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Lords Chamber

Volume 701: debated on Tuesday 6 May 2008

House of Lords

Tuesday, 6 May 2008.

The House met at half-past two: the LORD SPEAKER on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Norwich.

Death of a Member

My Lords, I deeply regret that I have to inform the House of the death of Lord Holme of Cheltenham on 4 May. On behalf of the whole House, I extend our condolences to his family and friends.

Gambling: Offshore Bookmakers

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether, following the adoption of a new law in France in March 2007 and recent guidance from the European Commission, they will reconsider banning advertising by offshore bookmakers soliciting new accounts from members of the public without establishing that they are aged 18 or older.

My Lords, the Government have seen no evidence to warrant changing the new protections brought in by the Gambling Act 2005. It is an offence under the Act for any operator to invite children to gamble and for offshore operators to advertise in the UK unless they are in the European Economic Area or are permitted to do so by the Secretary of State.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer, which suggests that the full extent of his research has not been completed. The law that has just been passed by the former Minister of the Interior, one Nicolas Sarkozy, which came into effect a year ago, has had the somewhat unusual effect of making it a crime, equal to the downloading of child pornography, to place a bet for as much as €2 with any British bookmaker. The penalty in each case is a year in prison and a €75,000 fine. Does the noble Lord consider that this is a fair and reasonable exercise in maintaining a level playing field within what he refers to as the European Community and that it is compatible with the designation he has given of a company therefore being exempt from the ban on advertising that would apply? Will he not now move to restore a level playing field by extending the ban on advertising to all bookmakers operating from France into the United Kingdom?

My Lords, the playing field may be levelled by the French being obliged to take action. I am sure the noble Lord will appreciate that the French took their action not in defence of the consumer but in defence of their state monopoly on gambling. I am surprised that a representative from the opposition Benches is backing that action. Suffice it to say that the European Commission has made it clear that the French law is not acceptable within the framework of the European Community and, as a consequence, we have no intention of following that atrocious example.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord James, has raised an important point about age verification by offshore gambling organisations. Have not the Government been sitting on this issue, which was brought to their attention well over a year ago? It is a fundamental flaw of the Gambling Act that operators in the EU and in Gibraltar are allowed to have lower standards of age verification than those in the UK. Surely the Government do not want that to continue and so disadvantage UK operators.

My Lords, we certainly want a level playing field as far as we are able to establish that. The noble Lord is right. Gibraltar is within the European Economic Area and therefore has the right to advertise in the United Kingdom. Our own regulations have been in place for only six months and there have been very few complaints to the Gambling Commission about any aspect of underage gambling. It is in the interests of those providing the services to obey British law, which is clear in these terms. At the moment, although we are keeping a careful eye on it, as the noble Lord enjoins us to do, we see no reason for changing our regulatory framework, which seems to be working satisfactorily.

My Lords, my noble friend will recall that I asked him a Question on 5 December about discussions with Gibraltar over the quality of gambling regulation there. I drew his attention to the fact that standards adopted by the authorities in Gibraltar fall well short of those adopted in this country; the noble Lord, Lord James, referred to some of those in his Question. I ask my noble friend again whether he has had any discussions with Gibraltar with a view to it getting its act together and improving what it does.

My Lords, Gibraltar features prominently in these issues because it is within the European Community and therefore has these privileges in the British market. Its regulatory framework is not as robust as ours; I am not sure that we would expect it to be, given the limited resources of the Gibraltan state. It is also the case that the Gibraltarians will not readily take lectures from other authorities. However, we have indicated that we expect their standards to match ours in the crucial aspects, to which this Question refers, of advertising and offering accounts to people who are potentially underage. We will monitor that with the greatest care.

Cluster Munitions

My Lords, while declaring an interest as chair of the board of the United Nations Association of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which is part of the campaign to ban cluster munitions, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will seek an international convention banning all cluster munitions at the next meeting of the Oslo process in Dublin in late May.

My Lords, the Government’s aim is to achieve a legally binding instrument on those cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians. That is what we, along with the other participants in the Oslo process, will be working to achieve in Dublin. The key task at this final meeting will be to reach agreement on the types of cluster munitions that fall into this category and which should therefore be prohibited.

My Lords, while I thank the Minister for that reply, which seems rather less clear and categorical than I would have hoped, does he recognise that any further effort by Her Majesty’s Government to maintain a distinction between types of cluster munitions that would be banned and types that would still be permissible is liable either to wreck the prospects of an international convention being agreed in Dublin or to produce one that would be unenforceable and ineffective? Given the appalling suffering of innocent civilians, which has already been inflicted by the use of these munitions irrespective of their type, and given their fundamental military unsuitability for the kinds of hostilities most prevalent in today’s world, will the Minister make a further effort before the Dublin meeting to define a British negotiating position that will accept the banning of all cluster munitions with no ifs and buts?

My Lords, I think the noble Lord knows that the Government’s position is that we want to seek a ban on those munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians, either because they do not have a self-exploding feature or because they hit targets indiscriminately due to the nature of their launching and aiming systems. There is a debate about which munitions should or should not fall within this category. That is the purpose of Dublin: to see if this can be resolved in a way that protects those weapons that we still consider to have military utility. While the noble Lord is correct about today’s asymmetrical warfare and the fact that these weapons have little purpose and can do a lot of harm when used in areas where civilians are present, we should not assume that old-fashioned warfare with tanks and other major targets is gone for ever.

My Lords, can the Minister give us a useful distinction between cluster weapons that cause unacceptable harm to civilians and cluster weapons that do not? Is he confident that one can get a consensus in the negotiations on that distinction?

My Lords, the noble Lord is pressing on the most difficult point in this—that of trying to find a definition that is acceptable to the countries that are moving forward the Oslo process and, more broadly, those who are our military partners and with whom issues of interoperability are key. I have given the principal criterion, which is harm to civilians. We see that as coming from old, unmodernised weapons, weapons that do not self-explode and weapons that are fired and aimed in such a way that it is hard to avoid unnecessary civilian destruction.

My Lords, when it is a question of the definition of a civilian, does my noble friend accept that, in this country, when we look at compensation for the trauma of being injured by bombs, we look at loss of earnings and the cost to the whole family? Can my noble friend confirm that the current definition of a victim in the draft of the cluster munitions treaty will remain as it is; that is to say, it will include the family affected—so much more important in countries where earnings are crucial to survival?

My Lords, my noble friend makes an important point. I do not believe that this issue is in dispute in the draft treaty so I can say with some confidence that it is likely to remain the same, but I again stress that the meeting in Dublin is to resolve differences in the treaty and I cannot rule out changes. However, in that area, that is unlikely.

My Lords, does the Minister accept that almost all so-called submunitions can cause civilian deaths and casualties and are doing so at this moment—while we are sitting here—in places such as southern Lebanon? I have considerable sympathy with the observations made by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, about that and the dangers of too many qualifications and too much hair-splitting over the definitions of different munitions. Does the Minister also accept that any agreement either in Dublin or later on has to be universal? Can he tell us which countries are still opposing the whole idea? Do they include the United States, Russia or China—if so, we have a lot of work ahead of us—and which countries merely want a transitional period? Do they include countries such as Japan and Germany? Where exactly in this spectrum do we stand?

My Lords, the important point to understand is that not all countries are part of this process. A core group that went to Oslo has been working on this. It includes countries that are not users of these weapons together with some, such as ourselves, who use them in a very limited way. The difficulty for us is that not all NATO members are part of this process and therefore interoperability and the need to protect our ability to work with NATO partners in certain conflicts are key. NATO members have no need or reason at this time to use such weapons because of the nature of the conflicts we are involved in. We have no south Lebanon on our books at this time.

My Lords, will the Minister explain what cluster munitions are used for?

My Lords, their purpose is to be used against heavily armoured targets. That is why in today’s current asymmetric campaigns against insurgents they have no high military utility. That is why they have not been used by NATO in recent years.

My Lords, is it still the case that DfID is opposed to these weapons but that the Ministry of Defence wishes to retain them? Who does the Minister think will prevail in the end?

My Lords, I could not possibly comment. The Ministry of Defence obviously has a certain interest in this because weapons of certain limited types that fall within this category are within our current arsenal, if not presently being used. There is a discussion inside government as we move to the negotiation in Dublin, and there is a determination to try to get an agreement if we can and therefore to make our definition as expansive as possible, consistent with protecting our military interest.

My Lords, the Minister spoke in his initial response of a ban against the weapons that cause unacceptable harm to civilians, leaving the impression that perhaps there might be something that involved acceptable harm to civilians. I am sure that my noble friend did not mean to imply that but it was the inference none the less that some noble Lords drew from what he said.

Does the Minister agree that one of the dreadful things about cluster weapons is not only that they explode on a delayed mechanism, like landmines, but also that they are extremely attractive to children? That is what most people find totally unacceptable: that young children come to play with what they see as something attractive on the ground and lose a hand, arm or foot—or even worse—in so doing. Will the Minister explain what will be done in these discussions to try and avoid these difficulties, not just about delay but about making these weapons less attractive to children?

My Lords, let me be clear that when we say “unacceptable”, we mean random and indiscriminate harm to civilians that does not show proper effort to protect innocent civilian lives in a military conflict. Let us again be clear: war always, sadly, claims innocent civilian lives, whatever protection is taken.

We believe that the weapons in the British arsenal do not have a high failure rate; they have a very low failure rate—indeed, one of the two is self-exploding, which should keep the rate extremely low. However, I think that we are all aware that southern Lebanon represented a terrible, terrible situation with continuing tragic deaths of children and others. One very much hopes that the weapons type that was used in southern Lebanon will be within the boundaries of this treaty. Therefore the answer to my noble friend’s question is that that variant of the M85 will not be in use in future.

My Lords, presumably those weapons in southern Lebanon were provided by the United States for use by Israel. If that is the case and the United States will not be present in Dublin—which is what I gathered the noble Lord was implying—where are we going from here?

My Lords, the hope is that it will be rather like the landmines treaty, which was initially carried by a small group of convinced countries— even if they did come from very different military backgrounds—that formed a treaty that the rest of the international community came in behind and supported. We hope the same will happen with this. That is why it is so important that the concluding negotiations in Dublin do not create a narrow treaty that will not gain that broad support—without it, its utility in limiting this use of weapons will not amount to that much.

Africa: FCO and DfID Expenditure

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

How much expenditure they plan in Africa during the current financial year by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development respectively.

My Lords, excluding the grants in aid made by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the British Council and BBC World Service, planned recurrent expenditure in sub-Saharan Africa is broadly similar in its administrative use at £56 million for the FCO and £52.3 million for DfID. Planned capital expenditure is also broadly similar at £7.8 million for the FCO and £7.1 million for DfID. However—and I think this is the point that the noble Lord is seeking—the FCO’s planned strategic and bilateral programme spend is £33.5 million, while DfID’s planned bilateral expenditure on the elimination of poverty is £1.259 billion.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that Answer. Is he aware of a growing feeling that we may be in danger of running a two-headed policy in Africa, part of it run with these large figures from DfID for the reduction of poverty and the other half dealing with political stability and good government? Given what we see happening around us, in Kenya and Zimbabwe—disasters primarily as a result of misgovernment—will he give us an assurance that it is our intention, and our policy, to run a single, balanced and coherent policy and not allow the gaining of political information and influence to wither away in reduced budgets?

My Lords, I very much thank the noble Lord for his question. It will help to ensure that that does not happen, as will the vigorous attention of all your Lordships to ensuring that we have an active foreign policy for Africa and not just a development policy. I reassure him that DfID’s expenditures on poverty reduction also very much cover good governance. There is full recognition that one must go hand in hand with the other. Only where there is accountable, transparent government will you see effective poverty reduction. Let me add that our foreign policy for Africa is no longer just about poor, failing states. There are some rich, quite successful states in Africa that offer us real partnership opportunities in moving ahead.

My Lords, within two years it is projected that aid to Africa will be 50 per cent more than the total FCO budget. Yet Kenya, for example, shows that although there is abundance of aid, the politics can be wrong and can mar much of the effect of that aid. Is my noble friend sensitive to the view that the balance between the two departments may not be quite right?

My Lords, my noble friend asks another of those questions to which I would not presume to have an answer. Obviously diplomacy does not require the huge and heavy project expenditures that poverty reduction requires. Therefore, although these comparisons are important in ensuring that the Foreign Office is properly funded for its critical work in Africa and elsewhere, this is a comparison between apples and oranges. DfID is doing great work meeting the British goal, committed to at Gleneagles, of doubling our assistance to Africa by 2010 in a way that makes a tangible difference, such as more kids in school, better public health and better governance in Africa.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that now is not the time to cut back on aid to Africa? Surely he is right when he says that the FCO and DfID should complement each other. However, does he share my enormous concern from my experience of visiting some of these places that enormous expertise is being lost as the FCO cuts back on staff, particularly those who have a long track record in some of these countries? Given the critical need to have expertise, particularly in developing countries in Africa, the Middle East and the Far East, what is being done to ensure that people with great experience are retained?

My Lords, the noble Baroness puts her finger on the recognition shared by all current or former Ministers in the Foreign Office that it has huge expertise—language knowledge and cultural knowledge of countries—that does not exist outside. It is a talent pool that we must preserve. We are moving more diplomats from posts in places such as Europe to posts in developing countries. We are making the leadership of those missions—the ambassador and high-commissioner positions—more senior, relative to the old European transatlantic footprint. We are making efforts to do this, but I share the noble Baroness’s concern that we do not lose the human capital of the FCO.

My Lords, does the Minister recall that the first speech made by the present Foreign Secretary described the Foreign Office as a “unique global asset”, and that the Foreign Secretary said in his most recent speech that:

“The traditional roles of the foreign office are still needed”?

Given those premises, is the Minister not a little disturbed by the fact that we have no diplomatic representation whatever in 23 out of 53 African states?

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, in his quotations from my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, rightly points to the fact that the Foreign Secretary and I, with our other ministerial colleagues, are deeply committed to building an effective Foreign Office. We are pleased that we did a little better in this budget round that we had done in recent years. Although we do not have missions in 23 African states, that means that we are still just ahead of the game, with missions in the majority of African countries. If anything, we are trying to grow our diplomatic footprint in Africa as a reflection of the increased importance that we give to that region.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that a recent report from the World Health Organisation estimated that 40 per cent of healthcare provision in sub-Saharan Africa is provided by the churches in Africa? Does DfID have a strategy to engage those assets in delivering better healthcare systems for Africa?

My Lords, having run the UNDP for many years I know extremely well, at a personal level, the extraordinary contribution of churches to service delivery in both health and education at the community level. I have made a point of saying that to friends and colleagues in DfID, and I understand from conversations that it is recognised and that collaboration is growing. However, I fear that I will have to refer the right reverend Prelate to those colleagues for a fuller answer.

Taxation: Oil Companies

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether they plan to levy a windfall tax on the profits of United Kingdom oil companies.

My Lords, tax policy is reviewed as part of the annual Budget process. There are no current plans to introduce a windfall tax on oil companies.

My Lords, I assume that the Government might be looking for some ideas to make them more popular with the public after Thursday’s results. Would it not be a good idea to consider an eye-catching proposal, whereby they would levy an extra windfall tax on the extra profits for 2008-09 of international oil companies based in Britain? The Government could then use part of that money—if not a full equivalent of that amount—and other resources to encourage British companies and others who have the energy, courage and imagination to invest in wind farms to do so with Government tax offsets.

My Lords, the noble Lord portrays his proposition as an attractive one; I find it a little less so. The Government increased the supplementary charge on the oil companies in 2005. It is important to realise the remaining assets of the North Sea. We require investment in those North Sea assets to provide this country with an important and secure energy source. The noble Lord will expect eye-catching initiatives, attractive to the public, to be in the next Budget.

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the definition of windfall implies a one-off event, yet we have had persistently high oil prices for a considerable period? Therefore, the challenge is to have a form of taxation ensuring that the Exchequer gets a reasonable return, while at the same time not prejudicing the prospect of further exploitation of our resources in the North Sea. That has a far higher priority than fiddling around with wind farms.

My Lords, the House will recognise my noble friend’s substantial experience in this area. He is of course right that we need consistency in taxing the oil companies. The windfall profits of the oil companies in recent months are derived largely from their overseas investment. The North Sea accounts for only 10 per cent of BP’s profits, so we should see the limitation of any windfall tax in that respect.

My Lords, does the noble Lord think that a windfall tax on oil companies—or, for that matter, any other type of company—will assist the Prime Minister in halting the current corporate exodus from this country?

My Lords, that corporate exodus is extolled in certain parts of the media but is not borne out by many recent facts. Let me make it clear that any windfall tax, as far as oil companies are concerned, is nothing at all to do with their location. Shell and BP are firmly rooted in the United Kingdom. The issue is to guarantee that they invest sufficiently in the North Sea to return its resources, which this country will assuredly require in the future.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the major oil companies would be in a better position to resist calls for windfall taxation if they were seen to be investing more of their profits in sustainable energy projects rather than, as Shell did last week, pulling out of wind farms at the earliest possible opportunity?

My Lords, Shell’s withdrawal from the proposition last week was a disappointment. However, the oil companies play their part in the development of renewable energy—BP has certainly played an important part in the recent government initiative. We all want to encourage the development of renewable energy, but we also appreciate that, as far as any of us can foresee, oil and gas—particularly, British oil and gas—will play a significant part in our economy.

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the corporate exodus referred to is as long on rhetoric and as short on reality as the threat of so many people in 1997; namely, that they would leave this country if a Labour Government were elected?

My Lords, my noble friend is asking me to act more as a historian than as a Minister in terms of answering this question. But he is right that from time to time the Opposition see it as being in their interest to follow the latest scare in certain aspects of the press about people leaving the United Kingdom. There is very little evidence that it happens.

Constitutional Renewal Bill: Joint Committee

My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. I should draw your Lordships’ attention to the membership set down in the Motion. The Committee of Selection proposed 11 nominations for the Joint Committee, as set out in its third report of this Session. Regrettably, one of the members nominated is no longer able to take up his position on the Joint Committee. The Motion therefore proposes an alternative member to complete the committee’s complement of 11 members. The Committee of Selection has been consulted and has raised no objections. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Commons message of 30 April be considered and that a committee of eleven Lords members be appointed to join with the committee appointed by the Commons to consider and report on the draft Constitutional Renewal Bill presented to both Houses on 25 March (Cm 7342-II) and that the committee should report on the draft Bill by 17 July 2008;

That the following members be appointed to the committee:

Lord Armstrong of Ilminster

Lord Campbell of Alloway

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen

Lord Hart of Chilton

Lord Maclennan of Rogart

Lord Morgan

Lord Norton of Louth

Lord Plant of Highfield

Lord Tyler

Lord Williamson of Horton;

That the committee have power to agree with the committee appointed by the Commons in the appointment of a chairman;

That the committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

That the committee have power to adjourn from place to place within the United Kingdom;

That the committee have leave to report from time to time;

That the reports of the committee from time to time shall be printed, regardless of any adjournment of the House;

That the evidence taken by the committee shall, if the committee so wishes, be published; and

That the committee meet with the committee appointed by the Commons today at 4 pm in the Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House.—(The Chairman of Committees.)

My Lords, it is appropriate on this Motion to pay tribute to the former chairman of the predecessor committee, Lord Holme of Cheltenham. I have been asked to do this because for 12 years during my time as leader of the Liberal Party, he was my closest, most senior and trusty adviser. We miss him very much.

He was a great servant of this House. In fact, very few people have made such a wide variety of contributions to public service: the list includes the Independent Television Commission, the Broadcasting Standards Commission, the Hansard Society, Charter 88, the Green Alliance, Greenwich University, Middlesex Polytechnic, Nuffield College, Oxford and the English College in Prague. The list could go on and on. Yet his remarkable contribution to public life was married to a very successful business career. After being my adviser for 12 years, he continued in that role with my noble friend Lord Ashdown. The fact that he survived 20 years of the two of us was testimony to the sheer stamina of Richard Holme. Stamina was part of his characteristic. He used to get up very early and before he came to my office, he would have read all the newspapers. He was pretty useless after 10 pm, but first thing in the morning he was brilliant. Therefore, he was more suited to my noble friend than to me.

Lord Holme fought five elections in his attempt to enter the House of Commons, coming closest at Cheltenham. When I first met him he was fighting a by-election in East Grinstead, just immediately before I was to fight my by-election, which was why I went to help him, and we became close personal friends. What united us? It was a view which he held very strongly that there was no point in beavering away in the Liberal Party alternating between six MPs and 12 MPs, depending on whether it was a good or a bad election, but that one should gather allies and work across party on a range of issues.

That was put into effect during the Lib-Lab agreement with Mr Callaghan’s Government in 1977-78 and, most notably, after the formation of the SDP, with the coming together of the two parties in the alliance. I clearly remember how that happened. Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams, as they were then known, were with me and Richard Holme at the Königswinter conference just after the SDP had been launched. We had a convivial lunch out of doors and, discussing how the two parties might co-operate together, Richard was determined we go further. He seized a paper napkin and wrote down the heads of agreement, which became known as the Königswinter Compact and was, in fact, the beginning of the alliance between the SDP and the Liberals and hence of the Liberal Democrat Party as we know it today. I remember, as he put the paper napkin into his pocket, Shirley rather sweetly saying to him, “Richard, does this mean I have to embrace proportional representation?”. He said, “Well, it is not obligatory but it would help awfully”. And so she did.

To end on a personal note, I remember particularly the help he used to give me every summer, coming up to my house as we discussed the leader’s speech for the annual conference. We had a convivial weekend walking in the hills, discussing current politics. Few people know that he spent some years in his publishing career in the United States and he campaigned very strongly for the Democratic Party. When I go this summer to Denver for the Democratic Convention, it will be my sixth Democratic Convention but the first without Richard. It will not be the same.

On Question, Motion agreed to, and a message was sent to the Commons.

European Union (Amendment) Bill

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

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

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD SPEAKER in the Chair.]

Clause 2 [Addition to list of treaties]:

10A: Clause 2, page 1, line 12, after “excluding” insert—

“(i) Article 1, paragraph 18, inserted Article 9D TEU, paragraph 2, relating to the Commission’s right initiative over Union legislative acts; and(ii) ”

The noble Lord said: This amendment would remove the European Commission’s right to propose EU legislation and so it goes to the heart of the project of EU integration. This right of proposal by the Commission has its origins in the big idea which gave birth to the EU and which still, in the eyes of its supporters, underpins it today. It is perhaps worth recalling what that big idea was. It was that the nation states had been responsible for the carnage of two world wars and so those nation states, with their unreliable democracies, had to be emasculated and diluted into a new form of supranational government run by a commission of wise technocrats. That is also why, once the Commission’s proposals have been negotiated in COREPER—the Committee of Permanent Representatives, or bureaucrats from the nation states—which takes place in secret, and once the Council of Ministers has signed the proposals off and they have been rubber-stamped, where necessary, by national parliaments, the Commission becomes the executor of all EU legislation. It is supported, when necessary, by that engine of European integration, the Luxembourg Court.

New Article 9D confirms this situation very clearly and it is worth quoting very briefly from it from the Lisbon treaty. It states:

“The Commission shall ensure the application of the Treaties, and of measures adopted by the institutions pursuant to them. It shall oversee the application of Union law under the control of the Court of Justice of the European Union. It shall execute the budget and manage programmes. It shall exercise coordinating, executive and management functions, as laid down in the Treaties”.

Article 2, to which this referendum specifically refers, states:

“Union legislative acts may only be adopted on the basis of a Commission proposal, except where the Treaties provide otherwise”.

It would be very helpful if the Minister would let us know where the treaties provide for laws to be proposed other than by the Commission.

Item 3 in Article 9D refers to the quality of these enormously powerful people:

“The members of the Commission shall be chosen on the ground of their general competence and European commitment from persons whose independence is beyond doubt”.

I hope that it will be in order if I ask the noble Baroness the Lord President or the noble Lord who is to reply what they think about the recent appointment of Monsieur Jacques Barrot, who is the new EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner. I think that I am right in saying that Monsieur Barrot received an eight-month suspended jail sentence in 2000 for corruption and was later pardoned by no less a personage than Monsieur Jacques Chirac, who was involved in the same scandal. Are the Government happy that this man is now the EU Justice Minister?

Since most of our law is now made under this process, do we want to go on with it? Surely it is the very antithesis of our democracy, with the House of Commons and your Lordships’ House wholly excluded from the process of making the majority of our law. I imagine that I will be asked: if the Commission does not have the quasi-monopoly on proposing legislation, who should have it? My colleagues and I do not believe that that right should be vested in the European Parliament. If it is to happen at all, it should rest with the Council of Ministers. But, of course, we do not want it at all; we want out of the whole thing. Were the project to continue, that would be our recommendation.

I conclude by asking the Government what they think of this arrangement, which now makes most of our law. I also ask the Conservative Party whether it is happy with it. I beg to move.

It is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, because he has directed us away from detail—although this is Committee—to what he called the “big idea”. He may be broadly accurate in his idea of what the big idea originally was.

However, it has been clear to most people for considerably more than a decade that the big idea as he defined it was not going to happen. If the big idea was going to be carried into effect, the Commission would be in the driving seat. It would not simply be proposing and executing; it would be deciding. But the whole point and essence of the European Union as it has evolved is that that is not so: the driving seat is occupied by the Council of Ministers. The noble Lord briefly and rather hurriedly mentioned that there was such a thing as the Council of Ministers, but he gave us the impression that it was more or less being squeezed and abolished. But that is not so. One can speak only from one’s own experience. Having been to dozens, or hundreds, of Council meetings, my worry during them, as the afternoons wore into the evenings, was not whether the compromise that might emerge would suit or please the Commission—that was a secondary emotion in my mind—but what my colleagues in the Cabinet, the Prime Minister and, above all, the House of Commons would think, and what would happen at 3.30 pm the next afternoon if I had to make a statement on the compromise which I had reached. That was my worry, and I suspect that it is still the worry of Ministers who come and go to Brussels.

