House of Lords
Monday, 2 November 2015.
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Sheffield.
Royal Gallery: Daniel Maclise Paintings
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord on his timing, because I am pleased to tell the House that the Works of Art Committee has agreed to a conservation programme to clean, conserve and improve the presentation of the two Maclise paintings. The work will be carried out over a four-year period and will start in the summer of 2016.
Yes, my Lords. We are very grateful for the research project that was undertaken by the students of the Cologne University of Applied Sciences and by the Curator’s Office here. A great deal more has to be done to find out exactly what damage has been done to the paintings from environmental factors, such as coal and the like, and from work that has been done since on varnishing the paintings. Once that has been done—we believe that a great deal of the original paint is intact—we will make sure that we preserve the paintings for future generations.
My Lords, there is a very powerful artistic reason for undertaking this conservation. These pictures are not simply triumphalism; they have a kind of visionary humanitarian quality to them because they depict the suffering, and what Wilfred Owen called the pity, of war. However, because the colours have faded so much, that precise aspect is very downgraded, so this is very welcome news.
My Lords, that is so. Not long after the paintings were completed, there were complaints about the degree of dirt, which affected the quality of the paint. We will be carrying out pilot studies with a view not only to doing as much as we possibly can to preserve the original paintings but to making sure that they are as good as they possibly can be, given their age.
My Lords, does the Chairman of Committees agree that it is because we have this unique works of art collection that reflects our heritage that so many people want to come and visit the Houses of Parliament? Does he also agree that over the years it has been the hard work of many Members of this House in raising, and indeed donating, money that has enabled us to carry out conservation work without drawing considerably on the public purse?
The noble Baroness knows a great deal more about this than I do, but she is of course entirely right. As a House, we are very dependent on fundraising for this work. In recent times, it has not been possible to provide money from the Budget for it, so we are very dependent on fundraising to carry on the excellent work that this House does, not only on these Maclise paintings but on some of the frescos that are very much in need of preservation.
My Lords, can the Chairman of Committees tell us whether we will still be here when this work is completed, or is this building continuing to fall down around us—as I found this morning when I could not get in at the normal entrance? One of our colleagues pointed out to me that Red Benches states that work is being done on re-cant accommodation for the House of Lords? Will the Chairman of Committees give us a brief update on how things are going in respect of re-canting us somewhere else?
My Lords, it is true that there is a major programme of work across the whole estate and that there will have to be decanting from building to building, but this is being handled with the Chief Whips of the political parties and the Convenor. We are handling it as carefully as possible. I hope I will be here when the work is finished. Whether I shall be in this position I know not.
My Lords, I do not think that we need worry about the triumphalism. President Valéry Giscard D’Estaing once told me that, at school, he was taught as a little boy that the Battle of Trafalgar was a minor naval engagement in which the British were stupid enough to lose their admiral.
Does the noble Lord agree that those frescos are a true inspiration—one of the greatest inspirations in this Palace? Can Maclise’s story act as inspiration for the current House of Lords? After all, he was treated appallingly by the Government of the day. He suffered disgraceful financial meanness on the part of that Government. His instructions were ill prepared and badly handled. He was taken for granted, and when he protested, they responded simply with abuse and outright threats. And yet, his work proved to be of immense service to the nation. Does the noble Lord think that we, the current House of Lords, can draw inspiration from that prominent example?
Well, this is a new experience for me. It is true that many artists are not valued until they are long dead. Maclise deserves great credit because he had to research the water-glass method that had been developed in Germany but had never been used here. He wanted to make sure that it was possible to convey not just the drama of war but the complexity and the tensions. To do that, he had to paint bit by bit. That was where the water glass came in, because it was able to preserve the paintings. On the rest of the noble Lord’s question, I hope he will excuse me if I pass.
My Lords, is the Chairman of Committees aware that I hosted a dinner in the Peers’ Dining Room for Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge—my college—which was founded in 1596, and that the oldest painting in Parliament is the one of Queen Elizabeth which is located in that Room and was painted in 1596? Is that painting being preserved well enough?
I wonder whether I might trespass on the Chairman’s knowledge a little further and ask him whether he knows what has happened to Lord Carrington, who was hanging quite happily outside the Bishops’ Bar but has now disappeared. Can the noble Lord tell me where he has gone?
Hinkley Point: Chinese Investment
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the employment and environmental records of the Chinese companies involved in developing Hinkley Point, and whether either company has been involved in developing nuclear weapons.
My Lords, all companies operating in the United Kingdom nuclear industry do so in accordance with the stringent requirements of the United Kingdom’s independent nuclear regulators. These include environmental protections. Likewise, all companies are required to conform to United Kingdom employment law. China is a nuclear weapons state under the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. China General Nuclear, which will hold a minority stake in Hinkley Point C, is not involved in the development of nuclear weapons.
I thank the Minister for his Answer to my Question. I am sure he is aware that there is a lot of concern outside this place about inviting China to be such a large partner in such a complex deal. If we take into account the fact that the Chinese imprisoned 300 human rights lawyers and activists just between July and September this year, we start to see the size of the problems. In addition, Members of Parliament have only another week to voice their concerns about the Bill. I feel that the whole thing is being rushed through.
My Lords, the noble Baroness is right to say that concern has been expressed about China’s involvement. As I have said, the Office for Nuclear Regulation regulates the security of civil nuclear programmes, including companies from overseas, and the security services will also be involved. As she will understand, there has been a long-standing convention under successive Governments not to comment in any detail on that surveillance.
My Lords, I am delighted that we are now moving forward and doing something in civil nuclear power generation. It is super that the Chinese are risking their money on this EPR reactor. Both of the types for Hinkley Point are being built in Finland and France, and the costs for both are twice what they were; they are taking twice as long and are still not finished. However, the Minister will be aware of my security concerns. Historically, 70% of the supply chain for nuclear work has come from United Kingdom firms, but there is evidence to suggest that when the Chinese start building the third of the reactors—the Bradwell reactor—they plan to provide all the supply chain material, at a cost to UK manufacturers. Will the Minister ensure that we get that sort of percentage to our UK firms rather than letting the Chinese monopolise it?
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his welcome of the project. It is true that 60% minimum is guaranteed on the supply chain in relation to Hinkley Point C, as I am sure he will be aware. It is very early stages for Bradwell yet; it has not really been discussed. I am sure that the aim will be to get at least that, but as yet pen has not been put to paper at all.
My Lords, as only four EPR reactors are currently being built—one in Finland, one in France and two in China—and none have shown that they work safely or efficiently, why was that technology chosen for Hinkley, ahead of the proven advanced boiling water reactor developed by Hitachi, which is currently being used successfully at three different locations?
My Lords, the noble Lord is right that the projects in France at Flamanville and in Finland to which he referred, and indeed in China—although the model is slightly different there—are ahead of what is happening at Hinkley Point C. This has been subject to detailed scrutiny, and we are satisfied that it is the best way forward. These are the first nuclear reactors that will have been built in this country for 25 years, and we are satisfied that this is the best way forward.
My Lords, given that Hinkley will almost certainly be followed by Bradwell in Essex in due course, what conversations have we had with the Chinese Government about the safe disposal of nuclear waste on nuclear sites? This is clearly important not just for world security but for our own security.
My Lords, the noble Lord is right about the disposal of nuclear waste. It is an issue that we have to address. We have much nuclear power at the moment and it is being addressed. It is an integral part of the discussions with the Chinese and EDF. It has to be remembered that the project at Hinkley Point C is not a China lead: one-third of the project is Chinese and two-thirds is EDF. However, it is central to the project.
My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that when I worked for the Central Electricity Generating Board, a nationalised industry, we built our own nuclear reactors and the CEGB was a leader in the provision of advanced gas-cooled reactors, which are still working. Why on earth is it necessary for this rich country to employ French and Chinese nationalised industries to build our nuclear power stations?
My Lords, I was not aware of the noble Lord’s background in this field but I readily acknowledge it. It is true that in the past this has been the case. Sadly, over a period of time under successive Governments, the research and development in this area was run down. We are now making agreements which are subject to stringent security and safety precautions to ensure that we move forward with what most noble Lords will acknowledge is an important part of the energy mix—namely, nuclear. We already take 20% of our energy needs from nuclear. That will continue. We are satisfied, with the conditions that we have in place, that this is the best way forward for the country.
My Lords, surely the point raised by the noble Lord is exactly why the integrity of the future UK supply chain is so important. My noble friend Lord West raised the issue of Bradwell and future developments. Can the Minister assure me that the UK Government will have enough leverage to ensure that, in relation to Bradwell, the size of the UK supply chain contribution can be protected and enhanced? That is a security question as much as it is a question about the industry and jobs.
My Lords, I readily acknowledge and accept that it is important on both bases. In answering the question I sought to say that we have not yet begun any detailed negotiations on Bradwell. However, new procurement rules are in place which help us in Europe and with the supply chain. We have got a good deal in relation to Hinkley Point C. I have indicated that I hope that that will be a template for what we do in Bradwell. However, it is very early days and I do not want to mislead people into thinking that we are already in that degree of discussion—we are not.
Since 2012, the Government have provided £1.3 million to the Copyright Hub in start-up funding and through the Digital Catapult which is developing the underlying technology of the Hub. We are currently assessing the hub’s need for ongoing funding and will be considering various options for the future.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Of course, most of that has been in kind from the catapult. The Minister is well known for her enthusiasm for the Copyright Hub but when is she going to turn that into real hard financial support? This could be a fantastic resource of huge benefit to our creative industries. It is a licensing infrastructure that could be international. Would it not be extraordinary if Singapore, the US and Australia gave more support than the UK Government?
My Lords, as we have said from day one, the Copyright Hub needs to stand on its own feet in the longer term. It is linked to the wonderful creative industries worth £77 billion. However, we want the Copyright Hub to succeed, as the noble Lord knows, and that is why we recently agreed to provide an extra £100,000 to cover the core costs for the next four months. We are also financing an independent assessment to examine options for the long-term sustainability of the hub and its development.
My Lords, does the Minister recognise that copyright is a form of monopoly and that, while it is desirable that innovation should be recognised and rewarded, it should always be the object of policy to keep the period of monopoly as short as is reasonably possible so that new ideas can circulate freely and rapidly? Does she also recognise that in the digital era such monopolies are increasingly impossible to enforce?
My Lords, the regime that we have introduced for copyright reflects a far-sighted report by Mr Hargreaves, many of whose provisions we have implemented. He was very aware of the balance between creators, rights holders and the consumer. The Copyright Hub is great, because it removes one of the excuses for piracy by making it easy and relatively cheap for potential users to seek and obtain permission to use works that are subject to copyright.
My Lords, I am genuinely enthusiastic about this, because it is like a switchboard for rights. It has huge potential. However, all government projects must provide value for money, and that is why we are looking at the work done so far. We have a prototype—I actually opened it—but we need to make sure that the flight path for the project is good. I agree with the point that this could be extremely positive internationally. We have spent a lot of time with the US and Australia, which are interested in this project going forward.
The Minister mentioned £100,000 of support. I declare my interest as an ambassador for the British Library. Is she aware of the work that the British Library’s Business and IP Centre carries out? Are the Government providing enough support for initiatives like that, which encourage entrepreneurs, creativity and innovation?
My Lords, I am well aware of the great work that the British Library does on this. When I visited, I was delighted to discover that more than 50% of the entrepreneurs using it were female. We certainly support having a network across the country for IP for small entrepreneurs, who can look at, buy and register IP around the country.
My Lords, the Minister has several times expressed the very welcome view that she is on the front foot, leading IP debates and policy in Europe. Does that mean that we can hope to see a British-based EU copyright hub in the very near future?
My Lords, we are talking to the EU, but at the moment the EU is interested in how we are leading the way on the Copyright Hub. However, where the noble Lord, who knows so much about intellectual property, is right as usual, is that digital knows no boundaries and therefore having hub arrangements across the EU is an idea whose time will come.
My Lords, if I may interject again, the Minister mentioned £100,000 for ongoing support for the next few months, plus £100,000 for a study of financial viability. Is this not analysis paralysis? Is it not time we just got with the job and the Government put their money where their mouth is?
It is not analysis paralysis at all. Without the catapult and the money the Government have put in, the Hub could not have been launched, despite the great work done by the creative industries. There have been teething problems—for example, in recruiting the right staff and in ensuring that picture agencies and others are equipped and linked to the Hub. We need a proper project study and that is what we are financing. I talked to Richard Hooper about it and he is supportive.
President Sisi: Visit
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of whether it is appropriate for the President of Egypt, General Sisi, to visit the United Kingdom, in the light of the state of the rule of law and human rights in that country.
My Lords, Egypt is key to our national interests. We must work together on the immediate issues facing us, such as bringing stability to Libya, combating ISIL and countering extremism. The United Kingdom is also committed to supporting political progress and economic development in Egypt, which will be the foundations of its future stability. President al-Sisi’s visit to the United Kingdom will be an opportunity to hold an open and frank dialogue on all these issues and to develop a programme of practical co-operation.
Is the Minister aware that al-Sisi has been responsible for the murder of at least 1,000 unarmed protestors; used torture and rape on dissidents; imprisoned tens of thousands of political opponents, including elected MPs; denied medical aid to people in prison; and been responsible for a large number of disappearances? Egypt is becoming an incubator for ISIL because of his tyranny. He has also employed extrajudicial killing, corrupted the judiciary and held very swift trials, after which—and on very little that could be called evidence—the death penalty has been passed, including on a young woman studying for a master’s degree at Oxford, who was tried in absentia and has now been forced into exile. Is this a man who should be invited to Downing Street? Are we going to confront him with his tyranny?
My Lords, the noble Baroness has mentioned a number of different issues, all of which are serious. It is in Britain’s interests to work with President al-Sisi. Together, we need to combat terrorism and counter extremism, and thus help bring stability to Libya. We also need to talk candidly about Egypt’s long-term future. Reforms that revitalise the economy and political progress are the foundation for long-term stability.
