My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. The Statement is as follows:
“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement about the European Council held in Brussels that I attended with my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary on 19 and 20 June.
“The main business of the Council on Thursday and Friday evening was to focus on the economic challenges ahead: the triple challenge of rising oil prices; rising food prices; and, because of the credit crunch, the rising cost of money; and in the wake of the US downturn, measures to keep the European economy moving forward. Important conclusions were also reached on the Irish referendum, climate change, the millennium development goals and the European response to the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe.
“On Thursday evening in the discussion on the Irish referendum vote, the Irish Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, offered to the Council meeting in October a report on the next stage for Ireland. The Council agreed that other member states should continue with their ratification process, and I was able to report for the UK that, as with 18 other countries, the Lisbon treaty had completed its parliamentary process and that the Bill had received Royal Assent on Thursday. Once we have received the judgment in an ongoing legal case, we will move to ratification.
“This time last year, the price of oil was around $65 dollars a barrel. At the previous EU Council in March, it stood at $107 dollars a barrel, and at the June Council, the oil price had risen further still to more than $135 dollars a barrel. The global challenge that we face is a rising demand for oil, particularly from China and the other emerging economies now and into the future, which has so far been only partly met by an increase in supply, driving up fuel bills for families across the whole of Europe. Governments are taking action domestically to help, but we know that these are ultimately global problems requiring global solutions. The shared European view is that we must take action to reduce our dependence on oil and to improve our energy efficiency.
“The new technology of carbon capture and storage will help us continue to use coal, oil and gas in a way that avoids harmful carbon emissions. So earlier this year we reiterated our commitment to move forward with up to 12 commercial-scale carbon capture and storage plants in place by 2015, and last week, accepting UK arguments about the importance and urgency of this, the Council called on the Commission to bring forward an incentive mechanism to achieve this goal.
“Transport will account for two-thirds of future increases in oil demand, so improving fuel efficiency and exploring alternatives to petrol and diesel is essential. To incentivise innovation among car manufacturers, the UK will continue to push for a definitive commitment to an EU-wide car emissions target of 100 grams per kilometre by 2020, down from 160 grams, and a 40 per cent reduction on levels today, saving the typical British family around £500 a year in fuel costs.
“At Britain's urging, the Council also agreed to explore the scope to accelerate the introduction of commercially viable electric vehicles, and the infrastructure that their widespread use would require, in the European Union. Generating the electricity needed for electric cars is significantly less carbon- intensive than using oil. With almost all major car manufacturers, including UK-based ones, now close to developing commercially viable hybrid and electric vehicles, they have the potential not only to reduce our oil dependency and carbon emissions but to create thousands of jobs in Britain's automotive industry as well.
“All these measures will help to meet our overall EU target of reducing carbon emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, or by 30 per cent as part of a wider international agreement, but these decisions are made in the context of a dialogue between oil producers and consumers where both commit to greater transparency and a better balance between supply and demand.
“The Council welcomed Saudi Arabia's high-level meeting between oil producing and consuming states that I attended in Jeddah this weekend, and I am today writing to all European leaders informing them of the results of the Jeddah process, which will lead to a follow-up summit in London later this year.
“I can tell the House today that the Jeddah summit discussed measures to deliver a more sustainable global oil price, reduce the risks and uncertainties that can increase prices and ensure greater investment in new oil production, as well as in energy efficiency and alternatives to oil.
“I proposed that Britain and other oil consumers should open up our markets to new investment from oil producers in all forms of energy, including renewables and nuclear, providing oil producers with a long-term future in non-oil energy. In return, oil producers should be open to increasing funding and expertise in oil exploration and development, through co-operation with external investors and providing increased oil supply in the medium term, while growing economies adjust to a less oil-intense long-term future.
“I turn now to the related problem, also discussed by the Council, of high global food prices and the need to do more to combat price inflation. The prices of rice and wheat are now double what they were only a year ago. Higher food prices cause concern to many of us here at home, but in poor countries, where food often accounts for more than half a family’s spending, they can be even more devastating.