This argument is familiar, particularly to someone who helped take the Maastricht treaty through the House of Commons. We were constantly warned by the noble Lord’s predecessors, who were not equal to him in eloquence or persistence but, nevertheless, did not make a bad job of it. It was perfectly clear from everything they predicted about the treaty of Maastricht that all our laws would be made by the Commission and basic sovereign policies would be swept away, into the maw of Brussels. This was predicted during the Maastricht debates by people with great passion and conviction. I observe today that, contrary to their expectations, the Queen is still safe and happy on her throne; British taxes are put up by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with the approval of the Prime Minister; British interest rates are fixed by the Bank of England; and we go to war at the behest of the Americans, and not of Brussels. This is all absolutely contrary to the predictions so confidently made by the noble Lord’s predecessors. That is the situation at present, and would be the situation if the present treaty were ratified into effect. The real, basic points, which ordinary people associate with political decision-taking, would and will remain with the Council of Ministers and, above all, in most of these matters, with the British Parliament and Government.

I rise to support the amendment of my noble friend Lord Pearson and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hurd. I will stick rather more closely to the amendment than he did in straying rather wider. We have always been enjoined by the noble Lords opposite to stick to the amendments. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, was not there when those strictures were first voiced. I simply underline that this is about the Commission’s sole right to propose legislation. This amendment is about removing the Commission’s right to do that. It seems extraordinary that both this place and another place are happy to accept that a large majority—I will not put an exact percentage on it—of our law is made in Brussels by the Commission. It does not come from the Council of Ministers; it does not come from Parliament; it comes from the Commission. That is the whole point of this.

We have it on the authority of the German ministry of justice, which two years ago produced a report, that some 80 per cent of the legislation relating to Germany is made in Brussels and not by the German Parliament, which prompted the German ex-President, President Herzog, to ask whether Germany can still unreservedly call itself a parliamentary democracy. On that basis, we should ask ourselves the same question. Almost exactly a year ago, a legal advice firm called Sweet and Maxwell produced an interesting report, which said that 98 per cent of British legislation over the past 10 years has been produced by statutory instrument. One of the advisers on that paper was professor of law at the University of Cambridge, Professor Len Sealy. He pointed out that over the last 10 years there has also been a massive increase in EU law that becomes UK law without being passed by Parliament, either as a statute or a statutory instrument. In other words, Parliament simply does not see it at all.

According to Professor Sealy, there were more than 2,000 of these regulations in 2006 alone. Their scope was quite astonishing. I rang him up because I could not believe that this was true. There were more than 2,000 pieces of legislation in one year alone that had become part of British law without Parliament ever seeing them at all. Professor Sealy confirmed that these regulations, which, I stress, are not seen at all by Parliament, cover a wide range of matters. Their scope is astonishing, ranging from cross-border insolvency to the importation of bed linen. I find that quite hard to believe.

People in this country are aware that Parliament has less and less say in making laws, yet the people whom they elected, they elected to make our laws. They can appoint them, dismiss them and elect them—but they cannot do the same for the European Commission, whose members are not elected and seem to be unsackable. So they are getting deeply resentful of a position in which a majority of our law is made not by the people whom they elected but by the European Commission.

I have a few examples of such laws that we have had in front of us in this House and the other place, which include the end-of-life vehicles directive, the landfill directive, the drivers’ hours directive, the vibration directive, the fallen stock directive, the horse passports directive and the absolutely disgraceful curd cheese regulations—which was opposed by our colleagues on the Liberal Democrat Benches, I seem to remember. These were all Commission initiatives that had to be put into UK law. Yes, we can amuse ourselves, as we did, by debating them; we can have Prayers against them and spend long, happy hours of sunlit afternoons talking about them and saying why we agree or not with them—but, in the end, it does not really matter. They have to be put into UK law, willy-nilly, whether we want them or not. With qualified majority voting, a number of those initiatives that we did not agree with were put into British law. But Parliament is impotent to do anything at all about it; not a word, syllable or comma of any of those directives or regulations can be changed by the other place or this House.

Are we really happy with this state of affairs? I read this morning in the papers that Members of the other place are going to get a large increase of some £15,000 a year. I do not want to stray into territory into which I should not stray, but why are they getting that increase if so much of our law is made not in the other place or here but in Brussels by the unelected and unsackable European Commission, when our elected Parliament cannot change a word of it?

This amendment will bring laws much closer to the Parliament that the British people want, which may do something to reduce the lack of interest in elections here, which has been quite pronounced. People always wring their hands and say that they do not understand why the electorate is so uninterested in voting in British elections—and it is true that the percentage of voters has gone down and down. This is just a theory, but I think that it is because people realise that Parliament has much less power and that the people whom they elect do not make most of their laws and cannot amend them as they wish. We have to take these things, swallow them now and swallow them whole. I warmly support my noble friend’s amendment.

I speak as a former member of the European Commission. The speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Pearson and Lord Willoughby de Broke, are essentially pure fiction. To pretend that the European Commission does not have regard to other bodies is utterly untrue. All sorts of representations are made to European Commissioners, when legislation is introduced, by outside bodies and the European Parliament. The Commission is ever mindful of its responsibilities towards the European Court of Justice. When I introduced legislation on transport or environment matters, I would invariably have before me Members of the European Parliament, who would make representations about the legislation. But it is not confined to that: other bodies also affect it, and they are not slow to make their representations heard. Quite apart from the fact that debates went on before the legislation took effect, to pretend that inside the European Commission everything was absolutely silent is utterly untrue. Inside the European Commission, the Commissioner responsible had to argue his case.

In my day there were no permanent members. It is absolutely essential that that should be the case. There is no passport to immunity, and undoubtedly it is untrue to say that the Commissioner is impervious to the representation made. In my day—admittedly a long time ago, in 1985 to 1989—the Commissioner responsible had to argue the case for the legislation before various bodies, and he was demonstrably concerned about getting the right answers. The situation which has been described today is, putting it mildly, frivolous.

It is no good anybody shouting “Minister”; my name is on the amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, describes what previous noble Lords have said as mere fiction; it is not mere fiction at all. Since 51—I think that is the government figure—items of policy have now been changed to QMV, this is the proper time to have a look at the process. The process is completely outwith what Members of this House and Members of the House of Commons are used to. We were used to Cabinet Government. We have a Civil Service, the head of the Civil Service and departmental Permanent Secretaries. They propose policies to an elected Cabinet, which then decides which ones should be put before the House of Commons and eventually this House, which then have to agree to them.

The position is different in Europe. The Commission really should be in the position of the permanent Civil Service in this country. Unfortunately, it is not because it has this monopoly of putting forward policy items, and nobody else—certainly not according to the treaties—has the right to do so. Therein lies the problem.

The noble Lord, Lord Hurd, said that when he was making decisions—and this applies to all Ministers who go to ministerial councils—he would come back and have to be answerable to the House of Commons. That really is not so. If the matters have been decided by QMV, they have become European law. That means that Parliament can discuss the matters as much as it likes and make as many amendments as it likes to the legislation that has been agreed, but it will have no effect because QMV means that European law has taken precedence over British law, and the House of Commons can do nothing about it. There is a misunderstanding of what in actual fact happens with European legislation, and it is a democratic deficit. Although the European Parliament is involved on an advisory basis, nevertheless there is this democratic deficiency.

Yes, there is codecision, but the view of some of us is that that amounts to an advisory and not a legislative capacity. The European Parliament has no legislative function. In the end the Commission, together with the Council, can override what Parliament has said. That is the true situation.

Will the noble Lord accept that that is not the case? In the majority of legislation now and in practically all legislation once this treaty comes into force, nothing can become law in the EU without the agreement of Members of the European Parliament as well as the Council. Last year I negotiated a measure called the visa information system and I directly negotiated with the German Interior Minister, Mr Schaüble, who was President of the Council. I assure the noble Lord—and I invite him to come to the European Parliament and see at any time—that in practice codecision means precisely that; it is codecided. Nothing can become law without the agreement of the European Parliament in the majority of cases now—and in almost everything from next January, if this becomes law.

That was exactly what I was saying. In fact, codecision means that the European Parliament is unable to throw out legislation which has been proposed through the Commission and through the Council. It can negotiate, but in the end the decision will be elsewhere. The noble Baroness is shaking her head, but I believe that is the case. As far as this country is concerned, once the legislation has been passed in Europe our Parliament can do nothing about it because European law is superior to British law. As we have seen in a number of cases, this Parliament has been told that there is nothing you can do about it whether you like it or not. As I said, this is a matter which concerns people. Apparently even those who study the matter do not understand exactly what goes on. The discussions are in secret. It is little wonder that the public are a bit confused about what goes on.

Given that this legislation is in draft form, does not my noble friend agree that all sorts of representation are made to the European Commission, not only by British organisations but by others as well? It is utterly unbelievable that the situation is as he has posed it. The situation, in reality, is that many people make representations and some of those are listened to, but eventually Parliament also has its voice heard.

I have no doubt that much representation is made. The European Union Select Committee of this House often makes representations. It makes great reports which we are told are read by the European Union. But if the Government wish and the programme of the EU demands it, then there is the override procedure, which I understand has been used at least 187 times. The position is extremely complicated. I am surprised that noble Lords do not accept that the position is complicated; it is not understood by people outside and is not in accordance with the democratic procedures which we have built up over a very long period of time.

I am glad we have had the opportunity to discuss this matter because, to my knowledge, it is a very long time since we have done so. I am waiting to hear what the attitude of the Front Bench is.

No discussion on the European Commission can take place in this House without first acknowledging the front-line expertise of several of its Members. My noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis, who has spoken in the debate, and the noble Lord, Lord Tugendhat, who is in his place, had distinguished periods as commissioners in the 1970s and 1980s. The noble Lord, Lord Brittan, and my noble friend Lord Kinnock were vice-presidents of the Commission. The noble Lord, Lord Patten of Barnes, held the crucial role of external relations commissioner. Of course, the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, was for 10 years a distinguished secretary-general of the Commission. So this House speaks with a lot of expertise and knowledge on the subject.

As regards the amendment, the Lisbon treaty contains provisions on the appointment, composition and role of the European Commission and the President of the European Commission, as well as certain provisions governing the new post of high representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Amendment No. 10A, which the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, has moved, would exclude paragraph 2 of the article from the UK’s implementation of the treaty.

Paragraph 2 sets out that the adoption of legislative acts will be based on the proposals of the Commission, except where the treaty provides otherwise. But the Commission has been part of the European institutional structure since the treaty of Rome in 1957. Frankly, Article 9D TEU draws on the existing provisions, making changes to enable the Commission to operate more effectively.

The point is that existing treaties already provide that the right of initiative for legislative acts rests largely with the Commission, except where the treaties provide otherwise. There is nothing new under the sun in that concept. It has been the position under treaties that have passed through both Houses of Parliament for many years.

The noble Lord, Lord Pearson, asks what is meant by,

“except where the treaties provide otherwise”,

and he asks for examples. The general rule is that the right of initiative for legislative acts rests with the Commission. The main exception is for certain JHA measures as regards the police and judicial co-operation in criminal matters. Other entities besides the Commission may propose non-legislative acts; for example, the ECB for monetary policy and the ECJ for court rules of procedure. I remind the Committee that as regards the CFSP, which no doubt we will be discussing this afternoon, the high representative and the member states have the right of initiative.

Perhaps I may mention one change that is important. Under the Lisbon treaty, any proposal in the area of justice and home affairs must be made by a quarter of the member states. As the EU Select Committee of this House set out in its report, this change will help to ensure a more co-ordinated and coherent approach to legislation, planned in line with long-term EU strategies rather than being based on topical national considerations. It is noticeable that the Law Societies of England, Wales and Scotland have welcomed this change.

Members of the Committee will also know that on 7 March this year Sub-Committee E of the House’s European Committee, which deals with law and institutions, launched an inquiry into the initiation of EU legislation. I believe that evidence has already been taken from Her Majesty’s Government and other interested parties and I am sure that the whole House, including the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, is looking forward to the publication of its report.

As far as the meat of this amendment is concerned, the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, in his effortless and extremely polite way, demolished completely the case put by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, ensuring that I do not have to attempt to do so myself. It is clear that the Commission has played a leading role in this field and although, as the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, made absolutely clear, all kinds of dire consequences have been threatened for years, none of them has come to pass and there is no reason to believe that they will as a result of the treaty of Lisbon. I invite the noble Lord, with respect, to withdraw his amendment.

I understand that the Conservative Party is not going to take part in this amendment, so we will be left in ignorance of its position. I meant the Conservative Front Bench—I was not suggesting that the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, who sits on the Back Bench with me, was necessarily speaking for the party. In fact, he says that he certainly was not. So we do not know where the Conservative Party stands.

As to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, it may have felt at the time of Maastricht that he had to come back and face Parliament. It may feel like that now. However, even at the time of Maastricht it was not like that and it certainly is not like that now. Parliament—the House of Commons and your Lordships’ House—cannot propose this legislation. Of course we accept the point of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, that the Commission receives all sorts of proposals from countries and lobbyists. However, that does not alter the fact that it has a near-monopoly of proposing legislation, which is then negotiated in COREPER and passed in the Council of Ministers. Once it is through the Council of Ministers, there is nothing that the House of Commons or your Lordships’ House can do about it.

My noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke mentioned several examples—I have two that are going through now. One is the tax on the resale of art, particularly modern art, which is doing immense damage to the art market in this country. The other is the control of food supplements—vitamins and health foods—that the Government are also opposing in Brussels although it does not look as if they will succeed. So it is simply not fair of your Europhile Lordships to pretend that this is democracy as we have known it. We accept that the European Parliament can block legislation, but we repeat that it cannot propose it without the consent of the Commission.

The Minister read out a list of eminent Eurocrats who inhabit your Lordships’ House, and of course we acknowledge that—it is one of the things that makes your Lordships’ House such a Europhile place. However, it really does not help if the Minister and other noble Lords say, “There is nothing to worry about here, because this was part of the original Treaty of Rome in 1957”. Indeed it was—I said so myself. This has always been part of this project, but that does not mean that we have to accept it. Noble and Europhile Lords, and Europhiles generally, very often advance this point. They say, “This is nothing new, so it is all right”. The answer is, “It is not all right just because it is there”.

Nothing that any noble Lord has said will convince me that the ancient privilege of the British people to elect and dismiss those who make their laws has not been broken by our membership of the European Union. I refer to the House of Commons, not the elected Government. The people’s pact is with Parliament; it is not with the transitory Government of the day. That is why more and more people—millions of them—do not like this project and want us out of it. However, I accept that we are not going to reach that conclusion now, so I am happy to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

11: Clause 2, page 1, line 12, after “excluding” insert—

“(i) Article 1, paragraph 18, inserted Article 9D TEU, paragraph 5; and(ii) ”

The noble Lord said: This amendment is on a specific and narrow point, and I hope that it will gain some approval and a clear exposition from Ministers. It concerns not the procedures of the past but the procedures of the future as presented as innovation in the Lisbon treaty embodied in the Bill. The concern is with the new provision that the President of the Commission—not the President of the Council, which is also a new feature in its extended form—should be elected by the European Parliament. The precise proposal is that the new Commission president should be nominated by the Council by qualified majority voting and then elected by a majority in the European Parliament, which brings that post and the candidature for it right to the heart of the lobbying, factions and political blocs in the European Parliament.

The Government very strongly opposed that change at the time of the convention that drew up the original constitutional treaty, and the words of the proposal here are identical. The Labour Minister at the time, Peter Hain, said:

“Another suggestion is for the European Parliament to elect the Commission President. However, I am sceptical of that idea. My concern is that such an independent figure, who must be acceptable to the member states through the Council, will get caught up in the politics of the European Parliament”.—[Official Report, Commons, 20/3/03; col. 309WH.]

I could not have put it better, and it was a perfectly sensible concern. Attempts were made in the convention to delete the proposal, but I am afraid they failed. The reason Mr Hain was worried and why the Labour Government of yesterday were worried and fought not to have it in this treaty either is that they feared the outcome that the dominant EP party blocs, whatever they happened to be, would have the initiative in choosing a name, and the European Council would have to go along with that candidate. I know that our excellent European Union Select Committee report rather bravely thought that this would not stop the Council coming to its decisions, although it was very candid in adding,

“the practical consequences of the … provisions are as yet unclear”.

The lack of clarity is now beginning to dissolve, and there is already a campaign website from the European Parliament to announce its preferred candidate in what it calls, “the first European presidential election”.

All that will please many people who want things to go that way and who believe that Europe is moving in the right direction; a prospect that many of us are not at all sure about. This is light years away from the Monnet ideal that the Commission would be a genuinely independent college of wise men and women standing clear of national party politics and lobbies. It also shifts power away from national Ministers and national Parliaments—again this may be welcome to some but not to me—in which we on this side have argued again and again that the modern European Union should have its powers properly anchored.

The European Parliament does an excellent job and many of its Members work extremely hard but it really cannot be said, except by a fantasist, that moving powers to the European Parliament somehow fulfils the Laaken dream—it is only an unfulfilled dream—of bringing the European Union and its works closer to the people. That is why Ministers fought strenuously against the idea when it first surfaced in the rejected constitutional treaty; but here it is now in identical words. We believe that it should not be there and that a wiser, better Europe would be less prone to be centralised in this way. I beg to move.

I shall address Amendments Nos. 11 and 12 because they both reflect a shift—which one may or may not like, but which cannot be disguised in the treaty—towards a European Union that is increasingly establishing itself as an independent sovereign body rather than an association of member states.

Amendment No. 11 refers to a reduction in the number of commissioners so that there is no longer a commissioner for each member state. I understand the practicalities of the difficulty in having a large number of commissioners but there are other ways of dealing with that. For example, there are rather more Ministers than members of the Cabinet in the UK Government. Not every Minister has the same status and not every commissioner need have a front-line portfolio. The problem is that this proposal has not been thought through in terms of the impact that it will have on the linkage with member states. While a commissioner is not there to represent the member state directly, it is important symbolically for each country to see that it is involved directly in the commissioner body and has a voice within it.

The move to break the link between commissioners and countries is part of the overall trend that says that the EU is primarily not an association of member states but a governing body that is increasingly accountable first and foremost to a European democracy, represented in the European Parliament. As noble Lords have said, a number of shifts in the treaty increase the power of the European Parliament.

Amendment No. 12, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said, talks to that specifically in that under this treaty the Commission will be elected by the European Parliament. If the European Union is seen as an association of member states we might think that the Commission is there to do the bidding of the member states, which have appointed it. If we see the European Union as a democracy where the primary legitimacy comes from the European Parliament, of course we shift the responsibility of the Commission to that Parliament. Paragraph 8 of the Article 9D in the Lisbon treaty states:

“The Commission, as a body, shall be responsible to the European Parliament”.

To my mind, that is a significant shift in emphasis and takes us away from the notion of the European Union as an association of member states. The Government need to explain whether their intention is to sign up to that direction, or whether they will stand on the principle that has hitherto been the case of Europe as an association of nation states of which we were a member.

We on these Benches welcome the proposals in the Lisbon treaty for the new developments involving the Commission and the number of commissioners. Therefore, we do not support the amendment, and hope that the noble Lord who moved it will kindly consider withdrawing it at the end of this debate, depending on the Government’s response.

I am sure that it is coincidence—I referred to this on our first and second sittings in Committee—that amendments proposed by the Conservative Front Bench sometimes bear an amazing resemblance to the ones tabled in the House of Commons. On this occasion I refer to Amendment No. 92, tabled, yet again, by Mr William Cash and Mr John Redwood. Theirs was an umbrella amendment excluding the whole of Article 9D, and not just the relevant portions, as is proposed in the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford. It can be seen that the amendment appears word for word on page 564 of the Commons Order Paper.

Is the noble Lord suggesting that there is something improper, or not quite right, about Members of the Committee putting down amendments similar to ones which have been discussed in the other place, so that we can do so? It would seem a rather extraordinary doctrine if that is what he is saying; it sounded like it.

Unless I am mistaken, the noble Lord was not in his place on the previous occasions; that was all dealt with then. I was just making a passing reference. I shall make a number of brief points on the amendments and will not waste the Committee’s time.

Perhaps I can help the noble Lord and save him having to repeat these observations again and again. Following my noble friend’s intervention, is not the concern—and does he not share it—that a great many of these amendments were not discussed in the House of Commons? Through the guillotine, as we used to call it—now the timetable Motion, and various kinds of procedural Motion—a great many crucial amendments were not examined at all. The Prime Minister urged that we look at these matters line by line, and we are trying to do so. The noble Lord’s observations do not help matters at all.

It is up to Members of the Committee to make their own judgments about the fact that there is a similarity of language in the amendments I have referred to.

As I was going to say, the provisions of Article 9D in the treaty text set out the appointment, procedure, role and functioning of the European Commission and the European President. Although it will be for any member state not to have a commissioner, as far as I recall, the Government originally said that they now welcomed the reduction in the size of the Commission, to make it a more practical and viable body. Certainly, we on these Benches share those feelings. An unwieldy Commission, with the larger number of member states, would be a future obstacle to efficient EU delivery and risk creating non-jobs, which would perhaps encourage legislation in non-priority areas. The EU must be made more efficient and effective to carry out the relatively small number of legislative and administrative tasks that it should on behalf of all the member states, leaving the vast mass of all national legislation to those individual member states and their national parliaments.

Similarly, we would not support Amendment No. 12A of the noble Lord, Lord Howell. The appointment procedures are admittedly being reformulated and reconstructed, but there is not much change in substance from existing procedures except for the beneficial aspect of bringing the European Parliament and Commission closer together in mutual support in the co-decision context. We on these Benches therefore oppose these amendments.

Can the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, help me on this question we have come to a number of times: the frequency with which we are having amendments retabled in this House that had been tabled in the other place? Does he share my surprise that all these amendments seem to be in the name of Mr Cash and Mr Redwood? If they were such paragons to be followed so slavishly by the Opposition Front Bench here, does the noble Lord share my worry about why they are not leading in the other place?

That was precisely the point I was making last week, so I do not want to take too much of the Committee’s time on that today, save to thank the noble Lord for making that obvious point. I also reflect that in the final stages of the various Commons debates on the amendments, there were not even any Front-Bench amendments; they were all left to Mr Cash and his colleagues on the Back Benches.

I start with a brief comment on the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Howell. He put all the emphasis on the European Parliament’s power of decision on the President of the Council, and moved rather rapidly over the fact that any name put to the Parliament must be proposed by the European Council. He might draw some comfort from the fact that the only other international organisation where that system is replicated is the United Nations, of which we have been a member since the outset. It provides that a secretary-general is chosen by the General Assembly, but it can only do so on the recommendation of the Security Council. No recommendation of the Security Council has not been endorsed by the General Assembly. Perhaps the noble Lord can take some comfort from that. The European Parliament has the right to reject the name put forward by the European Council, but it does not have the right to propose a name. That is clear from the text of the treaty.

On the question of the size of the Commission, nothing has brought it into greater discredit, quite without any help of its own, than the continuing increase in the number of commissioners that has followed enlargement, to a point where there are now more commissioners than would be found in the Cabinets of any of the member states. That has occurred over time, irrespective of the fact that there is not that number of effective jobs to do. That has brought discredit as people with high-sounding titles and small responsibilities are guyed in the papers and given a rough time. It is not a sensible way to run a railroad, and everyone has recognised that for a long time. It was bad enough when there were 12 member states and 16 commissioners because there were not 16 jobs to do. Now there are 27 member states and 27 commissioners—quite shortly, there will be a 28th—and it is not sensible to go on in that way. There are functional defects that result in a reduction in solidarity and collegiality. Departments in the Commission are split up into ever smaller units to provide jobs for individual commissioners. An illusion is put forward that each commissioner represents a country which, under his oath, he must not do. That is the job of COREPER and the Council.

Therefore, I think this is a move in the right direction. In case people put excessive weight on commissioners representing their country of origin, has anyone complained that we no longer have a second British commissioner since the appointment of this Commission? That has not been a cause of complaint. Out in the country, people are not going around saying that the place has been going to the dogs ever since the second British commissioner was removed. What is now being proposed is a bolder step, but we must remember that every member state that ratifies this treaty is accepting that on some occasions its nationals will not be represented in the Commission. France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Poland—large member states that previously had two commissioners—are accepting that from time to time they will have none. I agree that this is an important step, and I think that it will produce more care and caution with the vital interests of member states in this college that does not have representation for every member state. The present situation is that there is often a rather unhealthy tendency to leave the members who come from that member state to argue their corner, which is not what they are there for.

Whenever the EU Select Committee of this House has looked at the system of one member per member state, whether in the Court of Auditors, which was looked at twice, or in the European Central Bank, it has come to the conclusion, which the House has accepted, that functionally the sensible solution is to have fewer than 27 or more members of these institutions. I hope we will have the courage of our convictions in this case and that the amendment will not be pressed.

Amendment No. 11 excludes paragraph 5 of new Article 9D. As the Committee heard, that paragraph will slim down the Commission so that from 1 November 2014 the number of commissioners will correspond to two-thirds of the number of member states; in other words, 18 out of the current 27. Commissioners will be selected from all member states on the basis of equal rotation, reflecting the demographic and geographical diversity of those member states. We believe that the Lisbon treaty will deliver a smaller, more efficient and more focused Commission that is better able to deliver on issues that matter to our citizens.

The UK has long supported a smaller Commission. An unwieldy one would be an obstacle to delivery by the EU and would lose focus on those priority tasks that the Commission needs to carry out. Of course, the EU needs an effective, efficient and well-led Commission to ensure that it delivers on the policies that, as I have said, actually matter to people in Europe.