My Lords, we have recently lavished hospitality on the President of China, where, as we heard in the answers to an earlier Question, there are gross abuses of human rights and the ruling clique presumes to tell people how many children they can have. We will shortly be lavishing similar hospitality on Narendra Modi, who until recently was excluded from this country and the United States for possible genocide against the Muslim community in India. We are rushing around trying to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, which is one of the most barbarous regimes in the Middle East. Would it not be discriminatory even to think of excluding President al-Sisi from these human rights abusers?
My Lords, the noble Lord has mentioned a number of different areas which are a little wide of the subject of this Question. We want to see more progress in Egypt, including better protection of Egyptians’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression, along with more space for NGOs and civil society, all of which are key to long-term stability. Our relationship with Egypt lets us raise these issues, and Ministers and officials regularly do so. The President’s forthcoming visit is a further opportunity to raise issues of concern.
My Lords, the Minister has said twice that we are going to discuss political progress with President al-Sisi, and I think many of us would agree that Egypt will be stable only if it allows political progress to be made. Can he tell us what sort of political progress for Egypt we have in mind?
My Lords, can the Minister confirm that the UK will unequivocally raise concerns about the flagrant and wide-ranging abuses of human rights presided over by President al-Sisi? Can he also confirm that there will be absolutely no negotiation or agreement on the transfer of any arms or equipment that could be used for internal repression?
My Lords, as I said before, we will raise these issues with President al-Sisi and his Ministers. On the arms situation, as the noble Baroness will be aware, this is a highly regulated regime and we try to ensure that Egypt remains subject to the EU Foreign Affairs Council-agreed suspension on arms exports. The suspension means that licences are suspended if we judge that they might be used in internal repression. We assess all applications from Egypt against the EUFAC suspension threshold and the consolidated criteria.
My Lords, is it not always the prime duty of the British Government, of whatever party, to protect the interests of the United Kingdom? That often means talking to and welcoming people of whose internal policies we may not wholly approve. The noble Lord, Lord Singh, has just mentioned one or two. This visit should go ahead and the President should be made welcome, but he should also be in no doubt that there are concerns in this country about certain internal aspects of his policies.
My noble friend is quite right. Egypt is on the front line in the war against ISIL and other forms of extremism. It is the biggest country in the Arab world and the biggest destination there for British tourists, with almost 1 million visitors per year. It is also hosting people who have been displaced by crises in neighbouring countries.
My Lords, are the Government aware that in the name of Islam the Government of Egypt are abusing the rights of women, hence the attraction of other resisting groups who are promising to respect Islam, although we do not know that they will do it? What the Government of Egypt are doing is unIslamic. They are not granting women their rights. What will this Government do at least to demand that the Government of Egypt act according to what they state their aims are?
My Lords, the noble Baroness mentioned women’s rights. We welcome the provisions for the protection of women’s rights under the new constitution adopted in January 2014 and a law passed in June 2014 criminalising sexual harassment for the first time. The new law has led to several convictions. We have also deployed a regional gender adviser to our embassy in Cairo to strengthen the quality of our programmes in Egypt and across the region by focusing on gender equality.
My Lords, taking into account what the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, asked earlier, does the noble Earl agree that in a progressive democracy it is in everybody’s best interests if the Government’s concerns are expressed openly and transparently so that we all know of those concerns publicly?
My Lords, I declare an interest as the chair of the British Egyptian Society, which is a cultural organisation dealing with educational and cultural links with Egypt. Does the Minister accept that it was under the previous regime of the Muslim Brotherhood that many women in Egypt lost their rights? Many of the women I know told me—perhaps the noble Earl has had similar experiences—that they were asked to wear the hijab when they had never worn it before; warned not to apply for jobs in public services; and told not to expect the same pay rises and promotion opportunities as their male counterparts. They said that under this regime that, at least, has improved.
Flood Reinsurance (Scheme and Scheme Administrator Designation) Regulations 2015
Flood Reinsurance (Scheme Funding and Administration) Regulations 2015
Motions to Approve
Maximum Number of Judges Order 2015
Motion to Approve
Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (Immunities and Privileges) Order 2015
English Apprenticeships (Consequential Amendments to Primary Legislation) Order 2015
Motions to Approve
Byelaws (Alternative Procedure) (England) Regulations 2015
Motion to Approve
European Union Referendum Bill
Committee (2nd Day)
Relevant documents: 5th Report from the Constitution Committee, 9th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee
Clause 2: Entitlement to vote in the referendum
14: Clause 2, page 2, line 7, at end insert—
“( ) any United Kingdom citizen who does not fall within paragraph (a), but is resident in the European Union and has registered to vote in the referendum,”
My Lords, I remind the Committee of my interests as declared in the register: when Parliament is not sitting, I live in France, where my husband and I have a vineyard and a wine business. We have many friends there who are UK citizens, a number of whom have lived there for more than 15 years.
I am very grateful to the other noble Lords who have put their names to my amendment. I am sure they will have many good examples to bring before the Committee. Last Tuesday, when we discussed elections, the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, asked for examples of real people. I am very happy to provide them. Indeed, I gave a couple of examples at Second Reading. But, first, I want to talk about the principle. I make it absolutely clear that I am not arguing for votes for life in general or local elections. Those elections involve different arguments about whether someone has invested in another country emotionally and financially more than they may have done in the country of which they are a citizen. What is before us today is a totally separate and different matter of whether British citizens who have lived in the EU for more than 15 years should have an exceptional franchise in this EU referendum. I am sure that they should.
If we can make a rule that exceptionally, Peers can vote in this referendum, we can surely make the same exceptional provision for a group with at least as great an interest in the matter as anyone in your Lordships’ House—and a group, I submit, with a lot more at stake. These British expats in the EU will face a giant step into the unknown, should the vote lead to an exit from the EU. They will face a mass of questions. Will they need to apply to become a citizen of the country in which they live? Will that even be possible? Will they pass any financial or language requirements? What will happen to their healthcare arrangements? How quickly will reciprocal arrangements cease? These issues have all been raised with me by very worried people. Even driving a motor car is not a given. My American friends Hank and Cindy, who live in France, have had real difficulty passing the French driving theory test, which comprises some 3,000 questions, all in a foreign language. I am not sure that many British expats of 70 and over would be able to do that.
Then there are those with businesses. For them, the implications are immense. Brian Cave from south-west France, who has long campaigned on this issue, says: “There are another half million or thereabouts in business on their own account or employed who are likewise concerned. It hardly needs expressing but they are concerned about the possibility of work permits—free movement around the continent. Free movement of capital for their businesses and for their own future pensions”.
With all these massive questions hanging over their future, surely these expats are absolutely entitled to a vote on whether or not the UK should remain in the EU. The fact that they have lived abroad for more than 15 years does not diminish that right but increases it. Years ago, they took to heart in an especially personal way the idea of the EU as a place in which to live and work, and so they have much more at stake. Many moved to the EU for employment after university. Those people often now have children at a critical stage in their schooling, and they will face upheaval in their own careers. In November 2012, a Home Office study showed that the majority of British citizens who emigrated abroad between 1999 and 2010 did so to work. Therefore, they moved abroad for a good reason and do not deserve to be penalised for it.
At this point I will give one example. Jane Golding says, “I now work in Germany as a lawyer under my home title practising EU law. I can do this because EU rules on mutual recognition of professional qualifications allow me to practise under my own title throughout the EU”. She has had an international career spanning four different EU countries. She says: “If the UK leaves the EU I could face losing my livelihood, because those rules no longer apply to me. Changing my citizenship, which I do not want to do, would not help. The worst-case scenario would be that I would need to requality. In short, having relied on my freedom of movement to leave the UK to find work in my field I now find myself deprived of a say in my future ”.
There are many who would fall into a different category: retired people. Those who have retired abroad will face great upheaval and many in this group are still UK taxpayers. The have worked as teachers, in the Armed Forces, as doctors, for national and local government, as firemen and nurses. They receive the UK Government pension, so they are UK taxpayers. They have invested a lifetime of work in the UK. Why would they not deserve a vote on its future? None of these people deserves more of a say than other UK citizens, even though their lives will be more affected as a result; nevertheless, they deserve a say, and that is in the vote.
I have asked myself why the Government would resist giving them a vote, especially a Government who allegedly want to give them a vote for life. I have asked myself whether it is a matter of the cost. That is why I have tabled Amendment 18, so that the Minister can explain whether it is too difficult and costly to register them. I find that hard to believe, however, given that the Electoral Commission advertised in February 2015 in the ex-pat press that you could still register online to vote in May 2015. For me, there is no rational reason to deny these people a vote. This Bill provides for exceptions to the normal Westminster franchise, and this group have a right to be an exception and be given the franchise for this EU Referendum Bill. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support this group of amendments. Amendments 17 and 19, which are mine, are of a similar thrust to that of noble Baroness, Lady Miller, whose amendment has been clearly and compellingly introduced.
When the Minister replies, I hope he will recognise that we are in calmer waters than we were last Wednesday in discussing the franchise. There is no difference of principle between those moving these amendments and the party of which he is a member, which stated in its manifesto that it believed that this category of person—people who have lived abroad for more than 15 years—should get the vote. I heartily support this view.
I hope that the Minister will also recognise that this class of voter—as I hope it will be—in the European Union countries has a greater interest in voting in this referendum than he or she ever had, or will have, in national parliamentary elections. It would be extraordinary if the Government did not exert themselves to ensure that these British citizens have the vote on this occasion, when their own rights and livelihoods are at stake. The Government have made a great deal of the saying, “the people must have their say”. Surely these are people who ought to have their say. They and their futures are directly involved in this. Frankly, it would be appalling if the Government, later in this Parliament, in an act of supreme generosity, gave them the vote—but after the referendum in which they wish to vote. I hope the Minister will give serious consideration to this issue.
Naturally, since I rose to speak to some amendments on the Marshalled List, those are the amendments I am speaking to. If I did not repeat on each occasion, “Those citizens living abroad in other EU countries”, then I am sorry but that is what I intended.
My Lords, this is clearly controversial territory and I look forward to hearing the Government’s rationale as to why the line has been drawn where it has. I have to say that I cannot see the argument for allowing British expats in EU countries to have the vote, but not all expats. There does not seem to be much difference between your career taking you to Berlin or to Singapore. Indeed, those who have gone to Singapore are often more likely to return to live in the UK in due course. Where to draw the line is a tricky question. The Scottish referendum was arguably wrong to exclude Scottish citizens who were at that time living in England. If we are to have expats, we should have them all, not just a particular category.
My Lords, I support the amendments which are on the Marshalled List and which have been comprehensively introduced. I note what the noble Lord, Lord Flight, says, and I would probably have no problem in widening the scope of these amendments to all expats. However, it is clear that people who have moved to the European Union to work are much more directly affected by the European Union than people working in Japan or America, for example. UK citizens who go to work in other member states are specifically worried about their personal and professional status, which will be directly and seriously affected by the EU referendum. As has been said, some face losing their right to work under EU mutual recognition rules, and thus their livelihoods. Changing citizenship would not help them. Of course, if British citizens work for British companies they might also pay national insurance and taxes in the UK. Retired former public servants such as police officers, military personnel, teachers and nurses receive a government pension, taxed at source in the UK, and make a contribution to the UK Treasury. All these people deserve and need a say in the referendum.
Like others, I ask the Minister: if the Government believe it right for British citizens to vote in future general elections, as announced in their manifesto, and will be introducing such legislation, why is it not right to give these people a vote in a referendum that will have a greater impact on their lives than any general election? Perhaps I am being terribly cynical, but I wonder whether the main reason why the Government wish to give Brits abroad a vote has nothing to do with principles or democracy, but with the fact that polling tends to demonstrate that the Conservative Party would gain more than other parties from receiving the votes of British citizens living abroad.
The Minister often cites what happens in other member states to support the Government’s case regarding extending the franchise. They say that it is not done in other member states and therefore should not be done in this country. I respectfully point out that 23 member states provide lifelong voting rights for their overseas voters. While I am on my feet, I pay tribute to the many members of Labour International who have campaigned on this issue for many years. I will specifically mention Harry Shindler, a 94 year-old resident of Italy who is an Anzio veteran, and who has campaigned tirelessly to scrap the ban.
My Lords, I support this group of amendments. We have had some quite intense debates on this subject already. Many of the amendments debated previously were perfectly respectable but, some might argue, a little far-fetched whereas with this group of amendments, as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, pointed out, we seem to have moved into calmer waters. We are talking about British subjects who happen to be retired or working in the European Union. The effect of the referendum on their lives would be quite substantial. As the noble Baroness has already pointed out, many of those who are retired are taxpayers here in the United Kingdom. Consequently, given that we have already made a concession to enable members of your Lordships’ House to vote in the referendum, I can see no possible reason why we cannot make a similar commitment to British subjects who are working or living abroad.
My Lords, may I say how much I agree with my noble friend Lord Flight? It is right that expatriates should have the vote, not just in the referendum but in general elections as well, whether they live in Singapore or the EU. When one looks at the way in which Australia, for instance, to take a Commonwealth country, or France, to take another European country, enable their citizens to do that, it seems extraordinary that we are unable to do so.
However, on this occasion we are talking about the EU referendum Bill and what should happen in the case of the EU referendum. I think the most important points have already been made by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, and by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay. If we want the referendum to be fair, to express the will of the British people and to take account of the interests of British people of all sorts, it would be wrong to exclude those British nationals who are living and working in the European Union. We are members of the European Union. We have been encouraging our firms and citizens to take full advantage of the economic opportunities it offers, and for many that involves working elsewhere in the European Union. These people have been contributing to the British interest and British economy.
Other British people living in the European Union have retired—in Spain, Malta, Cyprus, or places of that sort. They too have rights. They have spent a lifetime in this country working, paying taxes and earning their pensions, and their lives will also be greatly disrupted.
We will come, in due course, to an amendment dealing with the consequences of leaving the European Union. We do not yet know what they will be. It will be a jump into the unknown—the start of a period of great uncertainty. But one thing is clear: we cannot be sure that the free movement of people will remain. A lot of people in this country want to prevent free movement. If they are successful, British people who are working, living and retired elsewhere in the European Union will find that their rights are restricted and their lives will be changed. This underscores the considerable interest that they have in the amendment.
