§ House again in Committee on Clause 1.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon moved Amendment No. 27:
Page 1, line 9, after ("II") insert ("except Article 3(f)").
§ The noble Lord said: This group of amendments deals with a number of matters: with transport, networks, telecommunications and energy. It may be convenient to the Committee to consider in the one debate all the amendments which seek to exclude some or all of the provisions in the Maastricht Bill from 534 being applicable in British law, which provisions cover networks, transport, telecommunications and energy, given that those provisions are similar.
The relevant articles of the treaty to which these amendments have been tabled are the following: first, Article 3(f). Your Lordships will recall that under Article 3 on page 9 is a whole series of subsections labelled (a), (b), (c), (d) and so on, each listing what the treaty calls an "activity" which, under Maastricht, is to come within the competence and control of European institutions, principally the Commission and the Council. Article 3(f) lists the activity as,
a common policy in the sphere of transport".
Article 3(n) relates to,
encouragement for the establishment and development of trans-European networks".
Article 3(t) refers to,
measures in the spheres of energy, civil protection and tourism".
Looking further on in the treaty, Article 75 on page 15 states that the Council, after consultation, shall lay down:
(a) common rules applicable to international transport to or from the territory of a Member State or passing across the territory of one or more Member States;
(b) the conditions under which non-resident carriers may operate transport services within a Member State:
(c) measures to improve transport safety;
(d) any other appropriate provisions",
whatever that means. How much wider does that take us than the specific items which have been referred to?
Further on again in the treaty there are three important articles on the subject of trans-European networks: Articles 129b, 129c and 129d. Article 1291) includes the words:
the Community shall contribute to the establishment and development of trans-European networks in the areas of transport, telecommunications and energy infrastructures.
Within the framework of a system of open and competitive markets, action by the Community shall aim at promoting the interconnection and inter-operability of national networks as well as access to such networks. It shall take account in particular of the need to link island, landlocked and peripheral regions with the central regions of the Community".
I suppose that we are one of the "peripheral regions", if not the peripheral region, bearing in mind that there are 20 miles of water between us and the Continent itself.
Article 129c seeks to establish what it calls "guidelines" which the Community is to pursue for these trans-European networks. I shall summarise them because the articles are extremely wordy. Under this article the Community shall identify projects of common interest, and,
shall implement any measures that may prove necessary to ensure the inter-operability of the networks, in particular in the field of technical standardization".
The Community may support financially projects through feasibility studies. loan guarantees or interest rate subsidies or through direct subsidies through the Cohesion Fund.
Finally, Article 129d defines the procedure under which those guidelines are to be adopted by the Community. The Committee should note the words in Article 129b that the Community wishes to operate,
Within the framework of a system of open and competitive markets".
That is an expression of good free-market principles—that is, good from the point of view of the Government because they are in favour of good free-market principles. Indeed, all of us are now in favour of those free-market principles, even, I think, my noble friends on the Front Bench. I understand that they are probably in favour of them. However, in spite of such an expression of good free-market principles, the Community is to seek to promote the interconnection and inter-operability of national networks as well as access to such networks. It will seek to favour transport to and from more remote areas; set out guidelines on objectives, priorities and projects of common interest; take power to implement any measures to ensure inter-operability, including technical standardisation; finance out of Community funds, including the Cohesion Fund, projects towards this inter-operability; and take powers to promote co-ordination between the 12 states.
But, with just a slight genuflection to the free market, we are told that the Community shall only take account of the potential economic viability of the projects—I repeat "only take account". The article states that the Community,
may decide to co-operate with third countries to promote projects of mutual interest and to ensure the inter-operability of networks".
When the noble Baroness replies perhaps she will comment on the phrase,
take into account the potential economic viability of the projects",
bearing in mind the Government's view that, in general. our own networks should be profitable and should stand on their own two feet.
§ Is this not a prime example of governmental—in this case supra-governmental—intervention from Brussels in the market while still pretending to respect the market? The treaty claims to want "open and competitive markets". It then weakens that fine ideal when it shall only "take into account" the potential economic viability of the projects. And so it goes on and on and on.
§ What concerns me about these provisions is that the institutions of the Community will become more and more involved in the detail of transportation, although I understand that it will not be bringing forward particular projects—at least I hope that it will not—and that it will not be financing them. However, the Community's institutions will identify where certain roads will be placed—where they should go from and where they should go to and what sort of roads they will be. I wonder whether that will impinge on the decisions of our local planning authorities and whether pressure will be put on local planning authorities to provide such networks where perhaps the local community does not want them. We have already seen how the Community can put pressure on governments. We saw that, and indeed are still seeing the results of that, in the extension of the M.27 where in fact Mr. Carlo Ripa Di Meana sought to intervene. He was the Transport Commissioner, I think, was he not?536
§ Lord Clinton-Davis
Mr. Carlo Ripa Di Meana —commonly known as "Reaper"—was Commissioner for the Environment. It was his job to enforce environmental law in the Community.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
I thank my noble friend. Yes, I remember now: he was known as "the grim reaper". He did intervene and he caused a great many problems for Her Majesty's Government. My noble friend may very well have been pleased that he was able to cause such problems, but the fact is that that road had been through all our planning procedures and had been agreed by inspectors and by Ministers. It had therefore been agreed by the institutions of this country. I sincerely hope that these trans-European networks are not going to result in more interference of that sort from the European Community, and indeed from commissioners.
Of course there are other matters too, such as energy. I really would like to know exactly what that means: the environment, energy and what-have-you. To a large degree they are all mixed up. I want the assurance that the European Community cannot in any way under these provisions get their hands on North Sea oil. They have been trying to do that for a very long time. I want to be assured that there is no way in which they can, through this treaty, claim ownership of North Sea oil. I think that is extremely important. I also want to be assured that these trans-network links in energy are not going to put more of our miners and other energy workers out of work. The noble Baroness will know exactly what I mean. In fact I do not want subsidised French nuclear generation to put coal miners in this country, who are not subsidised now and will not be in the future, out of work. And of course I include gas workers and oil workers in that as well. These are all very important matters, about which we need reassurance.
Again on the environment, I want to ensure and I want the Government to ensure that we are not going to be put in a position by the institutions of Europe of making too fast decisions, which would harm the economic interests of this country. For example, I do not want to see a situation in which the environmentalists are able to aid and abet the destruction of a great industry, which I fear unwittingly they did over the coal industry. It would have been much more difficult to close collieries in this country if the coal industry and coal generation had not been accused of belching CO2 and acid rain into the air. But what have we now found out about acid rain? The latest report says that acid rain had nothing to do with deforestation in Europe and nothing to do with the destruction of the German forests: it was all to do with the drought. They go further and suggest that the CO20has acted as a fertiliser to help regenerate the forests. So that in talking about environmental issues we want to ensure that Europe and the institutions of Europe do not rush us into decisions which will cost the lives of great industries, not to mention perhaps thousands of millions of pounds in addition in retro-fitting power stations. That of course increases the cost of electricity to the consumer. All these things we need to be concerned about. I am sure that the noble Baroness will 537 understand what 1 am saying and I hope that she will have some sympathy with it. I look forward to her reply in due course.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Lord Tebbit
First I should say how pleased I was to come into the Chamber and hear the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, proposing these amendments, as I had undertaken to him that I would do so. Unfortunately, I was caught taking an excessive minute of pleasure with my wife. The noble Lord, Lord Parkinson, was there as well, I hasten to add, so there was nothing improper involved: we were in the Churchill Room and I was just a little late in returning to this debate. I should say that I was much impressed with the noble Lord's immediate grasp of all these matters, because I had been struggling with them earlier in the day to prepare myself.
Let me say right at the beginning, because I think it may assist my noble friend Lady Chalker, that one thing above all which I should like her to deal with in connection with all these amendments—as the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, has observed, they relate to Article 3, Article 75, Article 129(b) and, I think, Article 129(c) as well—is to tell us whether the powers to which they relate are matters which are within the exclusive or sole competence of the Community, or not.
There should be no difficulty in answering this question, because of course it is a very important one and upon it depends whether they are subject to the doctrine of subsidiarity. Ministers have said that it is very difficult for them to answer the question in the round, that is, which matters are subject to the doctrine of competence and therefore immune to the doctrine of subsidiarity. But this is a specific question: these are all specific policies and they are specific powers. What I want to know for each of them, item by item precisely, is which ones are within the sole competence of the Community so that subsidiarity therefore has no effect upon them, and which are not and which therefore are not subject to the doctrine of subsidiarity. I know that officials will have this information because, quite clearly, it has been thought through by Her Majesty's Government during the negotiation of the treaty, since it is such an important matter and subsidiarity has been such an enormous success for Her Majesty's Government. I know that my noble friend would want to explain in great detail which of these matters will be affected by the doctrine of subsidiarity and which will not.
Let me turn then to Amendment No. 27 itself. If your Lordships would turn to page 1, line 9, you will see that it relates to Article 3(f), relating to a common policy in the sphere of transport. Fortunately, the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, is present and therefore I do not have to explain again that this is a parliamentary procedure with which the rest of us are familiar. We understand that this is a device by which we shall discuss matters relating to the principles of a common policy on transport—
§ Lord Tordoff
I thank the noble Lord for giving way. It may be a parliamentary procedure that has 538 been invented for the purposes of this Bill. However, I must tell the noble Lord that prior to his presence in this place we did not on the whole conduct the Committee stages of Bills in a way that allowed people to make Second Reading speeches all the way through. I am in some difficulty because I was contemplating speaking on two of the amendments. However, as I am told that they are not now amendments, they are pegs, I find it difficult to discuss them. I can join in the general discussion but I have better things to do. If the proceedings are just a dialogue between the noble Lord and the Front Bench, asking questions, I should have thought that it would have been better for all or us if the noble Lord had tabled them as a series of Questions for Written Answer.
§ The Earl of Onslow
Before my noble friend Lord Tebbit continues, I wish to point out with respect that the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, knows that what he said is not absolutely correct. We used to have things called "probing amendments". These are probing amendments, which are designed to discuss the issue behind the actual amendment. Probing amendments are frequently meaningless in themselves but are tabled specifically to discuss the points behind the legislation. I have been a Member of this Chamber for about 22 years and that has been the procedure during the whole of that time. Therefore my noble friend Lord Tebbit, clever as he is, has not invented a totally new procedure for this Chamber.
§ Lord Tebbit
Perhaps I may be permitted to continue my speech lest it develops into an exchange between my noble friend Lord Onslow arid the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff. I can simplify the matter considerably by suggesting that, if the noble Lord is not particularly interested in these matters and wants to hide them all under the carpet arid ram this Bill through without the people of this Kingdom being informed other than by the process for Written Answer, he takes a little pleasure somewhere else. In the meantime—
§ Lord Tebbit
I shall give way to the noble Lord in a moment. In the meantime I shall repeat that the Bill before this Committee is an unusual Bill. As the noble. Lord knows, it is a slim Bill—here it is. It is as I said yesterday—and I shall repeat it for the noble Lord's benefit—the sliver of ice which shows above the water—
§ Lord Tebbit
And it has the iceberg of the treaty behind it. The only way in which we can discuss the treaty is by the device which we are using. Quite clearly, the noble Lord has no interest in discussing the treaty. He belongs to that school of thought which believes that the sooner it is through the better, and the less discussion there is the better. I take a different view. I believe that these are serious issues which should be discussed seriously.
§ Lord Tordoff
I thank the noble Lord for giving way. This level of acerbity is unusual in this Chamber, as Members will know. I repeat that Members who want to join in the debate on particular amendments are in some difficulty. As my noble friend Lord Ezra pointed out, there were deficiencies in an amendment which would normally be a reasonable source of discussion. On many occasions I have heard the noble Lords, Lord Boyd-Carpenter and Lord Renton, for instance, refer to the fact that amendments tabled from this side of the Chamber are deficient and go on at some length about that.