I remind noble Lords that the report of this House’s EU Select Committee concludes that,

“the reduction in the size of the college of Commissioners is an important change”.

Indeed it is. It continues,

“and is intended to enable the Commission to function more effectively”.

A smaller Commission is, in any case, an existing obligation under the Treaty of Nice, which requires that the number of commissioners be less than the number of member states once the EU reaches 27 members. However, it is the priorities delivered by the Commission that are important and not, frankly, the nationality of the commissioner.

The current Barroso Commission is, of course, only one-27th British, but the priorities it is delivering on issues such as climate change, better regulation, the single market and competition and the Lisbon agenda itself are largely in line with our own approach. Commissioners are to be chosen on grounds of their competence and independence and we have benefited from their independence, for example, in driving forward market liberalisation. Once member states do not have permanent commissioners, the criteria of independence will be even more important under this treaty than ever before.

A further argument is that it is not only the commissioner jobs at the top that are important—they are crucial but not the only ones of great importance. We are very well represented as a country at the highest levels of the Commission below commissioner level. If I may just remind the Committee, we have four chefs de cabinet of commissioners, three deputy chefs de cabinet of commissioners, four directors-general, three deputy directors-general and 39 other directors who are also British. There was a debate in this House not many weeks ago in which it was generally agreed that we do pretty well at the top level of Commission appointees. Therefore, we do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Howell, who tabled Amendment No. 11.

Let me move to Amendment No. 12, which the noble Lord largely spoke about and which would exclude from the Bill the way in which the President and members of the Commission are to be appointed. The reformulation of the procedure is part of the process of updating the Union’s institutional framework. The particular aspect of the appointment procedure which has attracted attention, and did this afternoon, is that of the appointment of the President of the Commission, under which the European Council will have to take account of the political complexion of the European Parliament when nominating a new Commission President and that the Parliament will “elect” that person if it agrees with the nomination.

As has been said—the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, made the point just a few minutes ago—the European Council proposes a candidate to the Parliament and the Parliament either elects that person or does not. If it does not, it goes back to the European Council to consider the position. At a later stage, the President-elect, if he has at that stage got the approval or the election of the Parliament, goes back with his team to the Council. We argue that what will happen is broadly similar to the existing procedure under which—and I remind the Committee of this—the European Parliament must approve the nominee for Commission President. What does that mean in practice? It means, surely, that the member states have to take account of Parliament’s position in making that nomination.

The European Parliament already makes its views clear on possible candidates for the Commission President. We saw that with the process that led to the appointment of the present Commission President, José Manuel Barroso, in 2004. The European Parliament at that time made clear its intention to ensure that the Commission President reflected the political majority in the European Parliament. The European Parliament President, Hans-Gert Pöttering, made it clear that the largest political group in the Parliament, the centre-right European People’s Party, to which, at the moment at least, the party of the noble Lord, Lord Howell, belongs and which in many ways has control as it has the largest number although no overall majority—I am sure that pro-Europeans like the noble Lord and others in the party will wonder why on earth the Conservative Party is thinking of leaving the European People’s Party to move to the outer reaches of that Parliament—could not support a candidate of another political colour. That is what happened in 2004, and what is likely to happen after the next European elections.

As the noble Lord, Lord Brittan, told the Select Committee when he gave evidence to its inquiry into this treaty, the provision in the treaty for the European Council to take into account the political complexion of the European Parliament when choosing the Commission President,

“will mean … that it would be difficult for Member States to come up with a proposed president who was known to be violently contradictory to and opposed to the weight of opinion in the European Parliament”.

I do not think that it will make as much difference as all that.

We welcome the formal acknowledgement of the Parliament’s role in the appointment of the Commission President—a role that it already exercises in practice. It underlines the democratic accountability of the person appointed, which is not an inconsiderable point in this argument. As the noble Lord, Lord Howell, fairly admitted when he spoke to Amendment No. 12, our own European Union Select Committee made this point at chapter 4.109:

“The need for the European Council to take into account the results of the parliamentary elections is not a bar to the European Council coming to its own decision as to its preferred candidate, but the Council will continue to be unlikely to nominate a candidate who could not command the parliamentary majority necessary for election. In that sense there is no fundamental change from the current system which requires the Parliament’s approval of the European Council’s nominee, but the practical consequences of the Treaty provisions are”—

as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said, “as yet unclear”.

We argue that this is a good move, not a bad move. It changes very little, and I invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

I am grateful to the Minister for his perfectly reasonable defence of the situation as we now find it; namely, that the provision is in the treaty before us. It does, however, leave one a little mystified as to why Ministers only a little while back were vigorously using arguments to the opposite effect.

Would the noble Lord consider the possibility that the quotation that he advanced from Mr Peter Hain is Mr Hain’s view against the proposal made in the convention for the European Parliament to choose between nominees of its choosing and the European Council subsequently to be asked to ratify the choice of the European Parliament—in other words, the reverse of the procedure which the convention in the end recommended and which is in the Lisbon treaty?

I am grateful to the noble Lord, who, having been involved centrally to interpret what was decided in the convention, is obviously qualified beyond all of us. However, whichever way one slices it, there were considerable doubts about whether this would not mean, in Mr Hain’s words, that the whole process would get caught up in European politics—indeed, there were other quotations which I have had a self-denying ordinance not to mobilise for the Committee.

The noble Lord, Lord Kerr, also tempts me to wider observations to the effect that the convention was, in many respects, a terrible trap for British Ministers into which they attempted and failed to inject their views. That gave birth to the constitution, which is largely identical to what we are dealing with now and has led to much trouble. My own view, from the start, was that the convention was a top-down arrangement from which no good would come. It was not bottom-up, democratic or anchored in the national parliaments, and it led indeed to disaster; but that is, possibly, a debate for another day.

I listened with great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, on the United Nations example. I am not all that much comforted as the modalities are so different that I am not sure the comparison stands up. Anyway, I am informed that the European Parliament has already started lobbying, with its various groups organising to work out their prepared candidate for Commission President in 2009. That does not look encouraging if we want the Commission President to stand above it all and have the complete confidence of the Council. Still, this is what will happen. It does not thrill me at all and should not thrill those who want to see the European Union move into a more modern, flexible and decentralised pattern for the future—one able to meet the challenges of the modern world more efficiently than it can at present.

I kept off the issue of the Commission’s size, although it touches this amendment and was looked at by the Committee during the last amendment. That is because my own feeling is that one cannot really question the desirability of having a smaller Commission, but what are important here are its powers rather than its size. We could have a good, large Commission or a good, smaller one—ideally decided, again as government Ministers wanted, on the basis of the Nice treaty and not of the rejected constitution document as the outcome seems to have been. The key is always how many powers it would have, not its size.

The Minister mentions the priorities that this Commission has delivered—some good, some really very bad. We will, no doubt, come to debate later that disastrous posture in the Commission’s attempt to form a common climate and energy security policy, which has led it into supporting the biofuels scandal. That is leading not merely to scandal but real suffering and harm throughout the entire world, which is a very big price to pay—and underlying it is a very big policy error, magnified by the Commission’s apparent support for those things.

One is left uneasy about this matter, which seems not a step forward but one sideways or back. I repeat; it leaves one baffled as to why there has been such a substantial change of view in government circles. However, since the Minister has put the case reasonably—and because this narrow point may be part of a bigger picture to which we will return—I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 12 not moved.]

12A: Clause 2, page 1, line 12, after “excluding” insert—

“(i) Article 1, paragraph 18, inserted Article 9D TEU, paragraph 8, unless the Secretary of State has laid before both Houses of Parliament a statement certifying that in his opinion there is no evidence of fraud or impropriety within the European Parliament and that it is a suitable body to exercise this function; and(ii) ”

The noble Lord said: In view of recent developments, Amendment No. 12A is extremely important. The Committee may or may not be aware that the European Parliament recently produced a secret, or covert, report that has uncovered extensive, widespread and criminal abuse by Euro MPs of staff allowances worth almost £100 million a year. European Parliament officials have tried to hush this up and Harald Rømer, the secretary-general of the European assembly, was asked, I believe, by Hans-Gert Pöttering, to take measures to ensure that there was no collateral damage from this report. A source said:

“We want reform but we cannot make this report available to the public if we want people to vote in the European elections next year”.

Only Euro MPs on the Budgetary Control Committee were allowed to see the report. Even then they had to apply to enter a secret room, which was protected by biometric locks and security guards. They were not allowed to take notes or to divulge to anyone else the contents of that report. In response to criticism of this procedure, a parliamentary official said that it was,

“not secret. It is confidential”.

I am happy to say that Chris Davies, a British Liberal Democrat MEP, blew the gaff on all this. He complained to OLAF and asked it to investigate this serious matter. He said that the findings,

“most definitely fall within OLAF’s terms of reference ... They are so serious that it should be assumed that criminal proceedings may follow”.

That is directly relevant to Amendment No. 12A, which refers to a certificate or document stating that the European Parliament is a fit body to operate. However, it is obviously not. OLAF has now asked to see the secret report and will follow that up. I am sure that Members of the Committee on the Liberal Democrat Benches will wish to support Mr Davies, who has said that,

“without transparency there was no way of checking suspicions that some members were using … parliamentary allowances to cover their contribution”,

to their pension funds, which he said amounted to “embezzlement”. That is a very serious charge, which, again, justifies requiring this certificate to be issued before giving the European Parliament any more powers.

The Parliament voted by a very large majority against making this report public, which is absolutely disgraceful. Mr Davies went on to say:

“These votes bring discredit and dishonour upon the entire parliament. Taxpayers could be forgiven for believing there are more honest people to be found in prison than sit in the European Parliament”.

That is a direct quotation from Mr Davies’s official website, which I looked at this morning. Far from cleaning up their act, a majority of MEPs seem to think that they are allowed to put their fingers in the till and carry on enjoying the gravy train, which is outrageous. Not only is there possible, or likely, fraud going on, but the MEPs do not want even to acknowledge it. They voted to keep this report secret or confidential, whichever terminology one cares to use.

The fact that OLAF is involved is not all that reassuring, because it itself was caught with its trousers down or its fingers in the till—whichever you choose. OLAF admitted that it lied to the European Court of First Instance over allegations that it had asked the Belgian police to look at the investigative journalist Hans-Martin Tillack’s file. It told the European Court of First Instance in August 2004:

“Neither OLAF nor any other Commission staff have ever contacted juge d’instruction Franzen”.

This was to ask for Hans-Martin Tillack’s file. It has now admitted that it did do that. OLAF, the organisation against fraud in the European Union, actually lied to the European Union’s own Court of First Instance, so the fact that OLAF is investigating possible fraud in the European Parliament does not give me any confidence. This amendment is entirely worth pursuing. Some MEPs have shown themselves to be, to use Mr Davies’s words, verging on carrying out “embezzlement” and therefore one has to ask whether, in the words of the amendment, there is,

“evidence of fraud or impropriety”.

I think embezzlement is definitely fraud or impropriety. I beg to move.

I do not want to say anything which would lose the friendship of my noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke or indeed that of my noble friends on the Front Bench who tabled this amendment, but is this not almost a wrecking amendment? Surely no Secretary of State could ever conceivably lay before the House a statement certifying that, in his opinion, there was no evidence of fraud or impropriety in the European Parliament. Any Secretary of State who laid down such an order would be laughed out of court; it is quite impossible that any man in his right mind could do so. I suggest to my noble friend that this is a wrecking amendment, in that he is putting up an impossible barrier, and that perhaps it would be advisable if this one were withdrawn until he finds a better way of formulating what is a sensible idea, after all. But no impropriety in the European Parliament? My goodness me, we might worry if it was about a parliament or a part of a parliament a bit closer to home.

This has been a very interesting, though brief, debate. The noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, by moving this amendment, gives me the chance to address some of the concerns that have been raised, notwithstanding the rather clever way in which the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, sought to make this a clearer proposition.

There is no question that it is very important to make sure that where there are concerns about personal terms and conditions and expenses arrangements for members of any parliament, but in this context the European Parliament, those are addressed. The Government expect taxpayers’ money to be spent correctly and support the maximum transparency on this. That does not in any way deflect from the fact that the European Parliament plays a vital role in the European Union. Its Members are directly elected and they perform an important role of scrutiny, holding the Commission to account. MEPs are effective both at raising issues of great concern—for example, climate change in recent times—and at scrutinising and improving legislation. The REACH chemicals regulation, key financial service dossiers and the mediation directive—which I was involved in in liaison with the European Parliament and which covers mediation and civil justice issues across borders—are all good recent examples of where the European Parliament has added value, scrutinised and held to account. Strengthening the Parliament’s role strengthens transparency and democratic accountability.

I listened with great care to the noble Lord and I agree that it is important to make sure that any organisation looks at what it can do to strengthen its transparency and accountability and to deal with issues, whether of perceived fraud or of propriety, for which transparency is often the answer. Noble Lords will know that the European Parliament has already strengthened requirements on MEPs to provide documentation on, for example, the use of office allowances and employing staff. Noble Lords will know also that, after the elections next year, the MEP Statute will be introduced, which will see the reform of MEPs’ pay to provide a standard base salary across Europe. It will reform the expenses and allowances system for MEPs. We in the UK have long supported the statute as a fair, transparent and substantive way forward.

However, the amendment raises a specific question: is the European Parliament a fit organisation to have the power to censure the Commission? We support this parliamentary power. Being able to hold the Commission to account in this way is an important aspect of the Parliament’s power, because it is a democratically and directly elected institution. Noble Lords know, too, that the power of censure is not new; it goes back to the treaty of Rome. They will remember, for example, the tough stance of Parliament on the perceived mismanagement of funds by the Santer Commission, which led ultimately to the resignation of the whole Commission. It marked an important step in supporting improvements in the management of EC funds and generated the political impetus that was necessary for the Reforming the Commission White Paper in 2000.

So the Parliament plays an important role in holding the Commission to account. Its ultimate sanction is the power of censure. It is important that the citizens who elect the European Parliament know that, ultimately, their direct representatives in Strasbourg can dismiss the Commission. I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment on that basis.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for attempting to answer my concerns. I say to my noble friend Lord Tebbit that I do not accept that this is a wrecking amendment, although I agree with him that requiring the European Parliament to prove its whiteness is almost impossible. I suppose that it may be a wrecking amendment to that extent.

The noble Baroness did not answer my serious points about the alleged criminality of not just a few but a large number of Members of the European Parliament. It remains to be seen what OLAF will do about that and how many, if any, of them will be prosecuted. Will OLAF investigate its own lies to the European Court of First Instance? We do not know that. As in a lot of these debates, we have rather skated over the germane point that the European Parliament—by the admission of some of its members, particularly the Liberal Democrat MEP, Chris Davies—is riddled with irregularities and possible embezzlement.

Although I now give an opportunity to the Liberal Democrat Front Bench to support Chris Davies in his initiative to expose this nest of irregularities in the European Parliament, it is obvious that I shall not get any answer from them in spite of the bravery of their colleague. However, I do not see much point in pursuing this matter in view of the remarks of my noble friend Lord Tebbit. For the moment at least, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 13 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

13A: Clause 2, page 1, line 12, after “excluding” insert—

“(i) Article 1, paragraph 24, inserted Article 10B TEU, paragraph 2 on joint proposals to the Council for recommendations to the European Union on the strategic interests and objectives of the Union, unless binding arrangements have been made for the Secretary of State to report to Parliament, at least annually following the coming into force of this Act, certifying that nothing undertaken in pursuit of common policies and actions or promoted in any international forum has restricted or will restrict the independent foreign policy of the United Kingdom or otherwise conflicts with the United Kingdom’s national interests in foreign and security policy; and(ii) ”

The noble Lord said: We come to a whole group of amendments which covers the positioning of common foreign security policy and the foreign policy of this country within the pattern set by the proposed treaty of Lisbon. In essence, the amendments would secure something which the Government once wanted very badly out of this and the previous constitutional treaty but which they have failed to get. Perhaps that was too ambitious and we can now help them, because the Government’s aim, and the clear aim of the Bill, is to try to ring-fence foreign policy and keep it firmly under national control. That is entirely creditable and makes sense in this world where, on some issues, we need tight and intimate coalitions with certain of our neighbours, allies and friends, but where the pattern changes from time to time and, on other occasions, we need either to pursue matters ourselves or seek a new alliance or coalition. The underlying aim of the Government was creditable, but they have failed and this Bill embodies their failure.

It is highly instructive to look back to the original convention, which drafted the constitution treaty where the words were born, and which we now have before us because they are identical. The essence of the matter was described well by Ministers then: it was to ensure that the European Union acts in all foreign policy issues on behalf of member states, and not the reverse. That is a very important qualification. They failed because they tried to delete the injunction that member states should,

“actively and unreservedly support the Union’s common foreign and security policy”.

That did not work. They tried to ensure that common foreign and security policy would in no way fall, by any back door or side channel, under ECJ jurisdiction, and that with decisions under EU foreign policy there would not be grounds for appeal. They failed with that. They tried to define more clearly what common foreign and security policy was, and what the boundaries were, with regard to which issues would be reserved for national decision and which should be within the competence of the Union, the Council of Ministers and the Foreign Affairs Council. They failed in that, too. Indeed, the noble Baroness, who circulated a very helpful letter giving her views on the role and work of the ECJ as a body, mentioned that the ECJ will,

“police the frontiers between CFSP and non-CFSP matters”.

A gap was opened, through which all kinds of qualifications could creep.

Ministers tried to prevent Union delegations, as opposed to Commission delegations, always representing the Union in third countries or in international institutions or conferences. They failed in that, too. Above all, they struggled to prevent the birth of a big new European Union diplomatic corps, the so-called European External Action Service, which would be ambiguously outside national or intergovernmental control. That happened too, as we know; it is in the treaty and now being planned. According to the widely reported comments of Finland’s Foreign Minister, Mr Stubb, it will make the EU,

“one of the world’s great actors”,

and that,

“all over the world there will be EU embassies”.

I do not think that was the intention; we will see whether that happens. Certainly, the treaty makes clear that the European Parliament, which we have discussed, should have hearings in appointing this army of ambassadors.

All this makes one query whether the Government have had the success that they claim—and as the Bill tries to ensure—in keeping foreign policy in national hands. It looks to me as though they have failed. Indeed, if one looks through the history of that ill-fated negotiation during the convention, which gave birth to the words we are dealing with now, it turns out to have been a rather dismal and futile negotiation. It was certainly an incompetent one, conducted by this Government, where they walked, again and again, into various traps from which they have not yet succeeded in escaping. Reading again the transcript of those negotiations and their outcome, which is in the treaty before us now, they sound as though they were being handled by a defeated nation, and as though we had to say yes to everything—as though we had no locus and leverage at all. It was a sad episode. Chances were missed completely at the Hampton Court summit of the European Council afterwards. All the opportunities were there to restore the situation; none of them was taken.

As for the general proposition that this has kept the CSFP out of the supranational zone, we know that in fact there are 11 areas relating to foreign policy—there are many other areas as well—in which the veto has been removed. They are the proposals from the EU Foreign Minister; the design of the EU diplomatic service; the setting up of an inner core in defence; arrangements for terrorism and mutual defence provisions; urgent financial aid provisions; humanitarian aid provisions; the election of the EU Foreign Minister; civil protection; terrorist financial controls; the new EU foreign policy fund, which we will debate a little later; and consular issues. There are 11, for a start. So please could we examine much more carefully the assertion, which the Bill tries and fails to underpin?

The truth is that Mr Stubb highlights our fundamental concerns on this matter very well. He wants a Europe with a lead role on the world stage—a place in the sun, as it were—and a single voice about foreign policy. That is his conviction and, from his point of view, he is perfectly entitled to hold it; but from our point of view the thinking is flawed. The wide range of overseas issues are such that the interests of member states vary—and properly so; it would be very odd if it was otherwise. On some they come together and member states operate beside each other and, on others, they differ. It depends entirely. The idea that we can rely on our European partners always to promote our interests and maximise our contribution to world peace and stability—which is potentially a very great one—has been shown to be totally unsound.

On the humanitarian side—and we shall debate later overseas development aid and support—once we had transferred a large part of our aid and development budget to the European institutions, the emphasis is much more toward the Francophonie. As we know, the interests of the Commonwealth, which is the potentially most powerful network in the modern world, with the rise of Asia, and one in which we have a centre, have been largely neglected in European development negotiations, while those of other countries with ex-colonial links, such as Spain, Portugal and France, seem to be in a much stronger position to develop theirs.

The treaty calls for an,

“ever-increasing degree of convergence of Member States' actions”,

in foreign policy. Those are the words out of the constitutional treaty—in other words, out of this treaty. Our foreign policy belongs in a networked world and, with the rise of Asia, has new needs and requires new platforms. We must have the flexibility to meet these entirely new conditions, which is why Amendment No. 15A is particularly important and one to which we should at least give some support, to give us the room to manoeuvre in this new world. The idea that we should have to consult the European Union Council on virtually every move before we take it, even when our direct security interests are affected in a new and original way, is unacceptable. We will no doubt come to that in more detail during the debate.

This is why the amendment needs to be moved. The amendments raise fundamental issues about how Europe can benefit its member states—and we are part of Europe—and how we can see the European region as something with which we want to be intimately concerned, as well as how, at the same time, we can have the freedom to operate in the networked world of foreign policy, which is different to the one in which the EU or the European Community before it was originally conceived. We need to raise our game, lift up our eyes to a different and modern world and develop foreign policy instruments that suit the world to come and not the world of yesterday. I beg to move.

I welcome this group of amendments. The whole element of common foreign policy is an important part of the amending treaty. There are some useful steps forward, and this Chamber needs to devote a certain amount of time to this group of amendments and the other things that come with it.

The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, referred to one amendment as a wrecking amendment. I thought that most of the amendments to the Bill were intended to be wrecking amendments. Certainly I take Amendments Nos. 113 and 165 in the group as being wrecking amendments to the treaty; that is part of the game we are all playing.

Since I expect that our UKIP friends will quote a whole range of obscure documents which they say prove various consequences and so on, I have checked since our last Committee day one or two things that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, said. He quoted from an LSE paper. It took some time to trace it because it had only the loosest possible association with the LSE. It was actually written by two retired Israeli mathematicians, one of whom taught at King’s College, London, until 20 years ago, but is loosely associated with the LSE voting power and procedures project. I will quote from it—and I have discussed this with Professor Machover, one of the authors. In the first page of the paper published by a small Brussels think tank four years ago, it says that the new voting rules will be,

“to the advantage of the four largest states”,

and disadvantage the smaller states below that. Britain is one of the four largest states, so that does not seem to me to support the arguments made.

I have not only read the other paper but have discussed it in e-mails with members of the research team at Sciences Po. It is true that selective statistics will take you a long way; the paper says that the speed of decision-making has increased since enlargement but the number of legislative Acts—the quantity of legislation—has substantially declined. You can prove or disprove a certain amount with statistics. One has to congratulate Open Europe and all those organisations with the immense care they take to trawl through all this academic work.

Underlying differences on European co-operation on foreign policy lie behind these amendments. These Benches see closer co-operation with France and Germany as central to British foreign policy, and the European Union as the most useful framework through which to work. The Conservatives, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, has made clear, see close co-operation with China as more important to British interests, and the Commonwealth as the most useful multilateral framework. Perhaps in his wind up he will explain whether a future Conservative Government will invite China to join the Commonwealth as a basis for closer co-operation between Britain and China in Africa, on which our interests are so clearly closely aligned.

I am puzzled by the Conservative Party’s foreign policy in this respect. I recall a number of Conservative Foreign Ministers working extremely constructively for closer European co-operation in foreign policy. I refer, for example, to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, who in the British presidency sponsored in 1990-91 a report on closer foreign policy co-operation; I also refer to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, and the noble Lord, Lord Hurd. The Conservative Party at that point recognised that the intergovernmental procedures for concerting European foreign policies were very clearly in Britain's national interest. I am sorry that in opposition since 1997 the Conservatives seem to have forgotten that.

Some of these amendments go further than that. Amendment No. 113 of the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, has echoes of the unilateralism of the Bush Administration—the repudiation of commitments made in the national interest by a previous Government. Those most unilateralist in the Bush Administration—Vice-President Cheney and others—would wish to repudiate most international obligations to which the United States has been subject, including many obligations to the United Nations, the Geneva Convention and so on. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, does not wish for a Conservative Government to go quite that far in that direction.

Amendment No. 165 seems to me—again this is a Front-Bench Conservative amendment—to be a defence of absolute sovereignty. As the noble Lord, Lord Howell, made clear, that involves no permanent alliances for Britain and balance of power politics—we shift from one set of temporary alliances to another, as good old England did in the 18th century. That is a very long way from where we are now. Closer co-operation for all countries is what we need to manage an increasingly complex and interdependent world, networked or not. The European security strategy—produced, as it happens, by a British author some years ago—was a useful focus on the ground on which we can build closer European co-operation. The institution of a higher representative for common foreign and security policy has provided us, particularly in the Middle East, with the ability to have a stronger European voice on a range of multilateral matters. The European Union External Action Service will also be of interest to Britain. The Daily Telegraph—that journal of record for Eurosceptics—noted on Saturday that Britain currently has resident UK representation in 139 of the 192 member states of the United Nations; that is, 53 states in which we do not currently have resident British missions. The European Union External Action Service will be very helpful in providing some resident missions in those additional 50 states.

The paranoia of Conservatives might be increased if I admit to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that Alex Stubb is a former student of mine—and, even worse, a former student of my wife. He received his PhD from the London School of Economics. Before that he was a student in the United States. He is an extremely bright young man who has a very clear idea about how European and Atlantic co-operation work and how closer collaboration is what we all need to be moving towards. Co-operation between European states on Iran has been highly constructive. The record in the Western Balkans—in very different circumstances—has been good. Common actions in Africa have been effective. We need now to develop further co-operative foreign policy towards Russia and—pace the noble Lord, Lord Howell—towards China. It is in Britain’s national interests. The Conservative Party does not seem to understand that these are in Britain’s national interests, but I would suggest that the Conservative Party does not, at present, have a coherent foreign policy or a coherent European policy. We therefore resist these amendments.