“So to tackle rising prices both here and overseas, and to help boost agricultural production, the Council agreed to implement the conclusions of the Rome food summit earlier this month. The EU also agreed to assess the evidence on the indirect impacts of biofuels. The UK’s Gallagher review of the indirect impacts of biofuels, which is due to report shortly, will be part of this process.
“We committed to work towards a successful outcome to the Doha trade round, where eliminating trade-distorting subsidies and import restrictions could increase global GDP by as much as $300 billion a year by 2015. This is something that I have discussed with President Bush, President Lula, Chancellor Merkel, President Barroso, other world leaders and trade commissioner Peter Mandelson in recent days, and I believe that, while we are at the eleventh hour, a deal is within our grasp.
“The EU must also take tough action on elements of the common agricultural policy that raise the cost of food for consumers across Europe. Removing incentives for taking arable land out of production, for example, could reduce EU cereal prices by up to 5 per cent. The Council agreed to re-examine the issues of fair competition and sustainable agriculture.
“As part of this year of action on the millennium development goals, and ahead of the G8 in July and the United Nations meeting in September, the European Council signed up to an agenda for action that reaffirms EU aid targets and sets specific milestones to be achieved by 2010. On education, there will be increased EU investment of €4.3 billion to recruit 6 million more teachers globally. On health, there will be an extra €8 billion to help to save another 4 million children’s lives and to provide for 75 million more bed nets in Africa. I will be pushing the G8 in July to ensure we have the 120 million nets that we need so that every child and family in the world is able to sleep safely at night.
“The Commission has also agreed to establish pioneering millennium development goal contracts, linking EU spending on aid to specific outcomes by developing countries. I am pleased to announce a British contribution of £200 million to be channelled through this new mechanism.
“The Council also discussed the deteriorating political and humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe. In recent weeks, under Robert Mugabe’s increasingly desperate and criminal regime, Zimbabwe has seen at least 84 killings, 2,700 beatings, the displacement of 34,000 people and the arrest and detention of opposition leaders, including Tendai Biti and Morgan Tsvangirai.
“In the face of this unacceptable situation, the European Council reiterated its readiness to take further measures against those responsible for the violence. We will seek to impose travel and financial sanctions on those in the inner circle of the criminal cabal running the regime. The House knows that since the Council met last week the situation has deteriorated further still. As a number of African presidents and prime ministers have already stated, the regime has made it impossible to hold free and fair elections in Zimbabwe, and state-sponsored terror and intimidation have put the opposition in an untenable position.
“Our thoughts are with the people of Zimbabwe, who are facing an unprecedented level of violence and intimidation from this regime. The world is of one view; that the status quo cannot continue. The African Union commission has called for violence to end. The current Government—with no parliamentary majority, having lost the first round of the presidential elections and holding power only because of violence and intimidation—are a regime that should not be recognised by anyone. The UN Security Council will meet today, and the Foreign Secretary will make a detailed Statement in a few minutes, after discussions he, I and the Minister for Africa held with African leaders today.
“SADC and the African Union leadership should meet to discuss the emergency. We understand that there are plans for SADC to meet very soon and we support the plans for that happening quickly. We urge that SADC’s observers’ evaluations of the seriousness of the situation on the ground be made public. We urge that the UN and the African Union work together with SADC to send envoys and a mission to Zimbabwe to discuss the situation on the ground and the way forward. We believe that the UN envoy should be allowed to return. The international community must send a powerful and united message; that we will not recognise the fraudulent election rigging and the violence and intimidation of a criminal and discredited cabal, and that we are ready to offer help to the reconstruction of Zimbabwe once democracy has been restored.