Finally, mention has already been made in this debate, as in others, of the Scottish referendum and the lessons that we can learn from it. One of the things which struck all of us, even those who are as non-Scottish as I am, was that a great injustice of that referendum was the exclusion, not just of Scottish people living in England and elsewhere, but in particular of Scottish soldiers in Scottish regiments, let alone in other regiments who were outside Scotland at the time and who could not vote. That was an injustice and we do not want a repeat on this occasion. I hope the Government will look with favour on this group of amendments.
My Lords, I have one question. Some very powerful points have been made and I do not dissent from the case for granting the vote to British residents in the EU. But we need to be clear that we are talking about a very substantial number of people here. The number of British citizens in the EU is about 1.3 million, according to the UN Population Division; maybe a couple of million, according to other estimates. We do not know the number of adults, but it is likely to be quite high because of the very high percentage of retired people in certain countries, so we could be talking about something like 1 million potential voters. Some of them will have been abroad for less than 15 years and would therefore have the vote under the present arrangements, but we could none the less be talking about pretty substantial numbers who, under this amendment, would get the vote in this referendum.
What is the justification for confining the vote only to those British citizens in the European Union instead of conferring it more widely? It seems to me that if the 15-year rule is to be abolished—and there are good reasons for that—it should be abolished for everybody. Otherwise, there is a clear risk that passing this amendment would look as though it was an attempt to skew the franchise, with damaging consequences for the longer term. The key thing about this referendum, surely, is that it must be fair and must be seen to be fair. If we are going to do this, let us do it for all overseas citizens.
My Lords, with respect it is easy to distinguish between those in Singapore and elsewhere, and those within the European Union. The essential principle should be not only to avoid anomalies or absurdities but to ensure we include those British citizens who have a clear and direct interest in the outcome—those who are clearly stakeholders because of free movement and because they perhaps still have pensions here, and so on. Because of the network of arrangements between us and our partners within the EU, they will be very closely and directly affected, far more than those in Singapore or various other areas. We should seek if possible to try to meet them.
I know from personal experience of having a residence in a part of south-west France that many people there keep a very close interest in what is happening in this country and have a direct financial interest. It seems to me that they have as great an interest as, for example, someone who may come here from outside the EU as a result of marriage, who may have very limited English and who may know very little about our culture and our history. Quite rightly, if they assume citizenship through marriage, they have a say, and so also should those who have perhaps spent a lifetime in this country until they go abroad in retirement. They have very close links with this country and a direct interest in it. Yes, those in Singapore may have that as well, but no one can seriously argue that they have as great a stake as those who live in the EU and keep very close links with us.
My Lords, I support this group of amendments, as I did in the Private Member’s Bill last year and also at Second Reading and on the first day of Committee. They represent a very major issue of principle. The Minister said on the first day in Committee that the Government had decided to use the Westminster franchise. I think the reasoning was that it is an established system that is easy to implement. The problem is that it is actually a very weak system because of who it excludes. We have heard all the reasons for that in the debate so far. The Government have accepted the principle of votes for life, and planned legislation to amend that anomaly, so I find it very puzzling to understand why the Government feel unable to implement it in time for this referendum, given that there is a fairly good chance that the referendum will not be held until early 2017. I hope that the Minister will explain in some detail why the timetable for legislation cannot permit the votes-for-life legislation promised in the Conservative manifesto to be implemented in time for it to apply.
One point that has not been made so far in the debate is that it is not difficult, in administrative terms, to resolve this problem. All those who qualified for a vote in this year’s general election and who may exceed the 15-year limit when the referendum is held are known to electoral registration officers, and extension of their right to cover this referendum would be straightforward to implement. Those not registered to vote in a general election who have lived outside the UK and the EU for more than 15 years could be invited to register using passport, national insurance number, evidence of current residence and evidence of their last residence in the UK.
The noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, talked about the numbers involved. Of course, this is an issue of principle—there may well be a lot of people, but the issue of principle seems to me to transcend the issue of how many people might be entitled to vote and how many people might register to vote. I agree with the noble Lord that if the votes-for-life Bill is for all those who live outside the United Kingdom, whether in the EU or elsewhere overseas, that is an issue we need to address. I would be very happy to support an extension to all UK passport holders wherever they live in the world. However, this group of amendments relates to those who live within the European Union. Of course, I accept that an extension of the kind proposed by this group of amendments would give the Government a bit of work. However, set against that should be the rights of all UK passport holders living in the EU to have a say in their future.
We have heard of the concerns that people have. I am particularly concerned as to whether the UK Government will continue to uprate pensions. In many parts of the world, pensions are not uprated. They are uprated within the European Union, because it is part of our agreement as a member of the European Union. Other issues have been raised, but this is really important to those living within the EU outside the UK. It is very important to be clear about these matters, and very important to acknowledge the right of those with a stake in the outcome to have a say. I hope, when the Minister comes to reply, that he will explain why the Government think it is appropriate for them not to have a say.
My Lords, the noble Lords who have tabled these amendments have performed a most valuable service which has wider international dimensions, as my noble friend Lord Flight and others have pointed out. I have strongly and consistently supported the removal of the arbitrary 15-year limit on the right of our fellow countrymen and women living overseas to vote in our parliamentary elections—a right first conferred by Margaret Thatcher’s Government. I urged its removal in my first speech in this Chamber in early 2011. I tabled amendments to the Electoral Registration and Administration Bill in 2013 in order to press the case for change. I took part in subsequent discussions on overseas voting arrangements in a cross-party group chaired by my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth—a group in which my noble friend Lord Tyler played a conspicuous part.
I was delighted when my party included an unambiguous commitment in its recent general election manifesto to sweep away the iniquitous 15-year bar. Swift implementation of that commitment would have dealt with all the aspects of this issue, both as regards the parliamentary franchise and, as a direct consequence, the forthcoming EU referendum. However, the Bill to give effect to the unambiguous Tory commitment has not even been published. I was greatly taken aback to be told, in answer to an Oral Question in July, that there was no certainty whatever that the Bill would reach the statute book before the referendum took place—and it has become even less certain since then. This is deeply disappointing. Nothing could have been more precisely predictable than the emergence of the huge problem with which we are now confronted if swift and early action was not taken.
It is extremely unfortunate, to put it mildly, that work was not set in hand at the earliest opportunity. The Tory pledge was made in September last year. A branch of the Conservative Party’s organisation with which I am closely connected, Conservatives Abroad, has two outstanding experts on all the issues involved in extending the right to vote to all British citizens living overseas. They could have helped prepare the way for the Bill, which, if it were now before Parliament, would have prevented the wholly foreseeable problem that the amendments seek to address; unresolved, it will inflict great injustice on a significant number of our fellow countrymen and countrywomen overseas.
It simply cannot be right to hold a referendum in which some British citizens living in another EU member state or elsewhere in the world are able to take part, while others are excluded because they happen to have been absent from our shores for more than 15 years. The outcome within the EU will affect them all equally and profoundly. It will surely be incomprehensible to our fellow citizens living abroad that an election manifesto commitment cannot be implemented by one means or another in time for them to participate in a vote of such overwhelming importance for the nation to which they belong.
We need to imagine ourselves in the shoes of Harry Shindler, to whom the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, paid tribute, and our other fellow countrymen and countrywomen who have been living overseas for over 15 years and have retained a strong sense of British identity. How would we feel about being excluded from this momentous referendum while those who have not reached the 15-year limit can take part? The Bill should be returned to the other place and amended in order to include British citizens who have been living overseas for more than 15 years. In that way, we would uphold the principle enshrined in the Conservative election manifesto.
My Lords, I added my name to two amendments in this group. I speak in support of the amendments and of the principles that have been enunciated today. The franchise as envisaged in the Bill is full of anomalies, and it was quite clear from the first day of Committee that not all those anomalies will be removed. This, however, is a very simple point, and it is one of justice and fairness. We are speaking of people who have made possibly lifetime decisions to go and live and work in the European Union, and we are proposing to have a referendum that will determine whether or not the state of affairs of the United Kingdom being within the Union continues. In my submission, those people must in fairness have the right to participate.
On the first day of Committee I heard words to the effect of, “a decision to be made by British people”. I hope that it is a decision to be made by all British people, not just those whom we are going to be selective about. We have heard that there is a promise to extend the franchise. That makes it even more unjustifiable to deny those British citizens the right to vote in this referendum.
It would be wrong for those who are opposed to it to see British citizens abroad as somehow tax exiles. Many British citizens living abroad may well be non-resident in terms of not living in this country but they will not be non-resident in the eyes of HMRC, whose grasp is tight and long. Those who have family, properties, sources of income or other matters that bind and tie them to this country remain within its net. Therefore, that is justification for enabling them to have the vote.
Putting it into context, we are seriously proposing that they should not have a say in this decision, in contrast with the arrangements of some other member states which ensure that their citizens who live abroad are represented in their legislatures by members specifically elected by those expatriate communities. I do not suggest that we move in that direction, but I think that it helps us to see the context in which this argument is taking place. I support the amendments in this group.
My Lords, I would like to make a brief intervention, having heard the words “matter of principle” used by a number of contributors. As someone new to this particular debate and this group of amendments, it is slightly odd—is it not?—that a British citizen living in Stockholm under this amendment would be able to take part in the referendum but a British citizen living in Oslo would not. I certainly cannot see an issue of principle that would establish why that should be the case other than what seems to be a weak argument—certainly a very weak argument if it is elevated to being an argument of principle—which is that somehow or other one’s entitlement to vote in an election, whatever the election happens to be, should be dependent on someone else’s assessment of how significant the outcome of the vote would be for the individual concerned.
We do not do that in any other election that I am aware of. If you have young children at school, you are more likely to be affected by the outcome of a local government election than if you do not, because, as we all know, the bulk of local government expenditure goes into education. A person’s right to vote is simply not dependent—or it could never be described as a matter of principle to be dependent—on our estimate of how greatly or significantly the outcome of the vote will affect them. I wonder whether in the rest of the contributions we could acknowledge the validity of that argument.
My Lords, just before the noble Lord sits down, could I possibly correct him in so far as my own reference to a principle was concerned? When I introduced the amendment I said that I did not think that there could be any difference of principle between those of us moving this amendment and the Government who represent a party which in its manifesto said that it was going to give these people a vote. That was the issue of principle which I said did not exist between us; I did not widen the reference.
My Lords, I was not pointing the finger at any individual and certainly not at the noble Lord, Lord Hannay; I was simply making what I think is a very valid point that it is not for us to judge how significant an election outcome is to someone when we are proposing either to give them the franchise or to withhold it from them.
My Lords, I very much welcome the Government’s manifesto commitment to give votes to all expats, no matter how long they have been abroad. It is a very welcome commitment which I look forward to seeing being put into place—but whether it is iniquitous that they have not yet been given the vote, as my noble friend suggested, I am not sure. These are matters of balance and practicality and it is to the practicalities that I will refer very briefly.
I take the point of my noble friend Lord Flight, who asked why, if we are giving votes to people in one part of the world, we should not give them to British citizens in all parts of the world. The Oslo and Stockholm example that the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, offered is very telling. There are something like 5 million British expats living abroad and 2 million of them, give or take a few, live in the European Union. For a very long time they have had the right to vote if they have been there for 15 years or less and I find it deeply distressing, because I believe that they should take an active role in their democracy, that fewer than 20,000 British expats in the European Union have taken up that right to vote. Despite all the efforts and the funding that has been given to advertising by the Government to get them involved, as a group they have shown a very sad lack of willingness to get involved.
My noble friend is right about the situation that existed in 2013 and 2014, but a magnificent effort was spearheaded by Conservatives Abroad, though not on its own, which helped greatly to increase the number registered to more than 100,000—not all in the European Union—at the last general election, which was the largest number ever registered.
I am delighted to receive that update, although as my noble friend says, they were not all in the European Union. However, even if we take the figure of 100,000 around the world, that is not an overwhelming example of enthusiasm by that group of 5 million. I wish it had been more—let me put it that way. That is not a criticism. I just wish that it had been more.
Even a figure of 100,000 is lower than one would like it to be. However, could it be that the small number who have registered for general elections believe that they have a stronger interest in this momentous decision in the referendum than they have had in general elections in the UK, and therefore may be more inclined to register?
I have to grant that that is a possibility. However, this referendum has not exactly been a hidden secret: we have been campaigning about it for years. I would have hoped that if they had a real interest in the referendum, they would have taken the opportunity, as has existed, to sign up. This is not as simple an issue as some noble Lords have made out. It is a matter of great principle. It is a balance. Sadly, we do not know where these people are, in which countries, or how many they are. We will have difficulties contacting them because we do not know where they live. I am nervous that if we make a commitment that we cannot meet, it will end up in a mess. We are all concerned with making sure that this referendum—
It is most interesting that the noble Lord should say that the number of registrations is so low. Of course, it will be higher if there is actually a referendum. But if the numbers are relatively small, perhaps I should turn my argument on its head and say that if a large number of people are not concerned here, why take the risk of appearing to alter the franchise in your own direction?
I would hate to turn the noble Lord’s argument on its head, and I ask him to forgive me if I have encouraged him to do so. I am simply trying to set out some of the practical difficulties. This referendum could be held as early as September of next year, and I believe that this legislation could not be implemented until the early part of next year. It imposes extraordinarily difficult practical problems, and the last thing that any of us wish is an outcome that looks like a mess because of unsatisfactory registration. I ask my noble friend to consider that. If there were a sensible way of ensuring that all British expatriates abroad could be put on the register by the first possible opportunity of September next year, I would very much welcome it.
Is the noble Lord aware that the Electoral Commission does not anticipate any great difficulty? As a result of the very considerable efforts made before this year’s general election, to which the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, has just referred, the arrangements are hugely improved—not least, of course, because of online registration. If the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, has information from the Electoral Commission that is adverse to that particular advice that it has given previously, perhaps he will give it to the Committee.