I want to ask some worm’s-eye questions.

If this is going to happen, we are told that the EU missions will issue visas. Are they going to be issuing British visas? How are they going to be promoting, for instance, our trade interests, our defence interests and things like the British Council? You can be sure that if the Treasury sees any chance of closing our missions—on the grounds that there are these splendid new missions—it will. To some extent there will be an argument for it doing so. But foreign relations are bilateral relations between two countries. Of course we need what we are also being offered, but we do not need it instead of our existing, and very important, bilateral relations. There is a real danger in this regard. For instance, there are already around 7,000 EU people in special delegations around the world, and there will be a lot more. This will probably cost a lot of money. In a mission, are a Bulgarian, a German and a Finn really going to think, if there is a major trade opportunity, “We must rush and tell the British”? Are they going to be able to look after our defence interests? Are they going to be able to look after our cultural interests? It would not be reasonable to expect them to do so. I have considerable anxiety about the muddle that will result from having a situation where everybody is milling about, but nobody really knows who is responsible. I find it very difficult to imagine that we could issue British passports—or visas for that matter—in that way.

We are told at some stage—I cannot remember where—that the EU mission will be responsible for looking after our people if there is an emergency. I am sure that they would wish to do so, but there will be a lot of other citizens from other EU countries whom they will have to look after. They will not have the Navy or Army to do it. I can assure you—as somebody who has been responsible for getting people out of difficult countries—you have to have contacts with the police; you have to have contacts with the rebels or the putative rebels. I am not at all sure that an interesting, intelligent EU mission, without any real rooted relationships of that kind, would be able to do what a mission needs to do. I cannot help feeling that ordinary English people will get a bit worried if they feel that they may turn up in a country where there is no British representation.

Unfortunately, it would apparently make a lot of sense for us to close our missions and use the EU, but it would not in the end make a lot of sense: it would be a very dangerous thing to do. I cannot help feeling that the ordinary man in the street needs to understand that. That is why I feel deep concern about the prospective EU foreign service, although I am sure that its intentions are excellent. However, it is not the same as having a mission of our own that has long-standing relationships with the countries.

I shall give a final example. Let us suppose that in Argentina we have an EU mission and we decide that we do not need a British mission—we may even lead on that—and that the EU as a whole decides that the right thing would be for the Falklands again to become the Malvinas. What are we going to do about that? It will be a very difficult situation. I therefore believe that we must think about the practical consequences of what are otherwise admirable ideas.

I think that I am about to die. It is said that before an individual dies, their whole life flashes before their eyes. I have that sense now. For 11 of the 18 years we spent in opposition, I was Front-Bench Opposition spokesman for foreign affairs. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, and I used to parade around television and radio studios talking to diminishing audiences about the intricacies of European legislation. I therefore feel back home again in this desert of European-itis, hearing almost exactly the same arguments. They go back to 1981, when I became a junior foreign affairs spokesman under my noble friend Lord Healey. I had been sacked as a defence spokesman because the whole team was not unilateralist. I then became shadow Minister for the Navy, and was consigned to the foreign affairs team under my noble friend Lord Healey. My noble friend Lord Anderson was part of that team and we were once asked how we divided up the work. I remember saying, “It’s actually quite easy. Denis does everything and we do the rest”. However, my noble friend Lord Healey did not do Europe, so I got it almost from the beginning.

From the Opposition Benches, I saw through the Single European Act—the biggest raft of Community legislation that these House of Parliament have ever passed. It was a most integrationist of Bills. I remember that the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, voted for the Second Reading of the Single European Bill. I know that he found himself absent for subsequent stages of the Bill, but he certainly voted for it on Second Reading.

Of course I voted for the Single European Act. I was one of the Ministers who were concerned with that Bill, as it then was, which contained perfectly clear measures limited in scope for the advantage of this country in trade policy. That was a clear, closely defined Act in which our interest was preserved. We used qualified majority voting to overcome the veto of our allies—the French in particular—against anything that would liberalise European trade. I would do the same again now, but I would not do it for foreign policy.

The noble Lord makes the argument most succinctly, but he voted for it. The biggest extension of qualified majority voting since the treaty of Rome was established, and we saw that through. The noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, was a great proponent of the Single European Act, although she claimed afterwards that Malcolm Rifkind had confused her at the time. I thought that I was turning the same green as the Benches as we spent nearly a year dealing with the Maastricht treaty, which took us decisively into the realms of foreign policy. The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, was part of the unofficial Opposition on the Government Benches at that time.

I have heard before all the doom-laden prophecies of what would happen and I am hearing them again today. The reality is that in this world we need more Europe, not less. We need more unified voices on the complicated issues that face us all. I refer to the non-military threats that we face—we have a subsequent debate on military aspects. The list of challenges that we face includes terrorism, organised crime, economic instability, problems of migration, the effects of climate change and trafficking in narcotics, people, guns and cigarettes. None of these can be tackled, handled or managed properly on a single nation basis; therefore, the collective action of the European Union—the 26 nations which have voluntarily come together—makes absolute common sense. These are discrete issues that affect every citizen of this country; it is right and proper that the European Union should strive for a common policy on them, articulate that policy in as many avenues as possible and then do something about it.

Much is made of what the Lisbon treaty says about the achievement of a policy. The new, consolidated treaty says:

“Within the framework of the principles and objectives of its external action, the Union shall conduct, define and implement a common foreign and security policy, based on the development of mutual political solidarity among Member States, the identification of questions of general interest and the achievement of an ever-increasing degree of convergence of Member States’ actions”.

In a world where we face the kind of challenges that I have outlined—and that was not an exhaustive list—it seems eminently sensible and in the self-interest of the people of this country that we act together when we can, and diverge on the limited occasions when we believe that it is necessary.

I support Amendments Nos. 13A, 15A and 165. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, described these as “wrecking amendments”. I make it clear that I support these “wrecking amendments” in a spirit of inquiry. In order to get answers to questions, it is necessary to have as wide a debate as possible. May I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, that his life is not about to end? I think that he will be able to witness his party, in opposition, repeating many of these arguments again and again in future.

Eurosceptic I might be, but I have no problem with the idea of a common foreign policy, provided that it is based on genuine, shared interest. It seems absolutely natural that people who are geographical neighbours, countries of the same land mass, are bound to develop common concerns in foreign policy and in defence. I have always felt that, within the European Union, co-operation both on foreign affairs and defence is right, provided that it does not cut across our relations with the United States which, realistically, will provide much of the defence equipment and the support we need. However, the assumption that our interests will always converge is only that—an assumption. So is the wonderfully rhetorical phrase “ever-increasing convergence” of interests. They will not necessarily converge. For that reason, I suggest that a common foreign policy should not be a straitjacket, because there are likely to continue to be differences between us and our neighbours. That is why I support Amendment No. 15A, which concerns that part of the treaty that says we should consult before taking any action that could conflict with EU interests.

The great hesitation that I have about an EU common foreign policy is that it seems that so often an EU foreign policy is just rhetoric; it is so often just the lowest common denominator. A very good example of that happened the other day, when the Foreign Secretary made an announcement about Kosovo in the House of Commons, which he called an EU initiative. I have no doubt that the EU is doing certain things—I know that it is—in terms of offices, financial help and preparation with the relationship between Kosovo and the EU, but to call it a great initiative and advance in foreign policy, when there is a profound division within the EU about whether one should even recognise Kosovo, seems to be ignoring reality. A number of countries in the EU will not recognise Kosovo, including important countries such as Spain.

Iraq was another example of where there was absolutely no agreement within the EU; I am told that Iraq was hardly discussed at a formal EU level. Perhaps if there had been a common foreign policy we would have been constrained and would have avoided a very ghastly mistake, but I would not want to constrain our action for that reason and that reason alone. It seems to me that EU foreign policy is too obsessed with process rather than substance and that it would be far better to concentrate on implementing what we have got rather than always building new structures. It is right that we should examine those structures, and it is right that there should be wrecking amendments, as the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, called them, to find out just how constrained our foreign policy is or is not.

As my noble friend Lord Howell said, it is important that foreign policy should not be justiciable and that it should be decided on a unanimous basis; I very much welcome Article 10C and what it says about that. Then you have the areas, as my noble friend Lord Howell pointed out, where the ECJ can adjudicate between the CFSP and external policy. There must be some doubt about that, because the Government got a declaration about foreign policy into the treaty, showing that—as in other areas such as the European Charter of Fundamental Rights—they are saying, “Oh, this is fine, this is watertight, this is absolutely secure; but just in case it is not, we also have a declaration”. I think that we are right to pursue these things.

How is the office of the high representative different in substance from the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs in the constitutional treaty, which Mr Hain was very keen should not happen? He did not want there to be two posts, one for external affairs and one for foreign affairs, but they were merged in this treaty. The high representative will chair the foreign affairs council, even though he is a member of the Commission. That was something that Mrs Beckett tried to take out of the treaty at the last minute at Lisbon, and yet it is there. Why is that important? Surely it is just a minor point. Not at all, because to some extent it compromises the pillared approach that was in Maastricht; the approach that said that foreign affairs ought to be intergovernmental. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, said that we on this side seem to be forgetting our enthusiasm for intergovernmental co-operation; not at all. Our amendments are tabled precisely because this treaty appears to take us a little bit away from intergovernmental co-operation to something that is much more supranational.

Then there is the relationship between the high representative and QMV. I know that we have a separate batch of amendments coming up on that, which I will not talk about. Article 31 of the consolidated treaty lists a whole series of areas where QMV could come into being. There are the passerelle clauses. There is also the provision under the treaty whereby, if the Council unanimously asks the high representative to frame a policy proposal, that proposal can be subject to QMV. You can ask, “What is wrong with that? It is initially by unanimity, but it later becomes QMV.”. That means that a Government have to take a position early on in the process on whether something is in the national interest. One can easily envisage circumstances in which a view might change as a situation in the world develops.

Lastly, I strongly support what my noble friend Lady Park said about the external—I nearly said eternal—action service. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, referred to the usefulness that it could have in countries where Britain was not represented, but it will not exist just in countries where Britain is not represented. As my noble friend said, in many countries there are already lavish EU embassies. That is how they are regarded; the heads of mission have diplomatic status. It is not so long ago—and I shall not embarrass him—that I was in one major Asian country where late at night the ambassador sat me down, gave me a whisky, and said, “Could you explain what on earth the EU embassy is doing here? Does it protect British citizens when arrested? Is it promoting British trade? Does it help people following some natural disaster? What is it and all its staff doing?”. There is already ridiculous duplication. There is not enough focus on the external representation that the EU already has with the many offices—even those for small business creation—all over the world in countries such as India. This is among the most lavish provisions that are wholly unnecessary.

That is not the main point that I support in the amendment. The main points are those that probe whether the treaty is as watertight as the Government maintain. That is difficult to believe when they worked so hard at the convention and late at Lisbon to take out provisions that now remain in it.

The noble Lord’s argument had a certain contradiction. He talked about the danger of our being put in an EU straitjacket in terms of foreign policy, yet he referred to Kosovo and Iraq where there were clear differences in national perceptions. Those differences remain. Clearly the declaration to which the noble Lord referred clarifies the position, but it was put in effectively as an abundance of caution.

I gladly follow my noble friend Lord Robertson of Port Ellen. We had many happy times together during the 1990s in my noble friend Lord Healey’s team, when it was said that he was like one of those great African trees which spread its branches so wide that nothing grew under it. My noble friend Lord Robertson is perhaps the exception to that. Rather like a bad film, I have the view that this is where I came in, as there seems to be something of a whiff of the latter-day Bourbons who have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing about the European Union. The EU has indeed moved on and is a very different creature from the subject of our debates in the 1980s and 1990s.

I also follow with a certain puzzlement what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, about the Commonwealth. It is a magnificent obsession, but my memory goes back to the 1980s when the then Conservative Government almost destroyed the Commonwealth by their policies on South Africa. Only latterly have they discovered the Commonwealth, and I refer noble Lords to the speech of Don McKinnon, the outgoing Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, who had a far more realistic vision of what the excellent Commonwealth can do. I speak as someone who chaired the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK branch for four years and considered myself a Commonwealth man even during the 1980s when the Conservative Government were pursuing policies that almost destroyed that same Commonwealth.

It is clear that the opposition Front Bench has a view of the European Union as minimalist, if at all, and one that is out of step with our partner countries. I can envisage very great damage to our national interests if the Conservatives were to move into government because of how we would yet again become isolated in Brussels. There would be a constant tension between the realists and the fundamentalists; those who have a fairly realistic view of where our interests as a country lie and the fundamentalist, bitter-enders. It is absolutely clear that, for a great swathe of foreign policy, our interests and those of our European partners largely converge. One thinks, for example, of the Balkans, climate change and a whole range of issues where our policies as Europeans are rather closer than those between Europeans and our great partner, the United States.

What also puzzled me about the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Howell, was that he was far more ready to accept the view of one Foreign Minister—the Finnish Foreign Minister—than the considered views of the House of Lords European Union Committee. It investigated in great depth and heard evidence from a wide range of witnesses. It is not a committee of Euro-enthusiasts or fanatics, but an all-party committee. In The Treaty of Lisbon: An Impact Assessment, it concludes at paragraph 7.16:

“These changes to the structure of the Treaties serve to consolidate, streamline and clarify the provisions on the EU’s external relations. They do not change the overall objectives of the EU’s external policies”.

At paragraph 7.36, it concludes:

“The evidence is that the Lisbon Treaty has preserved the independence of the UK’s foreign and defence policy, subject to the constraints arising when unanimous agreement does prove possible. The fundamental principles of the CFSP will not change under the new Treaties. In particular, the principle of unanimity and the search for consensus in decision-making will continue to apply to the CFSP”.

In my judgment, those clear quotations speak for themselves. Indeed, as my noble friend Lord Robertson, proposed, there is a case for far greater co-ordination of EU policies and greater working together, particularly in fields such as energy policy where we now see how we are being disadvantaged in respect of Gazprom and the Russian policies as a result of the pursuing of independent national policies by so many of our partner countries.

Our foreign policy interests are infinitely strengthened by working together in areas such as Iran. The noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, is perhaps unaware of the degree of co-operation that currently exists at all levels between the European Union representatives and national governments on what will be called the EU External Action Service; from first secretary through to regular meetings at ambassadorial levels, where joint representations are made and our clout is far greater because we are members of the Union.

Finally, the Opposition show a certain lack of confidence overall in ourselves as British people in the European Union and in the leading role which we have already played. They continue to view the European Union almost as if it is a hostile country which we are afraid to get close to. It is indeed in our interests to play a far more positive role within the European Union. I hope that every Member of the Committee looks carefully at the considered conclusions which the House of Lords European Union Committee drew, having carefully examined all the evidence before us.

I am happy to follow the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, because I agree with many of his sentiments and those expressed earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Robertson. Above all, I agree with his puzzlement about the arguments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford. I cannot work out whether I was more depressed or frightened by hearing the arguments put forward by those on the anti-European side opposed to closer European integration on foreign affairs and defence. I think I was more frightened overall because the arguments bear no relation to the changing world in which we are living or, above all, to the new threats that the nations of the European continent and the European Union are now facing. My puzzlement and bewilderment is about the strange positions taken by old friends. I have always had a very high regard for the voice of the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, on matters related to foreign affairs. I have always respected him, so it comes as something of shock to hear him mouthing the same arguments—indeed, sometimes even the same words—as Mr William Cash down the corridor in the other place.

However, I agree with him about one thing. At the end of his speech he said—I think I quote him precisely—that we need,

“foreign policy instruments that suit the world to come and not the world of yesterday”.

That is where I find his arguments so extraordinarily deficient because the arguments that I hear advanced come out of a vacuum and are completely unrelated to the reality of the new threats that we now face. They bear the same sense of importance as Nero would have recognised regarding his fiddle case as the flames leapt higher outside or the same sense and understanding of the strategic threat that we face as informed those who designed the defences of Singapore and put the guns resolutely facing out to sea while the enemy came from behind. I wonder whether people have been to Washington recently. Do you often hear the word “NATO” there? Do you often hear the word “Europe” there? No, you do not. Washington’s obsession these days is one thing: homeland defence. If you are relevant to homeland defence, you are relevant, and Europe is not. Indeed, the European Union is regarded as a collection of countries that failed to come to the aid of their primary ally in its hour of pain in Iraq and failed to come up to the plate when it meant fighting our common enemy in Afghanistan.

Europe will occupy a much less important position in the pantheon of American interests in the future than it does today. I suspect that the new American Administration, whichever side they come from, will re-establish positions with Europe and improve relations. I welcome that. But the reality is that the United States is looking elsewhere in the world and the European Union and the Atlantic relationship, which will always be there, will be far less important than they were. Let us take a look at one fact. How many US soldiers are there today on the mainland of the European Union? How many US tanks are there? There are almost none. There are 30,000 US servicemen in the European Union today, but almost all of them are manning the airbases that America finds it convenient to use to prosecute its war in Iraq and Afghanistan. I do not complain about that; it is a fact of life; but the reality is that the American security guarantee under which we have sheltered for so long and under which many European Union nations have abandoned the need for a strong defence, which I greatly regret, is not going to be there in the future in the way that it was in the past. If we in the European Union do not understand that the consequence of that is that we should deepen the integration of our foreign policy and defence institutions rather than weaken them, we are fools. We do not understand that realignment.

I am a passionate European—noble Lords will hardly be surprised by that—but I am also a passionate Atlanticist. I do not see a contradiction between the two. One of the ways we will refurbish and renew the Atlantic relationship is to strengthen the integration of the European Union, not diminish it, to make ourselves more effective, not less effective. We are not dealing with just a retrenching United States; everybody knows that we are also dealing with a more assertive Russia under a muscular new president who has found new leverage in the form of energy. If there is a clear example of how we fail if we deal with Russia on an issue as a fractured series of nations, each negotiating a bilateral treaty, it is energy because our failure to speak with a single voice has given Putin more leverage than he would otherwise have and diminished our bargaining power. We are not without bargaining power in the energy debate. Russia needs our markets and our investment quite as much as we need its oil. There are only two existing pipelines—a third is being built to China—and both of them come to Europe. However, the fact that we completely fail to speak with a single voice has increased enormously both the political leverage of Putin on this issue and the pain that we suffer in consequence.

As America is retrenching to our west and Russia is more assertive to our east, the right reaction from Europe is not to weaken the institutions of our foreign policy and defence but to strengthen that integration. We should look beyond Russia. We are dealing not with just an assertive Russia but a rising China, a nation that is becoming more and more important. I happen to believe that China’s ascent will not be smooth. It will not be a relatively easy rise. It will have to come to terms with the need to democratise its society following the liberalisation of its economy. However, there is no doubt about where China is going to end up—as a nation immeasurably more powerful than any single European Union nation and probably more powerful than the European Union put together. If we do not understand that in the face of these new powers—China is only one; India is following—the right reaction from Europe is not to weaken the integration of our foreign policy and defence, but to deepen it, we are fools.

Put your hand over the side of the little boat in which we sail, feel the way the tide is moving, feel how strong the economic tide is now moving from the nations gathered around the Atlantic shore board to those of the Pacific rim. It is not impossible that we will wake up within the next 15 years and discover that we are not among the world’s first economies any longer, but among its second-tier ones. Imagine what that will mean for the governance of our countries. In the face of that, do we seriously believe that we want to consign ourselves to the role of little corks bobbing along in the wake of somebody else’s ocean liner rather than integrating Europe to give us all a stronger voice, integrating and pooling our sovereignty on some of these key issues on which the decent lives of our citizens depend? If we do not understand that the right response to those circumstances is not to weaken the integration of our foreign policy, security and defence, then we are fools.

We are looking at a whole new different shape to world affairs. We are looking not at a world dominated by a single super power—a mono-polar world—but at a multi polar world. It will no longer be good enough to shelter behind the apron strings of our neighbouring superpower and say that that is a foreign policy.

The great British Foreign Minister, George Canning, used to talk about the European areopagus in the middle of the 19th century, the concert of powers in Europe—the five sides of powers in Europe. He said that Britain should always seek to counterbalance any coalition of others in order to preserve the equilibrium of the concert of Europe. In so doing, the peace of Europe was kept for 50 years and Britain was kept out of continental armed entanglements for more than a 100 years. That is much more like the world that we are going to look at and that we are going to be in. If we do not understand that, in these circumstances, Europe will have to be much more independent and more subtle to be able to play its role among this multi sided, multi polar structure of world affairs and therefore that we should not weaken the institutions of our defence and foreign affairs, then, we are fools.

There is a great poem, “A Shropshire Lad”, that is said to have echoed in Churchill’s mind in the 1930s, written by AE Housman at the end of the long hot summer of stability of the 19th century. One stanza talks about the changes coming—listen because we live on the cusp of just such a change. The lines run:

“On the idle hill of summer,

Sleepy with the flow of streams,

Far I hear the steady drummer

Drumming like a noise in dreams.

Far and near and low and louder

On the roads of earth go by,

Dear to friends and food for powder,

Soldiers marching, all to die”.

You do not have to listen very hard to hear the distant drummer and the sounds of feet marching. We are living in an extremely turbulent world, one in which we will be facing possibly mass movements and migrations in the face of, for instance, global warming and starvation; a world in which conflict will, I fear, be more, and not less, common and in which the threats to our civilisation, future and security, will be deeper and stronger than any we have experienced since the end of the Cold War and maybe even more so than that. If we do not understand that in the face of such threats, the right response for Europe is to deepen the integration of our foreign and defence institutions, then, we are fools. The problem with the Lisbon treaty is not that it is too strong but that, in this matter, it is too weak.

It is always a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, not least because it means that it is over. It was extremely kind of him to explain who Canning was. I am most grateful to him, in this place, for explaining such things in his speech. I hope it is a speech that he will make to our friends in Scotland at some stage, because it might almost be adapted to a defence of the union as well. I offer that to him. It is obviously a good speech and he should not just waste it on us again.

I also like to agree across the Floor of the House whenever I can. In particular, I agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, when he said that the EU of today is nothing like the Europe of the 1980s and 1990s. I will say that and why my view of it has changed since then and why, although I supported the Single European Act, I opposed the Maastricht treaty.

It was the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, who said today that we need more Europe, not less. Would he ever say that we have had enough Europe—that we do not need any more of it? That was the conclusion that I reached some years ago. I hope that he will follow me before too long.

My remarks appertain principally to Amendment No. 113, which the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, saw as something quite extraordinary. Well, it is, in a way, extraordinary that it should be thought necessary to emphasise in this House that no Parliament should have the power to bind its successors. I thought that was something about which we all agreed, but not anymore it seems. Amendment No. 113 would reassert that but the treaty, as it is written today, does not.

After all, our positions change from time to time. The European Union might take a position on foreign policy and subsequently wish to change it. Why not? Circumstances change. A British Government elected by the people of this country might come to a conclusion on foreign policy which falls into line with the conclusions of the European Union. However, what if, at a subsequent general election, that foreign policy issue is a matter of intense interest in the general election and a party is elected committed to change that British foreign policy? Is it not right that the British people’s decision should stand about what their country’s foreign policy should be? Should we not be able to change that? Should a Government elected by the people be bound to a policy that had been repudiated at that general election? Amendment No. 113 is dedicated to a simple purpose, to make sure that that could not happen.

My noble friend Lady Park raised the issue of the Falklands. I remember very well indeed being at the Council of Ministers in Brussels in the week following the Argentine invasion of the Falklands. You had to shop around pretty hard to find any of my colleagues who supported what we were doing. The general view was, “I suppose if you want to make this big gesture of sending the fleet, well, all right, but of course you won’t do anything about it. It would be madness. It would be contrary to the interests of the world, particularly of Europe, to pick a quarrel with the Argentinians”. There was one exception among my colleagues, one Minister who understood what we were doing: the French Minister. France unilaterally assisted us a great deal in the advice and information that it gave us about the Argentines’ Exocet missile capacity, but so far as the rest were concerned, forget it. They were more interested in their trade with Argentina than our interest in upholding the right of freedom of the Falkland Islanders.

I, too, was in Brussels at that time and have recollections of the Council. I am sure my noble friend will agree that whatever private doubts some Ministers expressed about the wisdom of some aspects of British policy, the European Union—or the European Community, as it was then known—very quickly imposed sanctions against Argentina and very quickly maintained a united front at the Security Council of the United Nations. It came as a great shock to the Argentinians to find that whereas there was no common front in Latin America, even countries in Europe which they had supposed would be sympathetic to them stood by Britain in trade and in the United Nations. I recognise that the Irish and the Italians deviated somewhat further down the road—many people of Italian origin live in Argentina—but at the moment that it mattered, our European partners rallied around us with sanctions and in the United Nations.

I put it another way. They followed once we had acted. There would have been little chance of their doing so if we had been dependent on them to act or to allow us to act if they had the ability to prohibit us from acting. That was what I experienced on the ground. Again, it emphasises the fact that we must have the right to unilateral action at any moment, even in defiance of what our European colleagues want us to do.

The noble Lord, Lord Robertson, also spoke of the time when his party was unilateralist. That emphasises the fact that all our parties change their views at times, and that it is important that we ensure that we do not produce a mechanism by which our parties can be, if not forbidden from changing their views, then prevented from implementing their change of view. That is the important thing about Amendment No. 113.

I wonder whether the noble Lord remembers a debate that he and I had on Sky television at the time of the Maastricht ratification procedure. He made the statement, which made the front page of the Observer the following Sunday, that if Maastricht was carried through, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer would have no more powers than the treasurer of a rate-capped local authority. That was 16 years ago. Does he still hold with that proposition?