“The Council also expressed its ongoing concern about the humanitarian situation in Burma in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, and called for a return to democracy and the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners. We made clear our continued determination to play a leading role in ensuring peace and stability in Kosovo. Our national interest remains a strong Britain in a strong European Union, and we will continue to focus on an outward-looking European agenda that tackles effectively the issues that affect us all: the global financial crisis; the rising cost of food and fuel; combating climate change; and supporting people in the poorest countries in the world. That is what the Council did at its June meeting, and that is what this Government will be doing in the run-up to the French presidency in July. I commend the Statement to the House”.
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement.
When the Prime Minister arrived at the summit he was greeted as saviour of a treaty that he was ashamed to sign with others only a few months earlier. No doubt on this occasion he enjoyed being popular; but how can we possibly expect any clarity or consistency of purpose against such a background? It was clear in your Lordships’ House last week the course that the Government have set. They have ruled out declaring the Lisbon treaty dead. They have ruled out the referendum they once promised, even now that the only people in Europe allowed to vote have rejected the treaty. The Government have lined up with those pressing for an unchanged treaty, thereby bullying and cajoling the Irish people to change their vote. They have ruled out Parliament having any lock on what may now be cooked up in the EU to get round the Irish vote. Those are four critical choices, and four wrong choices. The Government are stubbornly clinging to a European past, when what we need is to chart out a new course for a more open, less regulatory European Union.
We were told in this Chamber last Wednesday by the noble Baroness that we had to sign away our freedom of manoeuvre and ratify the treaty in order to secure more influence in last weekend’s talks. That sounded then like an insider illusion, and now it is shown to have been an insider illusion. Not a single change is signalled in 25 pages of conclusions. Instead the communiqué talks arrogantly of,
“continuing to deliver concrete results in the various policy areas of concern to the citizens”.
That, of course, does not include the citizens of Ireland.
So, work goes on—on the European External Action Service, on the borders agency, on a common European asylum system, and so on. But perhaps the noble Baroness can tell us the legal basis for such work. Is there one? Can she give us one feature of the Lisbon treaty that she would like to see modified in the negotiations following the Irish vote?
When will the Government and those in Brussels see that nothing divides the European elite from its people more than the repeated evidence that whenever they vote no, they are treated as having said yes? Did the Prime Minister by any chance have a bilateral discussion with the Prime Ministers of the Czech Republic and Ireland during the summit? If so, what was his message to the Czech Republic and Ireland?
Can the noble Baroness also explain a number of resolutions in the communiqué? In paragraph 10, it says:
“Modern technologies must be harnessed to improve the management of external borders”.
It talks of,
“legislative proposals on an electronic system for travel authorisation”.
In paragraph 15, it invites the Commission,
“to present possible solutions for the long-term management of large-scale IT systems in the areas of Freedom, Security and Justice”.
What technologies are those? Is it the taking of DNA? Is it mass fingerprinting, or iris records? Are the Government seriously proposing that UK citizens should get EU computer authorisation before being allowed to travel? If it does not mean that, what on earth does it mean? What is the large-scale IT system proposed? Perhaps it is a Euro-ID card. Should not the Government sort out the handling of top secret data on al-Qaeda before they even contemplate European-wide databases on our own citizens?
The Government invited the EU Commission, or so it appears, to work on family law and an EU proposal on inheritance and wills. The English law of property succession is substantially different from that of most European countries. What benefit for us can come from a common approach here? Can the noble Baroness assure the House that the Government will veto any proposal—that is, if we still can—for a common EU policy on inheritance tax?
There are fine words about the troubling rise in food prices. But is not the truth that there has been a dismal failure to act on free trade or reform of the CAP, something for which the Government gave away £7 billion of British taxpayers’ money and got nothing in return? Can the noble Baroness tell the House of one reform in the CAP, however modest, that was agreed last weekend?
The EU has been one of the prime cheerleaders of the race into biofuels, an acknowledged factor leading to food price increases, disastrous rain forest destruction and food shortages. Last weekend, the summit said that there is now a need “rapidly” to reassess this. What is the UK Government’s policy on this? Should more biofuels be planted, or less? Can the noble Baroness tell us?