I will be delighted to, and I thank the noble Lord for his intervention. I talked to the Electoral Commission just a little while ago, before the vote last week on individual electoral registration. It emphasised that if we were, for instance, to offer 16 and 17 year-olds the vote, which is a position, as he knows, that I have put forward, it would have exceeding difficulty—the noble Lord shakes his head. I am not quite sure what I have said that he could possibly disagree with, as I have not yet come to a conclusion. Maybe he has already made up his mind. The commission said that it would have exceeding difficulty in making those arrangements for 16 and 17 year-olds who are in this country before the autumn of next year. How much more difficult would it be for people when we do not know who they are or where they are? I ask this Committee to consider the practical difficulties of what we are asking for and not to end up passing bits of legislation that make the referendum a mess.
My Lords, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Green, was implying that we would expect expats living elsewhere in the European Union to vote in one direction rather than another. Certainly during my most recent visits to southern France, southern Spain, Portugal, Italy and Cyprus, it became clear that the two British newspapers that are most readily available are the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph. The Guardian is the most difficult one to obtain, so I am not sure that one should assume that people will naturally vote one way or another.
Again, I am grateful for the intervention, but I hope now to be able to sit down. I do not think that the noble Lord was listening because I do not believe that I made the slightest indication as to whether expat voters would vote one way or the other. That is not our concern, and the decision should not be based on whether they are likely to vote in one direction or the other. It is a matter of rights and of practicality.
My Lords, I support the remarks of my noble friends Lord Flight, Lord Dobbs and Lord Lexden, and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Green. It seems to me that if you are going to enfranchise British citizens living in the EU, you must spread that across the whole world. It is only on the margin that you can argue that somehow a citizen living in the EU has a much greater interest in the outcome of this referendum than one who, say, works in financial services in the Gulf, Singapore or Hong Kong and has every intention of coming back to the United Kingdom.
As my noble friend will recall, I supported the contention of my noble friend Lord Flight that everybody should have the franchise, but surely there is a very big distinction between somebody working or living in the EU and somebody living or working outside the EU. If we leave the EU and we inhibit freedom of movement for people coming into this country, then freedom of movement for people going out from this country will be affected. Therefore, the people living in the EU will perhaps have their lives very materially affected, which those living in Cape Town or Sydney will not.
Of course, when we come to debate whether we should stay in or go out, this is really going to be the basis of the whole campaign: there will be all these wonderful scare stories about how barriers are going to be put up. I remind my noble friend Lord Tugendhat that there are probably just as many EU citizens living in the United Kingdom as there are British citizens living in the EU, and therefore in the inevitable negotiations that will take place after a decision to leave—if such a decision is made—something will need to be done to cater for these people so that they can travel without visas between both countries.
I also remind my noble friend that we are not part of the Schengen agreement, so there is not free movement of citizens directly from the EU into the United Kingdom. They have to show their passports, which they do not have to do when crossing borders in the EU, as we have discovered through the inordinately large number of immigrants now coming into the EU.
I also want to pick up on the point about the timing made by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley. This is obviously of major concern to the Government, and I know that my noble friend will be covering it in his response to the debate, but we must know exactly what is involved in getting these people to register. I make it absolutely clear to the Committee that if an amendment on this is tabled on Report, I shall certainly ensure that another amendment is tabled to enfranchise all citizens around the whole world.
My Lords, I had planned to keep my comments incredibly brief. Obviously I support the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lady Miller and the amendments in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, myself and others. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, I feel that we should speak to the amendments that are listed to be dealt with today. While there may well be a case for enfranchising British people who have been abroad for more than 15 years wherever they live, that is not what we are discussing today.
One issue that has come up several times is the number of people. Frankly, I do not believe it matters whether there are 1 million or 2 million British people living in the European Union or EU nationals living in the United Kingdom, or how many 16 and 17 year-olds there are—which was the subject of debate on our first day in Committee. We should be talking about the principles and whether we believe that EU nationals resident in the UK and British citizens who are resident for more than 15 years in the EU or elsewhere should be allowed to vote. Those are matters of principle; the actual numbers really do not matter greatly. Although it was interesting to hear the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, turn himself round on this issue, I am not persuaded that the numbers matter.
What does matter—as we heard at the outset from the noble Lord, Lord Hannay—is that it is the Government’s policy to enfranchise British citizens who have been abroad for more than 15 years. As this is an issue where we seem to have cross-party support, I would have hoped that we might have had this debate rather more quickly. Can the Minister offer some thoughts on how the Government will deal with this specific aspect of the referendum, which we have been told in the past will be a one-off, once-in-a-generation event? Waiting for a revision to the Representation of the People Act would significantly disenfranchise people who have a real interest in it precisely because, in terms of the amendment, they are British residents of the European Union making use of the rights that they have as citizens of the European Union. We do not need to be a member of Schengen to have the benefit of free movement, but those people will clearly be affected by this referendum.
It is notable that pretty well every speaker has spoken in support of what the noble Lord, Lord Flight, said. It was the reason why I intervened on the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, when I asked him whether he really meant “abroad”—because if he had, it would have been a very significant thing. However, we are where we are. I hope the Government—
I am sorry; I think the noble Lord has misunderstood yet again what I said. In my opening remarks I said that I welcomed and supported what was in the Conservative manifesto. When it is brought before this House, I will vote in favour of it. I am in favour of the vote being given to all British citizens who live abroad, irrespective of where they live. However, in the context of this Bill, which is about an EU referendum, I have advanced an amendment which is designed to give people who have a serious interest in that referendum the vote. But there should be no mistaking it: I am not distinguishing between the two except in the context of this Bill. I shall be there to vote with the noble Lord when the Representation of the People Act comes forward.
I very much understand why the noble Lord makes a distinction, because—I will say it again—the amendment that he has produced in its form will hope to skew the results. One point made in this short debate is that the reason for having this rather skewed amendment is that people who live in the European Union like living there. Well, fine, but it gives a perspective on the answer that they might give in a referendum. I have no doubt that the noble Lord has that in his mind. I therefore say to the Government, who are meant to be neutral in all this, that in the interests of fairness and neutrality, and if they are going to extend the franchise, they should listen to the arguments for doing so on a worldwide basis.
My Lords, I, too, wholly agree with what my noble friend Lord Flight said—that if we are going to extend the vote in the referendum to those United Kingdom citizens who live outside the United Kingdom, it should be extended to all of them. However, I do not feel that those who live outside the United Kingdom have quite an equivalent right to vote as those who live here. As democracy was being extended in this country, it was often said, “No taxation without representation”. I seem to remember that when I went to live and work in Japan, I stopped paying United Kingdom income tax fairly immediately, although I did have to pay Japanese income tax, which was at rather a higher rate.
I later became chairman of Conservatives Abroad in Japan, and asked for the franchise for those of us who were abroad for a relatively short time with the clear intention of coming back. If you have been abroad for a long time and made your life abroad and have no intention of coming back to the UK to live, your right to have your voice heard in a general election or referendum is somewhat less. There may well be a case for extending the franchise beyond 15 years to United Kingdom citizens abroad, but there are practical difficulties in tracing who they are. On which electoral register would they be if they no longer have any family members living in the area where they previously lived? It seems rather complicated, so I cannot support the amendments.
On the point about British citizens living in the EU, of course I go along with the principle of no taxation without representation, but many of our citizens who live on the continent worked in Britain all their lives, paid taxes all their lives and have gone to the continent to retire. So it is a bit hard to deny them the vote on the no taxation without representation ground.
I hate to break the cosy consensus that is obvious here in the Chamber today, but the Labour Party does not believe that the vote should be extended beyond 15 years to people living in the EU. We are intensely aware that some British people who live abroad, especially in EU member states, have maintained a close connection with their mother nation. As we have heard, many of them continue to contribute through taxation or simply feel that the UK is still their home. But the fact is that they do not live in this country, and we argue that 15 years is a reasonable amount of time to take into account short-term work contracts, for example.
The issue of citizenship and the responsibilities of citizens is a complex and difficult area, especially in the UK. We heard last Wednesday about the report written by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, on the six different categories of citizenship in this country. It would be appropriate for this House to have a broader discussion on citizenship at some point. However, if in principle, as we were discussing on Wednesday, we want people who have been in this country for more than 15 years integrating, taking part in their communities and setting down roots, should we not ask British people to do the same in their adopted countries? That was part of the point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard.
It is also worth taking note of the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Grocott. If we introduce a system whereby we look at who is going to be impacted, and whether they therefore get a vote, we are on a pretty dangerous path.
It is also worth taking note of the practical issues set out by the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs. How do we register these people? We are keen to see the franchise extended to 16 and 17 year-olds. How do we start rounding those up across the EU or the whole world?
We are particularly aware, however, that there are people in the EU who have remained there because they are flying the flag on behalf of our country. I know that people who have worked in the EU institutions for many years are upset that they are going to be disfranchised following years of service in the European Commission or the European Parliament.
We know that many people have lived in the EU for more than 15 years. They will feel very vulnerable at this vote because the one thing we cannot be sure about if the UK votes to leave is what their status will be in the countries in which they have made their homes. Will they be able to stay in some countries but not others? Will they be able to use the health service in their adopted nations?
Will not the noble Baroness accept that there are large numbers of EU citizens living in this country? There will be a period of prolonged negotiation if the vote is made to leave, and obviously the status of EU citizens living in the United Kingdom will be addressed in the same way as British citizens living in the EU. All these matters will be resolved through negotiation.
That is easier said than done. The suggestion is that this will be a prolonged period. However, the reality is that the negotiation would have to be concluded within two years. That is not a long time for people to look at their status within a nation and for us to look at the status of EU citizens within this country. You have to understand the practicalities of the mechanism for disentangling our relationship with the EU if people were to vote to leave it. It is important to understand whether people would be able to get their pensions transferred if we were to leave the EU.
We have had no answers from the UK Government on these issues but there must be no question whatever about the legitimacy of this referendum. We believe there should be a cut-off point in terms of when people should lose their entitlement to vote if they have made their home abroad. We think the current cut-off point of 15 years is about right. However, let me make it absolutely clear that there is no inconsistency in the Labour position on this. The Conservative Government have said clearly that they want to see it extended; that they want British citizens who move abroad to be able to vote for ever. We do not believe that and we will object to that Bill when it comes to this House. I hope the House will agree that at least there is a degree of consistency in the Labour Party position on this issue. We do not want to see this franchise extended beyond 15 years.
My Lords, the purpose of this group of amendments is to allow British citizens resident in other EU member states to vote in the EU referendum irrespective of the time they have been resident overseas. This would lift the current 15-year time limit on voting rights for British citizens resident overseas, but only for those Britons resident in the EU. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said that with this group we were entering calmer waters. The waters proved to be calm-ish. As noble Lords will be aware, the Government are committed to lifting the 15-year rule. I trust that some of the support that has come from various quarters of the House will be extended when we bring forward a dedicated Bill in due course.
We should not make novel changes to the franchise lightly. Both Houses will need to consider it very carefully. It would require complex changes to the electoral system; we would need to take decisions about how to deal with potential fraud, and how to update electoral registration and ensure that changes are fair and robust. The principle—though I hesitate to use that word in this debate—is simple, but there is real complexity here as well. Critically, we want to include all British citizens living overseas, not only those living in other EU member states. The noble Lord, Lord Grocott, pointed to differences that might arise between Stockholm and Oslo with this amendment; my noble friend Lord Flight compared Berlin and Singapore. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, is not concerned with those outside the European Union, and that the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, said that things are rather different if you are not in the European Union. However, it may not be easily justifiable to distinguish between those living within and outside the European Union. The noble Lord, Lord Grocott, was right to say that degree of interest—either specifically or in terms of effect—is not the criterion for deciding whether somebody is allowed to vote. Some who live within the European Union may be entirely indifferent to what happens in Europe; some who live outside the European Union may be either directly affected or significantly concerned with the outcome.
During the debate, reference was made to the number of British citizens living overseas and in the European Union. As I understand it, there are no official statistics on the number of UK citizens resident overseas, but the figure that the Government believe most accurate is from the World Bank’s estimate of migrant stocks in 2010, as updated by the UN Department for Social and Economic Affairs in 2013. This report estimates that approximately 5.2 million British-born migrants live overseas, of whom approximately 1.3 million are in other EU countries. We have no figures that distinguish between British citizens who have lived overseas for more or less than 15 years.
My noble friends Lord Dobbs and Lord Lexden had an exchange about the number of citizens who applied to vote. My noble friend Lord Dobbs was right to say that, ahead of the 2015 general election, 113,000 overseas citizens applied to register to vote. The highest number before 2015 was 30,000, when British citizens resident abroad were first given the right to vote. That increase in overseas registrations can be attributed to a combination of a greater ease of registering and a £500,000 investment by the previous Government to encourage those living overseas to vote.
The noble Lord, Lord Tyler, who is not in his place at the moment, made reference to what he thought the Electoral Commission had said about the relative ease of amending registers to deal with the results of this amendment. There is nothing in the Electoral Commission report to support what he says. In a passage that was referred to in our previous debates, the Electoral Commission concluded that:
“While the date of the referendum remains unknown, it will be difficult for EROs, the Electoral Commission and campaigners to plan activities required to target and encourage any newly enfranchised electors to register to vote”.
As has been said in this Chamber in other contexts, it is most important that registration should not be rushed, in case those who may be newly enfranchised feel that they have been excluded from the register because it has all been too rushed.
Is the Minister seriously suggesting that, if and when the piece of legislation we are now discussing goes on the statute book—which I hope and think will probably be around Christmas—the Electoral Commission will have any inhibition at all in getting on with it, should it contain a provision that this group of people should have the vote? Surely he is not suggesting that the Commission has to wait until the Government decide the date of the referendum before it starts work.
The date of the referendum is of course unknown. No doubt the Electoral Commission will fulfil whatever the existing legislative obligation requires it to do. It may require a great deal of energy and expenditure, and while I am not saying from the Dispatch Box that it would be impossible, one should not underestimate the complexities involved in the process.