Indeed, had the provisions of Maastricht gone through in the sense of this country submitting itself to the euro, that would be just about the point. Does the noble Lord imagine that the French, Germans or Italians are very happy about their degree of autonomy over their economic policy? They are not, to judge by the noises that I hear coming from them.

The noble Lord reminds us that there could be changes in the politics of Europe more broadly under the stress of the economic problems that will be caused by the European single currency until there is one chancellor of the exchequer for Europe. We all know that a currency cannot have more than one chancellor. Those stresses will continue to bear heavily upon various countries in Europe. According to some on the left, Italy is veering towards a neo-fascist style of government again. There is much talk of neo-fascism on the Continent of Europe. I am not very comfortable binding my country and its foreign policy to countries over whose electoral fortunes we have no control.

I still believe that we should be an independent nation, and that there is a place for independent nations in the world. I do not take the view of the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, that that is all silly old stuff that belongs to the past and is sentimentalism. If a country cannot have untrammelled rights over its own foreign policy and to change that policy when it wills, it is not a fully sovereign nation. I support Amendment No. 113 to make that matter plain.

I hesitate to speak for obvious reasons. I will have a glass of water. I may have to stop, but I am tempted to speak because the issue that underlies this debate is so fundamental. I shall speak about the European External Action Service. We in this House must recognise that in the European Union we are dealing with a very varied grouping of nations. If you come from a very small country, your belief that the European External Action Service can be in your direct national interest is perfectly understandable. It is extraordinarily difficult for small countries such as Estonia to be represented in all the countries of the world—indeed, to be represented in anything more than the member states of the European Union.

When we consider the external aspect and almost all aspects of foreign policy, we must from time to time consider what it means to be a small member of the European Union. In fairness to such member states, they frequently look at what it means to be a large country with a proud, historical record—and in our case a very large empire—and with substantial armed forces. They realise that they will have to accept the recognition inside the European Union that large countries count for more than small countries. Of course that is not spelled out, but it is a fact with which people live very sensibly. Moderately sized countries must also accept that.

I well remember how Greece faced many of the issues affecting the Balkans. It disagreed, sometimes in my judgment correctly and with better understanding of the problems of the Balkans than many of the larger states did, but it accepted that it was in a minority. Even though it disapproved of some of the actions over Kosovo, for example, it allowed troops to come up through Thessaloniki and into Macedonia, even though that was difficult for it politically. There are many other examples.

I thereby come to the European External Action Service. As I understand it, this may be the only opportunity that we will have to discuss this question. Crucial to the service is the balance between people being under secondment from national Governments to it and those who come from the European Commission or Community institutions. If we are to keep common foreign policy predominantly intergovernmental, there must be a large element of secondment from the diplomatic services of the larger nations. I hope that this will be championed not just by the larger countries but by smaller ones, who will understand that the way to get the external service accepted is when it has to represent the fundamental elements of a common foreign service policy—not integration, but representation of the member states. It is a mechanism for getting greater measures of agreement and it seems not unreasonable to introduce that at this stage.

A common foreign policy is not a single foreign policy. In the parlance of the European Community, integration means a single foreign policy—and I understand that there are people who want that. If there is genuinely compromise, agreement and consensus then it is preferable to have a united foreign policy, but we are not talking about a single foreign policy, and we have to examine carefully any aspect in this treaty that could lead to one. That is why we will come, in later debates, to what I consider the most important amendment; namely, that we could not have a common foreign policy imposed on this country by moving to qualified majority voting without substantive legislation through this House and through the House of Commons. I believe no other issue lying within our powers and which does not affect the treaty, yet is a fundamental issue for parliamentarians, is more important for us. On that motion, I hope that the Liberal Democrats will be voting as they voted in the House of Commons—in favour of primary legislation, at least on that aspect of the passerelle clause.

I come back to the external service, on which I hope that the Minister will feel able to explain some of the Government’s thinking. Now, the service will of course be discussed inside the European Union; as I understand it, that will be under a qualified majority vote because it will come on a recommendation from the high representative, having discussed it with the Commission. I would prefer that it were a genuine consensus and had to have unanimity.

If it will be unanimous, then I am encouraged to hear that and my understanding of the treaty is wrong. This treaty is very difficult to understand, but if there will be unanimity on that then I very much welcome it. It means that the British Government can and should argue strongly that the predominant element of an External Action Service should not be as a European Union diplomatic service, but one that will predominantly come from the member states. If that is the case, then the British Government can maintain that position and—since the Minister says that this is unanimous—even if they find themselves in a minority of one I would expect them to hold out.

I have found that in many cases, in negotiating on common foreign and security policy, British Governments had a perfectly sensible negotiating position that was then given up during negotiations. On this position, they must not give up. It is an essential element in keeping a common foreign and security policy predominantly intergovernmental, with some of the serious strength of the member states.

Ultimately, a foreign policy relies on your capacity to back your words up with actions. That is why defence is secondary to foreign policy, which has to be able to call on defence and on the sacrifice of the citizens of an individual country who are ready to risk their life for what their country believes to be an essential element in its foreign policy. Take that away, and you have nothing that means seriousness in foreign policy. Without the capacity to threaten military action, as we have seen so often in the past, foreign policy ends up as mere words. Therefore, that stiffening of EU foreign policy requires a number of member states’ capacity to put their troops on the line for it. For that reason, each aspect of developing a common foreign and security policy has to reflect that it is predominantly intergovernmental.

I would like to add my support to the amendments in the name of my noble friend Lord Howell and to explain the thinking behind Amendments Nos. 111 and 113, which are in my name. As we have heard, these amendments drive to the heart of the contradiction between, on the one hand, saying that we want to be part of an increasingly common European policy and, on the other, declaring that we have retained UK independence. It is not a question, as some have said, of whether we want to co-operate with other countries, for of course we want to do that. It is a question of whether we want to be bound into the particular form of treaty clauses and restrictions introduced by the treaty of Lisbon.

The noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, set out a powerful analysis of how the world is changing. I, for one, would disagree with little of what he said about the sound of the drum telling us that the world has changed, but I completely disagree with the conclusion he draws there. In my view, that changing world makes it ever more important that we retain the flexibility to respond to countries around the world and to form alliances with them—not to be bound into an outdated, centralist and inward-looking club designed for the world of the past century. That is why we have different views on how we should respond, not on the underlying issues with which we are trying to deal.

The core question here is the extent to which we can retain our independence. The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, quoted the House of Lords report effectively saying that the UK had retained its independence except in those areas where the EU had formed a common position. In the tortuous language of a consensus report, that is effectively what that sentence said; of course, if it is turned around the other way—in a more common-sense way—it actually says that the UK is constrained in its foreign policy, except in those areas where no common policy has been agreed by the European Union. The question then becomes: how much of our policy will be in the areas of common agreement, where we are constrained and no longer have the ability to pursue an independent policy?

Indeed, and so the question comes down to how much of our policy we choose and how much we allow to be moved into a common position. Whether it is a single or common foreign policy in that position, as I will go on to describe, we no longer have a level of freedom and independence. The other questions are how that position is determined and how it evolves over time.

The Government would like us to believe that these areas of common foreign policy are few and far—that they would be constrained to the peripheries and minor issues. As others have said, that is not the impression one gains from the treaty. The phrasing quoted about achieving an ever increasing degree of convergence in member states’ actions, and references to the ambitions of the External Action Service, make it clear that the intentions behind this treaty are that the European Union should increasingly command the major areas of policy issues in both foreign affairs and defence. The Government also stress that those areas where we will be part of a common foreign policy will largely be agreed by unanimity.

It seems to me that the noble Lord has failed to take the excellent advice from my noble friend Lord Owen to distinguish rather clearly between a single foreign policy and a common foreign policy. By my count, it was one hour and five minutes before anybody in the Committee faced up to the difference between those two; now that my noble friend has set it out, I would hope that the debate can follow down that path. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, could start where we are now. Could he tell me which existing aspect of common foreign policy—in the Balkans, to Iran, and so on—he is dissatisfied with? If he is happy with them all, he can take comfort from the fact that that is how the European Union makes policy—bit by bit and common element by common element.

We are not talking about past policies of the European Union. We are talking about how the policies of the European Union will be set under this treaty. When the common foreign policy becomes a single foreign policy the degree of discretion that individual members have will be constrained by that common policy, which, I believe, is exactly what this treaty brings to the European scene. As the noble Lord well knows, those policies will not always be agreed by consensus. Article 31.2 of the consolidated text makes it very clear that once the Council has agreed a general strategic interest or objective, the specific decisions on actions and positions that follow from that will be taken by qualified majority voting.

The agreement of a general strategic interest or objective in the Council of Europe late at night will be the subject of consensus drafting in order to reach agreement that will need many countries to sign up to statements about which, inevitably, they have some discomfort or doubt. But those statements emerge at the end of conferences as common positions. Under this treaty, once those statements have been put on the stocks as a common position, there will be freedom for the European Union to take actions or positions that extend those positions by qualified majority voting. That is the fact of the treaty. As my noble friend Lord Lamont pointed out, once the Council has asked the high representative to set out a position on an area, whatever he comes back to the Council with will be voted on by qualified majority voting.

In a number of areas we have a ratchet built in—a continual creep. The pressure will be for the UK to be a good citizen and to sign up to a general statement, not necessarily immediately, but perhaps one, two or three years down the road. It will form the base from which a decision can be taken by qualified majority voting. The problem—and the reason why I insist that a common position can become a single position—is that this treaty contains all the language which we have heard in the past requiring countries to abide by common policies once they are agreed. They would not be able to take any action, not to speak against them or to register any dissent once a common position has been stated. That is a very significant development in the extent to which these treaties bind us to a position where, ultimately, we may be constrained by countries with very different strategic and tactical interests from our own.

Under Amendment No. 111, I should like particularly to draw attention to how that affects our position at the United Nations. As the treaty makes clear, when we have a common position, the UK must request that the European high representative presents that position to the United Nations. Again, the House of Lords report is very clear. It is not an option, a nice thing to do. If we have a common EU position, the UK must require that the EU representative presents that position at the United Nations. Where the EU has a common position, it is clear that when the EU representative addresses the United Nations he will be taken as speaking for Europe. That is his status and how he will be seen, not just in isolated areas, but increasingly in all the main topics where the EU, as we can see from this treaty, will seek to occupy the ground of representing a common position of Europe in the world as one of the superpowers.

Yes, the UK can speak and has its own vote. But once the European representative has declared the European position to the United Nations, under these treaties the UK is bound not to dissent, not to oppose, not to vote against and not to disagree even with the interpretation that the EU representative has given to the United Nations, even if, when that original common position was defined, the UK voted against under QMV, or if it were a decision taken by unanimity where the UK had abstained. As I see it, that is the threat to our ability to maintain an independent position to side with those countries with which in the long run we may have a different interest on the world stage than the narrow interests of the European continent.

If the Government believe that my concerns are unfounded, as I am sure that the noble Baroness will argue, my Amendment No. 111 offers them a clear way out. Unlike earlier amendments, my amendment does not require changes to the treaty or any change in anything that the Government have signed up to. I distinguish it from Amendment No. 112 on those grounds. It is purely a statement that the UK Parliament retains sovereignty over independence of UK foreign policy. If the Government can assure us that the UK has that independence, I am sure that the noble Baroness will be delighted to accept my amendment to make that clear to the Chamber.

Amendment No. 113 addresses the related and very serious point made by my noble friend Lord Tebbit on the danger of a Government under these treaties binding a successor. The treaty appears to be a one-way street. Once a common policy has been defined, there is nothing that I can find in this treaty that allows a Government to dissent or to undo that common policy. As my noble friend has described, if a Government are elected who disagree with a number of policy positions taken by their predecessor and where they have had those endorsed at an election, there is no way that they can repudiate that position unilaterally. It is not like a country entering into its own treaties or agreements where a Government, if they so choose—they may not wish to do that very often—can change them. We will be bound into a common position by the European Union treaties where we have no facility under that treaty for a Government to change their mind. Any change would require the same legislative processes as we have described for introducing the change, which would largely be by unanimity, but, in many cases, by QMV. But we would not have the ability unilaterally to change our policy. These treaties undermine the important principle of no Government holding their successor in a straitjacket. There may even be Governments who of their own volition change their mind or find that circumstances have changed, but are not able to make that clear once they have signed up to a common European policy.

I would welcome the noble Baroness the Lord President allaying my fears by saying where in the treaties it is explained how this situation would be dealt with. Assuming that she can do so, I am sure that she would be delighted to accept my amendment, which simply makes clear, as my noble friend Lord Tebbit said, that these treaties do not require one Government to be bound by another. I hope that the Government will allay all my fears by accepting Amendments Nos. 111 and 113. If the noble Baroness does not accept my amendments, I hope she will make clear how the Government can allay my fears.

I am startled by the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell. He was among that group of people who slogged through the chapter of the report from your Lordships’ European Union Committee on these issues, which agreed the position that we thought we had reached—or at least I thought we had reached—unanimously. The noble Lord says that he fears that this—I repeat, this—treaty compromises the independence of the United Kingdom in common foreign and security policy. I remind him that has put his name to paragraph 7.20, which says:

“The Treaty will not change the scope of the CFSP or transfer any additional powers to the EU in this area”.

The section is clearly marked:

“EU powers in CFSP matters”.

That is not a qualified statement; it is a sentence standing as it is which the noble Lord put his name to. The noble Lord has asked my noble friend the Leader of the House to assure him of independence. A moment of two ago from his Benches it was claimed that assurances of this nature, which actually appear in Declaration 13, are only evidence that the Government were not sure of their position. We have a very clear declaration in Declaration 13, which states:

“The Conference underlines that the provisions in the Treaty on European Union covering the Common Foreign and Security Policy, including the creation of the office of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the establishment of an External Action Service”—

and here we come to the point—

“do not affect the responsibilities of the Member States, as they currently exist, for the formulation and conduct of their foreign policy nor of their national representation in third countries and international organisations”—

that is, the United Nations. Here is an unequivocal statement, agreed by all the members of the EU, which is not quite good enough for the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, and he wants my noble friend from the Dispatch Box to repeat it. She is very welcome to repeat it but I am not sure why, if he was not convinced by this in the first place, my noble friend is going to have any greater success and on his Benches some will claim that my noble friend doing that is only evidence of not being sure of the position in the first place.

Let us turn to the UN. The noble Lord said that where the EU has a unanimous common position, the UK will be required to request that the High Representative present that position. That is what we said in our report but the noble Lord left out the opening sentence, which he put his name to, where we said:

“It is clear that the Treaty changes nothing in the UK’s right to retain its seat on the UN Security Council, its role as a permanent member, its right to speak, and its individual vote and veto”.

We went on to say that although we can invite the High Representative, that possibility does not displace the UK’s right to speak or vote. The noble Lord could not have forgotten about those passages because he was there when we slogged out that wording. I am afraid he was very partial in forgetting what he put his name to.

I am very grateful to the noble Baroness. The wording of these sentences, as she well knows, was very well fought, word by word, and it is very—

It is very clear why that was done because it allowed both sides to interpret the sentences as they wanted. It depends where in the sentence you put the emphasis. Where the EU has a position, the UK will be required to suggest that the high representative present that position. I accept that the UK retains its seat, its role, its right to speak and its individual vote. I said all those things in my speech just now. What I went on to say, however, was that those things would be severely devalued by the fact that the UK was bound to support the role of the European high representative. I maintain that position.

That is very interesting but I do not know how even the noble Lord can argue that the words “changes nothing”—in the phrase, “it is clear that the treaty changes nothing” and in relation to the UK’s right to retain its seat on the UN Security Council, its right as a permanent member and its right to speak, individual vote and veto—can be turned to mean “changes everything”. The noble Lord and I are clearly not going to agree.

This sentence was, as the noble Baroness said, long fought over, and she fought very strongly for it. The words “changes nothing” are followed by a specific list of things which do not change. What the sentence does not say is what does change, which is the influence and effect of the United Kingdom’s position in the United Nations as a result of this treaty.

The noble Baroness, Lady Symons, has dealt formidably with the question of how far the UK can retain its independence in foreign policy, particularly in relation to its seat on the United Nations. It would be unwise to tangle with her and I do not wish to do so. I want rather to state the other side of the argument which she effectively pointed to in her very eloquent intervention, and that is the significant argument for a common foreign policy. I take the points of distinction made by the noble Lords, Lord Hannay and Lord Owen, between a single foreign policy—which we are not at present talking about—and a common foreign policy. In doing so, I hark back to what the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Swansea, said about the fact that the CFSP remains an intergovernmental structure and therefore one in which one has to seek the agreement of all to produce a single statement or a single policy.

To go back to the importance of a common foreign policy, the key question is not whether after a common foreign policy has been agreed the countries that agreed it are bound to support it. That seems a very fundamental principle, like the principle of the collective responsibility of a Cabinet, even where some members may disagree with the decision reached by that Cabinet. The much more important point is whether a common foreign policy in some agreed areas would give the European Union far greater influence and strength in international organisations than any one country could hope to have on its own.

My noble friend Lord Ashdown gave very powerful arguments in the military field for reaching common agreements to deal with some of the essential security considerations that we have to face. Incidentally, in that context it would be appropriate to point out the absolute necessity of such co-operation in dealing with terrorism, which no individual country could hope to deal with on its own. The same goes, in rather different ways, for organised crime, people trafficking and other areas, where no country defending its own borders can hope to have any impact on organised methods of getting around those borders and making them effectively unnecessary or dispensable.

The point I want to make is a slightly different one. There are certain areas where the European Union has a very specific approach and one that the world badly needs. Let me state a couple of examples other than those which have already been presented by my noble friend Lord Ashdown. The first is very close to my heart—nuclear proliferation and nuclear disarmament, probably the single greatest issue facing the world after that of climate change. We cannot hope to get anywhere as an individual nation state on issues of this kind, which necessarily require international agreement in order to be effective. To reach that international agreement there is nothing more effective than a grouping of countries which share common values and a common purpose.

Let me give an example where there is a divergence between the European Union and our single most important and closest ally, the United States. The United States has so far found it impossible to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Although the matter has been before the US Congress for more than 15 years, it has still not been ratified. That means that one of the great barriers against the further development of nuclear weapons into yet more and more effective and lethal mechanisms has been so far prevented by the failure to reach agreement. On something like the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty—essential in limiting nuclear proliferation—the compelling arguments of the European Union as a whole are far greater than that of any individual country, even our own, close as it is in many ways to the United States, if we are to move towards an agreement under which countries will begin to ratify that treaty. For example, the United States has in recent years come out in favour of the independent verification of test weapons and their development. It is clear that that does not work: one cannot have independent, national verification of the dangers of nuclear proliferation. I am delighted to say that the United States has changed its position and returned to accepting that multilateral verification is absolutely essential if one is to limit nuclear proliferation. However, there was a time when the United States strayed from that position into quite dangerous areas where others were only too inclined to follow, which is one reason why three nuclear-weapon powers are not signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and shows the importance in some areas of a common foreign policy.

Another example is disarmament in the crucial area of small weapons. The Conference on Disarmament at the United Nations in Geneva is still locked into unending arguments on small weapons, which have devastated Africa. Far more deaths have been due to small weapons than to weapons of mass destruction in the past 10 years. How does one then move towards international treaties that limit the trade in and supply of small arms? It is only by reaching agreement within international organisations such as the Conference on Disarmament at the United Nations. How does one do that without a powerful group of nations united in their determination to bring about an agreement of that kind?

As the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, pointed out in his forceful speech, it is easy to see that, in some cases, only a common European position will advance the very things that, as the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, said, the British public would like to see. They want to see security; they want to see peace; they want to see us move back from the danger of serious development of weapons of mass destruction. To do that, it is no good falling back on the independent foreign policy so eloquently described by various noble Lords, because it will not bring about the outcomes that we desperately need. They require a group of nations that are committed to pursuing them—not every single issue in the world, but some of the key issues that can be achieved only by collective decision to move ahead. I plead, therefore, with those who are listening to this debate to recognise that a common foreign policy in some areas—for our purposes, that must mean a common European foreign policy—is essential to bring about the very purposes for which our Parliament in the House of Commons was elected, and which we in this Chamber believe is an essential responsibility of our presence here to further in every way that we can.

It is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, because I agree with much of what she said, particularly the note on which she ended; namely, that we are more likely to be able to achieve objectives working with our partners than working singly. It is obvious that compromises will from time to time be necessary, and the common position may not be the same as that which we would have wished the European Union ideally to have taken or which we would have taken if we were able to act alone. However, when one looks back over the experience of recent years, one finds that the extent to which common positions compromised the position with which we started when we were dealing with our European allies is infinitely less than has been the case when we have found ourselves dealing with our great ally, the United States. I agree with my noble friend Lord Lamont that nothing should drive us away from the United States and that our alliance with it is important, but we are not unique in wishing to have a close connection with the United States. Germany, France, Holland, Italy and every other state in Europe wishes to have that; it is not some British peculiarity. The position of the United States in the world is so powerful that everybody wishes to be closely connected with it.

The Iraq experience has perhaps taught us that, while the French were unable to make much of an impact on the United States by seeking to prevent it doing what it wanted, we were unable to have much of an impact on the United States by supporting it in everything that it wanted. Both the French and the British have learnt no end of a lesson. If one wishes to influence the United States, which one does—because it is obvious that nothing very much can happen in the world if the United States is not involved—it is much more likely that one will be able to do so if we are singing from the same hymn sheet as our partners in the European Union. If there is more weight on the European end of the see-saw than we alone are able to put on it, there is more likely to be an agreement with the United States that runs closer to our interests than has perhaps been the case in the recent past.

The noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, drew a distinction between Britain’s outward-looking interests and the narrow interests of our Continental allies. That theme runs through the speeches of many opponents of the European Union and of this treaty, but it is mistaken. Just as everybody wishes to have a close relationship with the United States, so one will see in the patterns of trade of France, Germany, Holland, Italy or any of the other trading nations in the European Union that they, too, wish to export a great deal to China, India and the burgeoning economies in the East. One will see that they, too, are seeking closer relations with the new powers in the Pacific area. Looking outward to Asia and the Pacific, again, is not some unique British characteristic; it is something that any right-minded European country wishes to do. It is a slightly backhanded compliment to the way in which the Chinese view Europe that it is the French in particular whom they have picked out for retribution over the mishaps of the Olympic flame, although the flame had pretty much as bad a time of it in London as in Paris. That perhaps shows that, in a certain way, the profile of the French in China is perhaps higher than ours. It is therefore false to draw a distinction between narrow Continentals and worldwide Britons.

I agree that Britain must ultimately be able to act alone to preserve its right to independent action. But that is very much a last resort. If we find that we are unable to carry any of our friends in the European Union and are isolated in pursuit of an international objective, it might suggest, first, that our case is not as overwhelmingly strong as we would like to think and, secondly, that we are unlikely to be able to prosecute our position very successfully. We are much more likely, as the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, pointed out, to be able to pursue our objectives successfully in the world if we are able to do so in partnership with others. He and others here may remember that great American diplomat, George Vest, who at one time was the American ambassador to the European Union and ended his career as director-general of the United States diplomatic service or the State Department—I cannot remember his precise title. He always used to talk about the habit of co-operation in the European Union and how effective it was in enabling countries to reach common positions even when they started some way apart. He was always impressed by the degree to which the constant communication and exchange of information and views between the members of the European Union enabled them to begin to see issues from much the same angle, and to reconcile differences and bring their influence to bear. That is how the European Union develops, not according to the rather hard and fast, black and white rules that the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, was talking about.

Finally, I take up a couple of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Owen. He made a very important distinction, which is not drawn often enough, when he talked about the difference between a common foreign policy and a single foreign policy. It is an important distinction and I am absolutely in agreement with what he said on that subject, and his point about the external offices of the European Union. The European Commission, both when I was a Commissioner and since, has sometimes been too enthusiastic about wanting to set up offices here, there and everywhere. They have a purpose. The ambassador who was kind enough to give my noble friend Lord Lamont whisky late at night could, perhaps, have devoted more of his energies to finding out what the European office did. Often, they run important aid programmes or deal with trade relationships. I remember when Sir Roy Denman was head of the European Commission office in Washington. He played an important part in multilateral trade negotiations, as I am sure my noble friend Lord Brittan would concur.

At different times, the European Commission office in Japan has played an important role. Certainly, there has been a tendency to set up too many, with sometimes ill defined objectives. If we are moving forward with this external action force and having external offices, the noble Lord, Lord Owen, makes the point that their credibility will be enhanced if there is a strong representation from the larger European countries with the most experience of international relations and the most interests in the most far-flung parts of the globe. That would certainly be desirable. When one looks at the totality of the issues covered by these amendments, the treaty as it stands, though not perfect, enables the European Union to continue to develop.

In conclusion, I refer again to the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell. He said that the European Union was designed for the last century. Yes, it was designed in the last century and it did very well in helping to preserve peace in Europe, in helping to encourage democracy in the member states, and in contributing to the spread of democracy and human rights over a far wider area of Europe than has ever been seen before. It was devised in the last century and it did very well in the last century. Now we are putting it into a position to operate equally effectively in this century. As the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, and others have pointed out, this debate should be about how Europe performs in the future, as well as how it has performed in the past.

I do not want to spend too much time on this; we have had a long debate. I make one or two points because this part of the treaty takes us a long way forward. I think I have taken part in every debate on every treaty since we signed the treaty of Rome in 1972. Therefore, I remember some of the things that were said. When we were discussing the Maastricht treaty, when the issues of foreign policy and other matters were introduced, we were given the assurance that our essential sovereignty would not be affected because these matters would be considered on an intergovernmental basis. On those assurances, some of us felt reassured.

