EU to Turkish membership that is growing more evident, especially in France. There is also the intractable Cyprus issue. I do not intend to go into that in detail now, partly for reasons of time but also because some thorough and illuminating comments have been made on it in the debate. However, as one commentator put it—I am not sure whether it was in evidence to the committee or whether it was in the Economist, but it was an unfair and insulting comment—Turkey is,

“too large, too poor and too Muslim”.

That is the sort of view that informs the very anti-Turkish feelings to be found in parts of continental Europe.

With wonderful irony, it seems that the present—and successful—non-secular, Islamic-inclined Government are more pro eventual accession to the EU and the so-called secular movements, which in some ways seem to be allied with the military organisations, are most opposed. As Turkey is a central player in the Middle East jigsaw and is inextricably involved in the Kurdish problem, which means being involved in the Iraqi and Iranian problems, there is no doubt that, if these things were to happen now, the EU would be brought into the centre of these tortuous issues even more than it is already, as the noble Lord, Lord Cobbold, reminded us. In one sense, the situation is immediate, extremely worrying and complex but, in another, it is not such a problem for the simple reason that it is all years away—at least a decade.

As the noble Lord, Lord Roper, asked, in 10 years’ time, what kind of EU will we have? I predict that it will be quite different. I believe that a much looser, wider version of Europe, with less centralism and fewer ambitions to be a bloc, a superpower, a counterweight to the United States or whatever the phrase is, will by then have prevailed, and the integrators will have been finally defeated. I am not quite with my noble friend Lord Stevens in saying that the EU will have ceased to exist but it will certainly have changed and adapted. It will have to have done so in a very big way. This will prove to be a correct response to world events because, as, for example, Monsieur Vedrine, the former French Foreign Minister, pointed out the other day, Europe will by then no longer be setting the global agenda at all. The pacemaker’s baton will have passed to Asia.

We need a good, friendly and co-operative European neighbourhood, and we must never tire of working for that. But it is the rising powers of Asia and elsewhere that will really count. That is where the wealth and the political power already increasingly lie. The world is no longer Euro-centric; it is not even Atlantic-centric. Globalisation and microchip power have changed everything, as they were bound to do. To survive and prosper, we in western Europe must each work with agility to build up our strengths, links and networks with the “developing world”—it is rather patronisingly so called, but is now rapidly becoming the fastest advancing high-technology world—and we must work to the utmost to provide good links and commerce with those nations.

I sum up my feelings on this subject by saying that a wider, enlarged, flexible and open Europe will be a great help and benefit to our neighbourhood, as—in many, although not all, ways—the European market, the European Community and the European Union have been of benefit so far. But it will never make the European Union a world power or a cohesive superbloc, and nor should wise politicians try to push and divert it that way. There is no bullet to bite, as one Euro-phile official misguidedly urged on Britain the other day.

Therefore, in 10 years’ time, it may be far easier for Turkey to join the European Union, as it will have changed. The choice for the type of Europe that we want will then, by default and by the power of global trends, have already been made. It will indeed turn out that there is no alternative, as one of your Lordships said, to progressive enlargement. Perhaps unintentionally, that seems to be the central and realistic message of this report, and that is why, like others, I strongly welcome it.

My Lords, it is always an exceptional privilege to hear the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, as it was today when he introduced this important debate. In a remarkable overview, the noble Lord—Julian Grenfell, if I may refer to him as such—made a genuine, nuanced and sensitive analysis, which results from considerable expertise. I think that the House will thank him for it, and I shall try to address what he described as his lessons.

I also thank the European Union Committee for its report, which is a valuable contribution to the debate on enlargement and the future of Europe. I wholeheartedly endorse its findings. Enlargement remains one of the EU’s most successful policies and it is one to which the United Kingdom has made a strong contribution. Full credit is due to this House for its support in that.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, with, as ever, a penetrating analysis, introduced the very real concept of strategic choice. We are not at the point of final choice; nor am I clear that some of the contradictions between the strategic directions can be resolved at this moment. However, it is absolutely clear to me that that debate will have to be had. It will be not just about the consequences of economic differentiation, important though those are, but also, in a cultural sense, about the essentials of a social Europe and how will they be understood across a terrain as large as the one that the noble Lord has painted.

