Report (2nd Day)
24A: After Clause 5, insert the following new Clause—
“Duty to publish information on outcome of negotiations between member States
(1) The Secretary of State must publish a report which contains (alone or with other material)—
(a) a statement setting out what has been agreed by member States following negotiations relating to the United Kingdom’s request for reforms to address concerns over its membership of the European Union, and(b) the opinion of the Government of the United Kingdom on what has been agreed.(2) The report must be published before the beginning of the final 10 week period.
(3) In this section “the final 10 week period” means the period of 10 weeks ending with the date of the referendum.
(4) A copy of the report published under this section must be laid before Parliament by the Secretary of State.”
My Lords, in moving Amendment 24A I shall speak also to government Amendment 24B. I shall also give a view on the other amendments in this group, all of which raise the issue of information which must be published by the Government prior to the referendum period.
In Committee, we had a vigorous debate on the subject of the information to be made available to the public ahead of the referendum. I recognised that although it will be for the designated campaigners to lead the debate on both sides, the Government would have a role in providing information to the public. As the Prime Minister said, this Bill sets the stage for one of the most important decisions that the British public have been asked to make in a generation. It is absolutely right to say, therefore, that they will expect to be able to make an informed decision, based on authoritative and balanced information in which they may put their faith.
The Electoral Commission in its research into the question identified that there is an appetite among the general public for information on both what remaining in and leaving the EU would mean. Also, the Electoral Commission made it clear that much of the information that voters desire will not be factual in nature but will sit at the heart of the campaign arguments put forward by those on both sides of the referendum debate. Therefore, the commission has recommended that it is also for the campaign groups to include answers to questions of this nature when they put up their respective websites. But today we are looking at the question rightly raised by the House in Committee about the role of the Government.
In Committee I committed to give careful consideration to what I could bring forward at this stage by way of government amendments—amendments that would command the support of both Houses. Today I will speak to those two amendments, Amendments 24A and 24B, which we have tabled after that due consideration. In setting out requirements for the Government to provide information, we must clearly set out a distinction between what the Government should provide and what will be the role of the designated lead campaigners. My belief is that the most useful role for the Government is to give information about the nature of membership to aid understanding and inform the public. The designated lead campaigners will interpret this information and provide strong arguments—on both sides, no doubt.
We have given consideration to what suitable government amendments should be. I have therefore listened very carefully to the calls around the House for the Government to provide useful evidence-based and authoritative information. It is my belief that it would therefore be most appropriate to commit the Government to providing concrete information grounded in reality as opposed to speculating on the possible consequences of withdrawal or the types of possible arrangement that could be negotiable with the EU at some future date.
The first amendment in my name, Amendment 24A, builds on the amendment that my noble friend Lord Forsyth tabled in Committee and again on Report. However, he has subsequently withdrawn it because I understand he is content—it was very kind of him to send an email saying that he is content—with government Amendment 24A.The first amendment sets a requirement for the Government to report on the outcome of the renegotiation not less than four months before the poll. Building on this, I have tabled a government amendment that will require the Government to report on what has been agreed by EU member states as a result of the renegotiation and to give their view on this no later than 10 weeks ahead of the referendum.
We amended the Bill—earlier in the process here, in Committee—to specify that the regulated referendum period must be a minimum of 10 weeks long. This is an appropriate length of time that will require the Government to publish any report ahead of the most intense period of campaigning. This is also well ahead of the final 28-day purdah period provided under Section 125 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act—during which, of course, there are restrictions on government publications. So my amendments have no effect on the restrictions provided for in that period.
The second of my amendments, Amendment 24B, seeks to address amendments tabled both in Committee and on Report by the noble Lords, Lord Hannay and Lord Kerr, the noble Baronesses, Lady Morgan and Lady Smith of Newnham, and others. It requires the Government to publish a report setting out information about the rights and obligations that arise under EU law as a result of the UK’s membership of the EU. This will enable us to describe what EU membership means for the UK and what it means to be a citizen of, or a business established in, the UK, as a country which is an EU member state. I propose to spend a little time setting this out, in perhaps more detail than might usually be the case, because I would like to give some reassurances to the noble Lords who tabled the amendments that I have sought to cover all the pertinent issues that they referred to in their subsequent amendments.
By “rights”, we refer to rights that the United Kingdom has as a member state, and also the rights that are granted to individuals and businesses as a result of our membership of the European Union, such as our opt-ins and opt-outs, the four freedoms, access to the single market and customs union, and rights to receive structural funds. By “obligations”, we are referring to those things that our membership of the European Union commits us to doing—most obviously at the level of the member state, but also as businesses or individuals. The most obvious examples are our obligation as a member state to transpose EU law in particular areas, including social and environmental law, and things that this obliges businesses and individuals to do. This could therefore include consideration of the balance of obligations and competences between the EU and the UK institutions. Of course, the information must be useful to the public, as well as to those looking at it in a more specialised way, and relevant to the context of the referendum, as far as is possible.
That is the primary purpose of government Amendments 24A and 24B. The duty does not, therefore, require the Government to set out information about every single right and obligation—indeed, neither does the amendment in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, and the noble Lord, Lord Hannay. We agree that the focus should be on important rights and obligations. Where appropriate, we will set this information in its context. We have created quite a broad requirement in our amendment, but we have tried not to be overly prescriptive, because that would have amounted to setting out the contents page of the whole report in the amendment, and that is simply impractical.
Turning to the amendment in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and others, it is clear that the large part of the important rights and obligations to which it refers would be covered under the broad heading of rights and obligations. Where there are two slight variations—I will not call them exceptions—I will explain why I think that they are still covered and that I have met the requests from the noble Lord and others. The important rights that the amendment sets out, such as the rights of EU citizens, employment rights, the right to apply for financial support from the EU in the form of structural funds, and support for agriculture and research, would be covered under the report required by government Amendment 24B. Important areas of EU law which the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, reference in their amendment, such as social and environmental legislation, law enforcement, security and justice would also be covered to the extent that we have opted into such obligations at present.
The way that we have crafted the amendment grounds the information requirement in the reality of EU membership in a way that should be useful to the public. We are not committing to setting out the possible consequences of a withdrawal from the EU in the language used in the amendment in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, but I do not think that that is core to what they intend. They are trying to get the Government to give a commitment about what is covered, which is what I seek to do. We have previously rehearsed the issue about hypothetical positions; I do not propose to address that now, because I do not think that noble Lords are seeking to press it at this stage.
From the approach taken by the government amendment, I believe that readers will be able to infer from the Government’s report information on rights which it might well be within the Government’s power to determine for the future and what will be dependent on negotiation in the event of a vote to leave the EU. In terms of any substantive differences, although the government amendment requires us to set out the UK’s current arrangements on important rights and obligations, it does not require us to set out particular consequences of withdrawal for a couple of areas—the devolved Administrations and Gibraltar. I would like to say a little more about each of those to give some assurances on those matters.
On the consequences of withdrawal for Gibraltar, Gibraltarians are rightly enfranchised in the referendum because the EU treaties largely apply there. Gibraltar’s place in the European Union flows from it being a European territory for whose external relations the UK is responsible and the UK’s membership under the 1973 treaty of accession. Any vote for the United Kingdom to leave the EU would directly affect Gibraltar. It is therefore important that Gibraltarians have enough information on which to base their vote, which is also important in the UK. The Government’s Amendment 24B leaves it open to either the UK Government or the Government of Gibraltar to set out what EU membership means for Gibraltar in this report or separately. This means that we should not provide for a statutory obligation for the UK Government to report on what membership means specifically for Gibraltar and should instead ensure that the decision on what course to take on this important matter rests where it properly should: in Gibraltar.
I shall give a further explanation of what I mean. The Government will engage with the Government of Gibraltar as soon as possible on these matters and agree a way forward. We will listen to what they say and they will have an opportunity to feed their views into any report that the Government may then publish. We need to recognise, however, that the Government of Gibraltar could publish separately their own reports separately.
I give that commitment not only with regard to our engagement with Gibraltar but with regard to the devolved Administrations. The amendment leaves it open to the devolved Administrations to undertake their own assessments about their nation or on specific devolved issues, and the Government will engage with the devolved Administrations on the subject of public information. We will listen to their contributions and feed them in to the process of producing reports. Again, because of the nature of devolution, it would be for the devolved Administrations, if they so choose, to publish a report separately.
Amendment 24B has a second part which requires the Government to describe some of the existing arrangements that other countries, which are not currently members of the European Union, already have with the EU. This part of the amendment seeks to address the core of the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, which would require the Government to set out the relationship they envisage with the European Union in the event of a vote to leave. Noble Lords will be debating that later this afternoon.