What has gone wrong? Those assurances, apparently, were not good enough. Now foreign policy is no longer to be on an intergovernmental basis, but part of the treaty and part of the European Union. It is clear from the treaty that there is to be an ever-increasing degree of convergence of member states’ actions. The word “convergence” means getting towards a single objective. We have come away from intergovernmentalism and it is part of the treaty. We have a Foreign Minister, although he is called something different, the high commissioner for foreign affairs. He will chair the Foreign Affairs Committee. He is going to be deputy chairman of the European Commission, which is a powerful position. Make no mistake about that. Intergovernmentalism has collapsed. In certain circumstances we will be bound by decisions reached by the Foreign Affairs Council.

What is more, there is to be this External Action Service. I, too, over the weekend saw the Daily Telegraph article mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace. According to that, it is going to be a very powerful External Action Service indeed. It will have 160 ambassadors, as they are to be called. Some politicians, perhaps even in our own Government, are concerned about the influence they will use abroad to the detriment of the influence that can be maintained by our own diplomats. What is the Government’s attitude towards the setting up of the External Action Service before the treaties have been ratified by all member states? That, I understand, is what is happening at the moment. Discussions are taking place, either in private or in secret. I do not know what the difference between the two words is. What, exactly, is the Government’s attitude towards this? It would certainly weaken our position if the growth of the European External Action Service undermined our own Diplomatic Service. Furthermore, the External Action Service, unlike our own Diplomatic Service, will be in some way accountable to the European Parliament. There is no way in which our Diplomatic Service, except through a Minister, is accountable to this Parliament. There are some worrying aspects to what is proposed.

Why has it been necessary to go away from intergovernmentalism, into making this part of the treaty. What has not worked? Why can it not work? Will the Minister also say whether this is not yet another ratchet—I have always talked about ratchets—towards a single European state? People say, “Well, of course it’s not”. But if it is not a ratchet towards a single European state, why are we collapsing the intergovernmental position, which most people had accepted? We will no doubt have further discussions on various matters in which we will ask why we need these changes. But I should like at this stage to know why intergovernmentalism has failed, why the new arrangements will not undermine Britain’s ability to pursue an independent policy and whether our Diplomatic Service is safe from being undermined by ambitious European foreign diplomats.

I know that noble Lords want to move on but I feel that I should speak very briefly to Amendment No. 14, which is in this group and in my name, and put a very simple question to the Minister, which arises out of the amendment.

The amendment would leave out 10 words from amended Article 11 of the TEU—the words,

“and shall comply with the Union’s action in this area”.

Do the Government agree that those 10 words represent an advance in EU solidarity in the Council? The words that we had before, in the treaty of Nice, read as follows:

“Member States shall actively and unreservedly support the Union’s common foreign and security policy in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity”.

That has been in the treaties for quite some time and is a pious hope of good intention and all the rest of it. But then the treaty says,

“and shall comply with the Union’s action in this area”.

Member states are no longer representing their countries’ interests; from this moment on they are complying with the Union’s actions, which are then reinforced by the actions of the new high representative, who is given new discipline in this area.

I trust that noble Lords agree that that contribution was refreshingly brief. I look forward to the Minister’s specific reply.


To the noble Lord, Lord Owen, who is not in his place at the moment, I should say that I am conscious of how difficult it is to speak with such a bad throat. However, I am delighted that he was able to do so because the point that many noble Lords have raised, on which he specifically focused—the difference between common and single—was extremely helpful.

I do not intend to go over all the issues that have been well aired. I shall focus my attention on giving some comfort to those who have tabled amendments, although I am not sure that I shall entirely succeed. I have been very taken with the almost wistful way in which noble Lords have reminisced about their time—either from those who sat on green Benches, as my noble friend Lord Robertson reminds us, for a year in deliberating on previous treaties, from noble Lords who had the privilege to represent this country at various Councils of Ministers, from those who have been involved in the Commission as Commissioners, or from those involved with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

I am conscious that I come as rather a novice to these well-trodden paths. I am not entirely convinced that I shall be successful in changing the minds of many noble Lords who have spoken today. The passion and determination with which they spoke suggests to me that minds have arrived made up, rather than necessarily to be altered by what I shall say. But I hope to bring some clarification to those noble Lords for whom this is not their natural subject and offer some thoughts that noble Lords can deliberate on before we reach the next stage of our discussions.

I should be clear at the beginning that it was with great wisdom that the Government in 1992 agreed to establish the common foreign and security policy. Without it we would not have had EU crisis management missions in Bosnia and Afghanistan or EU sanctions against Iran, which went beyond the position of the UN Security Council. I want to be absolutely clear that when we and other member states agree on a course of action at European Union level, it increases our influence, which is incredibly important in an increasingly interconnected world. The noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, talked about the future and other noble Lords referred to it as well. This is a changing world; it is not the world of 20, 30 or 40 years ago. Through all the developments that we see and the way in which the world is on the move, whether because of starvation, climate change or conflict, we are increasingly interconnected and increasingly have to think of ways in which as nation states we operate together. When we do not agree on a course of action, however, we shall continue to act independently, as this country has always done—and as it has always done under previous treaties, so it will continue.

The motivation behind the treaty of Lisbon in putting forward these reforms is that member states want to improve the delivery of shared foreign policy objectives. What they are considering is based on the experiences that we have gained in collaboration over the years. I believe that the move in this treaty is to build on that shared experience and take us forward—as I have already said, when we agree.

Noble Lords referred to the beginnings of all this in the Maastricht treaty. However, long before the Maastricht treaty, when the intergovernmental pillar of foreign policy co-operation was established, policy and funding instruments under the European Community were important to the delivery of our foreign policy goals. Trade policy, development and enlargement are all examples of what one might describe as traditional Community activity, ultimately decided by the member states but largely delivered by the Commission, which can have a profound and important impact on how we deliver our foreign policy objectives.

I question whether what one might describe as classic foreign policy tools could have helped the countries of central and eastern Europe towards a stable, democratic and increasingly wealthy and economically open status. The reform was driven by the prospect of eventual EU membership. A process delivered by the Commission was central to achieving that key objective of British foreign policy. When I spent time in Romania and Bulgaria before accession, discussing with the Justice and Home Affairs team in both countries ways in which we could support them to deal with issues with their courts, anti-corruption measures and collaboration on many issues, they were very focused on the opportunity that being part of the European Union would afford them for their future development, trade and economic and social well-being.

We also see environmental policy in global terms, with market-based carbon trading, which is a Community competence and an important element in tackling climate change. The consequences of not tackling it have been discussed in your Lordships’ House during the passage of the Climate Change Bill and in many other debates. As we look at states emerging from conflict all over the world, we use both our own foreign and security policy instruments, delivered by member states and the Council, whether that is for policing or peace-keeping, combined with the longer-term tools—development agreements that could be delivered by the Commission. If we are going to help to bring long-term peace, stability and prosperity, whether in Afghanistan, the Middle East or Aceh, we have to ensure that these efforts reinforce themselves in the most effective and efficient way.

Improving the delivery of our foreign policy objectives through the European Union is a long-standing UK aim, to which all member states agreed at the Hampton Court summit during our presidency in 2005. I submit that it makes sense to bring these two ways of delivering external policy objectives closer together while respecting the fundamentally distinct intergovernmental nature of the common foreign and security policy. That is what the treaty does. CFSP remains intergovernmental and non-legislative. The decision making is by unanimity. European Court of Justice jurisdiction is excluded with two narrow exceptions. That is a clear and fundamental objective of what the treaty seeks to do.

Perhaps I may give a couple of examples of where that greater coherence could make a difference. If one thinks of what is happening in the Middle East peace process, Javier Solana, the high representative, is engaged in political dialogue with the parties in pursuit of the EU common, foreign and security policy objectives set by member states. Two European security and defence policy missions are decided by the member states. The first looks at the border crossings in Gaza which are currently suspended; the second looks at Palestinian security reform and police training.

At the same time the Commission under the EC treaty is engaged in activity to promote Palestinian economic development and institution building and provide funding to the Palestinian authority; and, of course, Mr Solana and the External Relations Commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, both represent the EU in the quartet. The treaty will bring together these activities in a more coherent and effective manner. The high representative, in pursuit of the political priorities agreed by the member states in the European Council and the relevant Council of Ministers, is able to do that under the treaty. That is an important example—I could give others—of how the coherence within the treaty could make a difference.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, talked about the role of the European Court of Justice. I know that we will return to that issue. The noble Lord quoted from my letter. Three words—“as at present”—were missing from the quotation. My letter says that the court may police the CFSP/non-CFSP border. That is not new. That, as noble Lords who were involved will know, dates back to the Maastricht treaty. Interestingly, the treaty requires the European Court of Justice to make sure that there is no encroachment the other way; in other words, that non-CFSP policies cannot encroach into CFSP policies. I know that noble Lords have worried in the other direction, that maybe the European Court of Justice, for those who believe that it is a—I quote—“creative court”, would see it in that way. Actually the treaty says that it is very important that the European Court of Justice polices that border and ensures that there is no encroachment. So the treaty strengthens the ring-fencing of CFSP, and the European Court of Justice will, if necessary, be able to restrict any other activity that impinges on the CFSP.

Can the noble Baroness give us any examples of the European Court finding against deeper and further integration?

It depends what the noble Lord means by “deeper and further integration”. There is a lot of case law in the European Court of Justice. In our discussions on the previous day of Committee, when we referred to the European Court—we will again, I have no doubt, in our discussions particularly on justice and home affairs—we looked at examples. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Slynn, who is not in his place at the moment, as a former judge in the European Court of Justice, was extremely helpful in describing both the methodology of the court and the fact that it does not operate in a political fashion, but that a lot of the work of the Court in determining its role and function was established long before the UK joined the European Union. The noble Lord will know that for himself. Any suggestion that the Court was seeking to try to move beyond its role of interpreting the law was in the noble and learned Lord’s view wrong. I am sure the noble Lord will look at the Hansard references for what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Slynn, referred to.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Slynn, was replying to what I had said. We thought that what he said was extremely helpful and supports the thrust of the question from my noble friend Lord Tebbit. In other words, it stands in Hansard. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Slynn, said yes of course the Court advances the project of European integration because that is what it was always meant to do. That is what is in the treaty. It has to support ever closer union of the peoples.

The interesting thing is interpretation, which is what I was saying to the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit. I have discovered in my days in Committee that interpretation is everything. As far as I am concerned noble Lords were divided in their interpretation. I think we go back to the words of the noble and learned Lord. He is not in his place at the moment, but I know that he intends to give us the benefit of further interventions. I am sure that he would indeed speak to the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, about these issues. I am very clear that this is about the role of a court in interpreting the law as it stands, which is what courts do. We have already discussed the value of that. The point I make in this context is that I believe that the treaty helps to define the boundaries more effectively between the role of the Court in terms of non-CFSP and CFSP.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, quoted an Open Europe allegation about the moves to QMV within CFSP. It is quite clear within the treaty that unanimity remains a general rule for CFSP. Implementing measures can be taken by QMV where the original decision has been unanimous; so if all 27 member states decide they want to do something they can then decide to implement it by QMV. That is our choice. We are not bound to do it; we do it because we want to do it. Unanimity is the determining factor on the decisions that we take.

The Lisbon treaty has one case—and noble Lords referred to it—where the high representative returns with a specific request that has been given to him by the Council. It is not beyond the wit of this Government or another 26 governments to determine the precise boundaries of what the high representative will return with proposals on. Any noble Lord will know that as it will be a QMV decision, such proposals the high representative returns with will work only within set parameters and boundaries. Therefore they will make sure that those parameters and boundaries are set. As they are set by unanimity, we need to have no fear. We can point to examples. We talked about this in the context of our previous discussions where QMV can be an important tool to aid moving on and getting on with implementing decisions.

The other cases cited by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, refer to non-CFSP action, where QMV already applies; for example emergency and humanitarian aid, and so on.

The noble Lord, Lord Owen, asked about unanimity on the External Action Service. The response was that that required unanimity. The reason I believe there may be some uncertainty about that is that the treaty says that the Council will act on a recommendation from the high representative in establishing an External Action Service. As the noble Baroness has said, elsewhere in the treaty it says that when the high representative is asked to come to the Council with a recommendation that may then be by QMV. I just want to be clear whether the Government have got precise legal interpretation on this point or whether there is scope for ambiguity.

I will reach that point as I go through the amendments. I will not forget the point about unanimity. Indeed, from a sedentary position, I spoke about the unanimity rule within the setting up of the EAS.

I shall comment briefly on some of the amendments. Amendment No. 13A calls for a report to be laid annually before Parliament certifying that nothing undertaken in pursuit of common policies and actions promoted in any international forum has restricted or will restrict the independent foreign policy of the UK. The CFSP is a tool which this Government use to further their policy aims. Where we agree unanimously a common policy with our European partners we stick to it, because we do not agree it if we do not think it is in the national interests of this country.

The declarations have been partly read out and partly cited, either to confirm that we have got this absolutely nailed or used, depending on noble Lords’ views, to suggest that we do not have it nailed at all. I shall read out the two declarations. These were agreed unanimously by all member states. Declaration 13 states:

“The Conference underlines that the provisions in the Treaty on European Union covering the Common Foreign and Security Policy, including the creation of the office of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the establishment of an External Action Service, do not affect the responsibilities of the Member States, as they currently exist, for the formulation and conduct of their foreign policy nor of their national representation in third countries and international organisations.

The Conference also recalls that the provisions governing the Common Security and Defence Policy do not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of the Member States.

It stresses that the European Union and its Member States will remain bound by the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations and, in particular, by the primary responsibility of the Security Council and of its Members for the maintenance of international peace and security”.

Declaration 14 states:

“In addition to the specific rules and procedures referred to in paragraph 1 of Article 11 of the Treaty on European Union, the Conference underlines that the provisions covering the Common Foreign and Security Policy, including in relation to the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the External Action Service, will not effect the existing legal basis, responsibilities and powers of each Member State in relation to the formulation and conduct of its foreign policy, its national diplomatic service, relations with third countries and participation in international organisations, including a Member State’s membership of the Security Council of the United Nations”.

I think that wording is crystal clear and that the UK’s independent foreign policy is protected.

The noble Baroness, Lady Park, is not in her place, but she referred to the relationship between the External Action Service and the diplomatic services of existing European Union countries, particularly of ours. The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, raised the same issue. We have had EU Commission delegations in third countries and international organisations since the 1970s. At the present time, there are 131 overseas delegations. They will be renamed Union delegations under the authority of the high representative. We believe that makes them more accountable through the high representative of the member states and ensures that they represent the Union as a whole—as defined by the member states—rather than those of just one of its institutions, in this case the Commission. It is about making better use of existing Union resources and better policy implementations. That will be an important element of how the service will bring together existing work that is going on. Of course we make clear in the treaty that the External Action Service shall work in co-operation with the diplomatic services of other member states. That is an important part of the work it will do. It will not be issuing visas for any other nation. It will be working in collaboration with existing diplomatic services and consular services. It will not be in any way replacing them.

The treaty is clear on the establishment of the External Action Service. The EAS establishment is by unanimity. If it is decided to go ahead and establish it, that will be how it is established. Again, that is clear within the treaty. When I was in Brussels a couple of weeks ago, I spent some time talking about the potential for the External Action Service in terms of the opportunity it will give to bring together the different elements of the service to provide a better service through member states and provide opportunities for diplomats from countries all over the European Union who want to spend time working in the External Action Service. I see this as nothing other than a great move. I see nothing ambiguous about it. It will be important in terms of the development of supporting the policies of the European Union. I hope that noble Lords will agree with that.

Amendment No. 14 aims to exclude the UK from having to comply with EU action taken under the common foreign and security policy. The noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, spoke with brevity about this amendment. We have agreed by unanimity our policy in the Council. Of course, we want to see it delivered and respected by all member states, otherwise there is no point in agreeing it unanimously in the Council. If member states did not comply with what they had agreed, then the whole thing would be completely unworkable. That is just inexorable logic. The new wording requires that member states shall comply with the Union’s action in this area. I would say that that is simply common sense. We have agreed something unanimously because we all want to do it. Therefore we all do it. That is it.

In reply to the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, about binding future governments, the noble Lord will know that it is a basic principle of international law that the signatories of a treaty respect the provisions of the treaty. That is why they have signed it. United Kingdom Governments, on coming into office, have always accepted the international obligations and rights which they inherit. To do otherwise would be to undermine, in my view, our international standing. There is nothing new in substance in any of this. The Maastricht treaty in 1992 stated:

“The Member States shall support the Union’s external and security policy actively and unreservedly in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity”.

It also made clear that member states were obliged to ensure that their national positions complied with the positions which they had just agreed in the common foreign and security policy. Of course, noble Lords who do not want us to be part of the European Union do not like that. I completely accept that. But the fact is, if you sign up to something you agree to it. It is as simple as that.

Amendment No. 15A calls for the Secretary of State—

Will the Minister be clear about this? Is she saying that there are no circumstances in which a British Government could be required to support a policy which had been clearly rejected by the electorate of this country at a general election, or is she saying that a British Government could be required to support such a policy which had been clearly rejected at a general election?

What I am saying to the noble Lord is that when one signs up to an international treaty, and the noble Lord would have signed up to international treaties—

I cannot answer yes or no because I want to explain exactly what I mean. The noble Lord asks the question in a very particular way and I am going to answer it in my own particular way. The long-standing tradition is that treaties that have been signed are respected by incoming Governments. That does not mean—the noble Lord will know this—that Governments do not on occasion go back to renegotiate their position. The noble Lord will know that when coming to power in 1997 this Government signed up to the Social Chapter, to which the previous Government had not signed up. So there are changes that are made. The tradition is that we come into treaties that we have signed up to. In the main, most of the treaties that this country is a part of are well respected on all sides and have often been negotiated through such long time periods that Governments have come and gone. The argument I am making is that that would be the position now. It is not a case that noble Lords would expect to come into a Government of a particular kind, who took a different view, and expect that that treaty was null and void. It would be required that a Government would have to renegotiate. I think that that is the position—

The noble Baroness is making a point about treaties. I am making a point about the policy which is to be carried out under a treaty. Those policies change from time to time under the European treaties, as she knows. I am not talking about repudiating the treaty. We know that we could repudiate the treaty of Rome if we so wished. It is the policy I am talking of, not the treaty.

Indeed. I was using the treaty as an example. The noble Lord is not incorrect in saying that if you look at the policies that follow from the treaty—if we had an agreement between 27 nation states—we would, for example, wish to support a mission in Kosovo of around 2,000 personnel. If a Government came in who did not wish to continue that, they would wish to open and re-open the discussions on that. My point is a different one. At the point of becoming the Government, one is bound by the obligations until one has renegotiated—whether it is a policy or a treaty.

This is an important point. It is important that we are clear on it. As my noble friend was saying, the difference here is that where, on a particular policy, which may be covered by a particular treaty, a Government may change their mind and take the consequences, in this case, the only way you can change your policy position is by repudiating the whole of the European treaty. There is no single treaty or policy around Kosovo or anything else with which we can associate ourselves. If the EU has a position to which we our bound, the only treaty we have to repudiate is the EU treaty.

The noble Lord has completely missed the point I was trying to make. It was that Governments have a long tradition of being bound by the international agreements that they sign and that incoming Governments who wish to renegotiate them can do so. However, they do not come in on the assumption that the treaty, or whatever, is ripped up. I think that I have laboured that point long enough. Members of the Committee either agree with me or disagree, but that is the point I want to make.

The point that the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, was making was important. If there is a change of Government who have previously disagreed with a policy that is subsequently agreed by the EU through the various parts of the treaty, do they then not become part of the acquis communautaire, which cannot be renegotiated away?

If we get into the acquis communautaire, we could be here for a very long time. I was trying to make the point that there is a legal effect in treaties, UN Security Council decisions, and decisions that come under common foreign and security policy. The legal effect is that they bind us, which is why we sign them. We do not have to, but if we choose to do so, we are bound by them. The long tradition—long before the EU, going back centuries—has been that if new Governments want to renegotiate that is their choice, but they are bound by the treaties when they come into power. No one has yet said anything to suggest that I am wrong in that. That is the way it has been, and that is the way it is.

The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, will know that there is an opportunity to renegotiate on the back of an election, with a manifesto in which specific things have been stated—for example, withdrawal from the European Union, which would be UKIP’s manifesto. If that party were elected, the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, were he Prime Minister, could seek to renegotiate. Under this treaty, of course, the opportunity exists to leave the European Union in a measured way—and I notice that the noble Lord has tabled an amendment to oppose that, although I am sure that it is not really for that. There is nothing to stop member states doing so. The point I am making is very straightforward. I am going to move on.

Amendment No. 15A talks about the laying of a statement. I have already explained—Members of the Committee accept the point or they do not—that there is nothing in the treaty which restricts the freedom of Her Majesty’s Government to act in the interests of the United Kingdom. The treaty does not change in any way the intergovernmental and consensus-based nature of common foreign and security policy. Member states are bound only where they have agreed policy in accordance with the provisions of the treaty. Agreement on CFSP remains by unanimity, and we will agree to it only where it is in our national interest. I therefore see no need to provide the undertaking that is requested in the amendment.

Amendment No. 111, to which the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, spoke, appears to take as its premise the idea that the Lisbon treaty will undermine the independence of our UK foreign policy. Indeed, I think that that is probably the noble Lord’s position. It is clear that in the treaty the Government have successfully argued that the CFSP remains subject to rules and procedures that safeguard its separate character. Decision-making is on the basis of unanimity. It is a non-legislative policy area and the European Court of Justice does not have jurisdiction except in two specific limited areas: first, the boundary between that and other policies; and, secondly, that were there sanctions against the individual, the individual would have the right to go to the European Court of Justice. These can all be found in Article 24 of the treaty of the European Union.

In another place, the Foreign Affairs Committee said that the,

“Common Foreign and Security Policy will remain an intergovernmental area, driven by Member States. We welcome this”.

Our own Select Committee, which is much quoted with great respect, says:

“The evidence is that the Lisbon Treaty has preserved the independence of the UK’s foreign and defence policy, subject to the constraints arising when unanimous agreement does prove possible. The fundamental principles of the CFSP will not change under the new Treaties. In particular, the principle of unanimity and the search for consensus in decision-making will continue to apply to the CFSP … We conclude”—

the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, was one of the “we”—

“that the Lisbon Treaty will provide for safeguards against encroachment of other areas of EU activities into the area of CFSP. This should protect the intergovernmental character of the CFSP”.

Indeed, Javier Solana, in my conversations with him in Brussels, was clear to me that the intergovernmental nature would not be undermined in any way shape or form by the treaty.

On the ability to represent views at the United Nations, again the treaty is clear. The high representative for foreign affairs and security policy will be able to put forward agreed EU positions, but there is nothing new in that. The rotating presidency and the current high representative already present agreed EU positions to the Council. It is clearly in our interests that when we have agreed an EU position, we make it clear to interested parties, of which the UN Security Council would be one, that it has the backing of all 27 member states. But that has not and will not change our role and responsibility at the UN as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. That is made explicit in the treaty at Article 34 TEU, and underlined in Declaration 14 of the treaty, which I shall not repeat.

I turn to the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Lamont. We look forward to further discussion on whether passerelles could lead to QMV in foreign policy. The condition that would have to be met under the treaty for that would be that all 27 member states decided to do it. In addition, both Houses of Parliament in this country would have to agree it. Each House has a veto. Any decision to trigger the passerelle provision which allows moves to QMV in common foreign and security policy—

It would not be by separate primary legislation because under the provisions relating to the decision to trigger, both Houses of Parliament would have to debate, vote and agree. Each House has a veto. But national Parliaments have to agree—that means that every national Parliament has to agree—so that if there were any attempt to move to QMV under CFSP, it would have to be agreed by every one of the 27 national Parliaments. In our case, and in other bicameral systems, both Houses of Parliament would have to agree. If anyone does not agree, that is a veto. Perhaps I may also be clear that you cannot use a passerelle clause for issues that have any kind of military implications, or in the area of defence. They cannot go to qualified majority voting.

Let me speed on to Amendment No. 113, which we have partly dealt with in our discussions on international treaties. The noble Lord spoke eloquently particularly about his time during the Falklands War and discussions in the European Union. Of course, his noble friend Lord Tugendhat may have a slightly different emphasis of memory on what happened, but I am not going there—I know better than to tread in that territory. I have made it clear that we are bound by decisions with which we agreed. It is as simple as that.

Amendment No. 165 would require that we renegotiate everything.

I have tried to set out as far as I can why I think the moves in this treaty are of great benefit. I said when I began that it was about building on the experience of member states. If we rewind to the beginning of our deliberations on the purpose of the Lisbon treaty, it is in part to recognise that we are 27 strong and potentially growing a little, if not much, further. We want to ensure that we have a treaty that takes us into the next steps of working together, and this is but one part of that. The proposals, while retaining the unanimity which is so important, and retaining our independent action, will enable us to collaborate where that is important. As many noble Lords have spoken so eloquently about the need for collaboration in today’s and tomorrow’s world, I think that the case is made. I hope that on that basis the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.

This debate has elicited contributions of staggering authority that I have felt privileged to listen to and that have almost compensated for missing the nicest day of the year outside. I assure the noble Baroness that being a novice in the establishment of British foreign policy is no bad thing—on the contrary, it could bring fresh light to a rather messy situation.

I do not have time to answer all these superb insights. I am sorry that I shocked the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, who has been so effective on the world stage. Of course we want a more effective foreign policy—any suggestion to the contrary would be ridiculous. The question concerns what kind of tools we use and how we use them in a constantly changing, sometimes near-anarchic international situation. Of course I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, that there are situations when it would be wonderful, indeed essential, to have a common 27-state agreed foreign policy going through all the procedures laid down in this treaty, and indeed other procedures as well. That is what we must work for. Call that “collaboration” if you like—call it “co-operation”, call it “intimate collaboration”. Certainly, let us do whatever we can and whatever is practical and prompt in the search for genuine consensus. As the noble Lord, Lord Owen, reminded us, let it be genuine and not a consensus that has to be agreed because the procedures so insist.