We welcome the fine words on the problems of rising energy prices, and indeed the Prime Minister’s efforts in Saudi Arabia, but is not the truth that the UK Government and the EU have wasted the past 10 years in ensuring future energy security? What is the Government's best forecast for the price of oil and gas six months out as a result of the weekend's initiatives? If it helps the noble Baroness—she is, I know, no great expert on this—I would settle for an answer saying whether it will be up or down. If they acted a bit faster, we would not be in the state we are in.
Finally, although I know that we are awaiting another Statement after this one, I must comment on the shocking situation in Zimbabwe. It shames our Government, shames the EU and shames the dismally weak leadership given by the UN bureaucracy, even before the red-carpet treatment lately given to Mugabe at a UN conference in Rome. It also tarnishes the name of President Mbeki of South Africa, who has walked by on the other side and watched tyranny thrive.
At long last—but when it is far too late, with Mugabe reducing his country to a desert of hopelessness, starvation and torture—we see this subject placed on the agenda for the EU summit. Time and again, we have demanded at this Dispatch Box action on Zimbabwe. Time and again, the noble Baroness and her predecessor, the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, have said that any action would be counterproductive and that there has to be an African solution. Is it not now obvious that wringing our hands in that way has been a political and humanitarian disaster? I welcome the belated words in this Statement but they cannot bring back homes for the exiled, food for the starving, dignity for the beaten or fathers to the orphaned.
The bureaucratic pap of last weekend’s presidency conclusions is dismally behind the game. It is long on regrets and loud on calls but silent on action. Pathetically, 250 fine words boil down to the EU saying it,
“reiterates its readiness to take additional measures against those responsible for violence”.
I bet that that had Mugabe and his thugs shivering in their palaces. Can the noble Baroness tell us one concrete EU step against Mugabe that was agreed at the summit? When will the Government apologise to this House, which has been so tireless in its efforts in the cause of Zimbabwe’s suffering people, for the failure of the UK and the failure of the EU to act earlier and far more firmly than it has done to date? We await the next Statement and hope that it will answer some of those questions.
My Lords, I think that our responsibility today is to discuss what happened at the European Council at the weekend, not to carry on debates that we have had at considerable length over recent weeks.
On the loss of the Lisbon treaty—if it is lost, though we are still a long way from that—we on these Benches hold to our position that it would remove a number of useful improvements to the European Union’s current structures, certainly in foreign policy; in a number of issues in justice and home affairs, such as migration and crime; and in parliamentary scrutiny. Can the Leader of the House say how far some of the discussions we have had on improving national parliamentary scrutiny could, at least as far as the UK Parliament is concerned, be put into operation by this Parliament because they are valuable in their own right? It would be a gesture of confidence in strengthening the role of national Parliaments if the British Government were willing to put into effect some of those improvements in parliamentary scrutiny and to work more closely with other national Parliaments, even while we are waiting to see what may or may not happen with the current amending treaty.
We also recognise that the European Council had to discuss a number of urgent policy issues, whatever the institutional setback. I note with interest that those on the Conservative Benches alternate between discussing how appalling the European Union is and complaining that it has not been effective enough on a range of subjects. On the subject of future oil and energy prices, I read the Financial Times every day and note the range of predictions. Of course, we all expect the British Prime Minister to be far more of a guru than bankers and others who predict prices, and I look forward to hearing what the Government will say.
The Statement said a certain amount about climate change and foreign policy. I was rather puzzled that it did not refer to the eastern neighbourhood policy, on which there is a great deal of work to be done, or to relations with the Mediterranean countries, on which the French have put up some rather badly thought-through proposals. There are real issues at stake with the Mediterranean countries.
I was also disappointed that the Statement does not stress the important work that the European Union is attempting to undertake on migration policy and border management, where there clearly are active British interests at stake since so many migrants who enter the European Union are trying to get to the United Kingdom. The idea of a closer dialogue with sending and transit states is therefore actively in Britain’s interest. As for the issue of family breakdown, divorce law and inheritance law, I am conscious that a number of people, including Lady Meyer, have actively argued that in a world where cross-border marriage and cross-border living are increasingly common, we need more active European negotiations on access to children, divorce law and the like.