As the Prime Minister has said, the Government are focused on delivering a successful renegotiation, but we cannot speculate on the types of possible arrangement that could be negotiable with the EU at this stage. Through Amendment 24B we have sought to provide the public with useful information about some of the existing models that other countries already have. It will be for the campaigns to put forward their vision of the future for the UK, and there will be differing views among them. As the Prime Minister has made very clear, if the British people vote to leave, then we will leave. Should that happen, the Government would need to enter into the processes provided for under our international obligations, including those under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. The noble Lord, Lord Kerr, is aware of that. Given that he was involved in drafting Article 50, he knows more about it than I do. Of course, the Article 50 process has never been used: this will be a precedent. That makes it all the harder to speculate about how such a negotiation might play out. In due course, we will of course lay out what this process would involve.
I have taken some time to address the detail of Amendment 24C as it affects the government amendments, but I hope that I have been able to satisfy noble Lords that in bringing back these two amendments the Government have sought to meet the views of the House as expressed at Second Reading and in Committee with regard to what is appropriate for the Government to be able to publish and that the amendments represent a positive proposition by the Government to ensure that the public is able to make an informed choice from objective, reliable information when they come to vote in the referendum. I commend my amendments to the House. I beg to move.
My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 24C. In doing so, I pay tribute to the Minister for the way in which she has listened to the points raised, with some force and detail, in Committee. With the two amendments that she has produced today—Amendment 24A, in response to an amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, which I also felt was absolutely justified, so I am delighted that she has picked up his amendment and turned it into a government one, and Amendment 24B, which deals with matters that I and others raised—I think that she has made a major effort to meet the point that we made in Committee, and which I continue to make, which is that there will be a need for the electorate to receive factual, objective information from the Government about these extremely complex matters, additional to any information that will come to them, no doubt in tsunamis of rhetoric, from the two campaigns. The campaigns will be advocates but the electorate has to make a judgment, and it will be of essential value to them to have objective factual material provided by the Government. That is why we were extremely dissatisfied with the absence of any provision for this in the original Bill that was drafted by the Government and which came to us with the imprimatur of the other place because we felt that it was a completely inadequate basis on which to move forward to what is after all, as the Prime Minister said, one of the most significant and important decisions that this country has had to take for many decades. So that is a very good step forward.
I shall explain why we felt that the Government should be prepared to go further and be a bit more specific than they are in Amendment 24B, or at least than they were before the Minister gave some rather helpful clarifications this afternoon. I shall take two examples—two sub-headings—that illustrate the amendments that I and others have proposed. I start with Gibraltar because the Minister has mentioned it. What the effects of withdrawal would be is of importance to more people than just the people of Gibraltar. Our own wider electorate needs to know that Gibraltar became part of the EU only because it was a dependent territory for whose foreign affairs the United Kingdom was responsible. That was the sole basis on which it became a member, and therefore if the UK left, it would leave. That has quite important implications for the vexed issue of the land border with Spain, for example, which would cease to be an internal border of the EU and would become an external one. These are facts, not matters of opinion; they do not seek to draw the Government on to what would come after an Article 50 negotiation or anything like that. They are just so that the electorate knows that, the moment they cast their votes, certain consequences could follow from it.
Secondly, I take the law and order issue. The European arrest warrant was debated at enormous length in both Houses at the time of the Protocol 36 negotiations two years ago. It became apparent during that debate that the European arrest warrant is extraordinarily important for this country in terms of recovering indicted criminals from abroad and returning EU citizens who are accused of often very heinous crimes from here to the country where they have been indicted. These are hugely important for our law and order and our battle against international crime.
In those debates, it also became apparent how important the European arrest warrant is for the Good Friday agreement and what goes on in Northern Ireland because it has depoliticised the extradition arrangements between Ireland and Northern Ireland. In the past, they have been highly politicised and have led to a number of very unsatisfactory discussions between the two Governments, often not leading to the return of criminals who have committed terrible offences. Therefore it is important for the electorate to know that the European arrest warrant would disappear in this country if we left. I am not talking about what we might try to put in its place, the fantasies about negotiating 27 extradition agreements with the other member states or anything like that. I do not want to go there. That is not where the amendment was intended to go.
This afternoon, the Minister has given some important clarifications on a large number of the detailed specifics that I introduced. I and others will need to study them with great care. However, on the point about Gibraltar and the devolved Administrations, I entirely understand what she is saying—that it would not be right for the Government, off their own bat, to write in a report what the consequences were going to be for Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales or Gibraltar without consulting them and without having their view—but I hope that in her reply to this debate the Minister will go a little further. She said that the devolved Administrations and Gibraltar will be able to produce their own reports. That is fine. They would be reports to their parts of the electorate. I do not imagine—I do not speak in any disparaging way—that they will be widely read by the electorate of this country, yet the issues involve the electorate of the whole United Kingdom. Therefore, I hope that she will be able to say that after consultation with the Government of Gibraltar and the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Administrations and assuming—I do not see why they should have any objection—that they are willing to do so, the Government will include the implications for the Administrations of Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Gibraltar in the report to which Amendment 24B refers. This will allow the whole electorate to have a proper sight of all the implications. Frankly, those implications, particularly with regard to Northern Ireland and also to Scotland and Wales, could be very far-ranging. Therefore, I hope that when the Minister replies to this debate, she will able to cover that point.
We are making progress now. I shall listen with great care to the Minister’s reply. Others who proposed this amendment may wish to take up other points on which they would like to have clarification. Meanwhile, I look forward with interest to the Minister’s reply.
My Lords, buried somewhere in this group of amendments and, I think, in the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, is the question about what happens on Brexit to all the EU law which is now sewn into our domestic law. That law will remain valid until repealed. I hope that it will be helpful to your Lordships if I recall that in 1997 I got a Bill through its Second Reading in your Lordships’ House, on a vote, that would have taken the UK out of the EU. The same question arose, since one is not allowed to table Bills which cannot be executed in practice. At the time, the clerks’ advice was that it would have taken about a dozen parliamentary draftsmen about one month to identify all the EU legislation that was then part of our domestic law. The laws that the Government of the day wanted to repeal could have been brought before Parliament either singly or collectively for Parliament to repeal. Of course, the volume of EU law would be much larger now, the draftsmen required rather more numerous and/or the timescale proportionately greater. However, I make the point that the process and its happy outcome would be the same, and there is no reason why it should not be undertaken.
I will speak particularly to Amendment 24C in this group, which is in many ways rather beautiful. It sets out specific areas of our national life which Europhiles, who wish to stay in the European Union, believe would be damaged if we left it. It follows that they believe that all those areas—our economy, employment, law and justice, agriculture, research and so on—benefit from our EU membership. My noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke will, I think, deal with those specific areas and why they would all benefit from our departure. However, I will stand back a little and contemplate the amazing fact that the supporters of this amendment still apparently think that the EU itself is a good thing. That fundamental belief inspires this amendment. In other words, they simply do not see that the founding idea behind the project of European integration has gone horribly wrong and that Europe and the world would be a safer, richer and altogether better place without the European Union.
I am sorry if this sounds rather brutal to the ears of noble Lords who have spent so much of their lives believing in and striving for the project of European integration, but it remains the obvious truth. In parenthesis, I should mention my regret that noble Lords in receipt of a forfeitable EU pension have not seen fit to declare them in any of our proceedings on the Bill so far. I am sure that they will do so from now on.
I point out that I am not in receipt of such a pension. If the noble Lord was referring to me, perhaps he will withdraw the reference. I am not sure who he thinks he was referring to among those on the Order Paper, but as far as I am concerned, I am not and never have been in receipt of a pension from the European Union. I ask the noble Lord to consider the fact that he will have ample opportunity in the name of his party to put forward his views, including those on the giant octopus in Brussels, which seems to be taking a day out today. The purpose of this amendment was not as he has erroneously described it; the purpose of this amendment was to persuade the Government, which we will perhaps succeed in doing, to provide factual, objective information that will enable the electorate to make up their mind on the point the noble Lord raises.
My Lords, if the noble Lord is not in receipt of an EU pension, I have nothing to clarify. I do not have to name names. I am referring to previous employees of the European Union—in particular, of the Commission—who are in receipt of EU pensions, which they can lose if they go against the interests of the European Union. If no one feels guilty in that regard, of course they have nothing to say. On the amendment, I am going into the fundamental reasons why it is misguided, and with the noble Lord’s permission, I will continue.