As this debate has demonstrated, EU enlargement covers a wide range of topics. I shall focus on a few themes: the success of past enlargements, the challenges ahead and the need to ensure a flexible yet rigorous approach to accession. The Government and all the major parties have favoured enlargement—a sensible, careful process—for reasons that we need to discuss briefly. They are not, I know, the mischievous reasons entertainingly advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Stevens of Ludgate; none the less, I hope that he will bear with me as I express ours.

The noble Lord, Lord Roper, made the point that we do not celebrate enough what has been achieved. The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, made the same point—as did my noble friend Lord Dubs—although he said that the contribution made by the United Kingdom to the outcome of the success was perhaps not the predicted one when people saw a much smaller Community but have had to adjust to a much larger one.

Enlargement has been at the core of the development of the EU. It enabled the peaceful reunification of Europe after the Second World War and across the Cold War divide. It continues to be the engine for security and prosperity. Of course, I cannot agree with the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, least of all with the phantom that he raises of new imperialism. With the greatest courtesy, I say to him that we crossed the Rubicon long ago—as I recall it was in Italy and certainly not on the route to Turkey.

The security issues, touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, require a special relationship with those places where wars and ethnic conflict have not yet been resolved. I would have thought that, since the Dayton accord, we have all understood exactly what was involved in that and what one had to do to secure peace. Each round of enlargement has helped. It has brought new jobs, new markets and new investment opportunities. With a population of 490 million, the EU now represents the largest internal market in the world. Together we are better able to respond to increasing global competition.

For the United Kingdom, the economic benefits of the 2004 accession are clear. Our exports to the A10 were worth almost £8 billion in 2006, compared with £4.6 billion in 2004. Exports to Poland alone rose by 67 per cent in 2006. UK firms such as Tesco, Unilever, Vodafone and BP are successful investors in new member and candidate countries. Our labour markets have benefited from increased output and jobs.

I know that some in the media will continue to peddle their fears of mass immigration to the United Kingdom, but I suggest that this House understands the reality in a rather different way. Migrants have contributed to our growth and tax revenues while gaining new skills. The noble Lord, Lord Stevens of Ludgate, may be right about the impact of the age structure as a factor. That is an extremely important and interesting point but, even without that, the preliminary economic analysis shows that this has been a positive development.

Enlargement, more than any other policy, has transformed poverty to prosperity and conflict to peace across Europe. While the path to accession provides incentives, it also involves challenging economic reforms for candidate countries. I commend Romania and Bulgaria, our two newest EU partners, for their progress. For example, until 2000, 36 per cent of Romania’s population lived in poverty, inflation was running at 54 per cent and the budget deficit had spiralled out of control. In 2006, Romania’s economic growth stood at 7.7 per cent, inflation was down to single digits and the budget deficit stood at 1.7 per cent. There is more to do, of course, but what a remarkable advance that has been.

It is right to focus on economic benefits, but the figures do not always tell the full story of EU membership. For centuries, Europe has been disfigured by conflict. Tens of millions of innocent Europeans died in two world wars. Again, in the 1990s, Europe witnessed ethnic genocide in the former Yugoslavia. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, summed it up throughout his speech, particularly by saying that it is the movement to democracy—and the quality of Europe’s democracy—that is critical for success in overcoming these scars.

It is easy to take Europe’s stability for granted. In the last half of the last century, we forged a different way so that today’s young Europeans will be the first generation who do not listen to tales of what their grandparents did during the war, fearing that they, too, might have to make those terrible sacrifices in conflict. Over the past 50 years, more and more of us have decided to share mutual security arrangements and to build close trade links. Of course, national rivalries do not vanish easily, but they are now insignificant compared with international co-operation. President Clinton rightly described the new architecture of Europe as the greatest and most successful example of fixing in place peace and community.

As the noble Lord, Lord Judd, said, EU membership has fostered democracy, the rule of law, trade and deep commitment to human rights. My parents’ generation chose that path and succeeded. Indeed, some Members of your Lordships’ House were party directly to that success. In my view, all of them are to be congratulated. I hope that we have the ability to build on their vision, which is why I have no time for the scepticism that denies the achievement of that period. Of course, there are practical challenges ahead. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, was right to emphasise accountability in those challenges. I agree that the enlargement process needs to be robust and based on the Copenhagen criteria. As the committee notes, this should not prevent us from tailoring our approach in the light of experience.