The central question has been why, and to what extent, we need to be locked into a straitjacket from which, as we have heard, there may in some circumstances be no escape. That is the question rightly asked by the Government all through the negotiations on this and the previous, near-identical treaty. The Government have sought to answer it by trying to ensure that foreign policy is locked into the intergovernmental system—there it is in the Bill—and that our freedoms are protected; perhaps not all the time, but at least in the last resort. As my noble friend Lord Tugendhat said, in a very profound speech, we could face all kinds of unexpected situations—who knows? We are told nowadays that the fashionable phrase is “black swans”—unexpected things that happen. Are we geared up and flexible enough to deal with these things, or have we tied ourselves down? That has been the debate and one is left with an uneasy feeling of uncertainty about the degree to which the Government have succeeded in these matters.

We believe that we must maintain the distinction between, on the one hand, practical togetherness in common foreign policy—and flexibility about how we approach that togetherness—and, on the other hand, codified top-down procedures in a single legal pattern. That is the aim—that is what the Government were trying to do and that is what we believe is still in doubt in this treaty, despite all their efforts. At least let us close our discussion of this stage. We argue in Amendment No. 15A, for instance, which the noble Baroness mentioned, that the Secretary of State, before the coming into force of the treaty, should assure the House in a statement that,

“he will uphold the freedom of Her Majesty’s Government to undertake any action on the international scene that he perceives to be in the interests of the United Kingdom without consulting the European Council if he thinks that the security interests of the United Kingdom so require”.

That is a very modest amendment. It is not a treaty-wrecker, so the Liberal Democrats need not worry. It is well within our powers to propose such an improvement and reassurance on this central issue of our sovereignty, direction, purpose and national identity. It is a modest amendment behind which lies a mighty principle. I would like to test the opinion of the House on Amendment No. 15A. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 13A.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 14 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 15 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

15A: Clause 2, page 1, line 12, after “excluding” insert—

“(i) Article 1, paragraph 35(b), amending Article 16 TEU, unless before the coming into force of this Act the Secretary of State has laid a statement before both Houses of Parliament giving an undertaking that—(a) he will uphold the freedom of Her Majesty’s Government to undertake any action on the international scene that he perceives to be in the interests of the United Kingdom without consulting the European Council if he thinks that the security interests of the United Kingdom so require, and(b) each of his successors as Secretary of State will be required to lay a similar undertaking before Parliament within fourteen days of his coming into office; and(ii) ”

The noble Lord said: I wish to test the opinion of the House. I beg to move.

I beg to move that the House be resumed. In moving the Motion, I suggest that the Committee stage begin again not before 8.35 pm.

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

House resumed.

Tourism: London

asked Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the value of the hospitality and tourist industry to the economy of London.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, it is a gloriously opportune date on which to congratulate the new Mayor of London and to tell him that we expect his policies and his actions to make London an even better city to visit than it is now. He will be judged by residents on results and on the way in which lives are improved. Tourism is a huge source of revenue for London and all residents here, even if they get disgruntled sometimes when crowds of visitors make life slower for them. We must value the contribution that tourism and the money that it produces make to London’s amenities. London’s visitor economy—overseas and domestic—totalled £10.9 billion in 2007.

I came to London as a visitor in the 1950s, planning to spend six months in the UK and mainland Europe before returning to Australia; I am still here half a century later. As a keen tourist myself, I have a list of things that I believe most tourists seek: first, personal security; secondly, an interesting place to visit; thirdly, a welcome arrival; fourthly, good value for money; fifthly, special events; sixthly, permanent attractions; seventhly, accommodation at all price levels; eighthly, good local transport; ninthly, clear instructions; 10thly, that a place be child-friendly; and finally, that it be disability-friendly. Some of those items go together, but I intend to outline each one separately, as they are all important.

I put personal security as the top priority. Tourists will not visit if they believe that their lives are at risk. That does not mean that a country has to be on a list that you are officially advised against visiting; bad publicity and a perception of danger are enough to put people off. London has survived the terrorist attacks, but it is essential that the new mayor creates a safer London.

On interesting places to visit, London has a very rich cultural heritage, with famous galleries, museums and ceremonial events such as Changing the Guard, which are a great draw card. Pageantry delights visitors, be it at the Tower of London, a ceremonial procession for a state visit, or the annual State Opening of Parliament. West End theatres have a worldwide reputation and, in recent years, outdoor ice skating in winter has added a new recreation and charm. The varieties of entertainment are almost unlimited.

On welcome arrival, Eurostar brings visitors to the heart of the capital at the new St Pancras terminal, but Heathrow holds the key for visitors and brings in even more of them. The fast train link from the airport to Paddington has helped, and there is a Tube connection. The fiasco of terminal 5 has made headlines throughout the world and done a lot of damage to the British reputation. Visitors will expect improvements, or they will use other airlines, terminals and airports or simply not come. It is essential that a visitor’s first experience in the UK should be a pleasant and welcoming arrival. As an Australian passport holder, my experience is finding immigration desks undermanned at Heathrow, causing unacceptable delays for passengers who are often exhausted by their long journeys.

Business tourism accounts for 25 per cent of visits to London but 34 per cent of expenditure. The average daily spend of a business visitor is £159 compared to £84 for a leisure visitor. This makes it clear how important it is for London to retain its image of a successful and desirable place to do business. We must not frighten away from the UK these important businesspeople by creating a threatening business tax structure.

On the issue of good value for money, the drop in the value of the pound means that people find that their money goes further, so they are more willing to spend it on attractions and shopping in London. Well prepared good food is part of this, too. My husband served for many years as a member of the London Tourist Board and at that time Paris was the big challenger and London was missing opportunities. In 2007 London was second only to New York and ahead of Madrid in attracting numbers of visitors.

People plan their trips around special events—personal and public. Right now we are all thinking about and planning for the big one—the 2012 Olympics. This is a huge task and the costs appear to be running away. One of the benefits for London will be what remains for locals to use afterwards, such as a greatly improved transport system. Transport is vital and worked well in Sydney, but I recall the total breakdown of transport at the Atlanta Olympics and the embarrassment that that caused. With any and all Olympic special preparations, the lesson learnt from terminal 5 is that they must be completed and trialled thoroughly, well in advance of the date of the Games. Only by these means can we avoid being held to ransom by overtime rates to avoid meltdown of the new systems.

Hotel rooms do not seem to be a problem as Athens had 18,000, Sydney had 24,000, and London has 135,000 rooms. Day visitors from the continent will come by Eurostar. Some of the permanent attractions come in as special events. London has so many world-renowned galleries, museums and other attractions. The British Museum is always popular but never more so than with the recent special exhibition of the terracotta warriors. The Royal Academy scored with the Russian exhibition. The London Eye, which seemed controversial when installed, has now been made a permanent feature and it is a super experience for people of any age.

On the issue of accommodation at all price levels, I was rather stunned to see in the press that rooms for VIPs for the Olympics had been block-booked by the organisers at the top Park Lane hotels at up to £3,000 per night. Rooms in London in the top 25 hotels that were members of the British Hospitality Association averaged £460 per night and operated at 93 per cent capacity. Across the 130,000 rooms in London, the average cost was £70 to £80 per night with a 98 per cent occupancy rate. People may well be offering accommodation in private homes, too.

I find that the buses and Tube in London provide good transport but it is not easy for visitors to understand how to pay on the buses that require a ticket to be purchased in advance of boarding, and I regularly see perplexed visitors arguing with bus drivers. It would help if travelcards or Oyster cards were more widely available at the point of arrival in London and their use explained in multilingual leaflets and posters. Why can these not be bought easily at kiosks and local shops as in France and Australia?

There is no better way to give clear information than by the use of internationally recognised symbols that do not require English language. A green light at a crossing is understood by all. So many tourists are family units and need to know which establishments are appropriate for children. London enjoys beautiful parks and open spaces, a splendid zoo, and for many children the London Dungeon is the first choice.

Shops should all now have disabled access. Heritage buildings have done their best but in some cases compromise has been necessary. Buses have ramps, and it is essential that they are in working order as wheelchair users depend on them. There have been considerable improvements in the past few years. I appreciate that there are particular problems in Underground stations, which may be below property that is not in their ownership. It is not a simple matter. Even stations with lifts usually have a few steps down to the platform, so are unsuitable for wheelchair access. It should be possible to modify some of those. New stations have disabled access and you can, for example, get on to the Circle line at Westminster station. That is not much benefit unless you just want to ride the full circle, as the only place where you can get off is back at Westminster.

London’s visitor economy was worth about £15 billion in 2007, which is 10 per cent of London’s GDP. Tourism supports 280,000 full-time jobs. The benefits could be even greater if the young London unemployed chose to work in the hospitality and tourist industry. For some reason, in London—I stress in London, as it is not the same in other parts of the country—these jobs are not filled by local people. There is a need for training opportunities and many of these should be on-the-job training for school leavers who would find the work interesting and fulfilling.

I believe in an aspirational society. We must make it clear that being part of the hospitality industry in London can be very exciting and can open the world to those involved. It is important to ensure that Londoners can benefit from this work, which is such a valuable part of London life.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, for calling this timely debate, and will touch on many of the themes that she has already introduced.

Visit London tells us that last year there were 16 million visitors to London, and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, said, they contributed an estimated £15 billion to the economy. Many of these visitors go on to visit the UK. London is the natural gateway to Britain.

In just four years, the Olympic curtain will be raised and, as the directors of the show, we must be ready. We won the Olympics based on our claims for their legacy, and hospitality and tourism can be one of the most important facets of that legacy. Aside from the extra tourism spend accompanying the Games, 2012 is a trigger to upgrade our visitor offer so that those visiting recommend the capital to their friends, and to employ more Londoners in a sector that is traditionally a magnet for migrant workers.

This, I am afraid, is the crunch. London must have two things if it is to realise these benefits: a transformed quality of visitor experience; and a workforce with the skills to do the hospitality and leisure jobs. In 2012 London will be on display, with hundreds of thousands of people passing through the East End, the West End, and dare I say it, Heathrow. Let me start at the airport. Heathrow was last year ranked 90 out of 101 international airports for overall passenger service. I am delighted that BAA and BA have fastened their seatbelts for take off to remedy recent local difficulties. We have four years to get the experience at London’s airports back to world class.

I suggest a couple of steps along the way. There should be one owner of terminal waiting times, whether airline or airport operator, with the primary responsibility for getting the passenger off the aeroplane and through the airport with the minimum hassle. The Home Office should set itself targets for queues at immigration, which progressively decline over the four years, and it must commit itself to delivering the staff resource needed to meet them, which, as the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, alluded, means more immigration officers, not fewer. And please, BAA, can we have Heathrow East open in time for the flame to be lit, rather than after it is extinguished? By the time we get to 2012, visitors must be made to feel welcome from touch-down to take-off.

From Heathrow to the West End—the heart of one of the world's most famous cities—we find the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, the British Museum, a renovated South Bank and a wonderful variety of restaurants feeding, and fed by, London's cosmopolitan people. London's theatres have never been more popular. They contribute £1.5 billion per year to the capital’s economy, yet their buildings and facilities owe more to the 19th than the 21st century. Surely, in the next four years, owners and government could find a way to upgrade at least some of these buildings in time for 2012; I note that several of us will be back here tomorrow debating this precise issue.

However, some of London's iconic streets do not have the quality feel of the European boulevards. The West End is busy in an ugly way: traffic congestion and pollution. Compared with staging the Olympics, improving our streetscapes ought to be simple. Now is the time for central London boroughs, working with the new mayor, to create a deliverable and imaginative plan for upgrading their public realm in the next four years. Renovated streets, pavements, meeting places and lighting are critical, but we must also show imagination. We must help visitors find their way. There are already plans for signposting walking routes across the city, which could allow for pauses at traffic-free oases brightened by public art, events and animation. We have to make the West End the best end.

Finally, what of east London? The Olympic organisations have to get the venues ready and prepare for the event itself. They seem to be making good progress. However, there is an Olympic opportunity to make sense of the visitor attractions in this area: the O2, ExCeL and the new aquarium, Biota, on top of the venues.

A further thought: after many years of debate, London remains the only major city in Europe to lack a convention centre such as the Palais des Congrès in Paris, to host the largest, most prestigious—and, of course, most profitable—conferences. We must not forget business travellers to London, who are the most valuable contributors to our capital’s hospitality and tourism industry.

The five boroughs united by the Olympics are also united by high unemployment. As a region, London has the highest unemployment rate in the UK. We have a new London Skills and Employment Board, established recently with a remit to match training provision to the needs of employers and would-be employees. Its employer accord guarantees interviews to unemployed applicants who have the necessary skills, for up to 30,000 additional jobs surrounding the Games. It is vital that the hospitality and tourism industries sign up to such initiatives wholeheartedly. We must equip the people of London to take advantage of the benefits coming our way, and not remain in a situation in which some of the cities’ largest employers put jobs on a website and are inundated with applications—not one of them from a Londoner.

Making the most of the Olympics for London's tourism sector is not a solo performance. It requires a large cast. If London is to take a bow to a standing ovation from both visitors and residents alike in 2012, we must have a script worthy of the occasion and of the world's leading city. If we do that, the contribution of tourism to London and the UK economy can only get better.

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, is an expert on all subjects, from Tasmania to toothaches and tourism. I congratulate her on how she introduced the debate tonight on tourism, the world’s largest industry and the fourth most important industry in the United Kingdom.

Last week, in London, Boris Johnson was voted in. He, of course, is a tourist attraction in himself. Indeed, the Times on Saturday reported that Romanian student Irina Paletscu asked journalists queuing outside City Hall:

“It is The Boris, yes?”

Now, the Boris offers us a new opportunity, especially working with Visit London and the London Development Agency. I hope that two things can happen. First, I hope that my Government will indeed work with the Boris. Whatever enmities are there must be set aside. We must help London do its best to produce jobs for London and the country. Secondly, Boris does not know very much; I do not think that he knows an awful lot about the tourism industry. There is a golden opportunity to teach him about it. I must say that he shares that with many other politicians, who are wholly ignorant about tourism. I wrote a little book many years ago called Tourism Means Jobs to try to illustrate that. Politicians do not understand tourism, partly because it is so successful, partly because it deals with leisure and pleasure and they do not take it seriously, and partly because it is so disparate and varied and involves so many small businesses. Here is an opportunity to get the Boris to understand and do something about it.

My advice to Boris on tourism policy is that what is good for London is therefore good for tourists and visitors. A classic example illustrated so well tonight by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, has been transport. Get the transport right for the residents of London and you begin to get it right for tourists and visitors who come here. There are nevertheless complementary and buttressing features of our tourism policy which must identify specific problems about tourism and London. One example from Visit London is that while, happily, overseas visitors to London rose in 2006, we are losing domestic visitors from the United Kingdom. We must ask ourselves why that is and begin to remedy it.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, has mentioned, business tourism for London is crucial. One in four tourists is a business tourist, and they of course have a higher spend. One of Visit London’s five objectives is to encourage and exploit that. However, the vexed problem of our airports, which has been mentioned tonight, must be tackled. Otherwise, we will begin to lose the business tourist and, with them, the businesses, as well as London as a financial sector.

We must also pay attention to improved training within the sector and knowledge of the tourism product. So many times, not just in London but elsewhere in the country, when I visit a pub and go for one of the guest beers, I ask where it comes from. Quite often, the person behind the bar does not know. Now, they should know that, because it is information about the product that should be given to the visitor, the tourist or interested person. Last week, I was sitting in a London pub and asked for a pint of bitter. The barmaid said, “It is green”, and produced a pint of green bitter; it tasted perfectly all right. Back at my table, I was asked by five American tourists at the next table what it was, where it came from and whether it tasted nice. I was not able to tell them because the person serving the green beer was not able to tell me: she just did not know. We must improve the whole level of training for those working in the industry, to increase what they know about the products they serve.

London tourism is of course currently much supported by young migrants from eastern Europe as well as the ANZAC backpackers. It would be an irony if some of them are returning to eastern Europe. Some of the new sources of visitors to London are the accession countries which came into the European Union so recently. Of course, having come from service industries in their own countries and having the languages, they have all the natural skills. Again—I hope that the Minister can reply to this—it is essential that we do something about language tuition as way of welcoming people to London and, indeed, exploiting the fact that London is so multilingual. Let us take advantage of it.

I am going to lead my noble friend on to dangerous ground by reminding him of the euro. I have been passionately in favour of the United Kingdom adopting the euro, but things have come home to roost as we have not made the decision to enter the euro, and we now impoverish ourselves and make life more difficult, particularly for the tourism industry where the exchange rate means that the tourist coming in is at a loss. It also means that when multi-destination tours are offered to overseas visitors, there is an inducement to leave London off the list to stay within euroland and the eurozone.

Finally, I shall say something about London and the Olympics from the point of view of the regions. I must declare that I used to be deputy chairman of the North West Tourist Board. At the moment, we are celebrating Liverpool 2008, which is in many ways a forerunner to London 2012, and we must ensure that the regions support London. In the regions, people ask why they should support London, and I say because there is a national common purpose and also because when London gets full from time to time, we can pass those visitors who have come to London, this country’s first attraction, to see the delights in the regions. We must develop more than the usual path of Oxbridge, Stratford and Edinburgh. Why not come to Chester and north Wales, the finest part of the country?

I conclude by saying well done to the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, for introducing this short but important debate. I hope we get a vigorous reply from the Minister. We need to take tourism seriously and there is nowhere better to begin than in London.

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, who made some interesting remarks. The noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, has been a keen supporter of London ever since she arrived; she demonstrated her devotion once again this evening. I have to declare a past interest, which was entirely honorary, in that I was president and subsequently patron of the Restaurant Association, which is now totally integrated into the British Hospitality Association. The BHA, as it is known, is an incredibly important organisation covering hotels, catering and restaurants. Several noble Lords have mentioned the economic value of the industry, and it certainly needs better recognition. However, it seems to be getting that in one quarter because, as we speak, a large representative group from the BHA, led by its very able chief executive, Bob Cotton, is being entertained at a reception given by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace.

Hospitality in its widest sense is a growth industry, but it has to a certain extent been hindered by Treasury impositions, which is not unknown. There are several of them: first, removing the hotel building allowance, which enabled hoteliers to renovate old stock; secondly, the reduction in capital allowances; and thirdly, the increase in capital gains tax, which has been especially detrimental to family-run and small businesses, which is certainly the case with restaurants.

Within the hospitality sector, the restaurant trade plays a major role. Over 100,000 people work in London restaurants alone, not to mention, as the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, did, the rest of the country. This sector will certainly suffer from food inflation; the dramatic increases in prime item prices will be a problem for it. Several noble Lords have mentioned the skill shortage. It is principally in front-of-house staff—waiters and sommeliers—and the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, mentioned a good example. To fill this gap, the Academy of Food and Wine Service has devised a programme to get unemployed people back to work and off benefits. This programme is part of the hospitality skills alliance sponsored by the BHA. Here I have to declare another past interest in that some years ago I was patron of the academy, a position now held by the noble Viscount Thurso, who used to sit in this House and is now an MP. He is much better qualified than I ever was for that role because he worked in that sector of the economy.

Finally, the Olympics were mentioned by my noble friend Lady Valentine. They will bring a vast inflow of visitors to London. In terms of hotel capacity, London is well served as it has over 130,000 rooms, which is five times greater than the number that Sydney had. However, it is essential that the reconstruction of Terminals 2 and 3 is completed, tested and working properly well before August 2012. That has not happened in other cases, and I hope the Minister can give us some assurance on that—and perhaps he can do something about the tax matters I mentioned.

My Lords, I apologise for speaking in the gap. I was too late to put my name down to speak in this debate, and I thought there might not be time for me to fit in. There are two short points I wish to make, but first I thank my noble friend Lady Gardner for introducing this debate so comprehensively. My first point follows what the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, said about languages and language skills. They are important. The fact that most people speak at least a smattering of English does not make any difference. In giving a welcome to visitors, it is important that we should be able to welcome them in their own language. I was recently in China, and there is no doubt that not only will many visitors and tourists be going to China in the future, but many Chinese visitors will be coming to the United Kingdom. Where is Chinese language training taking place? It is important to get this right.

My second point is that a lot needs to be done to make central London cleaner. Around Parliament Square, there are no litter bins for security reasons. Something must be done to cope with the litter. It may be that people who do not walk much do not notice, but the remains of meals and half-drunk cartons of drinks are quite revolting. If we want to welcome visitors, it is important at least to show a clean city so that when they come here and enjoy the experience, they will come back again. It is not only the litter problem that has to be dealt with, it is also the cleanliness of the pavements. It is horrible that people seem to spill food and other things all over the place and nothing seems to be done. There seems to be no system for cleaning up that sort of mess. Many people berate our French friends across the Channel, but in France they have a system of washing down the pavements. Every shop holder washes the pavement outside his or her shop. Is there not something that can be done here? With the new mayor of London, the time is ripe. Let us hope that we can get the message across.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, on securing this debate on tourism. In this House, tourism has a very small number of champions, but a number of us are here this evening to support her. I am delighted to participate in this debate and declare an interest as a former tourism Minister in the late 1980s. In addition, since its foundation I have been chairman of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, the 42 members of which each have to receive more than 1 million visitors a year. I am glad to say that the Palace of Westminster is a fairly recent addition to our membership.

As has been said, London is the number one city destination for international travel. No other city in the world has such a rich tapestry of tourism opportunities: history and heritage through museums and galleries; theatres and restaurants, as the noble Viscount mentioned; historical palaces; and more modern attractions such as the London Eye. The statistics were mentioned a little earlier. The visitor economy is worth £15 billion to London. It provides 280,000 full-time jobs—heaven knows where those jobs would be filled from if we did not have all those who come from eastern Europe to work in our hotels and restaurants—and provides 10 per cent of London’s GDP.

At a time when the financial services industry, which is so important to us, is suffering a decline, thankfully we have tourism to sustain London’s economy. Last year, 16 million overseas visitors came to London, nearly double the number that visited New York and, of course, London is the national gateway to the United Kingdom. Some 50 per cent of overseas visitors come to London and 75 per cent come through London airports.

However, the current trends are not over-encouraging—2008 will be a tougher year, not least because of the situation of the world economy. As far as London is concerned, we saw strong growth in 2006 when the numbers were up by 12 per cent, and in 2007 when they were up by 3 per cent, but this year looks like more of a standstill. The broad trend is that we have an increasing number of day trips to the capital, particularly domestic ones, but a declining number of overnight visitors.

We are seeing a gradual decline in London’s percentage of global tourism. London is not sharing proportionally in its growth. There are some considerable opportunities. The Olympics have been mentioned. It is a great tragedy and a lost opportunity that the Government have so far—I repeat, so far—not allocated any hypothecated money to promote the Olympics. We are spending billions in capital terms—surely we should be spending some in income terms as well.

Without wishing to be too political tonight, I have to say that this Government have taken very little interest in the tourism industry. Reduced funding for VisitBritain has been the message. The terms of office for its chairman require him to do just six days per month, which frankly is an insult to the industry. I know that he does more, but we should have a full-time chairman.

Major challenges have been referred to. It is crazy that London has no major conference or convention centre. We have lost a huge amount of business, as has been referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine. On hotel accommodation, we may have a substantial number of beds in total, but we certainly do not have enough budget accommodation in London. The Government were not very clever when they abolished the 4 per cent hotel building allowance, as has been referred to earlier. That was bad news.

In terms of minor improvements that would make a difference, I would like to see the pedestrianisation of Parliament Square and an improvement in the Exhibition Road tunnel leading to our major museums—it is tired and unimpressive. We could also smarten up a number of this country’s entry points.

The previous Mayor, Ken Livingstone, substantially supported the London Development Agency and I hope that Boris Johnson, our new Mayor, recognises the importance of the tourism industry to London and becomes its champion.

My Lords, it has been most instructive to hear what noble Lords have had to say in this interesting debate, introduced by my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes; I congratulate her on doing so. I have a tourist attraction—it is not in London but, just in case, I declare my interest.

Whatever view is taken on the right level of support for the tourism industry, one or two facts stand out. The tourism deficit stands at £19 billion, compared with £4.7 billion in 1997 when this Government were first elected. The noble Lord, Lord Lee, has commented on this. I do not think that all of that deficit can be attributed to government incompetence. For example, the massive reductions in the cost of air travel—reductions available entirely through action by the private sector—have meant that more Britons are able to go abroad for their holiday although it is also cheaper for tourists to visit Britain.

However, at a time when new tourist destinations are opening up all over the world, the Government have introduced a number of measures which, if not specifically designed to keep visitors away from this country, have certainly had a negative effect. Indirect taxes aimed at tourists increase the cost of visiting the country. If costs are increased, Britain becomes a less attractive destination. For example, the cost of a student visa has increased 130 per cent and now costs £60, whereas a visa to visit the 15 Schengen countries costs €60. It was very nice to hear the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, showing the same enthusiasm for London as he shows for Liverpool, although I cannot share his enthusiasm for the euro. The fact is that €60 is considerably cheaper than £60 and for his or her money the student gets 15 countries to visit rather than one. The air passenger tax has doubled. The Licensing Act 2003 has meant that the cost of a licence for a bed-and-breakfast establishment to sell alcohol has risen from £30 to £300—and so on and so forth.

Her Majesty’s Government think that if you increase the cost of goods and services there will be no impact and life will continue as before, but there will be an impact. If the Government are in doubt about this simple principle, they have only to look at the current exodus from this country of a number of international corporations, unwilling to pay Britain’s higher corporation taxes. However much the Minister may disagree, let us hope that the business tourist does not also disappear.