We welcome the comments on Doha. One of the things that we on these Benches would like from Her Majesty’s Government from now on is more straight-talking, not only to the British public but to some of the member states, about where interests lie in closer European co-operation. The remarks of President Sarkozy on the Doha round and the role of Commissioner Mandelson were extremely unhelpful. They played to populist French politics rather than constructive European co-operation. The recent remarks of the German Foreign Minister on why we need the European army and why he also wants to cut German defence spending also show the huge gap between the illusions in the debates of other nations as well as our own.
We on these Benches want a Government who not only play an active and constructive role in Europe but explain to their own domestic public the role that they are playing in Europe and to other member Governments the objectives that they think should be European priorities.
My Lords, I am grateful for the detailed questions that both noble Lords have put to me. The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, talked in his opening remarks about referendums and the bullying and cajoling of Ireland. All I can do, rather than taking the time of the House now, is refer him to the many, many answers that I gave earlier to these questions. I have done that bit.
It was important to finish our parliamentary process. Noble Lords who had, as I did, the privilege of being part of the debates last Wednesday will know that the House agreed that it was important that our Prime Minister should go into the discussions aware of the British parliamentary view and able to continue some of the detailed discussions to which the noble Lords, Lord Strathclyde and Lord Wallace of Saltaire, have referred today. My right honourable friend did indeed have bilateral meetings with both the Irish and the Czech Prime Ministers to talk about the current European situation and other issues on the European Council agenda. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, is pleased that he did so.
The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, kindly went through a number of issues that were of particular concern. I will try to cover as many of them as possible in the time allotted to me. We have had many discussions both in the committees of your Lordships’ House and on the Floor of your Lordships’ House about data sharing and its relevance and importance to tackling serious organised crime, people trafficking, terrorism and so on, and I will not repeat them. I will say, however, that it is right that the European Union should continue to discuss with its member states how best to ensure that we share information appropriately and with safeguards—this concerns the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, as it does us all—to enable us to continue to tackle these important issues.
On property and wills, a relevant issue is understanding that members of our country who choose to own properties in other countries will be subject to the conditions on properties and wills of those countries. Noble Lords who have looked into this will know that there is quite a difference between the property laws and inheritance laws of France and those of the UK. It is therefore right and proper that, without suggesting in any way that we give up anything, we should have dialogue and discussion about how that might work as more and more people from this country choose to buy properties not only in France and Germany but further afield—for example, increasingly in Estonia.
I can tell the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, that we did not opt in to the divorce proposals. As he will know, after extensive consultation with the judiciary, we felt that it was not appropriate to do so because of our unique and distinct system. However, there are issues that we need to discuss, particularly when it comes to children and maintenance. We have signed up to the Hague process, which is very important. We can also veto any inheritance tax suggestions, as the noble Lord says. That, too, is important.
I said in the Statement and I have said before in your Lordships’ House that we have invited Professor Gallagher to review biofuels. I also alluded to this in my answer to questions about the results of the EULAC conference in Peru, which I was privileged to attend on behalf of my right honourable friend. It is important that we look sensibly and sensitively at food and fuel needs. As soon as we have the results of that review, I am sure that we will bring them to your Lordships’ House and another place to discuss them properly.
I will say little on Zimbabwe, as there will be a full Statement by my noble friend, who has led and discussed these issues right the way through the process that we are engaged in. I understand that he has been in discussion with other leaders today. I do not accept the tone of the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, that somehow this Government have not done enough. I hesitate to ask but I am interested to know exactly what the noble Lord thinks that we should have been doing. To solve this problem, we have to work in partnership with the European Union. I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, about the number of times that opposition Members in both Houses have said, “We don’t like the European Union that much but, when it comes to these issues, why are you not doing more together?”. The action that we are seeking to take is the most effective that we can find. However, we all recognise how desperate the situation is. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has done everything that he can think of. He continues on a daily basis to concern himself with trying to find ways of tackling these issues and—with support from the European Union and other world leaders—to put pressure on Zimbabwe to try to resolve this as peacefully as possible.