It is some time since I reminded your Lordships of that founding idea, which was that the European nations had caused so much bloodshed over the centuries that they had to be gradually emasculated and put under a new form of technocratic government that was to supplant national democracy, which it has indeed done; hence the EU’s absurd claim to have brought peace to Europe since 1945, which was instead of course secured by NATO; hence also the huge but little-understood powers of the unelected Commission, with its monopoly to propose new legislation, in secret—which is now so much of our own legislation—and then to execute that legislation when it has been through the Brussels sausage machine, imposing heavy fines along the way, and subject only to that engine of EU integration, the Luxembourg court. The Commission also manages the EU budget—so badly that its accounts have not been signed off for 21 years. Believe it or not, the Commission also negotiates all our foreign trade agreements—so badly that we still do not have a free trade agreement with China, India, Russia, the USA, Australia, Canada and many of the markets of the future. Singapore has had them all for 10 years. Who knows what that failure has cost our economy; the amendment refers to our economy.
As to what is left of our democracy while we stay in the EU, the Euro-lie goes that it is upheld in the Council of Ministers from the nation states, where we have only 12% of the votes and where we have been defeated on every single one of the 55 new laws we have opposed since 1996.
My first point is, therefore, that even if we did get any advantage from our EU membership, in any of the areas mentioned in the amendment, it would still not be worth it because the price would have been our democracy. However, the fact is that we do not, as my noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke will confirm.
Europhiles try to frighten us by pretending that jobs would be lost if we left the EU. We are back to the economy again.
When the noble Lord is talking about democracy, what does he think of the democracy where a party—the UK Independence Party, say—gets a large percentage of the vote but only one seat in the Parliament? Is that the vibrant democracy that he believes in?
My Lords, no, of course not. If the noble Lord would care to read my peroration on this subject on 15 September, he will see that I opined that our first past the post system no longer produces a vibrant democracy in this country. The system which sends Members of Parliament to the House of Commons should be changed. Then one might find that the UK Independence Party would get one or two more seats.
As I was saying, Europhiles still try to frighten us that jobs would be lost if we left the EU. However, we would keep our free trade with the single market because we are its largest client. We have some 3 million jobs selling things to clients there, but it has 4.5 million jobs selling things to its clients here. Our Europhile friends then conveniently forget that only about 9% of our economy goes in trade with the single market, declining and in deficit; some 11% goes to the rest of the world, expanding and in surplus; but 80% stays in our domestic economy. Yet Brussels overregulation strangles all 100% of our economy.
Another Europhile silly one is to point out that we would still have to obey single market rules if we left the EU.
My Lords, we are on Report. I have heard the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, repeat these familiar arguments many times in the House, but I am not entirely sure that we are addressing the amendment under discussion.
My Lords, I think I am addressing it. I am going into the fundamental reasons why the amendment is misguided. I will continue, if I may. Only 9% of our economy goes to the single market and this is the percentage of our exports and economy for which we would have to follow EU rules. Of course we would, just as it pays to put the steering wheel on the left if you are selling a car to the United States.
Talking of cars, Europhiles give our car industry as one which would suffer if we left the EU. Once again, I remind noble Lords of Global Britain’s briefing note No. 96, which shows why that is nonsense. We import twice as many cars from the single market as we export to it—1.4 million in and 0.6 million out. EU manufacturers actually own 53% of our domestic car market. Why would they want to impose a tariff against their own profitable business? Indeed, I can go further and recommend that Europhiles particularly, and our civil servants, should take a little time to read the Global Britain briefing notes, which briefly but comprehensively destroy the economic case for staying in the EU.
In conclusion, the amendment makes the basic Europhile mistake of thinking that any area of our national life is funded by the EU, whereas of course for every £1 it sends us at the moment we have sent it £2.63. According to the latest Pink Book figures for 2014, we sent £19.994 billion gross in 2014 and the EU sent us back £7.665 billion for things such as our research budget, structural funds, farmers and so forth, as covered by the amendment. That leaves our net contribution at £12.329 billion per annum. That is £34 million a day, which goes down the drain in Brussels. Or we could look at it as the annual salaries of 352,257 policemen—of whom we could do with a few more right now—or nurses or any other public servant your Lordships may care to mention, at £35,000 a year each.
I would rather welcome the amendment if it were honestly fulfilled because the voters would understand better what a complete disaster is our membership of the European Union and they might even start to ask what is the point of the European Union itself. They might start to see it for what it is. It is an emperor whose clothes have long since fallen off.
My Lords, it would appear that despite our best efforts, this whole objective of some degree of dispassionate analysis will nevertheless wind up as a dog’s breakfast. We have to persist in trying to follow what the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, accurately described as the distinction between things that are facts and things that are for debate between the two opposing camps. A good example in the Brexit scenario is one that I will cover now.
A key distinction behind these amendments is similar to what Mr Rumsfeld would have described as the difference between a known known and a known unknown. I have an example. I have in my hand a copy of the pamphlet that I helped to put together entitled Europe and Your Rights at Work. Since Maastricht, there have been 10 or a dozen very important reforms that are now on the statute book, such as protection when a business changes hands, equal rights for part-time workers, maternity and paternity rights, equal rights for fixed-term workers, four weeks’ paid holiday—although that falls under the health and safety regime. Other reforms include having a voice at work, European Works Councils, the posting of workers in Europe and health and safety at work.
Those were negotiated—I did a lot of that myself for some years—in Brussels between the leaders of the trade unions and the leaders of the employers. The result is that, despite the sound and fury at the beginning, we do not hear too much complaint now because everyone, including the employers, appreciates that they are a useful floor for employment rights in this country.
Let me put the spotlight on the Brexit scenario and take this illustration to probe—drill into, they say these days—what we know to be a fact and what is simply supposition. On day one, after Brexit, nothing will happen. On day two, after Brexit, nothing will happen, and it will go on like that for some time. That is the first thing. On day 21, 51 or 201, something may happen. That can be described as a known known—we know that that is a fact. We also know that it is a fact that a British Government would be free to repeal any of these measures. Whether they could do that from day one could be discussed, but at some point that would be true. If we are outside the EU some or all of these measures could be repealed.
That is a procedural fact. Whether one party or the other in the national debate wants to draw attention to it—
Of course, my noble friend is quite right that these measures could be repealed, but they could also be extended and improved on by a British Government. If we are looking for good conditions for people at work, I would say that a huge advance in recent years was that wonderful national minimum wage introduced not by the EU but by the last Labour Government. Ultimately, the terms and conditions of people at work about whom he and I care most passionately are better protected by a Labour Government in Britain than by any decision in Brussels.
I have the highest respect for my noble friend but I am afraid that on this one he is wrong. In international trade, employers will claim we are at a competitive disadvantage if we do not do things together. This is what Europe is about. That is what Delors pointed out in Bournemouth in 1988.
If we were to say to an employer in Holland, Italy or Spain, “You can lead the race to the bottom”, all the employers, one by one, would scream that they had to go in that direction. I will be calling for a European identity card the way I am going, but if we had a floor for all European workers in all these areas, the comparison with the minimum wage—although we do not have a European minimum wage—would be valid in that all workers and employers would be protected. If noble Lords will allow me to conceptualise, we will have a European ring-fence—let us not start getting into the argument about competition with China or Japan; it is a good argument but quite different from the one we are considering at the moment. This is for the parties in the referendum debate to discuss, and they are valid points to discuss.
Another factor that will determine how Brexit would work would be, no doubt, the majority in the country and the state of agitation on how best to progress matters on the Back Benches of the Conservative Party—and indeed, the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and everybody else in the House of Commons. To get to the nub of the point for this debate, and maybe to add some value to what I am about to say, we have a difficulty which would have been avoided if we had followed what we called in an earlier debate the OBR-type of authorship because all these amendments look to HMG to produce these studies. How will Ministers avoid the charge of cherry picking, as and when they deal with what are, with good will all round—and there will not be an oversupply of that—difficult analytical distinctions between things that we know and things that are going to be debated?
In conclusion, I will try to answer my own question.
You are the only one who understands it.
For once in his life, my noble friend may care to pay a little more attention to what I am about to say, and he may even be convinced by it. I think that there is scope for an inter-party agreement on the preparation of a statement of intent, as it were, between the two camps that neither will accuse the other, or even the Government, of bias, if not dishonesty, simply as a consequence of having conducted an insufficiently robust analysis of the distinction between the facts—the known knowns—and the unknowns. What I am saying may prove to be true or untrue, but on the percentage chance that it is true, can we follow up the worries of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, about tsunamis by saying that they will be prevented only if we can avoid charges of bad faith when these reports are published? Therefore, the leaders of the two campaigns should swear an oath—as in ancient Rome, or some such—that they will accept that the assessment is dispassionate and that neither side will try to shoot the messenger, as and when these surveys are produced.