A number of steps need to be taken to improve tourism. My noble friends Lady Gardner of Parkes and Lady Hooper have alluded to some of these. Of course, the first and most important step was to get rid of Ken Livingstone, so the capital can be run properly. Now that has happened, it is hoped that Her Majesty’s Government can try and remove some of the other impediments to visitors considering visiting London.

My Lords, I, like all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, for introducing this important topic. The Government welcome the opportunity to discuss tourism on all occasions. The short answer to the noble Baroness’s Question is that the Government regard the tourism and hospitality industries as vital not only to the capital but to the wider economy of the whole country. As such, the Government are working hard with their partners in the public and private sectors to support the London tourist industry and to improve further their contribution to tourism across the UK, particularly as the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games come ever nearer.

The scale of London’s visitor economy is vast, as noble Lords have attested this evening. Visit London, the former London Tourist Board, estimates that the capital’s tourism and hospitality industries are worth £15 billion a year, which is 17 per cent of the total £85.6 billion turnover of these industries across the UK. That shows how significant London is in this respect. The noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, rightly identified it as the crucial gateway. There were 26.2 million overnight visits to the capital in 2007 and an estimated 150 million tourism day trips, including 52 million people visiting London’s free and paying attractions.

I emphasise the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lee, that we look not only at overseas visitors when we consider London’s tourism role but at UK citizens, who visit London in very large numbers and need to be catered for adequately. These are big numbers, but as noble Lords have identified in this debate, London faces big challenges in an increasingly competitive world tourism market. We know how sharp the challenges are because our own people travel abroad more readily, as indicated by the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, and the noble Lord, Lord Howard. London needs to compete with the opportunities that British citizens take up elsewhere in the world.

Overseas visitor numbers increased by 3 per cent in 2007. We have to compare that with the 12 per cent rise in 2006, so there is no cause for complacency. The trend is for the numbers of domestic visitors staying overnight in the capital to fall, as they did by 7.5 per cent in 2007. Visit London has forecast a fall of 1 per cent in visitor numbers over 2008—a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lee—but we hope and indeed plan for the fact that the capital’s performance can buck that trend over the past year or so. The latest available figures show that the numbers of people visiting London’s tourist information centres increased by 12 per cent in February. That is a very positive sign, and indicates to the Government that there is no reason for gloom in the London industry. We do, however, need to look at the things that we can improve so that it can increase its advantages. Its advantages over its competitors in Europe and beyond have not gone away, and show no signs of doing so. The four world heritage sites—Greenwich, Kew Gardens, the Tower of London and the Palace of Westminster—have been here for a considerable time and show every evidence of being a feature of the London tourist landscape for the foreseeable future. The retail sector in London generated sales of £4.4 billion last year—a significant number. The noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, emphasised London’s 26 Michelin-starred restaurants and nine major concert halls, and the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, referred to our national museums and galleries, which are a major attraction for tourists to this country.

Several noble Lords, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, emphasised the concern about business visitors. A London convention centre would certainly be an additional feature but is a matter for the mayor in the first instance. We as a Government have signalled our general support for the proposal in the department’s tourism strategy for 2012, which we published last September. It is now for others to do substantial work in these terms, which is an obligation for the new mayor. I note that the noble Lord, Lord Howard, castigated the previous mayor and, I guess, expects the Government to co-operate with the new mayor. Let us assure him that there will be the fullest co-operation in working with the new Mayor of London on the manifold challenges that he faces, but let us not forget the achievements of the outgoing mayor. The Olympic Games were achieved for London, and Ken Livingstone played a significant part in that. There is no doubt that when we look back over this period in four to five years, the Olympic Games will feature in every tourism debate, very much to the advantage of the capital.

Let me say to wider parts of the United Kingdom, for I was glad that my noble friend Lord Harrison broadened the debate to stretch beyond London, that 2012 has to be not just about London but about spreading the benefits wider in the country. We expect that tourism businesses outside the capital will start to benefit from the increased interest in the Olympic Games.

I was chided in the debate for the limited progress, thus far, in selling the Games, but it is a little early given that we still have to complete the Beijing Olympics. We have not formally had the torch handed to London; that will happen with the emblem of the Olympics at the end of those Games. It is Beijing’s Olympics at present, but it will soon be London’s—and as soon as the banner is taken up then London will be required to begin to sell the Games, within the preparations of the next four years. I have not the slightest doubt that there will be co-operation between the Government, the mayor and, indeed, all other interested contributing parties—including industry and, particularly, the tourist industry in London—which are eager to play their parts in reaping the rewards from that quite unique opportunity.

Some of your Lordships suggested that we were not preparing the ground sufficiently well at present; the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, was concerned at the withdrawal of the hotel buildings allowances as part of the last Budget. That was part of a wider group of measures in that Budget designed to benefit small businesses, including hotels and restaurants. The new annual investment allowance will allow all businesses to claim full tax relief on capital investments of up to £50,000 a year, so I assure him that we have the interests of small businesses at heart. Those interests were part of the business considerations during the Budget, within which the hotel and restaurant industries are important.

I was delighted that we then came on to the question of skills. The noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, mentioned language skills; I think that other noble Lords did so too. It is not just language skills but that whole range of hospitality skills in which we would be perhaps prone to indicate that our skill levels, on many sides, compare poorly at times with other major centres. To take the most obvious aspect, the standard of waiting in the average restaurant in the United States usually compares rather well with London’s, let alone at higher skill levels such as the organisation of business—although London delights, as does the UK, in the extent to which high levels of skills are being shown among chefs and at the improvements with food in this country.

We need to raise skill levels, which is exactly why the Government have invested so significantly in skills. In 2006, the public sector spent about £500 million on skills, including regional development agency and Learning and Skills Council funding, compared to £144 million invested by employers. I bring the attention of the House to the Government’s determination—it is scarcely directly relevant to this debate, but related to the skills agenda—to improve vocational opportunities at secondary level in our schools and colleges. That is absolutely crucial to enhancing skill levels in this country. Undoubtedly, we will only make sufficient progress when we have raised those levels and are able to give the welcome that we should to visitors; noble Lords on all sides referred to that.

That welcome depends on the point of arrival, too, and there is no doubt either that Heathrow has to improve its performance, or that the fifth-terminal mishap was a limited one from which the airport will recover. It was costly, no question, and the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, indicated that the world was well aware of failures in that respect; however, the fifth terminal is an important and welcome addition to the airport. As a Government, we are clear that the third runway is important, too, for tourist development; the noble Lord leading for the Opposition this evening did not, I think, mention that position, but the third runway is important in access to this country. I was pleased that several noble Lords also emphasised the importance of rail links, with the development of St Pancras and the link with Europe it represents. That not only improves opportunities for people from Europe to come to the United Kingdom, but has brought benign effects on the carbon imprint.

We have not the slightest doubt that, to make a success of the tourist industry, we need to improve our transport infrastructure; yet, on all sides, we can see our railways improving apace with modernisation and the track improvements that guarantee faster rail travel in the UK. That, with the European Channel link, is an important dimension, but it does not alter the fact that we need to pay attention to our airports. For the foreseeable future, a large number of our tourists will come in by air.

This has been a most interesting and challenging debate. None of us underestimates the challenges facing the tourist industry. The Government are providing their support for an industry which is so important to the economy. Great opportunities beckon, not only in the obvious fact that London maintains its position as second only to New York in terms of a city to be visited. We all know that its range of attractions needs to be improved.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, is right about litter. Standards of cleanliness speak well of a city, but London’s are not high enough. There is a real problem about providing litter bins in these days of guaranteeing security. Again, as the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, said, without security the capital cannot expect to attract visitors. One of the great achievements of London in its response to the terrorist outrage a few years ago was the rapidity with which Londoners made sure that the capital returned to normal and remained the same welcoming place for visitors that it had always been.

There are real challenges and the greatest of opportunities. The Olympic Games puts London on the map. I do not think that the country has realised yet what a prize we have secured. I understand those who have a limited interest in sport and those who think that the Olympics can be oversold—but not in terms of worldwide perception, they cannot. Once the Beijing Olympics are over, the focal point of the Olympic Games will be London. It gives us an enormous opportunity to advance tourism. I have not the slightest doubt that the Government will continue to play their full part with their partners to ensure that that opportunity is grasped.

My Lords, will the Minister give me some assurance on the completion of the merger of Terminals 2 and 3? If that is not completed on time, there will be a great deal of problems for the Olympics.

My Lords, that is a matter for the airports authority. But I assure the noble Viscount that we expect improvements at Heathrow to be achieved within the timescale necessary. Everyone knows that timescale; namely, it has to be ready for 2012.

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do adjourn until 8.35 pm.

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

[The Sitting was suspended from 8.33 to 8.35 pm.]

European Union (Amendment) Bill

House again in Committee on Clause 2.

[Amendment No. 16 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

16A: Clause 2, page 1, line 12, after “excluding” insert—

“(i) Article 1, paragraph 45, inserted Article 25a TEU, relating to the adoption of decisions on personal data, unless the Secretary of State has given an undertaking to Parliament that he will not vote in favour of, or otherwise support, any decision that requires the processing of personal data which does not contain standards and penalties relating to the reckless loss of data that are less onerous or exacting than any which are set by the United Kingdom Parliament, unless(a) in each House of Parliament a Minister of the Crown has moved a motion that the House approves Her Majesty’s Government’s intention to support the adoption of a specified draft decision, and(b) each House has agreed to the motion without amendment; and(ii) ”

The noble Lord said: I shall also speak to Amendment No. 38. New provisions on the handling and sharing of data appear in several places in this treaty and since I have always believed that debates in this House are at their most constructive when we do not stray too widely, I would like to concentrate on data sharing and protection within the common foreign and security policy, and to look at how the new Article 25A is in danger of falling short of the new right in Article 16B to the protection of personal data. Many of my concerns and questions will be very similar to those that can be raised regarding the new provisions for police co-operation and so on, but there will be a better opportunity to examine those matters when we reach the amendments which are dealing with home affairs.

The information that is referred to in new Article 25A will be some of the most sensitive data that Governments will ever handle. For example, it will cover information gathered by the intelligence services of European Union countries and other countries allied with us. Much of this information will have been shared with us by those who expect the data to be as strongly and as closely protected as possible. So my first question to the noble Baroness the Lord President is: how will this Government handle a request made by one of our colleague countries in the European Union for relevant information made available to us, for example, by the United States? The answer to that question will be interesting, but I hope it will also have taken into account whether the Government have thought about the special relationship between the British and United States intelligence services becoming seriously restricted by the possibility that, in future, some information will have to be passed on to 26 other countries whose relationship with the United States may not be as close as ours.

The controversy surrounding the agreements between the European Union and the United States concerning passenger name records shows just how dangerous this area can be. The possibility of our sensitive personal data being passed out of the hands not only of our Government but even of the European Union without proper safeguards is real. What safeguards will the Government ensure are put in the rules and procedures to stop this happening in future? I am not saying that data should never be shared for the purposes of common foreign and security policy—that would be nonsense. I am, however, deeply concerned that the safeguards that will be put in place under this new provision will not be adequate.

It would be wrong of me, at a time when the Government are listing all their mistakes—I have that vision of Andrew Marr asking the Prime Minister, “What other mistakes have you made?”—to point out that the Government have suffered many embarrassments during the past year or so as a result of their inability to keep personal data secure. If they are unable to keep sensitive data secure, how can they be confident about the capability of others to do so? We on these Benches frequently criticise this Government for presiding over some pretty astounding examples of bureaucratic inefficiency, but it is undeniable that many of our colleague countries in the European Union are even more flawed in that regard.

My Amendment No. 16A highlights a new offence of reckless loss of data. This Chamber has managed to insert this change in the criminal justice Bill. I am unaware of what discussions are taking place, but I understand that the principle of it at least is being accepted in another place even as we speak.

It would be wrong of the Government to approve the sharing of data with other countries which do not maintain equally rigorous laws to protect personal data. It is a matter not just of carelessness, but of wilful misuse. Many countries in the European Union, some of which are our closest friends, suffer from high levels of inefficiency when protecting data and have highlighted examples of wrongful behaviour by their officials—if I can put it as euphemistically as that. Many of the countries with which we deal outside the European Union also suffer. We have even less influence with them with which to encourage their reform.

It is clear that the rules and procedures by which these data will be protected are crucial, yet this treaty hands over the final say to independent authorities.

The noble Lord refers to untrustworthy foreigners. I was Secretary-General of NATO, which is an organisation that lives by confidentiality and a lot of things that go way beyond the normal aspect of data. There are 26 members of NATO. Most of them are members also of the European Union. If NATO has since it was established in 1949 managed procedures to protect what needs to be protected, why should we not assume that the European Union can have similarly effective procedures?

I make two points to the noble Lord, whom I respect greatly, not only for the time when he was in senior office in the Government here but also for when he was Secretary-General of NATO. I doubt that the personal records of millions of people would have been lost if he had been in charge in the Cabinet. Equally, I am sure that his experience within NATO raises an important area that we ought to think about. But this House has just decided to impose on the criminal justice Bill a high standard of offence; namely, reckless use of data. In the light of that, I am anxious to ensure that we have a similar test for all data, right across the European Union. The European Union may well be wise to adopt the policies that were so successful when the noble Lord administered them within NATO. We shall wait and see. Who knows, the Minister may well be able to give me the assurances I seek.

I am troubled by the fact that, unlike with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, decisions on this are going to be handed over to independent authorities. I do not think that was the case with NATO. I am worried about the phrase “independent authority”. I do not think we should accept an independent authority. The noble Lord, Lord Dykes, said that we were trespassing into areas where we were accepting amendments that had been moved in another place by people with whom he has long-standing antipathy. We are inserting into our amendments ideas that the Government themselves proposed, as we did earlier this evening. I quote, in support of this amendment, Mr Peter Hain, of vivid memory. It was he who said that we cannot accept an independent authority in this context. I anxiously await the Minister’s response because the Government cannot so easily reverse their position without at least some explanation. We have to protect our data to the necessary standards, both within this country and, in particular, when we share it. I beg to move.

I confess that I am thoroughly confused about what the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, wants to achieve. He is worried that if data passes out of our hands it will not be protected by the proper data protection safeguards, but the precise purpose of the two provisions against which he has tabled amendments is to establish common data protection rules. First, there are specific provisions under the common foreign and security policy. Secondly, the provision that Amendment No. 38 targets is the data protection rules, which would apply normally within the European Union.

If we are worried that there will not be proper data protection safeguards, surely we want to make sure that there are common high standards. I found the noble Lord’s account really rather confusing. On the one hand, he deplores, as we all do, the loss of data that we have experienced in the UK. I happen to believe that the UK is not the only member state where this has happened; we have just had rather more publicity. We have to try to make the member states not only pass the laws but live up to them. That means having those strong independent authorities. I remind the noble Lord that those independent authorities are the national data protection supervisors—in our case, the Information Commissioner. This is made clear in paragraph 7.45 of the report from the EU Committee. That makes clear that the independent authority is not some Euromonster. Our own Richard Thomas will monitor compliance. We need the rules and we need them to be respected. If these amendments aim at having no common data protection rules, we are indeed at risk of not having proper protection.

There is some concern that we need to make sure that there is clarification on the scope and purpose of the specific rules for common foreign and security policy, so that they do not then apply to things that should properly be covered by the other clause. I was reassured when the Minister for Europe told the Lords EU Committee that, for instance, a passenger name record agreement, which was agreed with the United States last year precisely on a common foreign and security legal basis—which was shocking—in future would not be agreed, so the specific rules for common foreign and security policy would not apply to data sharing on things such as air passenger data. There will be a lot more coming down the track in that vein, which reassures me to some extent. You would expect me to say no less because the CSFP rules will not be subject to the codecision or assent of the European Parliament, so we are cut out of the picture on those rules. There is some danger that if the member states use them as the way to circumvent the normal codecision, we would have to look to the national parliaments to be especially vigilant—perhaps more vigilant than they normally are.

I do not think that the noble Lord is on the right track with these two amendments. We need common rules and need them to be enforced properly, which they are not always at the moment. In fact, I believe that the European Commission is contemplating infringement proceedings against the UK, not least because the Information Commissioner does not have the powers and resources that he needs. But we need those common rules and we need them to be properly enforced everywhere, including by our own Information Commissioner. Something that may emerge in future is the requirement to notify a breach of that personal data, which I would welcome. That is perhaps for the future. I hope that the noble Lord might rethink his approach on this, because we need the safeguards of common data protection laws.

Can I just get something clear in my mind? Presumably the data that might be handed over to this new authority would be handed over only provided it was within our own data protection law. Presumably data would not be handed over to this authority or to any country of the European Union unless that was in conformity with our own legislation—and once they were handed over, they would be subject to the safeguards agreed by the European authority. Am I right in that? Is that how it is?

I am not quite sure to whom the noble Lord’s question was directed. However, I shall be so presumptuous as to attempt to reply. There is no authority, as he puts it; the data will concern things that happen in Europe, or people in Europe. It will be European data that we want to protect if they are shared, in the case of the CFSP, with other countries—particularly the United States. With regard to the CFSP it would be narrowly drawn and might relate to things done under foreign policy, which at the moment include terrorist listing and financing and that sort of thing, given that national security and intelligence are outside the EU purview altogether and is reserved to member states.

The data are not handed over to some authority; they may be handed over to the authorities of a third country, but the idea is to ensure that when they are handed over they are protected by the data protection rules and that, therefore, we can have some confidence in that regard. That will be monitored by all the 27 separate national data protection supervisors—which in our case is called the Information Commissioner. I hope that that is clear.

I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for explaining extremely well the position in that regard. Perhaps I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, on what this proposal in the treaty seeks to do.

We recognise in the 21st century that in good administration it is important to find ways in which to deal with the protection and proper handling of data that affect individuals. That is widely recognised as an essential part of what is needed to ensure that data protection is covered efficiently—when I was a Minister responsible for data protection I spend a huge amount of my time dealing with this—and that appropriate data sharing takes place. Those two—data sharing and data protection—go hand in hand.

The purpose of Article 39 is to set out the specific rules for how we deal with data processing by member states in the issue of common foreign and security policy. A measure that we might be looking at would be, for example, personal data on individuals serving in EU crisis management missions, which would be agreed through the common foreign and security policy, to make sure that when dealing with their data we are suitably thinking about issues to do with data processing and data protection.

It is absolutely right and proper that these issues are covered in the Lisbon treaty, but in so doing we should recognise the distinctive character of CFSP by having a separate provision for the processing of data by member states in that context, and making it subject to the distinct rules and procedures, including adoption by unanimity. This new article provides that for the first time. Before the treaty in the second pillar there was no capacity to deal with data in the same way as, for example, we had sought to do in the third pillar for justice and home affairs.

The amendment asks the Secretary of State to give an undertaking that he will not vote in favour of any decision that has different standards and penalties for reckless loss of data from those set out in the UK law, or Parliament agrees otherwise to adopt the decision.

The amendment is unnecessary because any proposal would be subject to scrutiny by Parliament in the usual way, and of course it would require unanimity. We believe that the treaty makes sure that there are adequate safeguards to ensure that where provision is shared it should be subject to independent scrutiny. It says that—the noble Lord has already quoted it—compliance with these rules shall be subject to the control of independent authorities. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, is absolutely right that although the authorities will vary from member state to member state, as noble Lords know in our case this will be the Information Commissioner Richard Thomas, which of itself should bring some comfort to the noble Lord. The Information Commissioner and his office is a tried and tested source of information, support, guidance, advice and making sure there is compliance around issues to do with data, as well as the other issues he deals with.

This is an important step forward. It is the first time that there has been expressed provision for data protection in relation to CFSP. Therefore, it is an improvement on the current position, particularly where I have indicated where the independent authority is. The scope for processing such data is likely to be limited. For example, in relation to people in missions, whether to take sanctions against individuals, or in relation to crisis management decisions. But the purpose of the new provision is to recognise that data protection also applies to the processing of personal data by member states when they carry out their CFSP activities and to enable the Union to set rules to ensure that that data are presented.

The European Union Committee conclusions were focused mainly on the repercussions on justice and home affairs issues in particular, as the noble Baroness, indicated, to try to clarify the scope and purpose of Article 39. I reassure the noble Baroness on passenger name records, which has been an important issue. That would not be covered under Article 39 as my honourable friend Jim Murphy indicated, but will be covered under Article 16, and therefore would remain appropriately as the noble Baroness would wish it to be.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, raised the issue of the coverage for intelligence agencies. These are not covered. The UK secured in the Lisbon treaty explicit confirmation that national security remains the sole competence of member states. We believe that that is a very important objective. It is important that intelligence agencies remain outside the scope of the treaties, as indeed they do. As the noble Lord indicated, discussions have been going on in another piece of legislation about the reckless loss of data. I understand that in the other place they are—or may already have done so—debating the question in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill to look at a civil monetary penalty, which I believe is supported by the Information Commissioner. It will be a government amendment and I think that there has been a great deal of support in your Lordships’ House for the proposals that have gone forward.

Whether terrorism is covered within Article 39 depends, as the noble Baroness indicated, on the nature of the activity. It can also fall within justice and home affairs issues, depending on whether one is dealing with law enforcement, and can also be connected to security. The individual case that is before us raises a specific issue. I hope that the noble Lord will feel reassured that the independent authority is where it should be and that this covers very specific issues of CFSP for the first time. Therefore, it is a significant and important addition. Those issues to do with, for example, data sharing with the United States are covered under Article 16, as they would have been in the previous three-pillar structure that existed before this treaty was proposed or comes into force. On that basis, I hope that the noble Lord can withdraw his amendment.

This has been a very valuable debate. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, very much for her contribution. In Amendment No. 16A, I was seeking to ensure that the highest possible standards apply right across the European Union. If there is any question of us falling below our very high standards, the amendment would require the Minister, who is proposing that we should move in such a direction, to come to Parliament and justify it. She may have thought I was confused but I still see the issue with amazing clarity, particularly following her contribution.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, that he is quite right. We have to make sure that we have got our laws right. That is very much what we have just heard from the Minister, who is about to make a Government concession to accept—at least as I understand it, in principle—the amendment that has been moved in this place to the Criminal Justice Bill. I welcome that. I heard very reassuring words from her.

I always think that when the Minister’s brief says, “This amendment is wrong”, it means that there is some mistake somewhere. When the Minister says, “This amendment is unnecessary”—that is what the noble Baroness said—that probably means that the amendment is on all fours and is absolutely correct, but at the moment the Government do not wish to accept it. Against that background I would like to retire to consider things in more detail. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 17 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

17A: Clause 2, page 1, line 12, after “excluding” insert—

“(i) Article 1, paragraph 47, amending Article 28 TEU, paragraph 3, unless the Secretary of State has given an undertaking to Parliament that he will not vote in favour of, or otherwise support, any decision that requires a contribution from the United Kingdom towards the start-up fund unless he has laid a report before the House of Commons, detailing the purpose, size and financial control arrangements for the proposed UK contribution and the fund; and that report has been approved by affirmative resolution of the House of Commons; and(i) ”

The noble Lord said: This small probing amendment is designed to elicit greater clarity on an issue that is not being fully debated or examined in another place, or anywhere as far as I can see.

We are dealing with the proposed start-up fund, which is provisioned for in new Article 26(3) of the Treaty of European Union, which was formerly 3111-13 of the constitution. The same words once again are used. The idea is for a start-up fund for foreign policy operations. Everything about the fund is to be decided by qualified majority voting, including the amounts that are to be paid by member states. Once again, the UK Government fought bravely but lost on this issue. They wanted the decisions about the fund to be taken by unanimity. That was overruled, so we are left with the QMV arrangements. The question is whether the Government expect to pay these moneys into the start-up fund in a way that is audited as a matter of course? If the prior agreement is on that and on the finances, management and procedures for the start-up fund, that would at least be reassuring. Could the Minister explain what the main objectives for the fund could be? Is it possible to begin to put ball-park figures on how much we are in for? Could she reassure us about the financial management and auditing of the fund concerned? Very large figures bandied about in the press which may well be inaccurate. I have an article from the Financial Times talking about common foreign and security policy being set to receive £191 million in funds next year, up from rather less than that the year before. That refers to something wider, I think, but perhaps the Minister could illuminate the situation. It deserves illumination before we tick yet another box and nod yet another provision through that we may well come to be puzzled, even confused, by later. I beg to move.

Amendment No. 17A relates to the provisions on the funding arrangements for activity under the CFSP, and in particular new arrangements for urgent funding. In general, all CFSP activity is charged to the EU budget, other than matters having defence or military implications which are charged directly to member states.

New Article 41(3) TEU is new and sets out where rapid access can be granted to the Union budget to finance urgent activity. It is anticipated that this will largely be to finance preparatory activities—that is, before the deployment of a full mission—quickly.

In 2004, the European Council established the Athena mechanism to meet the requirement for limited common funding for military missions, and the funding can be dispersed rapidly. The text on a start-up fund predates the 2004 creation of the Athena mechanism and there is no member state consensus on whether the start-up fund will actually prove necessary. In launching the EU military operation to Chad and the Central African Republic, member states unanimously agreed a joint action which incorporated the common-costs element of the mission which was subject to the Athena mechanism. This enabled the rapid release of funds to launch the mission—50 per cent of the funding was available immediately.

For activity not charged to the Union budget—in other words, with defence and military implications— the new provision envisaged a start-up fund made up of member state contributions. The Council is to agree by QMV to proposals from the high representative on, first, the procedures for setting up and financing the fund; secondly, the procedures for administering it; and, thirdly, the financial control procedures. However, the decision to launch an activity, and thus to draw down on the funds, would be subject to unanimity.

Perhaps I may address a brief question to the Conservative Front Bench. The leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron, made an interesting speech some weeks ago at Chatham House in which he proposed a common fund for NATO operations. Does the Conservative Party have any more detail on that? I imagine that it would have many characteristics similar to these proposals and it would be helpful to us, in discussing these proposals, if the Conservatives put more detail on, I suspect, their comparable proposals.