My problem is that I cannot debate these amendments. Every time that I seek to do so, every time that I seek to draw the Committee's attention to a fallacy in the amendment, I am told, "We are not talking about the amendments; we are talking about pegs". I understand what the noble Lord is saying; that he wants to debate the Maastricht Treaty. We are not debating the Maastricht Treaty; we are debating the Bill which is before the Committee. I see no other objective in being here.
§ Lord Tebbit
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, for saying that he does not want to debate the treaty. I do want to debate the treaty. This is a perfectly respectable procedural way of doing so. If the noble Lord wants to debate the Bill he is more than welcome to do so during the course of our proceedings. However, we are not able to debate, for example, that Article 3 of the treaty shall stand part, as he knows full well. I should have thought that as a Member of the Liberal Democrat Benches he would have welcomed the manner in which we have found it possible to debate a treaty, which would otherwise go through without debate by the Royal Prerogative.
§ Lord Pearson of Rannoch
I support my noble friend Lord Tebbit by saying that some of us who have been in the Chamber for only three years sit on your Lordships' Select Committee and have been staggered to discover the powers of the Executive to sign a treaty of this nature even if we are not able to debate it. The proposed treaty, together with the treaty known as the Single European Act, has been described as the greatest constitutional change in this country since the Petition of Right. The Bill to which the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, referred clearly imports Titles II, III and IV of the Treaty on European Union into British law—or so it proposes. I believe that the concept that this Chamber should not be free to discuss those Titles is little short of outrageous—
§ Baroness Trumpington
I wonder whether a battered Baroness may bring a little sweetness and light back into the Chamber. I have no power to do anything but I should be happy if we could return to talking about the actual amendments which face us tonight or whatever way my noble friend Lord Tebbit believes that we should advance the evening.
§ Lord Tebbit
I believe that the advice that my noble friend Lady Trumpington has given is good advice. It is my intention to return to the matter of the treaty which is behind the Bill—
§ Lord Tebbit
If the noble Lord will excuse me, I would rather take the advice of my noble friend Lady Trumpington for the moment. I am sure that later the noble Lord will have a point of substance as opposed to procedure.
If we return to the treaty we shall find that Article 3(f) on page 9 refers to "a common policy in the sphere of transport". I wish to understand what the Government understand to be the effect and the usefulness of these provisions. After all, we have before us the choice of cutting them out of the treaty. Theoretically at least—and I agree that it is highly theoretical—we may do so if we come to the conclusion that they do not have a useful purpose.
Will my noble friend explain the way in which that provision will affect cabotage? As Members of the Committee will know, the concept of cabotage is that of the transport of goods within the sovereignty of a particular territory. Will British ship owners be any more free after the passage of this treaty to carry goods between the ports of member states on the Continent of Europe? Does it take us forward in any way? Are there any restrictions on cabotage which restrain our shipping industry?
Those are simple and straightforward matters. We refer generally to cabotage in relation to shipping but the concept applies also to airlines. The European Community has been committed to the concept of the Common Market for 40 years or so—20 years since we joined—it and is now committed to the concept of a single market, which has now been in effect for more than six months. I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Bethell is no longer in the Chamber—I believe that he was here earlier—because he has done sterling work in pressing the Community towards allowing a common market, a single market, in air transport.
As Members of the Committee will know, it is not possible for British Airways, Virgin or British Midland or any other of the enormously successful totally unsubsidised private sector airlines to compete with their continental rivals. For example, they cannot pick up traffic in Paris to take to Dijon or carry traffic within the frontiers of Germany. Why is that so? Why are those restrictions still in place in a common market or a single market? When will they fall?
I know that Her Majesty's Government have been trying enormously hard to deal with those matters for many years. Indeed, I tried unsuccessfully to deal with them when I was the Minister responsible. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, tried unsuccessfully to deal with those matters when he was the Minister responsible before me. I am sure that had he been a transport commissioner—
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Lord Tebbit
My goodness, I did not notice that! I was going to say that he would have dealt with those matters successfully; but I shall have to rephrase that.
I am sure that the noble Lord did his very best to deal with them and to open up the market. Sadly, we have all failed. I was one of the earlier failures. Will the treaty open it up? Will the Treaty of Maastricht suddenly bring us a common market which will bring enormous benefits, of course to the peoples of Europe as consumers, but in particular will bring benefits to the British airline industry which is the most competitive, successful and virtually the only private sector unsubsidised industry within the European Community? That is a Community which has one of its guiding principles that we should ban state aids to industry. Tell that to the directors of Air France, not to mention many of the others.
Why are we still putting up with that? I am happy to give way to the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, because he probably knows better than I about these matters.
§ Lord Clinton-Davis
Is the noble Lord unaware of the fact that the Commission has very successfully brought proceedings in the European Court of Justice against the French on a number of occasions? It has invoked Article 85 of the competition articles very successfully against the French and indeed against others. The noble Lord is quite wrong to assert that somehow or other the French escape from the provisions of the competition articles. That is quite untrue.
§ Lord Tebbit
If they cannot escape from those provisions, why is it that France and others continue to subsidise their airlines?
§ Lord Tebbit
The money is passed to their airlines with the nod of the Commission. Is it the same kind of arrangement about which my noble friend Lord Cockfield told us earlier today where there is a special arrangement between the Germans and the French on agriculture which means that they have vetos on those matters while the rest of us do not? What is it that is now restraining free and open competition in the airline markets?
If the treaty were working, we should have had that free and open competition years ago. Will this treaty make that happen? I am anxious that it should happen. When I fly to Edinburgh I should like to be able to choose whether to fly on British Airways, British Midland, Air France or Lufthansa, if they chose to provide those services. That is what an open and common market is about. Does this treaty advance that?
I turn to Amendment No. 35 relating to Article 3(n) which concerns the encouragement of the establishment and development of trans-European networks. When the treaty was first brought home in triumph from Maastricht when I was still in the House of Commons, there was a delicious moment when I asked innocently—because all my questions are 542 innocent—what is a trans-European network? Those who brought home the treaty were unable to tell me what it was. I found that extraordinary. They were in favour of those networks without knowing what they were. I am still not entirely clear in my mind as to what is the lucid and clear definition of trans-European networks. What is it that defines a trans-European network?
We should benefit from a definition. If we were discussing a conventional piece of legislation, there would be a definitions clause somewhere in the Bill. If such an expression as "trans-European network" had been used and it was unfamiliar, it would be defined. It is not so defined here. What is it? We can guess a little about what those things are but I should like the matter to be quite clear.
Under Title 12 we should look also at Article 129b.
§ Lord Swinfen
Is the noble Lord, Lord Harris, trying to address the Committee from a sedentary position?
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
Strangely enough, I am not. I am following with the closest attention the extremely interesting speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit.
§ Lord Tebbit
I am grateful for that because I always follow the speeches of the noble Lord. Lord Harris, with great attention, too, for I have learnt already that it is not infrequently possible that I may learn something from him.
Article 129b refers to trans-European networks and refers to them in the areas of transport, telecommunications and energy infrastructures. Those are broad terms. How are they confined? Does "telecommunications" mean all forms of communications by cable, wire or radio? Is there some limitation on it? Is it the public telephone systems? Is it private circuits? I should remind Members of the Committee that I am a director of British Telecom plc, but I speak entirely for myself this evening and not in any way for that company. Are there powers which will affect the provision of private networks of telecommunications? Are there powers which could affect those new organisations such as Syncordia or British Telecom and their rivals on the Continent also? Does that mean that we shall, sooner rather than later, see proper competition in the field of telecommunications on the continent of Europe as well as in the United Kingdom? Does it mean that, had this treaty been in operation at the moment of German unification, the scandalous way in which, upon the bringing into the European Community of a new nation—East Germany—the telephone system of East Germany was merely annexed by the West German telephone company, without other telephone businesses in the European Community being given the opportunity to take it over or enter into partnership with it, would have been prevented? If I could be assured of that, my heart might warm a little to the treaty. If not, I fear that it will remain as cold as ice.
We know, of course, that Germany is an exception to the treaty. She has given herself an opt out from the provisions of the single currency. We know that she 543 has an opt out from the Treaty of Rome in that she can do private trade deals with the United States and so far as I know has not been referred to the court for those things. Would this treaty have prevented that anti-competitive act?
We should also explore whether this provision will give any powers to the Commission which it does not already have in relation to the powers of the regulator of our telecommunications industry; that is, Oftel. Is there any way in which the power over telecommunications networks within Europe can affect the regulation of our industry? Could it affect the operations of British Telecom and Cable and Wireless, which are being pushed into Europe reluctantly, against the protectionism of those who signed the Treaty of Rome so long before we did? Will it be a helpful influence or an unhelpful influence?
The measure is broadly drawn. I do not see that it could have any relevance to air traffic control. Could it have any relevance to air traffic control? Are there any powers here? After all, air traffic control is the very embodiment of an international network. Is it included? Are there any powers here? I do not know. The purpose of a probing amendment is that we should be informed and find out.
Does Article 129c give powers to subsidise? It would seem to do so as I read paragraph 1 at the third indent. Are my friends in the Government in favour of those powers to subsidise, or would they regard that as another example of—to use the phrase of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister—"muddleheaded meddling" by the muddle-heads, presumably in the Commission, who meddle, according to the Prime Minister, who was in Eurosceptic mode when he said those things? I should like to know the answer. How are those powers to subsidise constrained, except by the observation to which I heard the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, refer that the Community's activities,shall take into account the potential economic viability of the projects".I should have thought that whether the projects were viable was the overriding principle. It is not just a matter to be taken into account. It is a matter of prime importance.
Does Article 129c give powers to enforce standards in telecommunications? It appears that it might. Does that mean that we could have enforced a Eurostandard, for example, for mobile telephone systems? It might not be at all a bad idea to have a European standard for mobile telephone systems; but is that a gift which would come with this treaty, or is it a gift which would be denied to us?
The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, also raised the question of the relationship with things such as road planning. I realise that it was an environmental question which gave rise to the interference which we suffered recently over the extension to the M.27. My noble friend will know that it is hoped that in 1996 there will commence the construction of the north Birmingham relief road which will be the first private sector toll road in the United Kingdom. Will the Community have any role in relation to that road on 544 environmental grounds, technical grounds or any other grounds, or can we proceed with it entirely as a subsidiary matter?
I turn finally to Amendments Nos. 75 to 78 which relate to Article 75 on page 15. My noble friend Lady Chalker will correct me, I am sure, if I am wrong, but I believe that these provisions are broadly, if not entirely, unchanged from the existing form of the Treaty of Rome; but, as I understand it, the important change—these are important powers, and I shall just refresh the minds of Members of the Committee because I can see that my noble friend, as I do, has to scratch around a little through this complex treaty to find the right place—includes, for example:measures to improve transport safety; any other appropriate provisions".I wonder whether one would get away with that sort of provision in British domestic legislation without a pretty rough ride. "Any other appropriate provisions", well, I should have enjoyed putting a catch-all provision of that kind into one or two pieces of legislation that I took through the other place, but I was never allowed to get away with it. But the big difference, as I understand it, is that these matters are now subject under the treaty to qualified majority voting.
Then there is,measures to improve transport safety".We have an extraordinarily well developed system here of monitoring transport safety, and not least air transport safety. The CAA and the Air Registration Board are examples of British institutions which have been enormously successful. The ARB is accorded a respect by the American aviation airworthiness authorities which is not accorded to any other organisation in the world outside the United States. It is an organisation which is concerned with transport safety. I should be much reassured if my noble friend could tell me that there is no provision here which would or could affect the work of the ARB, particularly as this measure is now subject to qualified majority voting.