My Lords, I back up what the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said, with which I entirely agree. To make the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, happy, I should say that my receipt of a pension from the European Parliament is on my declaration of interests. As far as I know, I do not have to mention it every time we discuss the EU, as that would bore the House greatly.
I wish to amplify two of the points in Amendment 24C, in the name, principally, of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay. The Prime Minister said recently that the EU was essential—I cannot remember whether he said “essential”, but he at least meant that it was very important—to the UK’s national security. I think that is the first time he has made that very valid point. Therefore, it is important that the report the Government promise to publish in the very welcome amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, should cover the law enforcement, security and justice point because the public have a right to know what that consists of. For instance, the report should state that we are a full member of Europol and not stray into the domain covered by Amendment 25, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, by implying that if we are not in the EU we will not be a full member of Europol, as Norway is not—it has a sort of observer status. The same applies to referring to Eurojust as a sort of club of prosecutors which makes sure that we catch, and can prosecute, these major criminals.
As the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said, we have full membership of the European arrest warrant. We could even push for reform. I wish that Ministers, the Government and the Commission would take up the report that I wrote as one of my last acts in the European Parliament. This was about multilateral reform of the European arrest warrant. We could not do that simply as law takers outside the EU, even if we had some kind of other arrangement.
On proposed new paragraph (d) in Amendment 24C and the rights of UK citizens living in another country, a lot of work is being done here, to which the UK, being in the European Union, has a great deal to contribute. This work is about complementing the rights of free movement. We have maybe 2 million citizens living in the rest of the EU. We can take a leading part, with our strong civil as well as criminal legal traditions, in influencing the work on the mutual recognition of documents and of civil partnerships and marriages, including of course same-sex marriages, and on the rights that help our citizens in their daily lives in other EU countries.
It is important that our citizens understand the full implications of those EU measures, and the rights and obligations that arise under EU law enabling us to help defend our national security and ourselves against terrorism, to catch criminals and to help people taking advantage of free-movement rights through civil-law issues. I hope the Minister will say that the report will have some focus on these sectors of law enforcement, security and justice, including civil justice.
My Lords, I should like to speak to these three amendments.
My noble friend the Minister’s first amendment, Amendment 24A, makes the assumption that the Prime Minister will come back with a negotiated package from the EU. There is not a lot of evidence at the moment that that will happen. The Prime Minister has made it clear that if he cannot get any reforms of or agreement with the EU he will walk away. Is that offer no longer on the table? Are we now basically taking the position that, however hopeless the concessions that we get from the EU are, the Government will campaign to stay in whatever happens?
On Amendment 24B, I have many more concerns. It speaks of,
“information about rights, and obligations, that arise under European Union law as a result of the United Kingdom’s membership”.
This really encompasses a large part of UK citizens’ lives. Nick Clegg, from another place, said that 50% of our legislation originates in the EU. This is a very broad category, encompassing very many activities that happen in this country.
In proposed new subsection (1)(b) my noble friend’s amendment says,
“examples of countries that do not have membership of the European Union”.
Can she indicate which countries she will identify as being not part of the European Union, but which have a relationship with it? This is also an extremely broad category. Virtually every country in the world has some sort of relationship with the EU. I would be particularly interested to have a little bit more detail about the free-trade treaty between South Korea and the EU. My view has always been that if South Korea can have such a treaty, the United Kingdom can, too. I should like to know a lot more about that. Will we be told about it in this paper? In general terms, nobody can pretend that the information that will come out in the report suggested by Amendment 24B will be in any way impartial. But of course, when it comes to partiality, we have only to move on to Amendment 24C in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, to find a whole list of things that quite clearly the noble Lord thinks are going to give advantage to those people who want to stay in the EU.
I could have tabled another amendment saying that in the event of the United Kingdom leaving the EU, the report should cover the implications of having supremacy returned to our Parliament and having control over our own laws and not being subjected to EU laws any more. I could have asked for it to cover the implications of regaining control over our borders, which is something that people in this country might rather like, as well as no longer being subject to qualified majority voting in the EU and being voted down by other nations, which has happened very frequently, on matters of national interest over which we have absolutely no control. I would also like to know what the implications are of being exempted from any further integration into the political union of the EU and the freedom we would gain from being able to negotiate our own free trade deals.
But I did not put down such an amendment for the simple reason that I knew your Lordships would say, “Well, this is completely biased. All you are trying to do is to slew the whole thing in the direction of those people who want to come out of the EU”, and that is why I did not do it. Unfortunately, that constraint does not seem to have impinged on the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, who is more than happy to table one amendment after another in an attempt to make what we are trying to do—to create a level playing field—tilted in the direction of those who want to stay in the EU.
My Lords, I suppose I had better make a declaration of interest in case I upset the noble Lord, Lord Pearson. I have a minuscule pension that comes from the National Assembly for Wales, and that might be interpreted as colouring my views on some of the matters in these amendments. Be that as it may, I am very glad to see not only Amendment 24C, which picks up some of the points that I introduced in Committee with regard to regional policy, structural funds and agriculture, but the response of the Government, which has included these points, as Minister underlined in her opening contribution. Perhaps I could press a little further on those aspects.
The Minister referred to the fact that Amendment 24B(1)(a) covers structural funds and agriculture. Perhaps she can clarify whether that would be the intention of interpreting the effects of changes arising from our withdrawal from the European Union on structural funds in specific areas—that it is not just the overall picture but the picture as it impacts on those regions that are beneficiaries of structural funds. Quite clearly, the effect can be different and we could well make a case that there might be an overall UK benefit but a disbenefit for the regions concerned.
Likewise, in the case of agriculture, questions such as the issue that is dominant in Wales at the moment in a European context—the sheep meat regime—can impact regions very differently. Obviously, regions such as eastern England would have a much greater interest in the grain-producing industries and the effect that pulling out might have on them. I would be very glad to know that there will be more than just the overall interpretation of the effect when that appraisal is undertaken.
Secondly, I would like to pick up the question of engagement with the devolved Administrations. For that engagement to be meaningful, and for the devolved Governments to be able to put forward their own statements on their interpretation of the effect of withdrawal on matters of concern to them, it would be necessary for them to have some detailed information on how the negotiations have gone and how the points have emerged during those negotiations. Therefore, there would be a requirement for the devolved Administrations to be pulled into the discussions as they were going along, and not just to be told at the end, “This is what we’ve negotiated. You say what you like about the effects on Wales, or Scotland, or Northern Ireland”. If that is the case, if it is possible for the devolved Administrations to be involved in the negotiations—even if only to know, step by step, how they are moving forward—can the Minister give that reassurance to the House, and tell us at what stage she will start to negotiate, or discuss, these matters with the devolved Administrations to ensure that they are involved from this stage forward, and do not just come in at a very late stage?
Clearly, what we are concerned with here are the effects of withdrawal on various aspects of policy, as detailed in Amendment 24C. A number of the instances raised in that amendment are not covered in Amendment 24B, as far as we know. Perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, whose name is on Amendment 24C, will address this matter if she speaks to this group of amendments. I would have thought that clarification was needed on other points in addition to structural funds and agriculture, for which Amendment 24B does provide, at least to some extent. We also require clarification on the matters covered by Amendment 24C. None the less, I welcome the fact that the Government have moved on this subject, and I hope that the clarification provided will add to my contentment.
My Lords, I would like to make points of general application to all the amendments. I have read all the debates that have taken place on this subject here, and it seems to me that it is time for the House, way before we get into any ping-pong, to ask itself what its role is in relation to this legislation.
I gave evidence to the Select Committee in another place, at a time when it looked as if the referendum might be transparently rigged. There was the question of the independence of the Civil Service, and its involvement—and also the question of how long a time would have to elapse between the announcement of the results and the time when the referendum would take place. In fairness to the Government, and in the light of the Select Committee, I must say that most of the major issues of fairness were dealt with, and I thought that we were accorded a judgment in favour of fairness, which I strongly uphold. That, certainly, is the duty of this House.