We have learnt lessons from the fifth wave of enlargement; for example, in the administration of justice and the fight against crime and corruption. We recognise how difficult it can be to tackle those issues. That is why European leaders agreed last December to ensure that those issues are focused on early in the negotiation process. There are, for example, now defined benchmarks for justice and home affairs issues. These new requirements will help—not hinder—Turkey, Croatia and the western Balkans as they move towards EU membership. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, demanded stronger scrutiny, and those are the areas in which stronger scrutiny would be invaluable.

That brings me to Turkey. We should be more rigorous in pursuing the terms for enlargement here, but that does not mean that we should set impossible conditions. The accession process is a compact. It requires commitment from the candidate to be matched by a firm commitment from the European Union that, if the standards are met, accession will ensue. The noble Lord, Lord Cobbold, raised the issue of risk in all this. Although the boundaries of Europe are perhaps wisely not defined—I am not sure that I understood the point entirely—as prescriptively as he was suggesting, I strongly share his balanced judgment of the advantage. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, also made that point about borders. Incidentally, the borders are defined not only in geopolitical terms, but often through popular culture—through competitions in things such as football or singing, or what passes for singing—and they spread across into wider areas.

The noble Lord, Lord Borrie, called for a pause in this context. Like others, I fear that much progress will stop if we have the kind of pause that was advocated. I am quite certain that a decade of debate is quite a pause in its own right, as we work through those issues. So we welcome last December’s European Council reaffirmation that it would honour existing commitments to Turkey and other countries in the enlargement process. A Turkey anchored in the EU will make all Europe more secure, stable and prosperous. The prospect of membership alone has already brought positive change.

In recent years, Turkey has abolished the death penalty and is working hard on a zero-tolerance policy toward torture and on improved rights for women and minority groups, although it is clear to me that there is much further to go in all those respects. Those reforms must continue and, unfortunately, we should acknowledge that the pace has slowed. As the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, said, we have to continue to urge the Turkish Government to address those areas of concern.

Before accession, Turkey, like all prospective members, must fulfil its contractual obligations, specifically by opening its ports to Cypriot shipping under the Ankara agreement protocol. EU Foreign Ministers have been clear that failure here will affect the overall pace of negotiations. But it makes sense for Turkey to move ahead on technical chapters of the negotiations while it works towards meeting the political conditionality. All those factors, as my noble friend Lord Dubs said, have to be weighed in the balance as we move forward.

A number of noble Lords spoke of the recent events in Turkey surrounding the election processes and the unhelpful—as the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, specifically reminded us—intervention of the military. My noble friend Lord Dubs and the noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry, also mentioned the issues of political Islam and the difficulties in maintaining a secular state, as those pressures are expressed. The capacity to create and sustain a secular state with a people who are overwhelmingly Muslim is one of the things that, if we can get it right, will add specific political and historical value to Turkish accession.

As to Mr Sarkozy, I am aware that his comments have been received with dismay in Turkey. He has made no secret of his opposition to its membership of the EU, and his position hardened during the recent campaign. He has spoken of launching an early debate in Europe to reconsider Turkey’s accession negotiations. He has raised alternatives, such as privileged partnership and so on. We will have to have that argument. The reality is that the door is currently open to Turkey, Croatia and other countries in the western Balkans, and those countries have to show that they are ready to walk through that door and are capable of doing so. The process that I have just described is precisely what the noble Lord, Lord Renton, was calling for. It is a point at which careful thought about how to carry this forward is essential. I do not entirely think that, as the noble Lord, Lord Roper, suggested, in several years’ time, but within the decade, there may be another French president. There may or may not be, but there will not be another French people. Those arguments will have to be held, as the noble Lord recognises. As he suggested, in doing so, we must have a dialogue with other Europeans.

The crucial point is that staying on this path, focused on the objective of EU membership, will keep the Turkish Government committed to reform. That was true of Poland and Romania, and I believe it will be true of Turkey and Croatia. Like the noble Lords, Lord Roper and Lord Grenfell, I think issues have been thrown up by the accession of Cyprus and the way that Turkey now deals with these things, but I suspect that the resolution of borders in advance teaches a lesson for the future. On balance, the progress on the 10 accession countries was probably the greater gain.