Having seen some of the things which have happened in other airworthiness authorities, I would be much happier, as a former professional pilot and as a current air transport passenger, with the knowledge that the Air Registration Board retained its powers in full and that they could not be interfered with in any way by this treaty. I accept that these may be the nightmare fears of little children dismissed by my noble friend Lady Chalker on the passage of the Single European Act in relation to the use of the veto. She dismissed those fears again on Second Reading in relation to the use of the veto. Just in order that my little head should sleep more securely, I should be glad if she could give me reassurance on these matters.
§ Lord Monson
I wish to speak briefly to Article 75 which is the subject, coincidentally, of Amendments Nos. 75, 76 and 78. The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, alluded to Article 75 in part, but I wish to go a little further into it. It provides that the Council shall lay down,the conditions under which non-resident carriers may operate transport services within a Member State".545 That sounds reasonable enough in principle provided the power is used to ensure a level playing field and not to tilt a level playing field. Will, for example, subsidised Greek road transport be competing fairly with non-subsidised British hauliers when they both operate, as eventually they will, in a country such as Germany? Article 75 also allows the council to lay down,common rules applicable to international transport to or from the territory of a Member State or passing across the territory of one or more Member States".That seems to open the door to creeping, or even accelerated, protectionism. I remember well a few years ago when air fares between London and Geneva and London and Zurich were considerably lower than air fares between London and Lyons, London and Turin and London. and Stuttgart. Now the position is a little better: the differentials are not so great. However, there is no telling whether the former situation might not recur because the French and the Germans want to protect their railways. The Swiss do not run international railways and so it does not worry them. I feel that this measure could be used to block in some way cheap air fares between Britain and the United States, for example, and between Britain and Australia.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, I am unhappy—hence Amendment No. 76—about the phrase "any other appropriate provisions". The phrase is far too wide, vague and all embracing. I do not know what will happen when the European Court gets its hands on the phrase. We shall see appropriate provisions included in no uncertain fashion.
§ Lord Aldington
I hope I may interrupt the noble Lord. Does he realise that Article 75 is in the original Treaty of Rome draft? All his fears on the Maastricht Treaty that he is now introducing to the Committee seem to me more applicable to what has been happening since 1956.
§ Lord Monson
I believe the noble Lord forgets that this is now to be the subject of majority voting. We shall not have the veto any longer. That is the point. As regards transport safety, the Committee will be aware that even before the treaty is ratified, a directive has been pushed through harmonising laws on seat-belts throughout the member states. That is extraordinary given that seat-belts are as much a matter for national parliaments as licensing laws or the permitted opening hours of theatres and cinemas. Every American and Australian state, and, as far as I know, every Canadian province, has its own different laws on seat-belts—
§ Lord Monson
The noble Lord, Lord Hacking, interrupts from a sedentary position. He may be right about Canada, but he is certainly not right about the United States or Australia. It seems to me that we are rushing headlong not merely into a federal super state but, what is far worse, into a unitary super state. It makes a mockery of the principle of subsidiarity but now it is part of the acquis communautaire and it would be difficult to return this particular power to nation states.
§ Lord Clinton-Davis
This has been a strange debate, I must say. Under the guise of putting a number of questions, some of them germane and others not, the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, sought to raise a whole variety of issues. It is not for me to reply to those specific points; that is for the Minister. However, t wish to make a few general points.
The value of the provisions in the Maastricht. Treaty dealing with the trans-European networks, although they trouble the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit., greatly, is that they give a real stimulus to the possibility of proceeding more rapidly with legislation in this field than has proved to be the case in the past. I had the honour to serve on the Commission. That went unnoticed as far as the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit. was concerned. I have always felt I was a household name, but only in my own household. The great value of the single market legislation, in which the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, played so substantial a role, was not the aim generally to provide a moral fillip but rather that it created the possibility, through Article 100a, of making a substantial impact upon the legislative process which otherwise would not have been available. I believe the same applies in large measure to the provisions we are making here.
The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, talks about his inability to understand what a trans-European network is or his inability to obtain any information about it. I must say that in the transport sector people have been talking about trans-European networks for a long time. We were seeking to deal with those issues in a pretty unsatisfactory way through the period 1985 to 1987. Up to that time what had happened very largely—
§ The Earl of Onslow
The noble Lord is an ex-transport commissioner. I also wish to know what a trans-European network is. He, above all people, must know what it is. Will he please give a small and accurate description?
§ Lord Clinton-Davis
With the greatest respect, I am not sure what the purpose of that intervention was. I was just about to deal with the point. The noble Lord,Lord Tebbit, raised it and all the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, has done is to reiterate the question, which takes up more time. I believe that a trans-European network is not capable of simple definition but it is something which enables a greater co-ordination of transport services within the Community to take place to the better advantage of the Community as a whole. For example, the Channel link is clearly a trans-European network because it facilitates transport between the United Kingdom, and indeed other peripheral areas, and the rest of the Continent. All that this provision does in any event is to help to achieve the objectives and to enable citizens of the Union, economic operators and regional and local communities to derive full benefit from the setting up of an area without internal frontiers. The Community shall contribute to the establishment and development of trans-European networks in the areas of transport, telecommunications and energy infrastructure.
547 The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, is entitled to mention the original treaty. There were transport articles inscribed in the original treaty which actually provided in part for qualified majority voting. However, the transport Ministers decided that they would not invoke that provision. That may have been because they felt that certain dangers attached to it. Nevertheless, the fact remains that this is what they sought to do in the original treaty, but rather unsuccessfully.
I believe that it is fair to say that over the years transport Ministers seemed to hone inertia into a fine art. They achieved very little until they were taken to court by the European Parliament in the famous case against the Transport Council which enabled the court to adjudge that they had failed in their duty. I believe that from that time onwards considerable progress has been made in the transport sector which would not otherwise have been possible.
Here we are dealing with transport infrastructure matters, which are not dealt with specifically in the Treaty of Rome. For a very long time Ministers refused to recognise the importance of transport infrastructure. They preferred to see matters simply in national terms. I remember a Minister saying: "Why should we contribute to European Community transport infrastructure when we have enough on our plate? We have a lot of provision to make in our own country". I understand that point of view. However, if we are trying to build a Community and a single market we cannot do that without the transport wherewithal to carry goods and people across the Community, and for that one needs a transport infrastructure. That is the logic behind these provisions.
§ 9 p.m.
§ Lord Tebbit
I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I believe that he will recollect that I am not wholly opposed to much of what he is saying. I hope that he will be able to tell me from his experience whether he believes that this treaty will, for example, prevent the German authorities from imposing charges on motorways which in effect bear only upon non-German road transport. He has given a nice loose definition of a trans-national network. Does an oil pipeline fall into that category?
§ Lord Clinton-Davis
I am not going to become involved in hypothetical situations. So far as concerns the noble Lord, I am seeking first to set the general pattern as to why it is important to give a fillip to these concepts. As regards the question of whether a specific German practice would or would not fall within this, one has to deal with the situation as it arises rather than consider hypothetical situations.
The noble Lord fails to take into account another important factor. Increasingly in the field of transport the Commission has not invoked the transport articles but has taken a deliberate decision to invoke competition articles in order to buttress its policies. I should have thought that the noble Lord would be in favour of that. Indeed, if German authorities, or 548 French authorities, decided to take anti-competitive action, unless the Ministers sitting in their Transport Council were prepared to come to the conclusion that those practices were to be insulated from the competition articles, the competition articles would apply. Increasingly that is the way in which conduct which is completely contrary to the philosophy of the Treaty of Rome needs to be prohibited and will be prohibited.
The interesting aspect of the competition articles is that they fall right across the philosophy of the noble Lord in that sense because they represent a Community policy. That is a Community policy which is designed to ensure that the best commercial practices are undertaken within the whole Community. What is more, it provides undertakings as well as governments with remedies which are not available elsewhere.
The noble Lord will, of course, disagree with my conclusions, but I happen to believe that what is invoked here will facilitate the desirable aim of being able to bring about these trans-European networks in the fields of transport, telecommunications and energy infrastructure. That is not wholly new. That is what the Commission has been grappling with for many years, sometimes successfully and sometimes not.
It is worth saying in parenthesis that the Commission has had considerable success over the course of the past few weeks in persuading Ministers to make a great deal of progress in the field of cabotage, to which the noble Lord referred in respect of road haulage. They have successfully accomplished considerable putative reforms in the field of telecommunications. Achievements have been recorded over the past few days. Where the Commission has failed—and I recognise that I was part of that failure—was in its inability to persuade the Greeks to ensure that cabotage would apply to shipping. However, that is a matter which arises from the original Rome treaty, the Single European Act and all the rest of it. It is not new.
I believe that in those respects the Maastricht Treaty makes a contribution towards the enactment of policies which I believe will cause greater liberalisation or fairer competition to take effect governed by sensible regulations. One does need sensible regulation in a number of fields to which the noble Lord referred specifically, such as air traffic control.
I do not see that the Commission or the Community have any interest in making the Commission, for example, an air traffic regulatory body. Nor has the Commission such an interest. However, it has, and has always had, some interest in elements of safety. One cannot talk of liberalisation of air transport and not be concerned about safety. I used to take great offence when Ministers said that the Commission had no competence in that field and ought to stay outside their discussions, which were under EUROCONTROL. That is nonsense. I believe that the Commission has the ability to intervene in these matters in a largely advisory capacity. However, in some respects—again I do not propose to define them—it also ensures that regulation is enacted in that field.
549 I wish to say a few words about the environment. I am surprised that my noble friend Lord Stoddart referred to the planning provisions in the way that he did. If he looks carefully at Articles 130R to T of the Single European Act which were somewhat changed—they deal with the environment—he will see that the Council is required to act unanimously in a number of matters including measures concerning town and country planning. But of course the environmental impact assessment directive—I had the honour to be involved with that—was agreed unanimously by the 12 member states including the Government of the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher. If they objected so much to the precepts that were set out, I wonder why they did not become more aggressive about undermining the directive before it became law. Why did they not take steps to amend it further? They chose not to do so. The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, was a Member of that Government and must take full responsibility for the decision enabling that provision—I believe that it was a sensible provision—to become the law of the Community. By that law we are bound.
§ Lord Jay
Before the Minister replies, I wish to express the hope that she will answer one specific question which was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit.
First, he asked whether the issues of transport and communication networks, which we are undoubtedly discussing, came within the area of the subsidiarity article which distinguishes between issues which are within the exclusive competence of the Commission and those which are not. I do not propose to enter into the general argument on subsidiarity because I understand that we shall discuss it on Monday of next week. But since we are discussing transport, communications and so on, it is reasonable to ask into which of those two fields those issues fall.
Secondly, I make a comment arising out of some of the remarks of my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis. He painted an inviting picture of the wonderful principles of competition impartially applied to all parts of the Community under the treaty. I am sure that he is sincere and has great knowledge of what is happening. However, I could not help recalling a somewhat different version of one incident, I think four years ago, concerning the Renault company in France.
My information comes from the Economist, which may be wrong, like many of us. However, its account was that Renault was suffering from a capital debt of something like £1 billion sterling and the French Government proposed to write off a large proportion of that debt. Some people considered that that amounted fairly obviously to a subsidy to the Renault company. Sir Leon Brittan, who was then the Commissioner for Competition, very rightly applied himself to the issue and put forward proposals for a considerable reduction in the extent of the debt which the French Government were entitled to write off. Then, according to the Economist, M. Rocard—noble Lords will recall that he was then the French Prime Minister—made a confidential approach to M. Delors, the President of the Commission. As a result of that, without knowledge of the unfortunate Sir 550 Leon Brittan, M. Delors presented a proposal at the next meeting of the Commission which gave a decision which was extremely generous to the Renault company and the French Government of which Sir Leon Brittan strongly disapproved.