The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, said in effect that he is concerned that there was some form of delay by the Government. Perhaps I may reiterate that the Government are committed to scrapping the 15-year rule and they are currently considering the timetable to do this. The date of the referendum is not known, so I am afraid that I cannot make any commitment that votes for life will be in place in time for the referendum. However, we should remember that many British citizens living abroad will be eligible to participate in the referendum vote.
My Lords, forgive me, but I am bound to ask this. The Minister has cited the complexities of introducing new legislation, which I accept entirely. But knowing of the complexities involved and the organisational challenges mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, and knowing that we are going to have a referendum, why was the legislation to extend the franchise to all citizens living abroad for the forthcoming elections not introduced as one of the first Bills of this parliamentary Session?
The Government have their priorities and a considerable amount of legislation has been introduced, some of which has moved fairly slowly through your Lordships’ House. I cannot speak for the Government’s assessment of their priorities. This is an important matter and it will no doubt take its place in due course.
The noble Baroness, Lady Royall, suggested that the Government’s enthusiasm for UK citizens having a vote outside the EU might be motivated by their apparent desire to vote Conservative. As I have said consistently from the Dispatch Box, we have no idea how people would vote, whether they live in the EU or outside it. The Government are simply not concerned with trying to second-guess anything. They are concerned only with legitimacy—here, I agree entirely with the noble Baroness—that people feel there has been no manipulation and no sense that there has been an attempt to skew the result, however illegitimate they might think it was. We suggest that the best criterion is to have the Westminster franchise. Of course, I am sympathetic to much that lies behind the amendment, having regard to the Government’s commitment in respect of votes for life.
I should finally point out that many British citizens living in the EU and elsewhere in the world will be able to vote in the referendum as long as they have not been living overseas for 15 years or more. The parliamentary franchise already allows them to vote. So while I am sympathetic to the amendment, I do not believe that this is the time or place to make those changes.
My Lords, I warmly thank all those who have spoken in this interesting debate, which I think has fleshed out some of the major questions. I would like to make a couple of points. The noble Lord, Lord Grocott, asked what the difference is between someone living in Oslo and someone living in Stockholm, and other noble Lords had that question in their minds. The difference is that the people living in EU countries, when they decided to work or to retire abroad, for example, did so on the basis of being EU citizens, not citizens of anywhere else. What we are possibly about to remove in the EU referendum, if it goes the other way, is that EU citizenship. That puts them into a totally different category.
But, my Lords, as soon as you start speculating about other people’s motives, you end up in pretty deep water. It might be that someone has gone to live and work in Oslo because Norway is not a member of the European Union. You simply cannot make those kinds of judgments about people’s motivations.
I am clearly not going to agree with the noble Lord on that one. I think that there is a basic difference between us in our understanding of what being an EU citizen is. However, I was not as depressed by that argument as by the one put forward by several noble Lords—notably the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs—that it really all seems to be much too difficult. There are too many people and how would we reach them? That is not a reason for not giving people the vote.
The noble Baroness really must not misunderstand me. I was not saying that it would be too difficult; I was simply saying that there are practical issues which need to be taken into account. They cannot be swept aside by somebody’s passion for a principle that they have suddenly grabbed on to in opposition, but seemed to be rather quiet about when they were in the coalition Government.
I think what the noble Lord said when he referred to Hansard was that there were too many practical problems. That comes back to the Government’s attitude, too. I can see that we are not likely to agree at this stage, but I am very glad to have discovered the true objection to the reason for giving people a vote. Before Report, it would be very useful if noble Lords dissociated votes for life, which is a totally different issue, from the right to vote in the EU referendum. I respectfully say to the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan of Ely, that she talked a lot about what is effectively a votes-for-life issue. When we come back to the Bill on Report, we need to concentrate solely on the EU referendum and not get diverted by something the Government seem to offer as a sop, saying that there is going to be a Bill on votes for life, if there is time, in this Parliament. Most of the EU ex-pats I have come across are Conservative voters—so I am not batting for them because I think we will do well out of it in the long run—and they are appalled at being given such a short straw.
Finally, several noble Lords who oppose these amendments seem to draw comfort from the fact that lots of EU citizens have been in the EU for less than 15 years and therefore would have a right to vote. That is no reason to feel better, because noble Lords themselves have discovered the inequity in their argument. I will come back to this issue on Report, but in the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 14 withdrawn.
Amendments 15 to 19 not moved.
Clause 2 agreed.
Amendment 20 not moved.
Clause 5 agreed.
21: After Clause 5, insert the following new Clause—
“Report on the consequences of United Kingdom withdrawal from the European Union
(1) No later than 12 weeks prior to the appointed date of the referendum, the Secretary of State shall publish, and lay before each House of Parliament, a comprehensive report on the possible consequences of withdrawal from the European Union, taking into account the reports published under the Review of the Balance of Competences.
(2) The report provided for by subsection (1) shall include information on—
(a) the effect of withdrawal on the rights of individuals within the United Kingdom, including the effect on employment rights;(b) the rights of European citizens living in the United Kingdom following withdrawal; (c) the rights, following withdrawal, of United Kingdom citizens living in another country that is a member of the European Union;(d) the legislative and statutory consequences of withdrawal for each government department and for the devolved governments of the United Kingdom, including for social and environmental legislation; and(e) consequences of withdrawal for law enforcement, security and justice in the United Kingdom and in the devolved jurisdictions.”
My Lords, we have now moved away from the franchise—and not before time, as we have spent quite a lot on it. I suspect the Minister will be able to pass on the baton at this moment, but we are moving on to a matter of substantive policy. Above all, these amendments seek to address what most debaters on both sides of the argument in this House, the other place and the country recognise as being a genuine problem: the lack of objective information about the implications of the referendum vote. All the opinion polling over many years has demonstrated that there is a great deal of misunderstanding, and sometimes misrepresentation, of the facts of our membership and what would be implied by our leaving the European Union if the vote goes in that direction.
These amendments are designed to persuade the Government to include in the Bill certain obligations to provide, or to have provided, information of an objective kind that will enable the electorate to make up their own mind—not to tell them how they are to vote. There will, of course, be a huge amount of advocacy from both sides in the months ahead. That is exactly as it should be. This is a democratic process and advocacy is part of that process. I am not for one moment criticising the fact that that will take place, but it will not be designed to provide objective information. It will be designed to present information in a persuasive way, and that is a different thing. As I say, there appears to be a rather wide lack of objective information on this area of the European Union. I hope that the Minister, who is always extremely good at listening to points that are put, will consider that very carefully.
I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I do not disagree at all with what he is saying about providing as much information as possible on the consequences of withdrawal. As other amendments propose, that information should also address the consequences of remaining in. Both sides should be presented. What I am not absolutely clear about is his suggestion that there can be an objective set of propositions on these matters. How would one present an objective position on, for example, the costs of the common agricultural policy?
I am sorry to disappoint the noble Lord but the amendments to which I am speaking do not relate to presenting anything about the common agricultural policy. That is not in the list of areas provided here. These amendments, and the request for a report from the Government, address factual areas where people’s rights or responsibilities will be affected by a vote to leave. The previous Government provided a lot of evidence-based material of that nature in the balance of competences review—a review which the present Government seem to prefer to forget that they had any paternity interest in, but they did. It was, I thought, a pretty good piece of work and there is a huge amount of material there. However, it is not yet addressing satisfactorily some of the factual areas. What are those factual areas? First, there is the question of the rights—
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord again and I am grateful to him for giving way. He slightly threw me by saying that this has nothing to do with the common agricultural policy. However, subsection (2)(d) of the proposed new clause refers to,
“the legislative and statutory consequences of withdrawal for each government department”.
It would be very strange for the information on the consequences of withdrawal for the department concerned with agriculture not to include a reference to the common agricultural policy.
I am sorry. I will get to that. I hope that the noble Lord will be patient and wait until we get to that part of the amendment. I will then explain what it is intended to suggest.
The first area where it is suggested that it would be valuable for the electorate to have a factual assessment of the consequences of a decision to withdraw relates to the rights of individuals, including their employment rights. It is not important to tell them how these rights would be affected by a decision to stay in as in that case the rights would be the same as they have now. The second area concerns the effect of withdrawal on the rights of EU citizens in this country, many of which are secured under EU law. They also need to know what the consequences would be.
The third category is the rights of British citizens in the rest of the EU, the people about whose ability to vote we were discussing in the previous set of amendments, but who have serious rights bestowed on them under EU law that they would lose if we left. I am afraid that it is no good, as the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, kept saying in stating that it is sure to be all right on the night, and that there are an awful lot of EU citizens here and an awful lot of our citizens there, and that it will all roll out. That is the leap in the dark proposal. People who leap into the dark sometimes find that they have fallen rather a long way.
Then there is the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, which is a further category—the legislative and statutory consequences of withdrawal, department by department, and addressing the legislative burden. That asks the Government what they would have to do in order to replace the common agricultural policy if we withdrew. Presumably nobody in this House seriously believes that the British agricultural economy could survive without any governmental involvement. There would have to be a British agricultural policy and that would have to be enacted by Parliament. There would have to be a British policy on research and on business regulation, and a whole range of things, many of which are contained in European Union law. This amendment asks the Government to set out what those requirements would be in the circumstances that I am describing.
I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, is intervening in my speech. Perhaps I could reply to the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton. That is the normal practice. The point that he raised is perfectly valid, but it is not called for in this amendment. The question of the financing of these policies would as usual escape the control of your Lordships’ House and be dealt with in a Budget. I imagine that British farmers need to know under what regime they would live, what the rules and regulations would be, and above how all that regime would be brought about in time.
My Lords, perhaps I can put a little flesh on my noble friend Lord Hamilton’s question. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, saw the Pink Book figures that emerged on Friday. They state our gross contribution for 2014 as £20 billion, of which the mandarins in Brussels were graciously pleased to send back to us a mere £7.5 billion. In the spirit of the noble Lord’s question, does the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, agree that we would have at least £12.5 billion clear to meet any financial difficulties arising from the points that he is making?
No, I do not agree and I do not have to address it in this debate, because it is not what we are debating. I remind the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, that in the most recent certified figures, which were produced for 2013—I am not aware of the ones to which he has just referred—the British net contribution per capita was ninth, behind that of France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg, and a few other countries.
It is not about the budgeting—I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I want briefly to draw his attention to a Legatum Institute report today which ranks the prosperity of various nations in the world. Britain happens to have the best record in the last year of any major European country. Interestingly, according to that report the first and second most prosperous countries in Europe turned out to be Norway and Switzerland. I do not know what the noble Lord reads into that but I thought that it would be of interest to his discussion.
I will probably cause the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, apoplexy if I say that what I read into it is that we are probably paying less into the European Union than we ought to, if we are so prosperous and yet only ninth in our per capita contribution.
Can I ask one question about what is in the noble Lord’s amendment? In Amendment 21, subsection (2)(e) of the proposed new clause refers to comparing what the effect will be on jurisprudence, criminal law and so on. How dynamic will be the base from which this assessment will be made? It is always argued, for instance, that we will never have a totally Europe-wide criminal law but we all know that that is the direction we are going in. What is the baseline from which this assessment will be made?
I think that the noble Lord is referring to the last paragraph of the subsection, which is on law enforcement. The situation there is fairly easy to follow. The present situation is that we have opted back into, I think, 36 justice and home affairs measures—no, it was fewer than that. It is Protocol 36 but the number is somewhere in the 30s, and those measures are the ones that apply in this country now. The ones that we did not opt back into do not apply and would therefore not be affected by a decision to withdraw. The ones that we did opt back into and which do apply in this country would be affected by a decision to withdraw. They include things such as the European arrest warrant.
If I may skip on to this part of the amendment, the implications for law enforcement, security and justice and, above all, for the European arrest warrant are extraordinarily serious. We discovered at the time of the Protocol 36 discussions, which were pretty intensive in this House, in the other place and in the public press, that the consequences for law and order on the island of Ireland could be extremely serious if the European arrest warrant did not exist. It has in fact managed, for practically the first time in recorded history, to depoliticise the issue of extradition between the two parts of the island of Ireland. It is now possible to get back criminals, including terrorists, who are wanted for trial in Northern Ireland from the south without a highly politicised process, and very expeditiously. That would be lost if the European arrest warrant ceased to apply in this country and, I suggest, that would have pretty serious implications for the rule of law in Northern Ireland.
I really do not think that we should delay the Committee with a replay of the Protocol 36 debates. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, is looking quizzically around. She was the Chief Whip at the time and was very familiar with the arguments. The fact of the matter is that every legal body in this country—the Bar Council, the Law Society and anyone else noble Lords might like to think of—came forward at that time and said that to renegotiate extradition agreements with each of the other member states of the EU would be defective and slow, and that it would not work as well as the present arrangements.
In any case, this is not a request to go around that course again. Parliament has decided that we are in the European arrest warrant and in the other wings that we opted back into. This is a request for the Government to provide factual information about what would be at stake if the electorate were to vote to withdraw from the European Union. It is surely reasonable for that information to be provided and along with it, naturally, the implications for law and order, law enforcement and so on—and for Northern Ireland.
On the need to introduce new legislation, I mentioned the agriculture and fisheries policy. We would have to construct a new tariff. We would have to decide the tariff we were going to apply, rather than the common external tariff of the European Union. That is no small matter. It affects every single business in this country. The level at which we would apply the tariff would have to be decided. It could be lower than the common external tariff, which would be helpful to freer trade; or higher, in which case we would have to pay compensation to every other country in the world; or the same, in which case, what the hell were we doing? These are important points and I hope that the Minister in her reply—
My Lords, before the noble Lord replies, can we get back to some sort of order, so that we can have the points explained with some degree of logicality? If the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, has finished his original speech on presenting the amendment, could he perhaps move it so that we can get on in the normal way?
Yes, I would be delighted to do that. I have been interrupted rather a lot of times. I will reply to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, before following that sage advice. I was not addressing just the question of our trade with other member states. There will be plenty of other opportunities to do that. I was talking about our trade with the rest of the world. If the vote goes for withdrawal, we will have to construct a new British tariff. If that tariff is above the level of the common external tariff, we will have to pay compensation under the WTO rules to every other member of the WTO. These serious matters need to be brought out into the open. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support the noble Lord, Lord Hannay. I cannot see how any reasonable person could possibly object to the amendment, in terms of getting the information that is needed to enable people to come to a balanced decision. Of course, whichever way they vote, the information should be neutral and factual.