However, we must now look at the debates, and the direction in which they are going. I agree with the statement already made that it is patently obvious that a lot of the substance of the amendments and the arguments is an attempt to shift the debate. That does happen in these situations, and we cannot stop it. But it does mean that we are talking ourselves into a situation of legitimacy in terms of intervening in the referendum in ways that would be not only absurd but dangerous for this House to adopt.
We have already taken one decision in recent weeks: I voted for it myself, but only after very careful consideration as to whether we were overstretching our powers. I will not go into that debate now, but I was confident that what we were doing was just about acceptable. But to delay the referendum is not acceptable. To do anything in this House, either through ping-pong or otherwise, that would delay the undoubted constitutional right of the Prime Minister to choose the timing of his announcement—and therefore, following his announcement, the timing of the referendum—would be absurd.
It is also necessary to remember that there are some differences between the referendum that took place in 1975 and the one that is due to take place on whether we should leave the European Union or remain within it. In 1975, there was no provision in the treaties for a two-year period during which negotiations would be held. This is a very substantive difference. When the then Foreign Secretary, the former Prime Minister, James Callaghan, was asked by a civil servant in the Cabinet Office what he would do in the remaining few weeks of a referendum campaign were the decision to be taken to leave, he made it quite clear that he would be feel obliged immediately to curtail in some substantive measure the powers of the European Union—there could be no delay. That was the right decision, given the nature of that referendum and the fact that there was no two-year period for negotiations. He had to be able to demonstrate forthwith that the powers had changed as result of the referendum.
That judgment was not liked by the civil servants who got it but, as of course they do in these cases, they immediately set about creating the necessary legislation and powers so that had that referendum voted to come out of the European Community, we would have been able to take powers as soon as the referendum was held. That needs to be borne in mind when we discuss some of these very detailed provisions. I cannot help but agree with the noble Lord. Subsection (1)(a) of the proposed new clause in Amendment 24B refers to,
“information about rights, and obligations, that arise under European Union law”.
We could have a cursory glance at that, which I should think would take a White Paper of about an inch thick. A very substantial glance at it would take a White Paper of about five or six inches thick.
We need to keep a sense of proportion here on one particularly important matter: the giving of a referendum is a right for Members of Parliament and nobody else, because it curtails their democratic rights. It is a very serious curtailment of their rights, so much so that, although we call it an advisory referendum, we all know that they accept an obligation to take into law decisions which, as citizens, they may personally have voted against. That is why, in my view, referendums are to be used rather more sparingly than seems to be developing. It is a very considerable infringement on the rights of a representative, elected, democratic Member of Parliament—and, frankly, those rights do not retain in this House.
For example, the mandate, but perhaps more importantly the actual details about who is enfranchised to vote, is a Member of Parliament’s decision and not for this House. We can express views, but the idea that we could hold up a referendum on this issue is absurd. People may say, “We have no intention of doing that. When it comes to the ping-pong, we will accept it and rationalise it. We realise our powers”. It is much better not to embark on this. Ping-pong that is not serious is a waste of everybody’s time. More importantly, it gives an image to the country at large, which does not understand our procedures, that we in this Chamber think we have rights that we do not have. We do not have rights over the franchise for this referendum or over the Prime Minister’s decision as to when he calls to an end the negotiations and puts the issues to the people. He will of course know and listen to all the arguments about the way in which that decision and the facts should be presented.
Again, we have to be honest about this: we have had a long debate on this issue, and not just on this current referendum Bill. After all, it was announced under the previous Government and was in the manifesto. We know the issues and the electorate, because they are not stupid, will take it upon themselves to be cognisant of those factors that concern them in how they make that individual decision. So if I may make a plea, it is that the House will be very careful from now on to not give the impression that we have rights in this debate which we do not have. This is developing on quite a large number of fronts and it is going to end in tears.
My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 24C to which I have put my name. I would like to thank the Minister for listening, as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said and for reflecting the views put forward at all stages of the Bill’s passage through this House.
Listening to the noble Lord, Lord Owen, I am slightly at a loss because last week we discussed the franchise at some length and voted on it and today we are thinking about reports and paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of the proposed new clause, to which the noble Lord referred, relates to Government Amendment 24B, not to an amendment which is being proposed by Back-Benchers or others.
I want to speak to parts of Amendment 24C. Most of the concerns that I raised at Second Reading about the need for reports have been answered by government Amendment 24B in terms of outlining what alternatives to membership might mean. It is important that we have objective information. I hear from both sides of the House—from the noble Lords, Lord Hamilton and Lord Pearson of Rannoch—that Amendment 24C is somehow trying to put forward things that pro-Europeans want to hear about. However, if the information that is being asked for is objective and membership of the European Union is bad for the economy, a report will make that clear. There is nothing in Amendment 24C that says that the report should outline the “benefits of” or the “disbenefits of”; it merely refers to the “effects of”, so it would be helpful if noble Lords took the wording of the amendment at face value. Some of us who are still very new to your Lordships’ House have put our names to amendments because we believe that they will improve the quality of debate and the information that is available to citizens.
I turn to paragraphs (b) (c) and (d) of Amendment 24C on the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals resident in other member states. If the vote is to withdraw, there will clearly be implications for those citizens, which was one of the reasons we discussed at some length whether those people should be enfranchised. Will the Minister confirm that issues about the rights of citizens resident here and in the other EU states will be taken into consideration by the Government under Amendment 24B and, in particular, will she focus on the relationship with Ireland? In Committee, my noble friend Lord Wallace and I raised this issue in an amendment, which was withdrawn. Clearly in addition to discussions with the devolved Administration of Northern Ireland, it is important for the Her Majesty’s Government to think about the implications for the relationship of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland in the case of withdrawal. It is not simply a matter for the devolved Administration; it is a matter for two sovereign countries. The other devolved Administrations would not be affected in quite the same way.
I do not think there is any disagreement about the need to provide precise factual information so that people can make the judgment that they will have make when the referendum is called. That is clearly a benefit. The difficulty that arises—it is pretty obvious to me and I hope I can convince any doubters that it ought to be to all of us—is in determining what is factual, unarguable, objective information and what is a matter of judgment.
Looking at the amendments, I can certainly give an example of what is factual and what is not. For example, government Amendment 24B—leaving aside just for a moment the doubts of the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, about which countries might be included—is close to a factual requirement,
“examples of countries that do not have membership of the European Union but do have other arrangements with the European Union (describing, in the case of each country given as an example, those arrangements).”
Admittedly, the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, made me waver a bit when I heard his comments. There is deep uncertainty as to precisely which countries would be covered by this—perhaps the Minister will answer that point in her reply—but if you gave that to 10 top civil servants and said, “Right, you have to draw up these facts, these details, on this precise point”, they would roughly be in the same territory. They would spell out what deal Norway had got, what deal Switzerland had got and so on.
By complete contrast, I have to disagree with the Liberal Front Bench strongly over the idea that Amendment 24C, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, involves a kind of clear, objective and unarguable description about the consequences of withdrawal. The game is given away in the language of the very first line of the amendment:
“The report shall cover the possible consequences of withdrawal”.
The term “possible consequences” contains within itself the possibility of different considerations that need to be brought into account in the event of withdrawal. The language of the amendment itself admits the possibility of debate, discussion and uncertainty. I am not a lawyer, but if that ever passed on to the statute book and 10 civil servants were asked to give a precise answer on those points, they would come up with 10 different solutions.
I will complete that point by including one particularly contentious example. I mentioned this in Committee but make absolutely no apology for mentioning it again. Amendment 24C says:
“The report shall cover the possible consequences of withdrawal from the European Union, including information on the effects of withdrawal upon … (g) the provision of financial support for agriculture in each region of the United Kingdom”.
Does that or does that not include a consideration of what support agriculture would get in the event of withdrawal from the common agricultural policy? In my book, of course that would be a possible consequence of leaving the European Union: there would be subventions from the British Treasury to British agriculture. The levels of that would be unknown, but it is a fair bet in my book that they would at least be equal to the colossal sums that we contribute to the common agricultural policy under the present arrangements. Whether I am right or wrong does not really matter: all I am saying is that the language of the amendment itself means that that is inevitably the kind of debate that would take place. Clearly, you cannot talk about the possible consequences of withdrawal from the CAP without giving some consideration to what sort of support would come from a country that was outside the EU. In trying to pretend that that is a kind of objective consideration, the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, must allow himself a little smile.