Croatia is undertaking a series of political, economic and judicial reforms to meet accession standards. They are a fitting tribute to former Prime Minister Racan, who died last week, who paved the way for Croatia’s eventual accession to the EU. I agree with the committee’s assertion that Croatia should be able to accede as soon as it meets the necessary standards. The prospect of enlargement has set Croatia on the right path and while there is some way to go, it encapsulates the aspirations of its western Balkan neighbours.

I agree with the points made in the committee’s report about not fixing dates. The noble Lord, Lord Borrie, came to the same conclusion for slightly different reasons, but I agree with the point, which is still right. I agree with the committee that a credible EU perspective for the western Balkans is vital, not least given the challenges those countries face. As the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, noted, enlargement is the glue which keeps those countries from falling off the path of reform. That is why it is important to keep reaffirming the Thessaloniki commitment at the European Council in 2003 that,

“the future of the Western Balkans is within the European Union.’

The committee is also correct to note that giving these countries candidate status would present the EU with new challenges; it certainly will. The EU needs to provide financial and technical assistance to help the western Balkans meet the Copenhagen criteria. The EU’s instrument for pre-accession funding provides that support. Between 2007 and 2013, just over half the €11 billion budget will be allocated to the western Balkans. That does not mean that those countries should immediately be given candidate status. There is a clear pre-accession process, the one which Croatia has followed, which is, in essence, a graduated process which demands step-by-step progress on, for example, co-operation with The Hague tribunal and on minority rights.

As a nation, we remain a strong supporter of EU and NATO integration for Macedonia, a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Roper. We were pleased that the December 2005 European Council granted Macedonia candidate status. We want to see Macedonia in the EU, but the speed at which it can move towards EU membership will ultimately depend on the pace that it can sustain in its reform efforts. We should encourage it, and it is important that it does not take its foot off the gas.

I shall turn briefly to the European neighbourhood policy. As to the wider neighbourhood, I agree with the report’s conclusion that the EU needs an effective policy to work with countries that do not at this stage have a prospect of EU membership. The European neighbourhood policy provides a framework to engage with southern and eastern neighbours on social, political and economic reform. I agree with the committee’s view that the ENP should not be viewed as an alternative to the prospect of membership for the EU’s eastern neighbours, such as the Ukraine and Moldova. I say to my noble friend Lord Dubs that in the case of Moldova, the 2007 enlargement prospects have brought the EU to the border of the Black Sea region. Moldova is one of the countries that benefits from special support under the European neighbourhood policy and will receive €13 billion over the financial prospective to 2013. That investment is already producing results. There is much better support for economic and political reform, including twinning and the secondment of civil servants from the UK and other member states to help in the process. However, there is scope for the ENP to offer better incentives to partner countries, and I thank noble Lords on the committee for all the suggestions they have made. Work is going forward with EU partners to develop ideas for stronger incentives for partner countries to reform.

I agree that the prospect of EU membership can and should remain a lever for reform across Europe. There is no sense in drawing up new dividing lines; Europe has long resisted any attempt to define itself in strict geographical, cultural or religious terms, and I think that that flexibility gives it strength. Our focus should be to build a strong, democratic, stable neighbourhood, rather than to determine at this stage the final frontiers of the EU.

I cannot accept the allegation of the noble Lord, Lord Stevens of Ludgate, that there is a secret plan to import a mini-constitution by stealth. We live in a very transparent world, and what is going on is pretty visible to everybody. Many people have questioned the impact of the enlargement on EU institutions; the spring European Council showed that an EU with 27 member states can function and deliver on the issues that matter to ordinary people: energy, climate change, security and better regulation. The EU is not in a crisis. However, there are some institutional questions that need to be addressed quickly. Existing treaty commitments require us to look again at the size of the Commission now that Bulgaria and Romania have joined the EU. The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, about the number of commissioners must be resolved because there is an obligation to do that as soon as we can. We are in discussion with the German presidency and other EU partners and will consider all proposals that meet the interests of the United Kingdom and help to deliver a more effective EU. This will be an issue for discussion by all EU partners in June. I shall not add to the comments the Prime Minister made on 16 April about the idea of a conventional amending treaty because I have addressed the House on that question in the recent past.