My Amendments 28 and 29 are linked to this group and refer to two specific areas, including agriculture, which the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, addressed a few moments ago. Amendment 28 raises the issue of European Union structural funds. This area is of great significance to two-thirds of Wales, which are within the structural fund area and which, since 2000, have received several thousand million pounds, first from Objective 1 funding, then convergence funding and now the current round that runs to 2020.
Currently many organisations in Wales in the public and private sector look to these sources of funding to make a vital difference. If leaving the European Union during this time is going to change the entitlement to such funding, it clearly has a direct, immediate effect on such organisations, whether universities, local government or people in the private sector. They have a right to know about this.
It is not unreasonable to ask for an assessment in the generality but also specifically with regard to the regions that have a direct entitlement to such funding. Some areas, such as South Yorkshire, Merseyside, Cornwall and Northern Ireland and, in the past, the Highlands and Islands of Scotland have benefited from such funding. It is of material consequence. It is made available on the basis of the low level of the economic performance in areas such as Wales. Our GVA per head now stands below 75% of the UK average, because of the failure of successive economic policies. We will not go into whether that failure is on account of what has been done here at Westminster or in the Assembly, but the funding is because of that failure. We are entitled to such funding to try to trigger the economy. Cornwall has undoubtedly succeeded to a considerable extent by using this funding, perhaps better than we have in Wales. Although the authorities in Brussels say that the way in which Wales has used the funding has been an example to other parts of Europe, none the less, we still have these economic problems. People in Wales deciding whether to vote to leave the European Union or to remain in are entitled to some assessment of what effect a loss of this funding might have.
I take the point that was made in the context of the earlier exchanges that perhaps the Treasury would make up for this loss. But history does not fill us with a lot of confidence about that. Until 2000, we were not getting anything at all, because the Treasury refused to put forward proposals to Brussels that would entitle Wales to such funding. It drew a map, divided from north to south, and made sure that neither side of that line was entitled to get the money. It was only when a new map was put forward that we got our entitlement.
Then there was the experience even after we started getting money from Brussels. In 2000, when the Objective 1 money was coming through, we found that it was not being passed on by the Treasury to the National Assembly. We were expected to spend the money but were not getting the contribution from the Treasury because we were already being looked after very well indeed. I went off to Brussels with a delegation to see the then Commissioner for Regional Policy about this. When we explained the situation to him, he turned to his officials and asked in French, “Could this possibly be true?”. His officials confirmed that, yes, Brussels was passing the money over to the Treasury in London and it was not being passed to those areas that were entitled to get the funding. It was outrageous. To his credit, the Commissioner took the matter up with the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr Gordon Brown, and in the financial review a few months later—in July 2000 or 2001, if I remember right—an adjustment was made of the £442 million that had come from Brussels which was meant for Wales but had not been passed over. How on earth can we be expected to have full confidence that London will step in and fill the breach when that has happened in the past? At the very least we should have an assessment made as to what the effects would be, not just in Wales but in the other areas that might be affected by this.
Amendment 29 moves on to the question of agriculture. Whatever the pros and cons in various parts of the United Kingdom of the common agricultural policy may be, the farming unions in Wales have no doubt whatever what the impact will be, as 80% of farm incomes in Wales are dependent on Brussels. Of course, we will be told, “Ah well, that will be made up for again”. Are we going to go back and have something like the Milk Marketing Board regime or the type of sheep meat regimes that we had prior to the European Union? So much of our market for sheep meat is in Europe and the dependency of sheep farmers in particular on the European Union is very considerable indeed. I am not saying that I know all the answers to these arguments—I do not—but the farmers and those in the universities and other sectors of the economy are entitled to know them. At the very least, clear and unbiased statements about the factual reality should be put out by a Government who have looked at both sides of the argument.
At present, Wales gets a net advantage of some £40 per head per annum from the European Union. It is not a tremendous sum but it is an advantage—other areas will no doubt have a disadvantage. People should know, to the best of our ability to tell them, what the effect of pulling out would be. That is the point of these amendments, which have the same objective as the earlier amendment that has been moved. I very much hope that the Government will give some firm commitment on these matters.
My Lords, I will speak to my Amendment 27. I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, that this group of amendments and the consequences of leaving or staying in are among the most important that we shall debate in this House. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, has moved an amendment asking the Government to report on the possible consequences to the UK if we vote to leave. I believe it is equally important that we have an assessment of the likely consequences if we vote to stay in. Some might ask how one can report on that when one has no idea what the EU might agree to in a future treaty. That is true, but only to a certain extent. There is a track record here; the EU has a bit of form on this. It is not as if we have not been here before on numerous occasions.
In 1989 we had the Delors report, calling for full European integration. It was pooh-poohed by the UK Government and press as something that was never going to happen, but that ignored the inexorable drive to ever-closer union—though that was not the terminology then—that led to the Maastricht treaty. We got qualified majority voting and the start of interference in justice and home affairs measures, as well as a host of other unexpected consequences. Of course, the British people were given no say in a referendum. So we got the Delors report, warts and all.
About 10 years later, we had the Valéry Giscard d’Estaing grand report, the draft treaty establishing a constitution for Europe. This, again, was pooh-poohed by EU supporters as not being a radical change, and nothing to worry about. If I recall, the UK Government and press condemned it and said that it should not and would not happen. It was vetoed by France and then the EU did what it always does; it reintroduced it in slightly different clothes as the Lisbon treaty. Some 95% of the EU superstate constitution proposed by d’Estaing was incorporated into the Lisbon treaty and the name was changed from “constitution” in order to deceive the electors of Europe. Once again, the British electorate were given no say.
The point I am trying to make with these two examples is that that there is a track record of the EU taking ever more power from national Governments and vesting it in the Commission. Now we come to the core of my amendments, based on the five presidents’ report, published in June or July this year. If we say to the British people, “Look at this report; this is what you can expect if we stay in”, the response of the BSE campaign will be that it is just some vague suggestions; it may not happen and if it does, it will be years away and will apply only to the eurozone members in any case. In other words, these are the same lines we were spun about the Delors report and the d’Estaing report, but a few years later they became binding treaties.
I thank the noble Baroness. I would be delighted to see the conclusions of any of our august Select Committees. I was privileged to serve under the notable chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, for a while, but I am afraid that the conclusions that this House may draw as to what will happen to the five presidents’ report may not accord with the opinion of the five presidents—Jean-Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, Mario Draghi and Martin Schulz. I am sure that the noble Baroness will show her conclusions to them; I only hope that they will pay some attention to some of them. My amendment does ask the Government to look at the five presidents’ report. My worry is that it is not a question of if some day it will happen but of when it will happen, because that is the track record of previous reports.
A key objective is EU representation on the IMF in place of nation states. Theoretically, the UK, not being part of the eurozone, would keep its seat and independent voice, but that is not the case. We might still have our seat but we would have to sing the EU tune. Under Article 34(2) of the Treaty of European Union, member states are required to,
“concert and keep the other Member States and the High Representative fully informed ... defend the positions and the interests of the Union, without prejudice to their responsibilities under the provisions of the United Nations Charter. When the Union has defined a position on a subject which is on the United Nations Security Council agenda, those Member States which sit on the Security Council shall”—
I thought it might continue with “obey”, but it is not quite that—
“request that the High Representative be invited to present the Union’s position”.
That is the position on the United Nations Security Council, where our independent voice now has to be somewhat muted to comply with the EU position. Exactly the same would apply to the IMF.
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but I think I might have been responsible for some of the language there and I have to tell him that it was explicitly put into the treaty to safeguard the British position as a permanent member of the Security Council. If he reads it carefully, he will see that we are under no obligation whatever to follow a European decision unless we participate in it ourselves, and these decisions are adopted by unanimity. The saving clause is that our responsibilities under the UN charter are preserved despite the move forward on common foreign and security policy. So I am sorry to say that this fox is just about as dead as it could be.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, and of course I bow to his incredible knowledge of the workings not just of Europe but of the United Nations. Nevertheless, part of the treaty of the European Union has conditions asking all the contracting states, the members of the union, to concert with the EU high representative. That is not the position that we had 20 years ago, and it shows the inexorable move to the EU wanting to take more and more power. I give way to the noble Lord, Lord Kerr.
I see this as quite a difficult amendment because it asks the Government to speculate. The amendment that the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, introduced a moment ago asks the Government to give information; this one is asking them to predict the future course of the European Union. Down the years men have dreamt dreams and had visions, and an awful lot of it has not happened.
The direction is not all one way. If the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, looks very carefully at the draft constitutional treaty that was rejected by the French, for example, he will discover that it does not include any aspiration to ever-closer union. Does he really think that the French are about to give up their seat in the IMF or on the United Nations Security Council? Many think that there should be reform of the Security Council but the day that the French give up their seat, flying pigs will be seen over Whitehall.
My Lords, that is the one safeguard we may have: the French will always want to retain their seat on the Security Council. I think that we can detect that the day the French wish to give that up, we can rest assured that the whole EU foreign policy will be dictated by the Élysée Palace. I also say to the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, that it is no more speculative to ask the Government to report on what is in my amendment than it is to ask them to report on, as subsection (2)(c) of the proposed new clause states,
“the rights, following withdrawal, of United Kingdom citizens living in another country”.
We have no idea what those rights may be. I do not think there is any EU law at the moment that says that the moment Britain or any other country withdraws, citizens living in that country will be immediately expelled or that conditions X, Y or Z would apply. It would be negotiated.
The noble Lord is very generous. Actually, the Government could publish what the effect would be on citizens’ rights of our leaving the European Union. It is completely clear what their rights would be: they would no longer be EU citizens. Therefore, British citizens resident abroad would no longer benefit from the right of being EU citizens. Similarly, of course, citizens from other EU countries in this country would no longer benefit from any rights that we chose not to confer on them. It would be for the Government to say what would be conferred. The principles of the negotiation with the EU—which would be with the EU collectively, not with individual member states—would be international law, not EU law, and reciprocity. It would be reasonable for the Government to tell us what they would be trying to secure for British citizens in EU countries in the knowledge that exactly the same rights, under reciprocity, would have to be granted to EU citizens living in our country.
I think I detected a slight change in the noble Lord’s argument as he was talking. Of course, the Government could easily say that if we leave the EU we will no longer be EU citizens and 56 million people will say, “So what? What are the consequences of that?”. The noble Lord went on to say that the Government could then spell out what they would aim to achieve in any renegotiation of people’s rights, but that is speculative. That is the point I am making. Of course we can say that people will no longer be EU citizens, but we have no idea, if we were to stay in or leave the European Union, exactly what the rights negotiated by the British Government and EU countries would be. I do not want to get bogged down. I have perhaps given way too much to the noble Lord, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, because I really like his accent.
Where the EU has a position under European law, we are under an obligation to co-operate with it and support it. For years we have watched the EU desperately trying to take over the negotiating positions of member states in all international fora. That is a trend. It has taken our place at the World Trade Organization. The result is that we have free trade agreements with little countries but nothing with the big power blocs that matter—nothing with the ASEAN countries, nothing with Japan, nothing with India, nothing with the Gulf Cooperation Council and nothing yet with the USA, although we are apparently close. These are all things that the UK could have negotiated years ago on its own.
I have to agree with my noble friend. The United States will do what is in the financial interests of the United States and its companies. It may talk tough about not doing a trade deal with the sixth largest nation on earth—the United Kingdom—but, when it comes to pounds, shillings, pence and dollars, the Americans will trade when it is in their financial interest to do so.
Will the noble Lord consider carefully whether he is falling into the best-known trap for British commentators on American policy, which is to think that we know what American interests are better than they do? In fact, that statement last week was made by a member of President Obama’s Cabinet. I happened to be at a conference at the weekend at which people from both sides of the divide in the United States—in quite senior positions—made it clear that the policy reflected a cool and careful judgment of where the United States’ interest lay. If we choose to ignore it, we do so at our peril.
Does my noble friend not agree that the position of the United States seems clear? There is a great deal of anti-Americanism in many parts of the European Union, including in France, where I live. The Americans see us as the most pro-American member of the European Union, therefore they are desperately keen that we should remain within it. If I were an American, I think I would take the same view but it does not mean that, because it is in the interests of the United States, it is necessarily the right thing for this country.
I thank my noble friend for his intervention. He has considerable experience in these matters and I agree with him entirely.
To conclude, we need the Government’s forecasts of the competitive position of the UK if we stay in, tied to a European economy that is becoming progressively uncompetitive in world markets. We know Herr Juncker wants more Europe and more of the social dimension, as he said to the European Parliament. That would be all very well if the USA, China and the Asian economies were also awarding themselves more pensions, more paternity leave, shorter working weeks, higher pay and more social benefits, but they are not and Europe is in slow decline against their economies.
Has not what the noble Lord just said shown the need for an objective analysis of the facts? Britain has a trade deficit of something between 5% and 6% of GDP, whereas the euro area has, I think, a small trade surplus with the rest of the world. Germany and the Netherlands have massive trade surpluses. Frankly, what the noble Lord is saying is nonsense.
I thank the noble Lord for his support. We need a factual analysis of a whole range of things. However, I merely suggest to the Committee that if the Government are tempted to accept the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, or a similar one, on producing a report on the consequences of leaving the EU—some of that would be speculative, as I have attempted to suggest—we also need a report on the consequences of staying in. In many ways that would be equally speculative, although no more so than the outcome of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay. Therefore, we must have the Government’s analysis of the consequences for the UK if that decline in the European economy continues.
The five presidents’ report envisages competitiveness authorities taking over wage and work conditions. I will not quote from the Commission press release of 21 October, but it talks about deepening the EMU, getting social fairness and paying greater attention to new macroeconomic adjustment programmes, as it did in Greece. We all know that worked very well. Therefore, we need the Government’s view on that aspect of the report.