The Council conclusion makes it clear that we need further reform of the common agricultural policy to continue to improve the market orientation of agriculture. The budget review will also look at the CAP. The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, is right that there is more to be done. We need to make sure that there is pressure to do that, but it is clear from our perspective that we wish that to happen.
There is—I address this point to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, in particular—a reinvigoration of what is called the Barcelona process for a union of the Mediterranean. I hope that we will see that work continue. We are pleased that the proposals on the eastern partnership are included in the conclusions. We are in favour of improvements to partnerships with all our European neighbours. This will help to balance the outreach south through the French-proposed Mediterranean union. I hope that the noble Lord will welcome that and see it as a greater benefit.
Finally, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wallace. We talked quite a lot during the passage of the Bill about the fact that it is important to explain properly the work of the European Union, particularly where concerted action can play an important role. I am thinking not only about issues that affect us all across the European Union, such as those that I have already discussed, including serious and organised crime and so on, but about those areas that enable our citizens to live, work, travel and study in the European Union and enjoy the benefits of so doing.
My Lords, the Statement covers many issues but I will just ask my noble friend about oil. I will not, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, ask her what she thinks the price will be in six months or even six days, because I doubt whether she, or anybody else, really knows at the moment. However, I gather that at Jeddah there was some difference of opinion about whether at least an element of the huge increase in the price of oil was caused by speculation. I understand that the Government themselves are not of the view that there has been speculation. While I doubt whether it would have been wholly the cause, does my noble friend have any evidence on whether speculation has or has not been part of the cause of the increase in the price?
My Lords, the critical issue is that we stay vigilant in this country and have the right approach to ensure that financial investment takes place with the right level of transparency. That is critical to the point that my noble friend is making. Across Europe there is an issue of looking at the regulatory approach to the commodities and derivatives markets, which again may have an impact on the issue that my noble friend raises.
My Lords, I want to ask about the aid programme. In the announcement that the noble Baroness made about the agenda for action, her first paragraph on education can be read in two ways. The phrase,
“increased EU investment of €4.3 billion”,
can be read as increased by €4.3 billion or increased to €4.3 billion. That is a significant difference and I would like to know which is the case. Secondly, we come to health and the €8 billion. Is the investment programme as a whole a net grant, or are we, as has happened in the past, being given figures that include soft loans that have to be repaid or grants that can be made only if they are spent in the donor community or country? Are the figures that she gave inclusive of what is intended for Zimbabwe or in addition to it? On the question of net grant or soft loan, how will the British contribution of £200 million be denoted? Will it be a straight grant or some other form of money? Perhaps she will write to me.
My Lords, inevitably the noble Lord has asked some detailed questions, to which I do not have all the facts at my fingertips. I shall write to him, particularly on how our additional £200 million is used, as I suspect that it may still be the subject of discussion to see how it would be most effective. My understanding is that the totals include Zimbabwe. However, depending on what happens, there is an additional commitment in the Statement to look further at what might be done. I will wait for my noble friend to talk further about that in the context of his Statement.
My Lords, I declare an interest as the secretary of the All-Party Group on Croatia, because I will ask a question about enlargement. The presidency conclusions contain four and a half pages devoted to the western Balkans, including a detailed two-page declaration as the only annexe to the conclusions. However, there is no mention of Croatia. Before the Council met, the Commissioner in charge of enlargement, Olli Rehn, said that the result of the Irish referendum would have no effect on progress towards further enlargement. However, it appears that both France and Germany contest that and say that there can be no further enlargement until the necessary institutional reforms have been put in place to accommodate it.