That is the account given in the Economist newspaper. I can give the reference to my noble friend if he wishes. However, in this whole matter we should pay attention to realities as well as to the various expressions of good intentions which we find written in all the documents. I cannot assure the Committee with certainty that those are the true facts; but they have a ring of truth to me.
§ Baroness Chalker of Wallasey
It has been an interesting group of amendments led by Amendment No. 27 concerning Article 3(f). At least this group of amendments is shorter and therefore more focused However, that has not in any way reduced the number of questions being asked. Bearing in mind that we have four more groups to debate before 11 o'clock tonight, I shall be as brief and succinct as I can in replying.
Many of the points made—
§ Lord Pearson of Rannoch
I think that my noble friend is a little optimistic if she expects to finish by 11 o'clock when there was a Statement which lasted for an hour. The arrangement was that Statements would amount to overtime.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Baroness Chalker of Wallasey
I believe that that is a matter for the proper channels, not for me. I shall take what advice I am given by the government Chief Whip. I should now like to try to answer some of the points that have been put in the debate.
I started to say, and I repeat, that many of the points which have been made in relation to the detailed amendments in the previous group—that is on industry, research, development and other chapters of the treaty—also apply to the amendments grouped under this heading. But not all action in the areas under discussion in this group should be seen as an innovation introduced by the Maastricht Treaty. I believe that that was made perfectly clear in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis. In all cases, it was already possible under the provisions of the Treaty of Rome and the Single European Act, and certain action has already been undertaken.
As the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, said, this group covers three topics: an amendment introduced at Maastricht to the transport chapter of the Treaty of Rome (replacing the old Article 75); the new chapter on trans-European networks, which I shall define in a moment (Articles 129b, 129c and 129d); and Article 3(t) which mentions the areas of energy, tourism and civil protection.
Let me begin with transport policy and Amendment No. 27, referring to Article 3(0 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, and other 551 amendments which refer to sections of Article 75, as amended at Maastricht. This article is concerned with transport policy and introduces small changes to the Treaty of Rome, primarily to introduce the European Parliament's co-operation procedure (Article 189c), which we discussed earlier this week, to this sector, and to introduce the possibility of transport safety measures at a European level. Given the international nature of much of the transport field—to which I shall refer in a moment in answer to questions—it is natural that the Community should be involved in this area. Indeed, it has already been so for many years, as I well remember from when I served as Minister of State for transport in the Government of my noble friend Lady Thatcher.
We see considerable advantage in adopting measures which liberalise the Community's transport markets. Many such measures—included in the Commission's 1985 White Paper—are now agreed. UK transport businesses operate now in our own more liberal market and they are well placed to take advantage of the opportunities elsewhere in the Community.
I sincerely hope that Members of the Committee would not wish to block the considerable achievements of the single market in this important area. I accept that their amendments on this part of the Bill are probing amendments and therefore I suspect that they may not be pressed to a vote.
Now let me turn to the vexed question of what is a trans-European network, a matter which so bothered my noble friend Lord Tebbit. Trans-European networks are concerned with plugging gaps in infrastructure which could inhibit the efficient working of the single market. They include both physical projects, providing necessary transport links, and technical ones such as ensuring the inter-operability of the telecommunications systems. My noble friend Lord Tebbit asked me about mobile telephones. I can only say to him that every businessman I have ever spoken to about the inoperability between countries in Europe of the mobile telephones has said: "Please use the Community to get on and make sure that each can operate to the other". That is exactly what TEN is all about. It is one example among many, I tell my noble friend, which is there to help.
§ Lord Tebbit
My noble friend will recollect that that is a point which I made, that it would be welcome if we could establish such a thing. I have to say that most people in the industry are immensely mistrustful of whether the organisations of the Community would do it in a manner which is fair, or whether they would go off again on another barmy escapade like the high definition television one.
§ Baroness Chalker of Wallasey
If they go off on any barmy escapade, the thing to do is to make sure that the problem is taken up by the member states. I shall make an offer to my noble friend Lord Tebbit which I hope he will take up. I am advised that he will not take it up anyway, but let me make it in good faith. If he finds, as a director of British Telecom, things which 552 he thinks are going against the interests of the consumer in using telecommunications—and I particularly put it this way—then I hope he will tell me and other Ministers, so that we may take it up. We should be using the facility of the Maastricht Treaty and this Bill to do exactly that. I say that to my noble friend perfectly genuinely. I hope he will not interrupt me again. I am trying to get on with this Answer.
Having, I hope, put my noble friend's mind at rest a little, let me make one or two points about the amendments put down by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon. The provisions in Articles 129b to 129d are intended to provide the Community with the means to plug those gaps. But we already have the power in our Community under the Treaty of Rome to fund infrastructure projects through the provisions of the transport chapter and by the use of structural funds. But it is helpful, as the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, indicated, to clarify the purposes of such projects and the means by which they might be adopted.
Under the terms of the treaty, Community action must take place within a framework of open and competitive markets—that was the phraseology used by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, and in the treaty—and must ensure that the networks are technologically compatible, and must take account (as was read out, again by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart) of the potential economic viability of any projects. That is all good, sound common sense. It is exactly what those who are involved in businesses, and indeed in government, seek to pursue. I see no reason for seeing ghosts in the wording of these articles, as some noble Lords have done.
In Amendment No. 157, the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart and my noble friend Lord Tebbit seek to eliminate from the Bill the very clause on Council approval for measures to develop the trans-European networks. But Article 129d tries to tighten up the consultation procedures by requiring Council approval for all the proposals as well as consultation with other Community institutions. I believe that that is a welcome and sensible provision. I hope that it is indeed a probing amendment.
I was also asked about Article 3(t), which is the subject of Amendment No. 41. Unlike the other paragraphs of Article 3, 3(t) does not look forward to articles later in the treaty conferring substantial powers to deal with the matters specified. No such powers were inserted into the Treaty of Rome at Maastricht. Article 3(t) simply notes that these are fields in which the Community is also involved, and indeed was already involved. The declaration of the conference makes it clear that the specific provisions on these subjects will be considered in 1996. It is not a foregone conclusion that they will be agreed nor, if any are agreed, what they will be. But it concentrates our minds on a matter that we are already considering together in the normal course of our work in the European market.
If action relating to those fields covered by 3(t) is proposed, it will have to be taken under existing powers. Let me give the Committee an example. There is already a directive on package holidays adopted 553 under Article 100a of the Treaty of Rome. It is primarily a measure of consumer protection, but it also has relevance to tourism. That is now covered by the treaty, as the Bill covers the Maastricht Treaty.
There are a number of detailed questions that I want to try to answer briefly. I cannot add to what my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor said about subsidiarny and exclusive competence in answer to my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch. We are to have a major debate on that point on Monday. I believe that I would be taking the Committee's time unnecessarily tonight if I were to delve into it. It would only give rise to: "What about this? What about that?", and we would go on for quite a long while to come.
In all these measures perhaps I may assure the Committee that in general the aim is to pump-prime, to conduct feasibility studies, to get things moving forward and to offer loan guarantees which will attract private sector finance. There may be one or two exceptional cases in which a given project is not evidently economically viable in the short term; otherwise the market would cope without any intervention. That is why the three words "take into account" were put into the Maastricht Treaty. I believe it to be an appropriate phrase.
My noble friend Lord Tebbit also asked about rules for member states to draw up requiring the approval of the member state concerned. That is very clearly stated in Article 129d. I do not believe that it should hold any of the anxieties to which my noble friend referred.
My noble friend went on to ask me a number of questions about telecommunications. I believe that there has been quite a notable success in the European Community in opening up the national monopolies—the PTTs as they are known—using Article 90. There is no doubt that many of the successes have been pushed by this country, and very wisely too. The first success was in the telecoms terminal equipment, and later the telecoms services were opened up, apart from voice telephoning. Now there is a further liberalisation package in train. Perhaps it would be useful to my noble friend if I were to arrange for him to have a note on the detail of that package from the Department of Trade and Industry.
My noble friend also asked me about telecoms standards under Article 129; that is the single market standard for telecoms under Article 100A. Whenever possible the Commission seeks mutual recognition of national standards, although in time a single standard may come. That is quite right.
My noble friend also asked me about cabotage and air liberalisation. I noted with interest his support for more Community powers and action to liberalise transport markets. I can tell him already that real progress has been made. There are three air liberalisation packages. Also, only last week the road haulage industry found it possible to have liberalisation in its work too. That is something that this country has long sought. I notice the support for further Community action and powers in such areas. 554 Nobody will go wild with such powers but they will seek to use them where it is in the interests of industry and the consumer to do so.
I noted that my noble friend was amused by the possibility of action against the French airlines. believe he said that there were plans to aid Air France illegally. Action was taken successfully just recently against the plans to recapitalise Air France. That is why I ask my noble friend and others like him to be a little more selective in the targets that they put up for target practice. There are some real villains, but if we mask the real villains by putting out a number of stories picked up from newspapers and other places, we have less chance of getting at them. I agree wholeheartedly with him in wanting to deal IA with real villains and I shall do my best to do so.
In regard to air traffic control, that can be covered if member states agree. They have the power to agree. But the Commission, for its part, is keen to improve the present situation in which national systems are incompatible and inefficient. Anybody who sits inside a plane at the end of a runway in any airport knows how much we long for better European air traffic control. Anything that we can do within the Community to bring that about will surely be welcomed by the passenger and the businessman.
The noble Lord asked about the Air Registration Board. I want to check its position. I have a thought in my head in that regard. However, I would not like him to have nightmares if I get it wrong and I wish him to sleep securely in his bed tonight. Therefore I shall write to him when I have checked the information.
The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, asked about energy. I can assure him that the Maastricht Treaty does not introduce new specific provisions in the field of energy and there are no new powers which will gain control over North Sea oil. I hope that that answer will suffice.
I was asked also about seat-belts—a subject near to my heart. Frankly, I cannot see where else one can possibly put a seat-belt in a car. We have them in the front and in the back; we should use them, and by doing so this country has cut road accident casualties dramatically. I understand also that seat-belts, their fittings and the type of belt are matters that were agreed under the single market standards in Article 100A. Therefore, they do not need to be affected further.
It has been an interesting debate. There was an exchange between my noble friend Lord Tebbit and the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, regarding lorry charges on German motorways. Without a Community it would not be possible to achieve an equitable conclusion, which we reached on the matter last week. I too am interested in the north Birmingham relief road. Perhaps I may point out that it is not the first toll road system to be introduced in this country because we have the Dartford Bridge. That is tolled privately, run privately and was built privately. I hope that the north Birmingham relief road will be as much of a success as the Dartford Bridge. l welcome the determination to fund it through private capital.
There are many more points one could raise in regard to the transport and telecommunications 555 network. But perhaps I may conclude by saying that I was glad to see that from the summit in Copenhagen this week a specific conclusion was reached which concerned an efficient network and communications infrastructure. I include two points only: first, making it easier and cheaper for people, goods and services to move around will increase the competitiveness of the European economy; secondly, an efficient infrastructure network will be of inestimable value for regional planning and economic and social cohesion.