The report goes on to say that we need adequate access to,
“adequate education and … an effective social protection system … in place to protect the most vulnerable in society, including a ‘social protection floor’”.
I therefore suggest that we need a UK government analysis of the consequences of those proposals when they are incorporated into a treaty. It is no good for the BSE campaigners to say that they will apply to eurozone countries only. The Commission will use the excuse, justification and treaty base of the single market, as it usually does, to make them apply to us, and we will not be able to stop it since the eurozone countries will have an in-built majority.
I declare that I am currently chairing the inquiry into the five presidents’ report, which I mentioned. The noble Lord is misrepresenting the black ink on white paper in that report. They are national competitiveness authorities for the eurozone; they do not apply to the eurozone-outs. However, I will give the noble Lord a broader point: he is asking the Government to produce their assessment of this. The Government will respond to the Select Committee’s report—it is just a matter of time. His amendment is more or less redundant, given the information I have just laid before the Committee.
The Government will respond to the Select Committee’s report, but that is different from an analysis of what the situation would be in this country if it were to take place. There may be similarities in the report we would make, but we still need that analysis of staying in the European Union.
I am almost concluded, noble Lords will be pleased to hear; at least I have provoked a bit of controversy in this debate. The five presidents’ report also talks about harmonising insolvency law, company law and property rights. We need an analysis of the dangers of that point.
In his speech two weeks ago, the Governor of the Bank of England noted that being in the EU had benefited us in the past. However, in the referendum we will be voting not on the EU’s past record but on what it will do for us in the future. What was most interesting in Mr Carney’s speech was the clear warning over further eurozone integration and its impact on the UK economy. He noted that the five presidents’ report states that there is “unfinished business” over further fiscal and financial integration in the euro area. The Bank’s report cautioned that the “necessary deepening” of integration, coupled with the,
“weight of … the members of the single currency”,
would impair the ability of the Bank to,
“meet its financial stability objective”.
I trust that the noble Baroness will question the Governor of the Bank of England on that statement in the Bank’s report. I look forward to reading the analysis.
As I understand it, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is going to Berlin today to explain that Britain supports this increased integration in the euro area because we have a strong national interest in the eurozone being an area of more dynamic growth. I just do not understand where the noble Lord is coming from, because his own leadership is arguing for this integration.
The leadership is entitled to do so. The Prime Minister and the Chancellor are negotiating hard for changes on behalf of the British people and the country. When the Government set out the deal they achieve, if the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, is accepted and the Government set out the consequences of leaving, my amendment merely suggests that they should also set out as far as they can the consequences of staying in.
My very final point is that the EU has made it clear that there will be no treaty change before 2017 and possibly not before 2020. In that case, I should like to know how the Government will guarantee that the deal that the Prime Minister brings back will be incorporated into a binding treaty change. Any promises not in a treaty are not worth the wasted breath, in my opinion. So I want to see a section in the government report explaining how we can guarantee that we will actually get the changes that the Prime Minister secures.
I am sorry that I have taken so long. Again, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hannay. His amendment is important. I think that all the amendments in this area are important, and I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response.
I shall describe Amendments 31 and 32, which stand in my name. In the earlier amendments in this group the Government are asked to set out the consequences of leaving the EU, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, said, it is only right and fair that they should set out the consequences of staying in. In my amendments I have selected two issues which I believe are likely to be extremely important to the public in general in reaching a decision on how to vote.
Amendment 31 addresses net migration, which, as most noble Lords will be aware, is about 330,000 a year. Of that figure, more than half—180,000, a number that has doubled in the last two years—are from the European Union. That figure is split more or less equally between the EU 14 and the new members in the A10. How that advances in the future, of course, depends on the economic developments in those two regions, but I think that the figures are likely to remain high unless something is done to reduce the level of low-skilled immigration from the European Union.
As noble Lords may know, 75% of immigration from the A10 and 25% of immigration from the EU 14 is low skilled, or certainly low paid, so there ought to be some scope there and the Government need to set out the effect on that low-paid immigration of their negotiations with the European Union. It is not just a matter of a large number of low-paid migrants without, at present, any break or limit on their numbers; what are important are the implications of the impact on the population of the UK, which will be huge. Noble Lords will have seen this very week the latest population projections prepared by the ONS. Based on net migration of 185,000 a year, it has told us that the population will increase by 2.5 million—more than twice the population of Birmingham—in the next five years and by nearly 10 million in 25 years’ time. Even that projection is based on some very optimistic numbers. The ONS thinks that immigration will be about 185,000 per year going forward, but the average over the last 10 years has been 240,000 and the current level is 330,000.Therefore, there will be a huge impact on the population, and, by the way, the same document shows that just over two-thirds of the future population increase will be as a result of immigration.
Is the noble Lord claiming that the extra population of 10 million will be due to EU migration? It seems to me that that is not the case: he is muddling together EU migration and migration from the rest of the world. Given that much EU migration involves young single people, does he think that in time the impact on the population from those people, some of whom may well go back to their own countries, is likely to be as significant as the impact from non-EU migration?
I mentioned earlier that more than half the intake—180,000—is from the European Union. The population increase over a 25-year period includes two things: the migrants and their future children, as well as the growth of the population already here. Over the long term, all population increase in the UK is a result of immigration; over the medium term, it is two-thirds. I am not suggesting that all immigration is from the European Union—it clearly is not—but it is a major factor; it is half of it. I am perfectly sure that, when it comes to the referendum, the public will want to know whether it will be possible to restrain the growth of the UK’s population from whatever cause. The present position is that there are things that can be done in respect of non-EU migration—there has been some very limited success on that front—but nothing can be done in respect of EU migration. The amendment therefore calls for a factual report from the Government as to what might be expected, what the effect of their negotiation has been and what the impact will be on population.
My second amendment, Amendment 32, addresses the present refugee crisis and its consequences—an extremely sensitive and difficult area which is almost certain to continue well into the referendum period. For the time being, we are largely insulated—we are not members of Schengen and we have no land borders—but most of those now arriving are likely to qualify for EU citizenship in a period of between five and eight years, depending which country they settle in. After that, they will have free movement to the UK. In addition to that, and it is not widely understood, one person who is an EU citizen can bring his full family to the UK and elsewhere, whether or not they themselves are EU citizens. We therefore need an assessment from the Government of what is involved here. There will clearly be consequences for net migration, for population, for public services and for social cohesion. These two issues are a very important consequence of staying in and they should certainly be reported on.
Finally, I want to inform the Committee that I intend to make two changes to the amendments that I proposed last Wednesday. The first is to remove any reference to Irish voters lest this fall foul of the Belfast agreement, as the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Stamford, pointed out and, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, as well. The second is to introduce what might be called a “sunrise clause”, so that the amendment would take effect only from 1 January 2017. That deals with the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, about the practical difficulties of changing the electoral register in time. As your Lordships probably know, EU citizens are marked on the electoral register; Commonwealth citizens are not. The sunrise clause has the additional advantage that it provides to Commonwealth citizens the opportunity to seek British citizenship if they should so decide. The next version of the amendments will deal with the points raised by noble Lords.
My Lords, I shall speak in favour of Amendment 21, to which I added my name and which stands in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay of Chiswick. As this debate has progressed today, it has underlined the need for the kind of reports that we ask for in the amendment. It is of enormous importance that there be a point of reference where voters can see the implications of the decision they are being asked to make, whether that decision is to remain in the European Union or to leave it. It is my hope, although I appreciate that we are asking my noble friend on the Front Bench to accomplish something extremely difficult, that we will be able to find a form of words which is acceptable to both sides of argument as we have heard it articulated during the afternoon. I hope that the areas where information is needed can probably be agreed. They may be surprised and may not wish me to say it, but I think that common threads run through Amendment 21, which I support, and Amendment 27 put forward by my noble friends Lord Blencathra, Lord Hamilton of Epsom and Lord Flight.
Of course, I think I know what my noble friends hope the outcome of the referendum vote will be, and they probably suspect what I hope the outcome will be. Indeed, I have been clear about what I hope the outcome will be. It is probably the opposite of what I suspect they want it to be. However, the report that we are calling for should not lead voters one way or the other. That is for the in/out campaigns, between which we have heard some preliminary skirmishes this afternoon. Those campaigns will be coloured by rhetoric and a selective use of facts—hence the need for an effective report on the consequences of withdrawal, covering a wide area. The report must highlight the changes that will flow from an in or an out decision, and without comment.
I dare say that I might be appalled by the conclusions. Others will be delighted, but that is for the individual to decide and for their own reaction to the factors laid out. It is for the Government to lay out the facts. In some areas, there may not be an immediate change, as many if not all the European directives and regulations have been incorporated into our domestic law. I do not know how that situation will be dealt with or how quickly it could be dealt with. Will it be by piecemeal repeals and replacements, or by some big bang like repealing the European Communities Act 1972? Other prospective changes may be dependent on the outcome of the exit negotiations.
I do not want to trespass into Amendment 24 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, and if I do so I apologise; I will not take the time of the Committee when we reach that amendment by intervening. I believe that the report that we are asking the Government to provide must spell out to the citizens of the United Kingdom that the changes that we seek in exit negotiations, if that is where we get to, are not a fait accompli. They are not ours to demand. We cannot assume that all the other 27 states will agree. It will be for the 27 to decide and agree, and we do not have a vote in that.
I support the thrust of the amendment and hope that the Government will find it possible to enter into discussions before Report on a formula for the report to cover unbiased, informative and complete information, which citizens will require to enable them to make their choice.
My Lords, perhaps as two of the amendments mention the EU balance of competences review, I might be allowed to comment on the extent to which the 32 reports that that review produced over two years in four tranches have provided a solid basis of evidence for a rather more dispassionate result. I am well aware that at the time of the 2010 coalition agreement, some in the Conservative Party thought that inviting evidence from stakeholders in law, business, the economy, aviation, and so on, would provide the basis to ask for repatriation of powers, which those various stakeholders felt were already excessively transferred to Brussels.
The outcome of the 32 reports, which I warmly recommend to the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Epsom, as evening reading over the next six months, was an overwhelming conclusion from most of the 2,500 pieces of evidence that came in that the current balance of competences suits us fairly well. That is part of the reason why people in No. 10’s press office and others wanted to ensure that the reports were published the day after Parliament rose for the summer or for Christmas so that they would receive as little publicity as possible, but they are there.
I particularly recommend to the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, the report on criminal justice co-operation and the evidence from the Association of Chief Police Officers and various other bodies on why the current arrangements are so strongly to Britain’s advantage. I also recommend the report on co-operation in civil justice, which contains evidence from the Faculty of Advocates in Scotland and the Law Society.
My Lords, I think the noble Lord wants to negotiate that we should have a special status and be able to pick those things that we want and say no to those that we do not. However, all international multilateral negotiations are trade-offs and it is not always easy to get exactly the arrangements that you want. There are those who would argue—as I think the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, would—that much of what is currently imposed on us is a conspiracy cooked up by people in Brussels. I am merely saying that we need to get hold of the evidence of where we are and what are the costs and benefits of a whole set of very complicated international regulations in a highly internationalised economy and a world where the number of British citizens who cross the channel each year has increased by a factor of 10 over the past 30 years. That has certain implications for policing, crime and all sorts of other things.
My Lords, I apologise to the Committee for being late to our proceedings. British Airways cancelled my flight so I drove down from Scotland.
The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, has the advantage that he has read this competence review. Can he therefore explain why, for example, it is necessary that the guarantee on people’s money held on deposit in this country, which previously stood at £85,000, has to be reduced to £75,000 because the euro has fallen in value? Surely that should not be decided at a European level.
My Lords, politics is precisely about the level at which a whole set of decisions are taken. Until the mid-1980s, when Margaret Thatcher launched the single market initiative, international regulations were largely American decisions on standardisation which others—such as ourselves, the Germans and the French—had to accept. Now, these regulations are often negotiated at EU level and then, in turn, negotiated with the United States. The various reports go into some detail on the advantages and disadvantages of acting at the national, subnational, European and global levels. That is part of what happens across the world. I merely point out that some of this analysis has been done. It is extremely important that, as the debate continues, there should be further analysis.
Before we leave that point, is the noble Lord seriously arguing that a Government who guarantee through a guarantee scheme in this country deposits put by pensioners in their banks should be left powerless to decide the level of guarantee; and that the review of competences, if it allowed for that, was in any way competent?
The noble Lord may not have noticed that banking has become a little less national and a little more international over the past 40 years. That is part of the reason why the negotiations over the amount of bank reserves have taken place. That matter has been negotiated for the past 100 years through the Bank for International Settlement and a range of other bodies. Since modern banking developed, there has always been a range of international agreements on aspects of banking, although not in so much detail.
A small number of think tanks have provided some valuable advice. I have great respect for Open Europe, a largely Eurosceptic think tank in origin but which respects the evidence it finds and produces worthwhile reports. Similarly, I have great respect for the Centre for European Reform. There are others on both sides that are less reliable. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, that Migration Watch stands out by the careful way in which it tries to find out the most accurate figures. That is highly desirable. We need accurate figures. The question of what is happening on immigration to this country—how much is long term and how much is short term, in the case of Spanish and Portuguese workers here who may go back when their economies recover—gets us into the range of speculation, but at least we know where we are at present. That is what we need for this debate. It is not easy. We know that there are conspiracy theorists all round. There are great fears about what might happen. However, dispassionate analysis and evidence, where we can find it, are essential to intelligent debate, and that is what the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and others are about.
My Lords, I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, will agree that it is essential to any dispassionate debate—if such a thing is possible—that both sides of the argument should be presented. All the amendments in this group are of a similar character—they all seek further information to present to the British public before the British public make a very important decision. I do not have a problem with any of the amendments because I am in favour of the British people having all possible information. I would like them to have even more information, were it possible.
I cannot find a way of tabling an amendment on this subject that would be in order, but I would love the British people to be able to consider—on the principle that it is better to look in the history book than in the crystal ball—the last time that a major decision in relation to the European Union was made in this country, which was when we decided not to join the euro. I think that that was a splendid decision by the last Labour Government. They went to some lengths to present to the British people the facts of the arguments of those who were in favour of Britain joining the euro as well as the facts as to whether the forebodings of their prophets of doom came into being. I remember that there were all sorts of arguments about the collapse of inward investment into Britain should we not join the euro, and so on. However, that point is out of order so I shall not speak to it at length.