I am not smiling very much. As I explained in Committee, that was not the intention of the people moving these sorts of amendments. We wish to have a factual, objective statement of the consequences of withdrawal. I noticed with some pleasure that when the Minister opened the debate this afternoon, she included a recognition that there would need to be, in the paper provided under Amendment 24B, some consideration of that matter. I never suggested—and I twice replied to the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, on this point in Committee—that we should go into the speculative area of what the Government might do to replace the common agricultural policy, which would have been withdrawn from British farmers. I am sorry, but the noble Lord is simply barking up the wrong tree. There is therefore no difference between us and no difference with the Minister. This is important information. It was not intended to enter the speculative realm of what would replace it.
In that case, the noble Lord really should have put down a different amendment. In my book, possible consequences means possible consequences. Possible consequences of withdrawal from one organisation will include what will happen to the beneficiaries, if that is the right word, of the common agricultural policy in the event of withdrawal. If there is no possibility of uncertainty, remove “possible” from the amendment. The noble Lord has to defend his amendment as written. In any conversation interpreting the meaning of the amendment as written, there would be any number of possible—I use the word myself again—ways in which the consequences of withdrawal could be written.
I think that the noble Lord will be frank enough, as am I, to admit that he does not come from a completely neutral position. If he thought that his amendment would result in a large number of statements and heavy tracts one or two inches thick pointing out what disastrous consequences there would be for Britain if it remained within the European Union, I am quite sure that he would not have put the amendment down. He has put the amendment down precisely because it is consistent with his perfectly sincerely held view—and we know that almost irrespective of what the Prime Minister brings back he will be voting to stay. I just find it unacceptable in terms of the language.
I am sorry, but I really must reply to this point about possible consequences. If I had put “consequences” without “possible” that would have entered the speculative realm because it would have needed to bring in what was done to replace the common agricultural policy. By putting “possible consequences” it merely stays in the factual realm—what will be removed from the British agricultural sector if we were to leave. It does not enter into the conjectural area of what would replace it. That was the reason for the wording.
I think actually it is much clearer from the noble Lord’s perspective if he says “consequences” and does not put “possible”. I think we are beginning to dance on pinheads now, but test it out in the pub. What are the possible consequences of you not paying for your pint? There are a whole range of possible consequences. Anyone who is asked might say: you might go to prison; it might result in a fight. Any number of consequences are possible from an objective fact. The objective fact, which is acknowledged, would be withdrawal from the common agricultural policy. I am simply putting to the noble Lord that with “possible consequences” the language itself implies that there could be lots of different interpretations. I put it no stronger than that.
My Lords, I would like to speak, as the noble Lord, Lord Owen, did, rather generally about the whole series of amendment that have been put down. I have been rather struck by the plethora of different reports demanded. My memory went back to the repeated demands that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, used to make of successive Administrations that they should have a publication stating the advantages of being in the European Union. Year after year, Administration after Administration—I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, was one of the people answering the PQs that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, put down—the reply always came back, no, they would not publish any evaluation of our membership. It was never clear whether this was because they thought it was self-evident or, as I also suspect, because there is an element of greyness. The truth is never precise. I think what is wrong in so many of the assessments that have been asked for is that, actually, one cannot always give a precise factual answer.
For example, take the case of membership of the EEA, the European Economic Area, to which Norway belongs. Some people would say you have to accept all the regulations just the way they are imposed—it is government by fax. Actually when you look into it in real detail, it is not like that at all. It is a very complicated procedure and it is not quite true to say that a country such as Norway has to accept the laws it is given, let alone just by fax. First, there is a very elaborate machinery before laws are formulated. Secondly, when laws are formulated, the EEA countries have a right to reject legislation—they have a veto—something that we inside the European Union do not. The noble Baroness shakes her head. I am very willing to give way to her if she disagrees with me.
My Lords, as I understand it from a colleague at the EFTA secretariat, the way that the EEA agreement would work is that legislation on that part of the internal market would be disapplied. So it is possible to say that you do not like something, but then no part of that internal market legislation applies. That makes it somewhat more difficult than the noble Lord appeared to imply.
By interrupting, the noble Baroness illustrated exactly my point. She just said that it is more complicated than I had said. I am saying that government by fax is an oversimplification as well. These things are not capable of a single interpretation; they cannot all be reduced to numbers. In this debate, we have a series of people with different motives putting forward different lists that they think would help their case.
The noble Lord, Lord Lea, had an interesting exchange with the noble Lord, Lord Grocott. The noble Lord, Lord Grocott, responded to the reference of the noble Lord, Lord Lea, to various rights that existed, and made the point: could not the UK Parliament just legislate for each of those rights? I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Lea, did not answer that question satisfactorily.
It reminded me of a conversation I had many years ago with a friend before we joined the European Economic Community. My friend was an enthusiastic supporter of joining; I was a bit sceptical. I voted to join and made my maiden speech in the House of Commons in favour of joining, but I objected to the argument that my friend put forward for joining the EEC, as it then was. He said, “The reason for joining the EEC is that we can irreversibly freeze into law capitalism, free markets and deregulation”. That is how the EEC appeared at the time: it was something that appealed to economic liberals.
Of course, the whole nature of the EU changed as it involved and we had what the noble Lord, Lord Lea, referred to as the Delors doctrine, which was that you would enshrine permanently in EU law certain social rights. That is why the TUC changed its mind over membership, I think. The noble Lord, Lord Grocott, was quite right to say that you can have all those lists put forward in different amendments, but actually the UK Parliament is perfectly capable of implementing whatever rights or limitations on rights it wishes. That is one of the fundamental points about the EU and one of the fundamental objections to it: it is so difficult to repeal legislation because it is enshrined almost in aspic.
My point was that employers would not be happy to do that just as one country because they would become less competitive; they want to do it as a continent. I know that the noble Lord will not think that a good argument, but that was the point being made.
I know that the noble Lord made the point about acting together, but I do not think that it really answers the point made to him by the noble Lord, Lord Grocott. These lists are highly selective. In the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, all right, some items stand on their own, but let us take paragraph (e) in Amendment 24C, which covers,
“law enforcement, security and justice in the United Kingdom and in the devolved jurisdictions”.
Of course there will be arguments both ways. One noble Baroness referred to the European arrest warrant as though that were self-evidently all in one direction, but a published analysis of it might give rise to a lot of argument about the rights of people who are wrongly prosecuted, or of the innocent who are extradited.
Many people have anxieties about the whole theory of parity of esteem of the justice systems of different countries in the EU. Can anyone really say that the justice systems of Bulgaria or Romania are equal to ours—that we have as much confidence in them as we do in our own UK system—and that therefore there should be automaticity of extradition? I say that because the idea that these things can be reduced to simple formulae, to black and white or to one particular viewpoint is not correct.
I remind the noble Lord that both Houses of Parliament recently voted for resolutions which stated that the European arrest warrant was in the national interest of the United Kingdom. Presumably it is reasonable, therefore, that it should be stated in a government report that it would cease to apply to us if we left the European Union.
Yes, Parliament has voted for it—but if we are having a referendum, everything is up for argument. The public have been given the right to dispute and to vote. Equally, paragraph (f) of the noble Lord’s amendment refers to,
“those regions of the United Kingdom that qualify for structural funds”.
I imagine that that would have a big impact in certain regions of the north of England, but other people in the south might attach equal importance to the fact that we did not have to make a budget contribution across the exchanges any longer.
The point that I am trying to make is that these things cannot all be reduced to black and white. The truth is grey: there is no such thing as complete impartiality in all these arguments. That comes back to a very important point made by the noble Lord, Lord Owen, who quite rightly and with tremendous force reminded the House that we may be in danger of overstepping the mark. As I think he was hinting—although he had the graciousness not to say so—I suspect that a lot of these amendments are being put forward for rather self-interested motives from the side that people find themselves on in this argument.
So rather than seeking after some elusive impartiality that does not exist, let both sides slog it out in argument. Let the Government, as they have said, publish a White Paper saying what they think is the result of the negotiations and why they think we should stay in, if that is what they think—and they probably will—but let us not go beyond that into an area that is highly disputable. Each side can put its case best, rather than the Government trying to argue a case that they are fundamentally opposed to.
My Lords, let me simply add to what the noble Lord said. The last Government produced 32 reports on the EU balance of competences; I have painful memories of it. We covered the European arrest warrant. It was a process where we asked the opinions of experts and stakeholders throughout the country. We were as impartial as possible in that respect: civil servants reviewed the results and made an assessment of the balance of comments that had come back. So it is possible to be relatively impartial on all this. If we are to have a referendum, it is important that the people are as well informed as possible on the evidence that is provided.
Before the noble Lord sits down, is he aware that the balance of competences review did not include the word “population”?