Croatia has made significant progress in its negotiations towards accession and is now close to it. It is far ahead of any of the other western Balkan states. Would it not send a negative message to the whole region if Croatia’s progress to accession were put into cold storage or blocked at this stage? The Government may have taken a position on that; I wonder whether they have. Do they agree with France and Germany or feel that the negotiations should stay on course now that Croatia has come so close to accession? Maybe the noble Baroness the Lord President would prefer to write to me if she does not have the answer, but it is an issue on which we would like clarification.
My Lords, I shall be as clear as I can. As the noble Lord says, the Irish voting no should have no impact on the progress on technical negotiations for Croatia or for anybody else. Croatia set a target to complete negotiations in 2009; that target has been acknowledged by Commission President Barroso. I think—it is also the Government’s view—that enlargement is the greatest success of the European Union. We all know that it is an effective lever for peace and prosperity in the western Balkans and for a Turkey that is a partner in reform and positive regional influence. I hope that that says enough for the noble Lord to be in no doubt of the UK Government’s position on the issue.
My Lords, the penultimate paragraph of the Statement states that the European agenda,
“tackles effectively the issues that affect us all: the global financial crisis; the rising cost of food and fuel; combating climate change; and supporting people in the poorest countries in the world”.
Are not all those issues real ones for real people, whether in Ireland or in Burton upon Trent? However, it is difficult to get people to understand why the EU is relevant. If one could take party politics out of this, would there not be a strong case for doing more to explain to people why this is true? We have not succeeded in doing that. I do not think that this should be a party-political matter, but is it not incumbent on us to say why that statement is very true?
My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right. One of the issues that arose during the discussions on the treaty was how best we could make sure that people understand the benefits of our membership of Europe and the benefits of being able, as 27 countries—and, we hope, eventually more—to work collaboratively together, whether that be around issues such as trade and development or around issues of justice and security.
My Lords, I was interested in the mention of the CAP and the sweeping away of all the restrictions that have been imposed for the past 20 years. That would be easy to do, but the CAP could be extremely useful and could do a very good job for something else. If it rains over the great plains of Australia, China or wherever, there will be surpluses of grain. Under the CAP, there is a lot of storage. To buy in times of surplus and to release in times of shortage would be a good function to promote.
My Lords, I refer the noble Baroness to one sentence in the Statement. She said that the Government have not yet received a judgment in Mr Stuart Wheeler’s ongoing case and that when they have received it they will proceed to ratification. Let us suppose that the judgment is in Mr Wheeler’s favour and that his legitimate expectation of a referendum on the Lisbon treaty has not been met by the Government. How will the Government react? Will they proceed to ratification or will they grant a referendum? Secondly, on environmental policy, let us suppose that it becomes clear that, as many scientists believe, global warming has been caused almost wholly by the activity of the sun and hardly at all by human CO2 emissions and that, therefore, the planet may now be cooling down. What effect would that have on our environmental policy and that of the EU? The noble Baroness looks at me askance, but there are thousands of scientists who believe that now.
My Lords, in answer to the noble Lord’s first question, I will not venture into hypothetical questions about a court judgment that we have not yet formally received. The noble Lord must forgive me, but I certainly will not do that in your Lordships’ House. On his second question, he raises the point that he thinks that the greatest bulk of scientific evidence is in one direction, although there may be evidence or views in another direction. Part of the purpose of working across the European Union is to keep a careful watch on what is happening to the planet and to make judgments on what we do about climate change in that context.
My Lords, on the revised EU reform treaty, which people are working on at the moment, have the Governments of the member states been informed that, in accordance with Article 6, our constitution means that our participation, if we participate, is subject to ratification in Parliament? It is not the same qualification as the Irish vote, but it is the same concept. Are the member states aware that that is our position in law?
My Lords, I think that I understand the noble Lord to say that, should there be any kind of amendment to the European treaty as it currently stands, that would be subject to parliamentary processes. We discussed in some detail on Wednesday that, if there were a new amended treaty, it would indeed have to come before your Lordships’ House and another place. I hope that that clarifies the position.