The only problem I have with these amendments—it was part of my interventions on the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, although it does not, in my book, disqualify the amendments—is that I have considerable doubts that I could say that the word “objective” is a characteristic of every amendment in this group. By way of illustration I will refer again to the common agricultural policy. I mentioned the amendment in the name of the noble Lord—I was about to call him my noble friend, although he is not far off—Lord Wigley, with whom I agree on so many things. I agree with him very much that it is extremely important that there should be support for British agriculture in difficult terrain such as north Wales. The noble Lord knows far more about that than I do, but it is extremely important that there is support for that economic activity in our country. However, if we are to have a report on the consequences of coming out of the common agricultural policy, do we or do we not include the presumption—and only a fair-minded person would have to make this presumption—that some of the moneys currently spent by the British taxpayer on the common agricultural policy should be spent directly on British agriculture by the British Treasury?
It would be fine if that happened, but the figures are worth reflecting on. I find it difficult to imagine that the contribution to British agriculture would be less than it is currently via the common agricultural policy. I took the precaution of getting an up-to-date figure—I assume that responses from Ministers are accurate on these matters. I asked the Government two or three weeks ago what the current cost of the common agricultural policy was and the answer from the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner of Kimble, was €55 billion for 2015. He went on to say that the CAP accounts for 40% of the EU budget.
Noble Lords who regularly contribute to economic debates—which I do not—will be able to do these figures in their heads. However, €55 billion is the total cost of the CAP. That represents 40% of the EU budget. The UK contribution to the EU budget as a whole is €16 billion. Let us work that out. Off the top of my head, I think the British contribution to the cost of the common agricultural policy is 2 billion or 3 billion euros. I repeat that I have doubts about the use of the word “objective” in this kind of discussion, but it seems that anyone considering this objectively would have to consider that a very substantial contribution to agriculture—that vital industry in this country—would have to come from the British Exchequer if there were less support coming via our contributions to the CAP.
My noble friend asked rhetorically whether there was any reason to suppose that, if we came out of the EU, our level of support to our agricultural sector as a separate country would be any less than it currently is within the EU. I put it to him that there is one obvious ground on which one might expect that our support to agriculture would be much less if we were outside the EU. The political weighting of the agricultural sector’s interest is markedly less in this country than on the continent, in the Republic of Ireland or in other EU member states. If the noble Lord goes to Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands or France—let alone Poland or Romania—he will be able to satisfy himself of that. We have one of the very lowest proportions of population—which of course means voters—who are directly dependent on the agricultural sector: about 1%. That means that the political balance is very different here when agricultural matters are discussed from how it is on the continent, where there is much more political weight behind agriculture. Inevitably that will be reflected in the amount of money coming through to agriculture and in the willingness of the Treasury to continue to support agriculture at the current level, which is based on the aggregate weight of agricultural interests in the European Union as a whole and not on their weight within this country in terms of domestic and political debate.
My noble friend makes my point very effectively: these are matters of debate. There is no objective analysis of the cost of the CAP and the likely expenditure in the UK that can be resolved by putting statistics into a computer. He makes a perfectly valid argument from his own perspective.
I am tempted to go down memory lane. Believe it or not—this may come as some surprise to the House—40 years ago, in 1975, I would occasionally go to meetings of the Agriculture Ministers of the European Union, in my lowly capacity as a Parliamentary Private Secretary. I have to say that the conclusions reached by the Council of Ministers at the time were not always in Britain’s interests.
However, let us not go down that road, because I am not disagreeing with my noble friend. These are not matters of fact but matters of judgment. Part of the judgment might be whether—
I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. All afternoon, he has been making a very persistent effort to draw our discussion on to grounds that are not covered by the amendments. If he reads the amendments carefully, he will see that nobody is suggesting that the Government should be asked to quantify the support it would give to agriculture after we withdrew. They are being asked to state, purely as a matter of fact, what the consequences would be—statutory and legislative—if we ceased to be in the European Union and ceased to have the common agricultural policy applied to us. That information can be provided factually: so much in structural support, so much in market support, and so on. These facts are all to be found in the budget of the European Union. The amendments I have tabled do not ask the Government to speculate on other matters, although they do ask the Government to say what would be needed by way of legislation to fill that gap.
I am afraid that the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, has a different reading of the amendments from mine. Amendment 29, in the name of my noble friend Lord Wigley, inserts a clause that states:
“No later than 12 weeks prior to the appointed date of the referendum, the Secretary of State shall publish, and lay before each House of Parliament, a report on the consequences of withdrawal from the European Union on the provision of financial support for agriculture in each region of the United Kingdom”.
Presumably he is saying that no part of that consideration would take account of the support, if any, to be given to agriculture in the event of our not being in the European Union. My contention is that undoubtedly there would be support for agriculture should we not be a member of the European Union. That is why my comments are entirely relevant to these amendments—and certainly to that one.
In any event, my broad point is that any discussion of this sort inevitably goes beyond dry legal jargon. It ends with a matter of judgment at some point, as do nearly all matters of foreign policy—if I am allowed to refer to relations with the European Union as matters of foreign policy. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, knows that better than most of us. It seems to me that we either support all of these amendments or none, but we do it with the acknowledgment that they will not solve the problem for anyone. At the end of the day, people will still have to make their own judgments.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, said that he could not see how any reasonable person could possibly object to these amendments. I hope that I will be able to open his eyes just a little. We have already heard, even in the extended debate on this proposal, just how easy it is to slip into outright campaigning. It seems to be impossible to separate the facts from the campaigning. They say that there are facts, political facts and campaigning manifestos. I happen to have written a few campaigning manifestos in my time. I know what wicked statements they are, and I am very glad that I have left all that behind me and now simply write works of fiction.
The amendments of the noble Lords, Lord Hannay and Lord Blencathra, and others call for an official report—but could any official report ever be worth the paper it was printed on? For instance, an official report at the start of this year that talked about immigration policy in Europe would not have known how events were going to impact on it, and would presumably have looked totally different six months later. The noble Lords, Lord Wigley and Lord Hannay, ask us to gaze into the future of agricultural policy. What will happen if we vote to leave? It depends who is making those decisions after we leave. You do not have to be a political seer to suggest that there is a strong possibility that, if we decide to leave the EU, we will not even know who is going to be Prime Minister six months after that vote. That is the political reality.
Does the noble Lord not accept that the Prime Minister himself, when he comes to a judgment on whether to recommend the package he will have renegotiated, will be making some assessments—presumably quantifiable—of the implications of that renegotiation? Is it not reasonable that those who are asked to vote on this have as much information as possible?
I agree entirely with the noble Lord that they should have as much information as possible. However, as well as known unknowns there are also unknown unknowns—as someone once said—which are completely dominant in this area. As far as the EU is concerned, it is the unknown unknowns that have come to the fore and gained strength in recent months and years.
When my noble friend Lord Dobbs replies to my noble friend Lord Forsyth, will he note from me—presumably bracketed among the Euro-enthusiasts—that the reports are not about the perils? The request is for a statement of fact on the consequences of a decision to leave. That is what is being asked for, and indeed I would oppose any suggestion that the report should comment one way or the other, but unless people know about the consequences of leaving, how can they make up their minds?
Getting stuck between my two noble friends is a perilous position. As I made clear at Second Reading, I hope very much that the Prime Minister can bring back the reforms which will enable me to vote for and support him in continuing within the European Union. I do not adhere to my noble friend’s position where he will vote to stay in no matter what or that of the position of the noble Lord, which I suspect is that he will probably vote “out” no matter what.
Noble Lords have asked for a factual report. It is worth reminding ourselves of what happened in 1975 when a White Paper was produced. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, is probably not asking for the exactly the same sort of operation, but there was a White Paper, and of course it was huge. What the noble Lord and other noble Lords are asking for is a huge amount of work to be done, which will have to be distilled into something more manageable and digestible for public consumption. I have with me the 1975 version and I have to say that it is laughable in its simplicity and its paean of praise. There is very little that is truly objective about it. That indicates to me that it is impossible for anyone, let alone poor beleaguered officials, to come up with something that is going to satisfy everybody. I will not quote from the pamphlet because we do not need to delay ourselves.
Of course we need information. We need as much information as possible in the form of views, predictions and analysis, but that is surely the stuff of the campaign itself. It is the substance of the campaign, not that of some poor, hard-pressed official’s work that will never satisfy either side. These are issues which need to be argued in public with both sides in full cry. As I say, I am afraid that I have no faith in anyone’s ability to produce a report that will satisfy both sides of the equation. It will be no more than a fig-leaf on a very windy day and not worth the paper it would be written on.
My Lords, surprisingly, I agree with the spirit of both sets of amendments because, as the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, says, it is important that the people of our country have access to as much factual information as possible. Where I disagree with the noble Lord is that he says that it is up to the two campaigns to put forward the information. The information put forward by each campaign is bound to be biased because they are campaigning organisations. I would ask for a White Paper, and I think that the Minister herself mentioned a White Paper in our debate at Second Reading. I think it is imperative that the Government should themselves produce unbiased, factual information on which the people of this country can make their decisions. Of course the information provided by the campaigns will be of the utmost importance, but it is bound to be biased.
There is the political Government, but I believe that the civil servants of our country—there are eminent former civil servants around this House—can produce unbiased information if required to do so by the Government. Civil Servants per se are able to produce unbiased information, as the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, is acknowledging. I think it is imperative that this should be done.
I want to come back to one issue that was brought up by the noble Lord, Lord Green. Of course I understand people’s fears and concerns about freedom of movement and I understand what he has said about refugees. However, personally, I deeply regret the fact that refugees and the refugee crisis are being brought into this argument. The facts show for themselves that at the moment most refugees wish to go to Germany and Sweden. They are learning the language—it is a prerequisite when they get there; they have to do that—they will have jobs, and I am sure that the majority of them will stay in those countries. But the fact is that these people are fleeing from areas of conflict. People are on the move going from south to north, and they will keep on being on the move until we resolve the conflicts and invest in the regions of the south. I do not think that what is happening with the refugee crisis should have anything to do with the referendum campaign.
My point is not actually about refugees because in seven years’ time they will not be refugees, they will be citizens of the European Union. Therefore the issue that may be in the minds of the electorate, at least, are the implications for us in the future if the European Union has lost control of its southern borders and if the chaos in the Middle East continues, which is quite likely. I am not talking about refugees. There is a lot to be said about them, but in this context we need to have our eyes wide open, and in so far as we can provide some guidance to the public, we should cover this issue.
My Lords, I understand what the noble Lord is saying, but I think we are muddying our feet and that we are in very dangerous waters when we go into these places. By raising these issues we are stoking people’s fears about refugees, and that is not a proper thing to do. At some stage we should discuss these things in more depth rather than in this sort of debate, but I think that it is a very dangerous way forward.
My Lords, I have been listening to this debate all afternoon and I find it very interesting indeed. I also realise that all the amendments are well meant, but I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, has hit the nail on the head. What she wants is unbiased information, and she believes that you cannot get it from the Government because they are in fact biased. I say that because the Prime Minister has just been to Iceland where he made his position perfectly clear, which is that he wishes to remain in the EU. He believes that it is the best thing for Britain to do, so he has made his position absolutely clear. How can the Government be unbiased? The noble Baroness said that we have civil servants and they will be unbiased. Civil servants are never unbiased; they take their lead from the boss, as in fact they should. Knowing that the Prime Minister has gone abroad and said that he believes that the United Kingdom should remain in the EU come what may will condition whatever is put into these reports. We should make no mistake about that.
Would the noble Lord allow for the possibility that the Prime Minister might have reached the position he now holds because of his concept of the British national interest and his position as Prime Minister in trying to define that national interest?
Yes, I believe that the Prime Minister believes that, but the British national interest cannot be served in the European Union. That is because the European Union is exactly what it says it is and what it wants to become. It has been made perfectly clear by unelected officials and indeed by elected people that they want further integration. However the Prime Minister tries, he will never be able to join a full Union unless he is prepared to agree to more integration, and that of course will also mean joining the euro. Further integration must include the euro and anyone who wishes to be part of further integration will have to join it or else leave or become some sort of associate member. Those are the facts and we should not try to deny them.
The other thing that has worried me about this debate is the lack of confidence that so many people have in this country’s ability to negotiate with other countries and to stand on its own and build up its own businesses and exports. Why is it that other countries in the world can do it? Why can South Korea do it with a population of 25 million? Why cannot Britain, with a population of 65 million, negotiate successfully with other countries when smaller countries including Saudi Arabia and Iceland can? The Prime Minister of Iceland made it perfectly clear that it was doing very well outside the EU with a population of 350,000 and did not want to go into the EU any longer. Why have we lost confidence in ourselves? Why is it that so many people say we have to be members of this great organisation to succeed?
If the European Union did not sign a treaty with us but put restrictions on trade, it would be very much the loser. We are trading with the European Union at the moment on the basis of a deficit of £70 billion a year. Why would Europe not want to trade with us? It traded with us before we joined, when 35% of our exports went to Europe. Why on earth would the European Union wish to stop trading with us? Of course it would not. That is nonsense and I wish people would stop talking about these 3,500,000 jobs which are going to be lost.
I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I suggest to him that this lost confidence is in reality merely a scare campaign by the yes vote. There is no evidence that this country has lost confidence in looking after its own interests. It has emerged as the most successful economy of the past four or five years. It is no more than a scaremongering tactic; it is not true.
The noble Lord is absolutely right. As I have said before, I believe this country would thrive outside the European Union.
Lastly, I want to comment on the American official, whoever he was, who said that it would be grave from the point of view of America and its relations with this country if we left the EU. Of course that is American policy for two reasons. One is that America is scared that the European Union will succeed. It knows that most countries are anti-American so it wants a friend in sight. The other is that America does not really believe that Britain should shine in the world because the American interest is paramount under any circumstances.