I have not checked all 2,500 pages of the report, but I cannot guarantee that I will do so as quickly as I read the speech in 2002 by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, when he reminded me that I had not referred to it. I have to say that I found it rather thin.
My Lords, like my noble friend Lord Pearson I welcome this group of amendments—perhaps, rather surprisingly—because it gives us the chance to get some facts out in this report. I hope that the noble Baroness will listen to the other side of the argument. Having listened to what the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, said, I will try to confine myself to facts. Amendment 24C states:
“The report shall cover the possible consequences of withdrawal … upon … the United Kingdom’s economy”.
I think that on the whole that could be rather beneficial. We could get £20 billion back that otherwise we would send to the European Union. That £20 billion may not seem an awful lot of money to some noble Lords who tabled the amendment, but it is a substantial sum of money and would be Britain’s to spend as it sees fit. That is a fact. According to the Pink Book published at the end of October this year, £20 billion was our contribution in 2014.
When we talk about the economy, I know that behind this is the idea that if we were to leave the European Union our industry, the City and other sectors of our productive economy would be acted against and discriminated against by our erstwhile partners. I find that very unlikely. Again, according to the recent Pink Book, we have an annual trade imbalance with the EU of £107 billion. That is a Pink Book fact. What is also a fact is that Britain is the eurozone’s biggest single trading partner—bigger than the United States. We are Germany’s biggest single export market—bigger than the United States. I therefore find it really hard to believe that our trading partners, who have such a promising trade balance with us as their best market, would possibly want to destroy the interests of their best customer.
Going on down the list, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, has already dealt with the rights of the individual. That of course is entirely up to the United Kingdom Parliament to decide, and no longer a matter for the European Union.
We move on down to law enforcement—new subsection (e) on law enforcement, security and justice. Again, I do not know whether the European arrest warrant is actually the best way to deal with matters. Obviously, we need some way of getting criminals back to face justice, but a prima facie case should be made in front of a magistrate in England before people are sent back to face systems of justice that are very different from ours—so I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, on that.
As for security, of course, were we to leave the European Union we would have control of our borders again. That is arguably the most important thing of all when it comes to security at the moment. We see the chaos in Europe, with barbed-wire fences being erected and France putting up border controls. All over Europe now, people are debating whether free movement of people in and out of the EU is actually possible.
Could the noble Lord elaborate on control of our borders? In what sense do we not have control of them?
We no longer have control of our borders because we are subject to the EU directive on free movement of people. That is why we do not have control of our borders, and it is what we need to get back if we are going to give to our citizens—subjects of the Queen—security. Surely giving their citizens security and safety is an overriding priority of any Government now. That trumps any EU ideology, given what is happening right now in front of our faces in Europe. I really think that that is incontrovertible.
The security of our borders, even with the free movement of people, subjects anyone coming here to the same level of scrutiny that would be available were they coming from anywhere else in the world. So while it is true that there is free movement of people, it is not true that the security of our borders is impeded.
I do not agree with the noble Lord at all. Unless we have control of our own borders—our own Border Force properly controlling our borders, not subject to the EU free movement of people directive—we do not have control of our borders. I am very sorry that he does not agree with that, but it is a simple fact.
I shall move on, if I may, to the regions of the UK that receive structural funds. I draw noble Lords’ attention to the fact that we have £20 billion at our disposal. It is entirely possible that structural funds, infrastructure applications, can be judged on their merit by the British Government of the day and allocated accordingly. It is very simple. Our money should not be sent to Brussels with a label on it saying how we are going to spend it. It should be a matter for the British Government and the British people how that is done and not a matter for Brussels at all.
On agriculture, I declare my interest as a farmer in receipt of UK taxpayers’ funds recycled through Brussels and coming back to me. At the moment, UK agriculture gets about £3.5 million in support nominally from the EU but actually from the British taxpayer. With £20 billion at our disposal, we could, as the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, implied, afford to support British agriculture at the current level and have £16.5 billion left over. I should have thought that would be quite a good deal. British farmers would be happy with that—I certainly would—and I think that the British Treasury would be happy as well because at the moment part of our funds goes to support “la France profonde”. The noble Lord, Lord Kerr, has referred to that in previous debates. France is a wonderful country, but I do not see why we should support its agriculture.
On research and universities in the United Kingdom, it would be really embarrassing and unthinkable if the fifth-richest economy in the world could not afford to support its own research institutions and its own higher education. Therefore, none of these points raised has much import.
The problem that we should look at in a report relevant to the referendum and giving people an informed choice, and on which I thought of tabling an amendment, is the implication of remaining in the EU. After all, there are a lot of implications of remaining in the EU, as we can see. Just looking at the EU, the ice is cracking under it. Look at the chaos in the eurozone and, on free movement of people, at the Schengen agreement coming apart daily—it is getting worse, so what is Britain’s future in the EU with the way the EU is heading now? What is the future for the British Parliament if the EU goes on making more and more laws in which Parliament, whether this House or the other House, has absolutely no say? Parliament just has to rubber-stamp EU law—bang!—and it becomes UK law. That can only get worse. That is what the Commission does: it makes the laws, it implements them and we have to put them into UK law without any debate and without so much as a single comma changing. What will be the consequence of our being unable to control our own borders? If we remain in the EU, the consequence will be uncontrolled immigration for an unknown period into the future.
Therefore, we should look carefully at what remaining in the EU means for us and for our economy. The cost of the EU goes up every single year. It is £20 billion now, it will be £22 billion next year and £25 billion in three years’ time. I am not sure that the United Kingdom can afford to give away those sort of sums to the EU willy-nilly.
On factual information, it is important to remember that the EU’s whole raison d’être, its reason for existence, is to form a United States of Europe: the “ever closer union” of the peoples of Europe. There is no mechanism for returning powers to member states, none at all. I defy anyone, anywhere—Europhile or non-Europhile—to tell me what power has ever been given back to a member state from the EU. None ever has. None is ever going to be. That is factual. That should be in any report that the Government put out about the EU—that once you are in, the laws are coming your way, you cannot do anything about it, they are there for good and they are going to get worse.
I welcome the idea of the report. I hope that it will be even-handed and take account of the dangers inherent in our continuing membership of the EU as well as the manifold problems that we have with it now anyway. Therefore I support the amendment, although I am not sure that the mover of the amendment will support what I have just said.
My Lords, I am going to resist the temptation to revisit the Second Reading and Committee stages that we have undergone so far and I shall address the amendment that we are supposed to be discussing. It is essential in this EU referendum that the public have information at their disposal not just in terms of what will change as a result of the Prime Minister’s renegotiation, but also in terms of what potentially will change if we leave the European Union. That is what we are addressing at the moment.
Most respectable companies and charities have a risk register—a list of where there may be unpredictable changes if circumstances change. In this amendment, we are essentially asking for a register of where we will have to act in some way or another if we leave the EU. I thank the Government for understanding the need for this information. We are grateful that the Government have listened and that they understand that we are not asking here for any kind of hypothetical explanation of what might happen if we were to leave; we want to know what domestic systems they would need to replace for EU systems if we were to leave. We want a comprehensive list of what issues and subjects would need to be addressed. I emphasise that we do not want this information to be loaded in any way; plenty of that will be pushed during the course of the referendum debate itself. Here we are looking for statements of objective facts that are in no way speculative.
The Electoral Commission has suggested time and again that the public are unclear about the situation and are anxious for more information to help them to make an informed choice. The public currently take a whole series of rights and responsibilities for granted, which many will have no idea are related to our membership of the European Union. We are therefore grateful to the Government for introducing their amendment, which understands the need to set out these rights and obligations in a comprehensive way.
What is the point of these facts if we do not allow compensatory facts to be included in the total effect? If you do not look at the net effect, what is the point of the facts?
The whole point is that we need to know what the situation is today and what we will need to change. In some way or another, we will have to revisit these issues. What are these issues? What is that list of rights that the public will need to know will change as a result of our leaving the European Union? That is not clear—it is not written down anywhere. We think there should be a register or list of rights that are currently there as a result of our membership of the European Union.
The yes campaign has spent an enormous amount of time listing and scaring the pants off people, terrifying the public with all the things that are uncertain, so why do the Government have to argue one particular case in addition to the case they are arguing?
We are not asking for the Government to argue a case; we are asking them to list what the responsibilities are, which is very different. We talked earlier about agriculture. Yes, some may argue that the Government would very happily replace any money that has come from the CAP with some kind of domestic policy. Others may think that the Chancellor may just grab that £20 billion to fill the black hole in his deficit. Who knows? We do not know what will happen and we will not enter that realm of speculation. However, we know that we would have to address the issue of agriculture if we were to leave the European Union. That is an objective statement of fact, which is what we are looking for here.