My Lords, the second page of the presidency’s conclusion refers to the area of freedom, security and justice. Presumably justice means obeying the law, even laws that you do not like. Is it just that there should be any doubt at all, following the Irish referendum, which said no to the Lisbon treaty, that the treaty should continue to be ratified instead of being declared dead? That surely is not justice. Various reports in the newspapers, both yesterday and today, suggest that the Irish are being put under great pressure from the various countries of the EU, particularly France and Germany. Apparently, the Irish are being threatened with expulsion from the EU unless they go back and reverse their decision to say no to the Lisbon treaty. I would like the noble Baroness to tell me, and I am sorry to take a little bit of time about this—
My Lords, there is time, as no one else was standing. The noble Lord, Lord Richard, was not standing when I got up and he is only wasting time by heckling me. He ought to know better. Let me come back to the question that I was going to ask the noble Baroness. Will she assure me that the British Government are not involved in any pressure being put on the Irish people to reverse their decision about the Lisbon treaty?
My Lords, my right honourable friend attended the two days with my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary and there is no report that I have been given of any possible bullying. There was a great deal of discussion and understanding from member states in talking with the Irish Taoiseach and with the Irish Foreign Minister. I understand that the Irish asked for some time—in other words, until the October Council—to come back with their views and that that request was surely granted. I do not accept, therefore, that there was any bullying. I made it perfectly clear that, as far as the UK position is concerned, we are absolutely and totally against any idea of any bullying of the Irish, but there is no evidence to suggest that it is happening. On justice, we discussed this issue at great length and I am very clear that it is right and proper for each member state to determine its own position on this treaty and not be bullied by anybody else into stopping or starting or not continuing a process that is well advanced, which was the position that we were in last week.
My Lords, I wonder whether my noble friend the Leader of the House shares my amazement at the fact that the one thing that the representative of UKIP sitting on the Back Bench over there and, indeed, the representative of UKIP sitting on the Bench behind me—
My Lords, I can only say that that puts me in mind of an old American professor whom I used to know, who said, “If he is not a member, he is cheating them of their dues”. Does my noble friend share my amazement at the fact that various people in this House who are critical of the British position on the treaty seem to be saying that we should take a position different from that which the Irish Government are taking? The Irish Government seem to be getting set on a clear policy. If that is their policy, surely we should allow them to do it.
My Lords, my noble friend is right. It is for the Irish to determine the Irish position and it is for the British Government to determine the British position, and so on across 27 member states. I could not agree more. For the record, I should add that the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, is not formally a member of UKIP.
My Lords, the opinion that I have heard this weekend from some very considerable experts, not necessarily in this House, is that in practice the EU is likely to chug along without the Lisbon treaty. When Croatia is ready to accede, there will be some cherry picking from the treaty; things will be put into the Croatian accession treaty that will enable the Union to operate more effectively. Would an alternative not be for the Government to advocate one change in the Lisbon treaty that would remove a lot of the worry and concern: the removal of the self-amending provisions? People do not want their sovereignty to be able to be decided without further treaty change by unanimity merely in the Council of Ministers. If the passerelle clause were removed, would we not be able to make progress? Will the Government at least consider that possibility?
My Lords, the Government’s position is clear; we have debated it at great length in your Lordships’ House. It remains exactly the same as it was last Wednesday night, Thursday morning, over the weekend and today. We believe that the treaty is a good deal for the European Union and a good deal for this country. The noble Lord may not like what he describes as the self-amending provisions or the passerelle—the footbridge. There are other noble Lords across the House who have not liked parts of the treaty and no doubt parliamentarians in other member states do not like parts of it. The treaty was a good deal; we stand by the fact that this House supported it, with a good majority at every Division. Our objective now is to see what the Irish position will be and then to consider our position. When Croatia is ready, and if the EU expands from 27 to 28 member states, there will need to be some routine changes in the institution’s arrangements with regard to the number of MEPs and so on. We will have to look at that situation then.