I know that some of those words are not specifically to the Committee's liking. But the intention is right for the passenger and the British manufacturer. Having cleared the way just a week ago for the full liberalisation of the activities of road hauliers, which our road hauliers have earnestly wanted for many years, I believe that transportation, telecoms and energy—the topics covered by the amendments—are on the right track. I hope that the noble Lord will not press Amendment No. 27 to a vote. If he does so, I ask the Committee to resist it.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Earl of Onslow
Perhaps my noble friend can help me. This is a genuine question and not a quest for knowledge. Our petrol is cheaper than French petrol; our diesel is more expensive than French diesel. I believe that there are similar differences in fuel prices in various other parts of the European Community. Will there be any directives or encouragement to equalise or harmonise the price of road fuel within the Community?
§ Baroness Chalker of Wallasey
As the price of road fuel is mainly affected by fiscal decisions, which are the decisions of the government of each member state, I cannot see that harmonisation is likely to advance one iota down that route.
§ Lord Monson
I did not think it fair to burden the noble Baroness with too many questions at once. However, she will be aware that Article 3(f), providing for a common policy in the sphere of transport, as well as that part of Article 75 relating to transport policy, could he used by other member states to argue that the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland ought to be obliged to drive on the right-hand side of the road like the rest of the Community. Is it not the case that if a majority of member states were to take that view, if the treaty were ratified Britain would no longer have the power of veto?
The Minister did not reply to my query about the common rules applicable to international transport to and from or across the territory of other member states. That is quite understandable in view of all the other questions that she had to deal with. Is the Minister certain that the more protectionist members of the Community—we know which countries are by nature protectionist—will not use that to try to impede cheap flights from Britain to Australia, the Far East or North America? As she will be well aware, in Britain long distance air transport is cheaper than in any other Community country.
§ Baroness Chalker of Wallasey
I do not believe there is any truth in whatever rumour the noble Lord may have heard about Britain being forced to drive on the right. I remember that point coming up in 1982, 1983, 1984 and 1985 when I was in the Department of Transport. It was not true then, and it is not true now. We could not be forced to drive on the right.
So far as the noble Lord's other question is concerned, I shall look in detail at what he has said and write to him.
§ Lord Tebbit
Perhaps my noble friend will accept from me that what she has said about some of the measures that have been taken, not least through the Single European Act, towards the creation of a single market has my complete support. I should like to thank her and her colleagues for the work that they have done in that respect. After all, that was why I and my noble friend Lady Thatcher, the then Prime Minister, accepted that Britain would have to sacrifice some degree of control over its own affairs in order to achieve a single market. We believed that that would be a worthwhile exchange. Up to now, I have had considerable doubts about how that has worked out, but if we continue to make progress in forcing our protectionist continental partners to open their markets, I shall be delighted.
Finally, I should like to offer the consumers of Germany, France, Portugal and Spain one simple thing the ability to enjoy the same levels of price and quality in telephone services that we enjoy here. I know that the anti-British brigade do not like that. They must ask themselves why we have an open and competitive market and others will not allow our companies to compete with theirs.
I should also like to express my thanks to the Minister for what she said about the north Birmingham relief road. What she forgot to say was whether there were any powers by which the Community could interfere in that road design, construction or routing.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
I do not know whether the noble Baroness wishes to answer the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit. If she wishes to do so, I shall sit down.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
It is for the noble Baroness, not for the Liberal Benches, to answer. The Liberal Benches appear to think that this is all a great joke. I assure them that it is by no means a great joke. I am rather surprised that the Liberal Benches should be so reluctant to discuss this very important treaty.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
Perhaps I may be allowed to continue. The noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, sought to show that we should not be discussing this treaty in detail. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, and to the Committee that noble Lords have every right and duty to discuss the treaty in the detail that they wish. I remind the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, and other Members of the Committee, that one of the reasons that was given by the Prime Minister for not 557 having a referendum was that in his view the best place to discuss the treaty was Parliament. Your Lordships' House is still part of the British Parliament. It therefore has the right and duty to discuss matters involving all kinds of issues which are important to our country. I am only sorry that the Liberal Party should appear not to want to discuss them, and indeed should seek to prevent other people from discussing them. I hope that we shall have no more of that. Having said that—
§ Lord Tordoff
I thought that I had explained earlier that we have great difficulty in discussing the issues. I would be delighted to discuss the issues if we were actually discussing the amendments before us. But we are not discussing the amendments before us. We are having Second Reading speeches on the generality of the subject. It is extremely difficult for us to have specific discussions on the amendments before us. If we were going through the Maastricht Treaty line by line, that might he a good way of doing it. But we are not doing that. We are at the Committee stage of a Bill, and we are discussing 400 and heaven knows how many amendments. But apparently we are not discussing those amendments and the matter becomes very complicated.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
The noble Lord is perfectly well aware that for technical reasons we cannot discuss the treaty. If we could do that, and if we could put down amendments, then it would be very easy. But we cannot do that. We have to discuss the Bill, and to discuss the treaty we have to go through all kinds of procedures. The treaty should be discussed. I would hope that we are helping the Committee, not hindering it, by assisting it to discuss urgent and important matters.
I shall not go further into that and I shall not delay the Committee very much longer. We should be grateful to the Minister for all the information that she has given us and for replying to everything in detail. It was certainly not a Second Reading speech, if I may say so. It was a very good Committee speech which dealt in detail with all the matters that were raised by Members of the Committee. We are grateful for that—
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
—and because she has done so I need to raise only one further query. If the other members, by qualified majority, decide that we should drive on the right, I hope that she will use the Luxembourg Compromise which she has assured us is still in existence.
My fear about many of these provisions is that they will result in a mass of regulations coming from the Community—I hope that that will not be so—regulations which will injure our industry and may be built on by the home-grown band of officials. I do not ask the noble Baroness to reassure me at this stage, but I hope that that will not happen. We shall read her speech very carefully indeed. If we feel that further amendments are needed at Report stage, we shall, in spite of the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, bring them forward. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Strabolgi)
Is it your Lordships' pleasure that the amendment be withdrawn?
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
On Question, amendment negatived.
[Amendments Nos. 28 and 29 not moved.]
§ 9.45 p.m.
Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 30:
Page 1, line 9, after ("II") insert ("except Article 3(i)").
§ The noble Lord said: The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, has asked me to move this amendment which stands in his name. It is grouped with Amendments Nos. 145, 146 and 147. The Committee will be pleased to know that I have made a precis of my speech so that it should be somewhat shorter than it was originally going to be.
§ After the monetary and fiscal policy aspects of the treaty, the most important part is that which affects social policy. Under the blanket of social policy are such issues as the maximum time, including overtime, that anyone may work in any given period; the minimum wage that any worker may receive; the length of paid and unpaid leave that must be granted to employees; the entitlement to maternity or paternity leave; unemployment benefit; sickness benefit; pension rights; trade union rights; and the role of industrial tribunals. That is a long enough list at this hour of the night, but it will give a flavour of what this part of the Bill is about.
§ I believe that we would all agree that employees require protection within the law from unscrupulous employers. We accept a proper balance between the rights in law of the employees and the employers. Whether or not we have it correct in the United Kingdom does not form part of this debate.
§ Hitherto, regulation of the conditions of employment in each member state has been a matter for national governments, with certain issues tempered by specific inter-governmental agreements. What we are now considering is whether that control over social policy, and all that that implies, should in future be vested in the institutions of the Community and not in national parliaments.
§ I consider that it should remain a national judgment as to how restrictive or generous conditions of employment should be at any one time. I believe that our colleagues in Europe are attempting to operate in isolation from the rest of the world. If the 12 nations traded entirely among themselves then it might not matter how few hours there were in the working week; how high a minimum wage was set or how generous social security benefits were. Those countries could all compete with each other on reasonably level terms.
§ However, the EC is but a part of Europe and an even smaller part of the world as a whole. By increasing labour costs and the costs of social security that has to be paid by taxpayers and by commercial companies alike, we would make ourselves and the rest of the Community uncompetitive with the trading nations outside the 12. We would lose overseas sales and even be buying from those countries in preference 559 to our own as their goods would be cheaper. That would result in much greater unemployment and a greater call on the social fund.
§ My right honourable friend the Prime Minister negotiated an opt-out from the social chapter. That opt-out, in my view, is hardly worth the paper on which it is written. The other 11 states can impose the Community social policy on us under the articles which this group of amendments seeks to make unenforceable under United Kingdom law as well as other articles which deal with such matters as health and safety. I beg to move.
§ The Earl of Onslow
I believe that this is one of the most important matters in the Bill which we have to discuss. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has absolutely correctly identified unit labour costs and the social costs of employing labour. I do not think that it is only the European Community which will have to look at this question. Social security costs are rocketing out of control for perfectly good and right reasons. But the social security budgets of all Western countries such as the United States, ourselves and the Community, are in danger of taking such a large percentage of the wealth creation that damage is likely to be done.
The reason is more simple; we are all living longer. If we were to abolish the taxes on alcohol and tobacco, everybody would die by the age of 65 and the social security budget would come tumbling down, but I do not think that that is a serious proposition. This country has that problem, as has the rest of Europe. Let us remember that the French social security laws were introduced by Marshal Pétain and the Vichy government during the war to try to bribe the French for their defeat in the 1940s, but perhaps that is not totally germane to the argument.
We must encourage and give my right honourable friend the Prime Minister maximum support to keep social costs as low as possible. There is, of course, a difference between the social charge on unit labour costs and the take-home pay in somebody's pocket. In the case of the Hoover factory in Dijon or Lyons—it was one of those two Burgundy towns—the money in the workers' pockets was the same in the two towns concerned but the unit labour costs became so high in France that Hoover moved to Scotland.
German labour costs are so high at the moment that they are forcing German factories to set up in places like Czechoslovakia and Poland to take advantage of the much cheaper labour costs there. It is in nobody's interests that Germany should suffer social upheaval or not be as prosperous as possible. However, let us always remember that one can sell one's goods only to a rich society, not to a poor society. Therefore, it is in everybody's interests that the whole of Europe is as rich as possible and that people in other countries in Europe can spend as much money on our goods as we can spend on French or Italian goods.
If (for whatever reason) we put heavy taxes on labour costs—and there is a difference between unit labour costs and take-home pay—we shall be doing ourselves a major disservice. I hope that we can give 560 my right honourable friend the Prime Minister maximum support in keeping the social costs of the European Community as low as possible.
§ Lord Richard
Having listened to the two speeches supporting the amendments, I am bound to say that I found them utterly incomprehensible. If one looks at the amendment and at what it seeks to do—presumably, those who tabled the amendment knew what they were doing—one sees that it seeks to delete Article 3(i), which deals with,a policy in the social sphere comprising a European Social Fund".This series of amendments relates to the European Social Fund, to how it operates and the purposes for which it was set up. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the social chapter and nothing whatsoever to do with whether the Prime Minister had a triumph or disaster when he negotiated the British opt-out. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the opt-out itself.
A number of amendments have been tabled for next week under which we can discuss the social chapter and the opt-out from it. Therefore, with great respect to the two noble Lords who have spoken, if the Committee wishes to discuss the European social fund we can do so next week. As a Commissioner who at one stage was responsible for it, I shall be delighted to participate in such a debate. However, I hope that the Committee will forgive me if at this stage I do not move my amendment on the social chapter which I think that we shall reach next Wednesday.
§ Lord Tebbit
I should like to direct my attention solely to one amendment, Amendment No. 36, which relates to Article 3(o) on page 9, which refers to the policies in relation to,a contribution to the attainment of a high level of health protection"—
§ Viscount Ullswater
I am sorry to have to interrupt my noble friend, but Amendment No. 36 is not grouped with the amendment that we are discussing.