I thank the Minister for noting and listing most of the points we have set out. I assume that when she talks about social rights, she includes employment rights within that. I will not relist them—they are now on record—but I concur with the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, that it would be beneficial to have a regional breakdown of the impact of funding if possible.
Some of those rights will be in the gift of the Government to implement at a domestic level. We must be aware that to cease our membership would allow the Government to repeal the rights that are currently secured by our EU membership; we have heard the examples of agriculture and structural funds. Other rights, such as the ability to access continental hospitals, would not be in the gift of the Government and would be subject to negotiation with our previous EU partners. Whether they want to play with us after our exit would be, to an extent, beyond our ability to influence.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, for drawing attention to the fact that there would be considerable legislative and statutory consequences to withdrawal. The noble Lord came up with some figures for how long and how many people it would take to rewrite all the laws that have accumulated over 40 years. It would be useful to know if the Government concur with his suggestion and whether the same is true for devolved Governments as well.
The Minister did not specifically mention the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU. It would be useful if she would give some commitment that they would be covered by the reports.
I will not go on to deal with the second part of the Government’s amendment, relating to alternatives to EU membership. We will come to that later in the debate but, as the amendment is set out at the moment, I am afraid it would not be acceptable to us.
My Lords, I thank all those who have contributed to the debate on this important issue. As the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, pointed out at the beginning, nearly two hours ago, it is important that we are able to produce factual, objective information that is additional to the rhetoric of campaign. The Government have directed their attention to putting forward amendments that address the need for the public to have that information. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, and other noble Lords for their contribution, not only to this debate, but to the passage of the Bill in general.
The Government have considered the range of views presented in Committee and, as I outlined earlier, we have brought forward Amendments 24A and 24B, which we have been discussing. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, asked for further reassurance that the devolved Administrations and Gibraltar would be covered under Amendment 24B and asked how that would happen. I can reassure him that, under these amendments, the reports published by the Government will include information on the position of Gibraltar and the devolved Administrations, including Northern Ireland. As I mentioned earlier, we will need to be mindful of the constitutional position of Gibraltar and the devolved Administrations and we will continue to engage with them. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, also raised the question of law and order. I will not rehearse the discussions we had on another occasion about Protocol 36, but I can reassure the noble Lord that the rights and obligations arising from this area would be in the scope of the report set out in Amendment 24B. The noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, specifically asked whether civil justice was included within the definition of justice. The answer is yes, as with all these matters, to the extent to which we have opted in.
My noble friend Lord Hamilton asked what would happen if my right honourable friend the Prime Minister returned empty-handed or, at least, with an agreement that he felt was not good for this country and the other 27 states. My right honourable friend David Cameron has been engaged, along with my right honourable friends the Foreign Secretary, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and David Lidington, in negotiations throughout the summer and autumn and these have stepped up a gear. We have confidence that we will be able to present to the country a deal that is good for the United Kingdom and our colleagues across Europe, which is what needs to be achieved. However, the Prime Minister has also made it clear that, in the remote contingency that that did not happen, he would have to take a view. His view at the moment is that it is in the interests of this country that we all work together, as hard as we can, from every single party and none, to ensure that the right deal is achieved. That is where our concentration lies.
My noble friend Lord Hamilton also asked which countries will be used as examples under the second part of my Amendment 24B and asked specifically whether South Korea would be covered. Amendment 24B will require the Government to give examples of countries that have arrangements with the EU other than membership. It does not require the Government to comment on every single country that has a relationship with the EU. It will be appropriate to select a range of examples that most usefully and effectively demonstrate the existing arrangements to inform the public in an objective way. However, it would not be possible or even right for me to try to confirm the exact contents of such a report at present because it would lead to a tome. I am mindful of what the noble Lord, Lord Owen, reminded us earlier. These reports must be meaningful and accessible. If they are like Encyclopaedia Britannica, they would not do the job that noble Lords have required the Government to achieve.
My Lords, before she leaves that point, does my noble friend accept that the EU has very few free trade treaties with other countries, so at least one of them should be listed so that we can know about the detail?
My Lords, I believe that we will select examples of countries that can best inform the people of this country about how they should cast their vote. We must not try to skew that. Clearly, it would be a balanced selection of countries. I would not like to define now what will be in the report because that would assume that I would be writing it—I will not be.
For instance, will the noble Baroness assure us that the Government will give us a summary of the free-trade agreements reached by Singapore, whether we would be able to emulate Singapore and within what timescale? At the moment, we have none of those.
My Lords, I believe I have answered that question twice. I would test the patience of the House were I to repeat myself a second time.
With regard to the devolved Administrations in the renegotiation, as foreign policy issues are reserved matters, relations with the European Union are the responsibility of Parliament and the Government of the UK. However, the UK Government involve the devolved Administrations as directly and fully as possible in decision-making in EU matters that touch on devolved areas. Further, Ministers have held meetings with representatives of the devolved Administrations. Most recently, the Minister for Europe met Fiona Hyslop MSP, the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs, on 11 November to discuss the EU reform process. The renegotiation is now a standing item at quarterly meetings of the Joint Ministerial Committee on Europe, which allows Ministers from the devolved Administrations to feed in their views ahead of the meetings of European Councils. The next such meeting is next month. I hope that is the information that the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, requested.
The noble Lord also asked whether the report described under Amendment 24B would cover matters such as structural funds and how they impact on the region. I thank the noble Lord for his contribution to this debate. He reminded us of the importance of these matters at Second Reading, in Committee and, quite rightly, now, too. I remarked in my opening speech that the report under government Amendment 24B would indeed cover important rights such as the right to apply for structural funds. Where appropriate, we will set this information in context. However, again, I am not in a position to set out the exact contents of the report today. Clearly, it is a matter of making sure that the information is as balanced and full as is appropriate.
I was also asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, and the noble Lord, Lord Lea of Crondall, whether employment rights would be covered. I briefly referred to that in my opening remarks, but they were quite detailed, so I can give the assurance that employment rights would be covered under the report required by government Amendment 24B, as indeed would the rights of EU citizens referred to by the noble Baronesses, Lady Smith of Newnham and Lady Morgan. They would be covered by Amendment 24B.
In coming to my final words on this group of amendments, I reflect on the fact that what we have sought to achieve is to listen to the request of the House to table amendments that provide a factual basis on which people can make up their minds when they cast their votes. Government Amendments 24A and 24B will ensure that the public are crystal clear on what EU membership currently entails for the UK and how the EU has been reformed. This will enable them to make their decisions in an informed way at the referendum.
The Government reports are intended to be informative, objective and evidence-based. It will be for others—the campaigners—to then take from the report such information as perhaps fits their case, and to use it with regard to other information they may have when they talk about risk assessments and views. That is a matter for another day, although I know we have had quite a flavour of it today.
In conclusion, when Amendment 24A is called in its place, I will move it, and Amendment 24B. I hope they will both be acceptable to the House and I hope the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, will not press his Amendment 24C as an amendment to Amendment 24B. I beg to move.
I wish to reply to the Minister briefly and thank her for her contribution in replying to the debate. She has clarified a number of issues which were raised by me and others who put their names to the amendments. Her clarifications were basically very helpful. We have had a long debate. I would describe it as slightly a curate’s egg of a debate. My motives have not been so traduced since Fidel Castro’s representative on the UN Security Council had a little rant about British foreign policy, but I am used to these things and I am not objecting too much to that. I, and those who tabled the amendment, will study the Minister’s words with very great care. She weighed them carefully before she said them, both in the introduction and in responding to the debate. We will consider them very carefully. We may return to them on Third Reading, but in the mean time I do not intend to take the opinion of the House on this amendment.
Amendment 24A agreed.
24B: After Clause 5, insert the following new Clause—
“Duty to publish information about membership of the European Union etc
(1) The Secretary of State must publish a report which contains (alone or with other material)—
(a) information about rights, and obligations, that arise under European Union law as a result of the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union, and(b) examples of countries that do not have membership of the European Union but do have other arrangements with the European Union (describing, in the case of each country given as an example, those arrangements).(2) The report must be published before the beginning of the final 10 week period.
(3) In this section “the final 10 week period” means the period of 10 weeks ending with the date of the referendum.
(4) A copy of the report published under this section must be laid before Parliament by the Secretary of State.”
Amendment 24C, as an amendment to Amendment 24B, not moved.
Amendment 24B agreed.