The committee said that debates on the institutional structure of the EU should not put a pause on enlargement, and it is right. Candidates will be judged on their merits; to do otherwise will send negative signals, as noble Lords said. For that reason, I fully endorse the committee’s conclusion on the importance of honouring our clear commitments to Turkey, Croatia and the other western Balkan countries.

Challenges remain and the enlargement process is not perfect, but each successive round has led to improvements. It remains the EU’s most effective soft power lever to reform. The noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, said that we need a good co-operative Europe as we face the difficulties and challenges—economic and others—from the rest of the world. Indeed, he will be right in his prediction that we will need as much unity and consistency as possible as a weight in international negotiations and processes.

As the committee notes, the process of enlargement has been an integral part of the EU’s development over the past 50 years. As history has shown, managed properly, it offers us all many more opportunities than risks. It does not remove our obligation to be careful or to explain more to the public about the achievements. That is a difficulty in a country where Euro-sceptic media, for example, generally have nothing good to say about Europe.

Not all the political methods that we have for engaging in the debate seem to have the same sort of effect. There may be things that could be said, and said more effectively. The EU could certainly use a more approachable lexicon in everything that it says. As somebody who tries to study these things closely, on occasion I find it extremely difficult to follow. More important, the powerful history of creating peace as the unifying theme of modern Europe may be the key. We should not underestimate it when we try to get people of all generations to understand the steps that have been taken.

This evening’s debate has been about a vision for Europe—a growing area of prosperity and democracy, and decency, too. That is absolutely true. It is a work in progress; it is serious work and work worth doing.

My Lords, this has been a satisfying debate and I sincerely thank every one of the noble Lords who has participated in it. It is a great privilege to bring before the House a report that stimulates this kind of interest. If the numbers were a little sparse this evening, the quality of the debate was as high as ever. I thank the Minister for his thoughtful response and I thank the two Front Benches for their comprehensive comments.

I have one quick comment on what was said about Turkey. The noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, echoed the noble Lord, Lord Roper, when he asked what the European Union would look like in 10 years’ time. It is an excellent question, but we also have to ask what Turkey will look like in 10 years’ time. Yes, it will probably have between 85 million and 90 million people, but it is a mistake to conclude that it is somehow then going to dominate the agenda in the European Union. No single country, however large it is, can dominate the agenda unless it builds a coalition to do so. That is true of Germany, it is true of Poland and it will be true of Turkey, if Turkey comes in.

Let us not forget that Turkey has a young, hard-working, dynamic and increasingly well educated population. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Stevens of Ludgate, spoke up for them. Clearly, they will bring huge benefits to the European Union if Turkey becomes a member because they are the kind of people who can make a real contribution.

Lastly on Turkey, we do not need any scare stories about thousands and thousands of Turkish workers beating on the doors here. That is not realistic. If Turkey comes in, there will almost certainly be temporary restrictions and probably quite a long transition period. It may well be around 2025 before every Turk who wants to come in will be able to. I am sure that there will be long transition periods; I may be wrong, but that is my gut feeling. We should not entertain scare stories, which some people would like to put about, about invasions of foreign workers.

Finally, as many noble Lords have pointed out, there will only be one more accession in this decade, which we hope will be Croatia. It may be well into the middle of the following decade, or getting close to it, before we see any more. In effect, this is a kind of pause. Those who said that that pause should not be formally declared are quite right. As one noble Lord said, it is easy to declare a pause but extremely hard to know when to end it. Let us not forget that it has to be ended by unanimity. We could be caught in a trap.

Enlargement remains on the agenda. The fact that there is only one more accession to come in this decade does not mean that it is off the agenda. I implore noble Lords to keep it on the agenda here, too. It needs to be watched carefully, with all the attention that it deserves. It is a huge issue, even though the next accession may be some way off. We also have to watch how the new members do and learn the lessons from the latest enlargements. It is still early days and we cannot draw all the firm conclusions that we would like to on the basis of what has happened since 2004. On that basis, I commend the report to your Lordships and thank noble Lords once again for their participation.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at 8.35 pm.