§ Viscount Ullswater
It now falls to me to answer in a few words a debate on a subject which has not been raised. I understand how my noble friend Lord Swinfen managed to make his speech because grouped with this is one on Article 118(a), and I think he squeezed into the group on that. I would have to say that I agree with him. We do not believe that the directive on working time was necessary or justified. I think my noble friend realises that we intend to challenge its health and safety legal base in the European Court, if and when it is adopted. We made it clear that the use of the health and safety legal base is completely unjustified for this objective, and is an abuse of the treaty.
Just very briefly, I would say to my noble friend Lord Onslow that of course I look forward to his support when we discuss the social protocol next Wednesday, but I would indicate to him that the chapter on social policy remains untouched in the treaty, which we believe to be quite right. However, I take his point about the social protocol and we shall 561 look forward to hearing what he has to say next week. In the meantime I would ask my noble friend to withdraw his amendment.
§ The Earl of Onslow
May I apologise to the Committee for seizing the wrong end of the stick with my normal and customary vigour? The noble Lord, Lord Richard, was completely correct in bringing me to a halt and I apologise.
§ Lord Swinfen
know that the social chapter will be discussed next week, but the social policy is a hook upon which so many other things can be hung by the Commission that could well put up costs of our business and raise the costs of social security in this country that I thought it was worth raising. I still think it was worth raising, but as the hour is late and there seems to be some concern as to whether we might finish by 11 o'clock or shortly afterwards, I will beg the Committee's leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendment No. 31 not moved.]
Lord Moran moved Amendment No. 32:
Page 1. line 9, after ("II") insert ("except Article 3(k)")
§ The noble Lord said: I have been asked to introduce this group of amendments dealing with health and the environment, beginning with Amendment No. 32 and including Amendments Nos. 36, 151 and 179–183. As the hour is late, I shall he as brief as is possible. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Richard, will judge that what I say is relevant and that I am speaking about the right subject.
§ I doubt whether many people in this country appreciate the remarkable scope of the Maastricht Treaty. In our discussions this week some noble Lords have portrayed it as a mere tidying-up exercise to improve the working of the single market. The Government have suggested that it is actually a decentralising measure, which it manifestly is not. As I suggested at Second Reading, it in fact marks a massive transfer of power from national governments to Brussels.
§ One of those areas of policy which fall under the control of Brussels under the terms of the treaty is health, and another is the environment. The amendments we are discussing cover the appropriate articles in the treaty. These amendments seek to exclude those provisions in the treaty from being applicable and enforceable in Britain. Your Lordships will by now be becoming familiar with Article 3 of the treaty and the many activities listed under that article, which are now to fall within the competence of Brussels.
§ Article 3(k) lists as being within the competence of Brussels a policy in the sphere of the environment. Article 3(o) exhorts the Community to make a contribution to the attainment of a high level of health protection. Article 129 covers public health and Articles 130(r), 130(s) and 130(t) cover the environment. I think it is important that we remind ourselves that in this Bill we are not dealing with international agreements on specific issues such as health and the environment. If we were, I suspect that most of us 562 would agree that countries, not just in Europe but all over the world, should co-operate in encouraging good public health and preventing the spread of disease. Indeed, they already do just that.
§ What we are dealing with here, however, is a treaty which, through this Bill, is to carry the force of law within Britain. What is at issue, therefore, is whether matters such as co-operation on health protection between the 12 member states, research into diseases, health information and education, co-ordination of each country's health policies and programmes, co-operation with countries outside the Twelve and co-operation with international health organisations should essentially be covered, the policies decided, and the funds made available, not by the British Government and the British Parliament, but as a matter of law by the Commission and the Council of Ministers in Brussels.
§ Public health should surely remain the responsibility of national governments. In so far as it can and should be promoted internationally—for example, measures to reduce drug dependency—surely that must be done by voluntary agreement between governments. What seems to me to be undesirable is a supra-government imposing their view by majority voting as regards public health and public health policies on those countries which prefer to do what is proposed in a different manner or not do it at all. Yet that, I understand, is what is proposed in the treaty.
§ Similar arguments apply to the environment. Under the Maastricht Treaty policies for the environment will be decided by qualified majority vote in the Council of Ministers. Article 130r proposes that the Community, acting as the Community, shall preserve, protect and improve the quality of the environment. It proposes the prudent and rational utilisation of natural resources. It proposes measures at international level to those ends. That all sounds very sensible. However, by paragraph 3 of the same article the Community shall also take account of environmental conditions in the various regions of the Community, the potential benefits and costs of action or lack of action, the economic and social development of the Community as a whole, and the balanced development of its regions.
§ The article is, I think, of some significance. I should like to ask the Minister whether the Commission in Brussels will be able to rebuke the wealthier nations of the Community for policies of which it disapproves while condoning and even encouraging the same policies in the poorer countries. What may be thought by the Commission to be the prudent arid rational use of resources in one country could be condemned as wasteful if pursued by another. The words in paragraph 3 of the article allow, I suggest, for a prejudiced application of environmental policy from Brussels.
§ Again, Article 130s gives power to the Commission to propose and for the Council to confirm measures concerning town and country planning. May I ask the Minister whether it is correct that the article permits Brussels to introduce measures which override and replace United Kingdom planning law? Will such measures have to be taken into account in any 563 planning application once the Maastricht Treaty is ratified and this Bill becomes an Act? Will major planning inquiries have to go to Brussels after or before going to the Secretary of State for the Environment?
§ Under the present terms of the Treaty of Rome the Prime Minister has said that planning applications and planning inquiries, even for major projects, remain the responsibility of the British Government. As Members of the Committee will recall, the Prime Minister reprimanded the then Environment Commissioner in Brussels when he sought to intervene on the M.3 extension. However, under these articles of Maastricht, Brussels could, it seems to me, overrule the Department of the Environment on any future planning proposals similar to the M.3 extension, the line of route for a Thames crossing, or even a simple application for gravel extraction. I ask the Minister how those extensive powers as regards the environment given to Brussels under the Maastricht Treaty square with the Prime Minister's promise of non interference in British planning law.
I give Members of the Committee one further example. Paragraph 2 of Article 130r makes the assertion that the polluter should pay. I am sure that that is right: we all agree. However, paragraph 5 of Article 130s states:
Without prejudice to the principle that the polluter should pay, if a measure based on the provisions of paragraph 1 involves costs deemed disproportionate for the public authorities of a Member State, the Council shall, in the act adopting that measure, lay down appropriate provisions in the form of: temporary derogations and/or financial support from the Cohesion Fund".
That seems to me to mean that the polluter should pay but that Brussels can suspend the rule if the country in question cannot afford to pay and that Brussels will see to it that in such circumstances the cohesion fund pays the costs.
§ In practice that would mean that if two identical plants using identical technology, both perhaps 20 years old, were producing what is now considered to be unacceptable effluent, the one in the north European country would have to clean it up at its own expense, whereas the one in the Mediterranean would either have to clean it up at the expense of European taxpayers or would not have to clean it up at all. The result could well be that the one in the north closes down because cleaning up is too expensive whereas the one in the south keeps going and takes the other plant's business. Those articles in the Maastricht Treaty seem to me to permit just that. Surely that must be wrong. I hope that the Minister can tell us what is the Government's view.
§ I believe that about 1.2 billion ecus were earmarked for environmental projects in 1989–93, many of them channelled through the European regional development fund and the European Investment Bank. Some of that money is well spent but some of the Community's regional projects do a great deal of damage. I give one example. There is the current European Community engineering project in the Missolonghi marshes of Greece where Byron died, which is widely considered to be a scandalous 564 devastation of one of the finest wetland and wildlife sanctuaries in Europe. That is all paid for by Community funds, to which we contribute. Should we not press for far better environmental monitoring of such projects? I beg to move.
§ Lord Tebbit
I wonder whether I could be advised by my noble friend Lady Chalker as to whether the provisions which are the subject of Amendment No. 36—that is, Article 3(o), which refers to a contribution to the attainment of a high level of health protection —is the provision under which the 48-hour week was forced upon us?
§ Lord Tebbit
I am grateful to my noble friend. It is not a matter that I wish to raise in relation to the health of workers in industry generally. I shall await a further opportunity to speak on that matter.
§ Lord Monson
My noble friend Lord Moran introduced this group of amendments so well that there is not a great deal for me to ask the Minister. However, I should like to home in upon the question of co-operation on health protection.
The various matters covered by these amendments—the co-operation on health protection between the 12 member states, research into disease, co-operation with countries outside the Twelve and co-operation with international health organisations—are all extremely desirable. However, that kind of cooperation takes place at present between this country and the other member states and between Britain and the United States, Canada and Australia on an ad hoc basis. It works perfectly well.
Why do we need a formal institutional framework? What can the Community as a body do better than is being done at present? Health information and education, I should have thought, were the province of national parliaments. As for the co-ordination of each country's health policies and programmes, I find that sinister and insulting. It is sinister because, if the Community were enlarged, for example, by the addition of the Nordic states with their rather puritanical approach to certain matters, they might persuade enough countries that alcohol is dangerous and enforce much higher taxes upon alcoholic drink throughout the Community on the basis that that was co-ordinating each country's approach to health in relation to diseases resulting from the overconsumption of alcohol. Surely that is a matter for national states.
I say insulting, because it implies that national parliaments are composed of lazy and inefficient people who are incapable of protecting the citizens of their own countries. This matter is first and foremost one for national parliaments. It is no business of the Community as a whole.
On the issue of the environment, I realise of course that matters such as the M.3 extension, the objections to the Thames crossing and so on have nothing strictly to do with the Maastricht Treaty. Will the Minister assure me that she and the Government find such interference wholly objectionable and that they will continue to resist it as strongly as they can?
§ Baroness Hooper
I too should like to make a few remarks about Amendment No. 151. As a Minister in the Department of Health with responsibility for international matters, 1 represented the department at meetings of the Council of Health Ministers. In the early 1980s, when I was a Member of the European Parliament, we complained that health Ministers never met. By the early 1990s, however, the health Ministers were meeting regularly. They had at least two formal meetings a year and some additional informal meetings. That was without any specific mention of health in the treaties, apart, of course, from health and safety at work. It was not the ad hoc arrangement that the noble Lord, Lord Monson, suggests.
It seems to me that health, like the environment, knows no frontiers. A great deal of useful collaborative work has already taken place on the basis of intergovernmental co-operation such as, for example, the Europe against Cancer Campaign which has been referred to. European Community research policy covers the health field. Our pharmaceutical and medical equipment industries are active in the internal market. Above all, our doctors, nurses and health care professionals enjoy freedom of establishment enabling them to work in any Community country. So we already have European Community policies affecting health issues in this country, but there were no parameters to those policies. Due to that, there were worries and the usual scare stories such as, for example, the suggestion that Europe wanted to interfere with our NHS. Something about which I am sure all Members of the Committee could agree is that a national health service should strictly be a national task.
When I asked my fellow health Ministers from Spain, France, the Netherlands and so on about their jobs, I discovered that the vast majority were public health ministers who were in no way involved in running a health service. They were interested only in public health issues. I therefore actively supported the definition of health policy so as to spell it out. I am, in part, responsible for the drafting of Article 129 which, I feel, separates clearly matters with which the European Community could, should and can deal in relation to health policy from those matters which should be dealt with on a national basis.
Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Moran, I consider that this clarification is eminently desirable. It is certainly far from being the sinister introduction of a new policy that was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Monson. It seems to me that it provides a good example of crossing the "t"s and dotting the "i"s. I would be extremely aggrieved if anyone supported Amendment No. 151.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Lord Slynn of Hadley
One of the great achievements of the Single European Act—it may look a small item but it was very important—was that environmental protection was brought in under Article 130r. It was significant that it was decided in the Single European Act that when laying down rules for the new internal market, environmental protection 566 should be given a high priority. I believe that a large number of people in this country were extremely happy that environmental protection should be given such a high profile. It is obvious that much of the pollution in the Community crosses frontiers, be it by air, water or land. There is no way in which that kind of pollution can be dealt with other than on a Community basis. It seems to me that to delete paragraph (k) from Article 3 of the draft treaty would be an unfortunate and indeed a disastrous step as regards the protection of the environment.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
I was surprised to see this group of amendments on the Marshalled List. I was staggered to hear the noble Lord, Lord Moran, speak to them. The noble Lord is distinguished for his contribution to environmental debates in this Chamber. He played a valuable part in the Environmental Protection Act and he has played a valuable part in the debates on the reports of the European Communities Committee and indeed in the work of the committees of this Chamber. He has played a valuable part in all of our debates on the environment. It is difficult to believe that anyone of his distinction who holds his views could seriously propose that we should take out of our agreement to the treaties Articles 129 and 130r, s and t. I can only repeat that I am staggered by that.
Articles 3(k) and 3(o) are, of course, the paving articles. The meat of this group of amendments is in Title X in the first instance on public health and then in Title XVI on the environment. The Committee should know what Titles X and XVI state. Article 129 states that the Community,shall contribute towards ensuring a high level of human health protection by encouraging co-operation between the Member States and, if necessary, lending support to their action. Community action shall be directed towards the prevention of diseases, in particular the major health scourges, including drug dependence, by promoting research into their causes and their transmission, as well as health information and education. Health protection requirements shall form a constituent part of the Community's other policies".There is no intervention by the Council, the Commission or the Parliament into this country's policies. What is being said here is that disease does not respect boundaries. What is being said here is that there is a role for international action in public health. Any Member of the Committee who gives a moment's thought to that must recognise that that is the case. It is not even as if the Commission were going to take over control of international action on public health. Paragraph 2 of article 129 states:Member states shall, in liaison with the Commission, co-ordinate among themselves their policies and programmes in the areas referred to in paragraph 1. The Commission may, in close contact with the Member States, take any useful initiative to promote such co-ordination".That is not a case of handing over to Brussels those matters which should be the proper concern of this country. I would have thought this is the very minimum of co-ordination between member states and the minimum in terms of the back-up role of the Commission when it is asked to become involved.
Paragraph 3 states that: 567The Community and Member States shall foster co-operation with third countries and the competent international organisations in the sphere of public health".Is the noble Lord, Lord Moran, suggesting that the European Community should not foster co-operation with third countries and with competent international organisations? It beggars belief that we should rely on national frontiers in order to take part in international action in support of public health.
Finally, in paragraph 4, the article states:the Council, acting in accordance with the procedure referred to … after consulting the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, shall adopt incentive measures, excluding any harmonization of the laws and regulations of the Member States".One cannot go further in avoiding interference with our national rights than is provided for in that article, which goes on to say:acting by a qualified majority on a proposal from the Commission, shall adopt recommendations".I have not heard any serious suggestion from any supporter of this group of amendments that Article 129 interferes with our national sovereignty. I should have thought that this is a clear example of the provisions of the Maastricht Treaty as additions to the other treaties being all gain and no loss.
Then we come to a point which I should have thought ought to have concerned the noble Lord, Lord Moran, even more closely, namely Title XVI on the environment—Articles 130r, 130s and 130t. The Committee will be relieved to know that I do not wish to read those in the same detail as I read the article on public health because the principle is the same.
On every issue about which the noble Lord, Lord Moran, and I have been concerned and have been on the same side, for example, such as that reported in today's newspapers relating to the quality of water at bathing beaches, who has taken the initiative? Who has taken the initiative in seeing that the quality of water at bathing beaches is satisfactory? It may be thought a trivial matter, but I do not believe that it is, and it is a good example. It is not the British Government who have taken the initiative. The British Government put up blue flags, which mean that there are adequate toilet facilities. The European Community has taken proper steps to ensure that water quality is adequately controlled. Those who read this morning's newspapers will see that the British Government and the National Rivers Authority have not done too badly. We have improved the quality of our bathing beaches. However, the initiative has been taken by the European Community, entirely properly, on the basis of directions.
§ Lord Monson
Does the noble Lord not agree that if the British people had felt so strongly about their bathing beaches, they only had to vote into power a government who promised to do something about it? The fact that they chose not to do so indicates that they had more important matters on their minds.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
The British people, in their wisdom—which I respect perhaps rather more than the noble Lord, Lord Monson—have voted into power a series of governments, Labour and 568 Conservative, all of whom have taken the entirely rational and sensible view that there are issues of public health and the environment which are better dealt with at a European level than at a national level. That is the basis on which we on these Benches support Title XVI as we supported the title on public health.
§ Lord Hamilton of Dalzell
Does the noble Lord believe that the people of this country might regret that decision when they find their water bills coming in for the new super water we are going to have?
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
A few years ago I spent many hours on the Water Bill which dealt with the privatisation of water. One of the points on which there was full agreement, not merely between the Front Benches but among all those who took an interest in the quality as well as the cost of our water—because of course there is a trade-off between quality and cost—was that there needed to be an improvement in the quality of water for health and aesthetic reasons. That is recognised by the water industry. It is recognised by the Government. It is recognised by the National Rivers Authority, and it is recognised by the Office of Water Services. Although in my view this country took a wrong decision to privatise water, the one factor that was right about that decision was that we recognised the value of the European contribution.
A number of noble Lords on the Government Front Bench at that time used to spit—metaphorically of course—every time the name of Signor Carlo Ripa di Meana was mentioned. As did the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, they believed that he was going too far in proposing higher standards of water purity both for drinking water and for other purposes. I believe that that argument has passed. Everyone now recognises that it is in the interests of all of us to have higher water quality. Those who opposed the proposals from the European Commission at that time now recognise, as do the water industries and most people in this country, that the proposals were right.
I promise noble Lords that I shall not spend the 20 or 25 minutes that I could in rehearsing the many aspects of environmental policy which require European action. Action in order to preserve biodiversity does not pay regard to frontiers. Action to preserve wildlife and the marine ecology does not pay any attention to national frontiers. Those are European issues. Articles 130r, s and t provide that on the initiative of member states there should be European action. The lesson of the past 10 years has been that those European actions have been of enormous value, not simply in the way in which they prompted the British Government to take action but in the way in which they prompted governments of other member states to take action. The idea that any of us who have taken part in environmental debates in this country should wish to support the amendments is beyond belief.
§ Lord Pearson of Rannoch
It seems to me that some Members of the Committee may have fallen for a somewhat simplistic argument which runs, as far as 569 the environment is concerned, roughly like this. The environment is a good thing. Maastricht covers the environment. Therefore Maastricht, or this part of it, must be a good thing. A better environment, of course, is a good thing in so far as it can and should be politically and administratively promoted on a national scale. The question is: how much should be done by national governments and how much should be done by the Community?
Article 130r proposes that the Community, acting as the Community, shall,preserve, protect and improve the quality of the environment".That is a fine ideal. It proposes,prudent and rational utilization of natural resources".I am sure that we all agree with that. It proposes measures at international levels to meet these ends, however.
By paragraph 3 in the same article, the Community shall also take account of,environmental conditions in the various regions of the Community; the potential benefits and costs of action or of lack of action; the economic and social development of the Community as a whole and the balanced development of its regions".That article needs fairly careful reading, I submit. Would my noble friend agree that through those two paragraphs the Commission in Brussels will be able to slap the wrists of the wealthier nations of the Community for a certain policy while condoning and even encouraging the very same policy in the poorer countries?
What will be deemed by the Commission to be prudent and rational use of resources in one country can be condemned as wasteful if pursued by another. It seems to me that the somewhat weasel words in paragraph 3 of that article allow for an extremely prejudiced application of an environmental policy from Brussels.
Article 130s gives power to the Commission to propose, and for the Council to confirm, measures concerning town and country planning. Would the Minister care to confirm that this clause permits Brussels to introduce measures which override and replace UK planning law? Will such measures have to be taken into account in any planning applications once Maastricht is ratified and if this Bill becomes an Act? Will major planning inquiries have to go to Brussels after or before going to the Secretary of State for the Environment?
Under the present terms of the Treaty of Rome, before Maastricht is ratified, the Prime Minister has rightly said that planning applications and planning inquiries, even for very major projects, remain the responsibility of the British Government. Indeed, the Prime Minister rightly reprimanded the environment commissioner in Brussels when he sought to intervene on the M.3 extension. However, under these articles of the Union treaty, Brussels could overrule the Department of the Environment on any future planning proposals similar to the M.3 extension, or the line of route for a Thames crossing or even for a simple application for gravel extraction. How do these extensive powers over the environment, given to 570 Brussels under the Maastricht Treaty, square with the Government's promise of non-interference in British planning laws?
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ Baroness Elles
Will my noble friend give way? I am grateful. I wonder whether he has carefully read Article 130s. Paragraph 2 says that it will be the Council,acting unanimously on a proposal from the Commission and after consulting the European Parliamentwhich deals with measures concerning town and country planning. That means that the United Kingdom reserves the veto on the issue and that no town and country planning can be authorised by Brussels or any other body without the consent of the British Government.
§ Lord Pearson of Rannoch
Those of us who are watching the process of the Luxembourg compromise and the qualified majority vote—
§ Baroness Elles
If the noble Lord will allow me to intervene again, this has nothing to do with the Luxembourg compromise. It is a unanimous vote by members of the Council of Ministers. That includes the United Kingdom.
§ Lord Pearson of Rannoch
Of course I accept that technically the British Government could go to the Council and veto a series of these proposals. I point out, however, that in the general drift of the treaty, particularly in Article J in the protocol, we have signed an agreement that we will not withhold our consent from a unanimous vote when a qualified majority vote. exists. I appreciate the point my noble friend makes and I accept it, but I think that she must also accept that the pressure is more and more not to go along with a unanimous vote when a qualified majority vote exists. I think we see that problem at the moment with some of the directives coming from Brussels which the Government rightly resist. I quote, for example, the 48-hour week, young people at work and others. So the general drift of the way it is going enables me to ask these questions.
I confirm that these are extensive powers over the environment, given to Brussels under the Maastricht Treaty. I wonder how they square with our Government's promise of non-interference in British planning law. I feel that it would be difficult to resist when it comes our way in this area, as it is already difficult to resist in the other areas I have mentioned.
There is much more that I could pursue under this little known part of the Maastricht Treaty, but let me be content with one further example. Article 130r, paragraph 2, makes the assertion that the polluter should pay. However, paragraph 5 of Article 130s states:Without prejudice to the principle that the polluter should pay, if a measure based on the provisions of paragraph I involves costs deemed disproportionate for the public authorities of a Member State, the Council shall, in the act adopting that measure, lay down appropriate provisions in the form of … temporary derogations and/or … financial support from the Cohesion Fund".571 What that means is that the polluter should pay but that Brussels will suspend the rule if the country in question cannot afford to pay.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
It means no such thing. It means that if the polluter should pay principle is carried to extreme—and Members of the Committee on the Government Front Bench know exactly what I mean by that—then there will be other provisions. Either the enactments will not be enforced immediately, in other words there will be temporary derogations, or—if we want to put it in the pejorative terms that Members of the Committee seem to like—Brussels will provide financial support from the cohesion fund. It does not mean that the polluter will pay at all.
§ Lord Pearson of Rannoch
Perhaps I may quote again from the article:Without prejudice to the principle that the polluter should pay, if a measure based on the provisions of paragraph I involves costs deemed disproportionate for the public authorities of a Member State"—who deems that disproportionate or otherwise?—the Council shall, in the act adopting that measure, lay down appropriate provisions in the form of: —temporary derogations and/or —financial support from the Cohesion Fund".The noble Lord may feel that that smacks of even-handedness across the Community; but the way I read it, it does not.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
I hope that the noble Lord does not have shares in ICI or Shell. The large chemical companies, in particular in this country, have taken great exception to these provisions in the treaties. The provisions have to be Europe-wide because the damage which is caused by pollution in the Rhine does not only affect Germany; it affects Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and the North Sea, and therefore affects us. Major chemical companies have always objected to the idea of European legislation. They know that European legislation in this area is likely to be effective. What these provisions ensure is that action will be taken, and that if necessary there will be European funds to ensure that that action is taken.
§ Lord Pearson of Rannoch
The point I am making is that it is a question of how fair the European action will be. Indeed, the noble Lord makes the very next point that I had intended to make. In practice, if there were two identical plants using identical technology, both, let us say, 20 years old, producing what is now considered to be unacceptable effluent, the one in the north European country would perhaps have to clean it up at its own expense, whereas the one in the Mediterranean would either have to clean it up at European taxpayers' expense, or not have to clean it up at all. That is what I mean, and that fits very well with what the noble Lord said. The result could well be that the one in the north closes down because it is 572 too expensive to clean the effluent up, whereas the one in the south would keep going and keep the other one's business.
§ Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish
I am grateful to my noble friend for giving way. I am not quite sure whether he is giving a hypothetical case, or a real case. If it is a real case, I would be extremely grateful if he will make it clear where the two plants are.
§ Lord Pearson of Rannoch
I am not giving a real case. I am posing a hypothetical case of what could happen under the articles of this treaty in future. I think the point I have made is perfectly clear. It may well be that British chemical companies object to these articles for precisely those reasons. I would have thought that the Maastricht Treaty permits just that. I shall be very interested in my noble friend the Minister's reply to the points that I have made.
§ Baroness Chalker of Wallasey
This has been an interesting and varied short debate. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Moran, for moving the amendment. I should like to begin by addressing the public health issues covered by the new chapter, Article 129, which was agreed at Maastricht. I say to my noble friend Baroness Hooper that I for one am extremely grateful for the work that she put in to achieve a sensible contribution on public health by the Community as a whole.
Article 129 provides a sound legal basis for Community action—that is why I hope that no one will be tempted to follow Amendment No. 151 which is before us. It does so by giving us legitimate areas for Community action in the field. The chapter gives the Community a role in disease prevention through the encouragement and promotion of research, information and education, but not in the provision of healthcare. That reflects the fact that disease prevention has a clear trans-national element—that is, information on epidemics and health techniques—while healthcare provision is local and it is for each state to decide upon its own appropriate systems of administration and finance. It is that limitation on the extent of Community action that reflects the whole principle of subsidiarity, as does the specific exclusion in Article 129.4 of any harmonisation of the laws and regulations of member states. Thus the chapter provides the basis for the Community to support member states in the area of public health, which is clearly beneficial to both our country and other member states.
The noble Lord, Lord Moran, had the idea that there was some supragovernment imposition of health measures. I hope that what I have just said reassures him that there is no malign plan of some Eurocracy to impose wicked plans on the unwilling and impotent national Ministers. I can assure him that the Ministers are neither impotent nor unwilling. What Maastricht does is limit the scope. That is why I say that the Commission must encourage co-operation between member states and lend support to their actions if necessary and the Community's health policies will continue to be directed toward prevention. In no way will there be scope for Community involvement in the 573 treatment or delivery of services. The noble Lord will find that set out most clearly in the agreement on public health made at Maastricht.
The noble Lord, Lord Monson, said that there was no point in a multilateral approach on health. Yet I feel. from what my noble friend Lady Hooper said, that there are many areas in which it makes sense to pool ideas and develop common approaches. Duplication is a very expensive luxury which I suggest no country in the Community or outside it can afford. In theory it would be possible through a series of bilateral agreements to have a similar approach; but frankly to have that number of bilateral agreements in order to achieve the same end seems to me to be very wasteful of civil servants' time.
Let me turn to Amendment No. 32, concerning Article 3(k), and Amendments Nos. 179 to 183, concerning Articles 130r and 130t. Environmental policy has become an essential part of Community action, since the environment title was put into the treaty by Article 25 of the Single European Act. I must say that the environment seems to me to be a prime example of where limited Community action makes sense. We well know that the environmental problems are no respecters of international boundaries. I might also say that there is a high degree of public support for Community action on the environment. That has always been notable, I believe, in postbags of Members in another place and even perhaps in your Lordships' postbags, too.
Article 130r, which is covered by Amendment No. 179, illustrates how Maastricht maintains the existing objectives of Community environmental policy: preserving, protecting and improving the quality of the environment; protecting human health; prudent and rational utilisation of natural resources. But it adds a new one: promoting measures at international level to deal with regional or worldwide environmental problems. That recognises the significant contribution that the Community now makes to global environmental issues—as, for example, at last summer's conference in Rio.
The Community environmental policy hitherto has been based on the principles that preventive action should be taken, that environmental damage should be rectified at source, and that the polluter should pay.
Maastricht builds on those principles, providing for,sustainable and non-inflationary growth respecting the environment",(Article 2) and ensuring that the principle of a high level of protection of the environment is extended from internal market measures to environmental policy generally.
Maastricht has added the "precautionary principle" identified in the second paragraph of Article 130r. That will ensure that measures may be taken to avert a potential environmental threat even though there may be some uncertainty concerning the nature of the threat or its effects. The inclusion of that principle means that there has been a shift of emphasis from whether action should be taken, to considerations of which measures should be taken and when, in order to give protection to the environment. I found it of 574 particular concern during our presidency in the second half of last year, to promote the idea of the integration of environmental interests into other areas of Community policy. That followed on some hard negotiation in Rio and in the many months leading up to it. Here was the Community getting together to do something positive in relation to protecting our environment. So Maastricht reinforces the existing commitment under the Single European Act so that environmental protection requirements will no longer simply be a component of other Community policies, but must now be integrated into the definition arid implementation of other Community policies.
That may from time to time involve some difficult decisions. I can assure the Committee that the environment frequently does in whatever part of government and international business one works. But we must properly balance economic needs with environmental ones. The treaty is, indeed, a good step forward.
In relation to the questions raised by my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch and the noble Lord, Lord Moran, in regard to northern plants closing while Mediterranean plants thrive, the whole question became a subject of some debate between the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and my noble friend. The treaty explicitly states that the provisions are without prejudice to the polluter pays principle. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, was right. No poorer state should think that they are going to get away with an environmental free ride. The Council decides whether to grant a derogation; and the member state requesting it, if it is trying to get out of its responsibilities to curb pollution, can be out-voted by qualified majority voting.
But the point that must be combined with that is that we have also the principle of subsidiarity set out in Article 3b which covers the whole of the Treaty of Rome. That therefore gives us a tougher form of words, making clear that the assumption is not that Community action is possible, but that where Community action is desirable, then member states will go for that.
If one reads the articles carefully and thinks about the way in which they have been drawn up, it becomes quite clear that the whole of the third paragraph of Article 130r is carried out in a way which makes sense for all countries of the Community.
We had a number of comments in regard to town and country planning and the fact that the Community might overrule planning inquiries in this country. My noble friend Lady Elles was right when she talked about the wording in the second paragraph of Article 130s. The scope of possible EC action on the environment has not changed, in substance, to what we agreed in the Single European Act. The reference to planning is an exception to the general qualified majority vote rule for that area which we agreed at Maastricht. That was clone at our insistence and the insistence of others so that fiscal measures and those affecting planning and energy still require unanimity.
Action affecting planning was always possible under the Treaty of Rome and the Single European Act. It was taken under the environmental assessment 575 directive. The Commission's interpretation of that directive has been intrusive. Tonight reference has been made to Twyford Down. That was contrary to the subsidiarity provision. The previous weak formulation of subsidiarity in Article 130(r)4, which was in the single Act, has been deleted. In future the strong form in Article 3b of the Maastricht Treaty will apply. Surely this is an area where rigorous application of the principle is needed. That was why we fought so long to ensure that we got Article 3b in the form in which we needed to use it.
There are many other aspects on environment. There is a need to ensure that our attempt sensibly to balance environmental considerations with the considerations of our single internal market is correctly formulated. I cannot see in Amendment No. 32 or any of the other amendments in this group that we would aid what we have been trying to do one iota. Indeed, I believe that it will set it back by a very long distance. What we are doing in public health is right. It puts into the Community treaty the only parts of public health that should be there. What we seek to do is to make sure that everybody is conscious of and plays their part in safeguarding our fragile environment. If Amendment No. 32 is pressed to a vote I ask your Lordships to reject it.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
I agree with every word uttered by the Minister; but why have I spent the past five years or more trying to persuade the Government of the self-evident truths that she has expressed?
§ Lord Monson
In the light of the intervention by the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, explaining that town and country planning has never been and will not be subject to qualified majority voting, can the Minister confirm that Signor Ripa di Meana was totally out of order in trying to interfere in the M.3 extension, the Thames River crossing and similar projects which obviously came under the heading of town and country planning?
§ Baroness Chalker of Wallasey
Signor Ripa di Meana is no longer an EC Commissioner. He was certainly shown to have intervened too far in what I referred to as the Twyford Down case. But I believe that the environment is very precious. We must consciously look at the plans we make in this country against the EC criteria, which are no different from our own. Whether it be the previous Commissioner or any Commissioner, I do not believe that the principle should change. We should all care for the environment. I hope that that is what we shall be doing under the Maastricht Treaty when it is ratified.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
To set the record straight, Signor Ripa di Meana was acting in accordance with a directive that this country had agreed to.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
I hesitate to intervene. I have not intervened in the debates up until now. I was somewhat involved in the Department of Transport in the Twyford Down saga for a number of years. I shall 576 attempt to set the record straight. The argument was mainly about timing and whether we had completed our planning processes before the directive came into force. We won that argument on Twyford Down. I very much hope that, as a result of Maastricht, subsidiarity will now come into force and we will achieve what my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said; namely, that questions on bypasses and matters of that kind should come back to national governments and Secretaries of State for the Environment.
§ Baroness Chalker of Wallasey
My noble friend is absolutely right. The matter was one of timing. However, it seems to me to be absolutely right that where we have a national road—a bypass—it is a matter for the national government. Therefore, whatever the timing, I believe it is a matter where the Commission should not interfere. We have Article 3(b) in the Maastricht Treaty and applying that to such matters as a by-pass or a national road which is plainly a national road going from one point in the United Kingdom to another point in the United Kingdom are matters for the United Kingdom Government.
§ Lord Moran
I thank the Minister for her reply which, as ever, has been extremely helpful and courteous. She has given me a measure of reassurance. I hope that on the general question she is right. But it is certainly the case that all is not always for the best in all possible worlds. The one example that I gave of what has gone wrong in Greece, where a Community development is going on with almost catastrophic results on the environment, is an example of how the machinery sometimes goes wrong.
The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, expressed some surprise at the views that I was putting forward. Both of us share a real concern for the environment and he himself has done tremendous work in this House on environmental questions. The issue that I was concerned about was where the responsibility should lie and to what extent it should lie with national governments and to what extent they should be overridden by the Commission and the machinery in Brussels. I think that in the fields both of health and of the environment the question of subsidiarity is extremely important. Having said that, I hope that the Minister is right and that things will develop on sensible lines. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendments Nos. 33 to 36 not moved.]
§ Baroness Trumpington
I beg to move that the House do now resume.
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.