§ 3.15 p.m.
§ Lord Bruce of Donington asked Her Majesty's Government:
§ What steps they propose to take, prior to the first meeting of the Intergovernmental Conference study group representatives to be held in Messina in June, to ensure that the whole question of a radical review of the present functions, structure and powers of the respective institutions of the European Union is placed firmly on the agenda.
§ Lord Inglewood
My Lords, a number of agenda items for the Intergovernmental Conference were established in the Maastricht Treaty itself and in 790 subsequent European Councils with the unanimous agreement of the member states of the Union. Other items may be added to the agenda.
Lord Bruce of Donington
My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for that reply, which contains no information whatever, may I draw his attention to the evidence which the Minister of State for the Foreign Office gave to the House of Lords Select Committee on 10th January last as reproduced in the House of Lords Paper No. 19 of this year in which she lists a whole series of matters, at page 16, that will be raised at the conference to which I referred? The only item missing from that list is the item contained in my Question. Will the noble Lord take note of the fact that, throughout the United Kingdom, there is a strong sense of dissatisfaction with the way in which some members of the institutions are behaving? High up in the bureaucracy in the Commission in particular there is a tendency to act like little more than puppets for the French and German Governments.
§ Lord Inglewood
My Lords, as I explained, certain parts of the agenda for the Intergovernmental Conference are specified in the Maastricht Treaty. There are six items and three others have subsequently been decided on by the European Council. The Government are aware of the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, and his views on the activities of the European institutions. They will no doubt give them the weight they consider appropriate in bringing forward proposals at the IGC that they believe will be in the interests of this country as a whole.
§ Baroness Elles
My Lords, does my noble friend agree that though the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, is always extremely fair when talking about the other institutions of the Community, nevertheless his attack on members of the Commission is regrettable? We should remember that David Williamson is a leading member of the British Civil Service and is doing an excellent job as Secretary-General.
§ Lord Inglewood
My Lords, my noble friend Lady Elles is absolutely right. Mr. Williamson is doing a first rate job at the European Commission.
§ Lord Richard
My Lords, speaking as somebody who was not a puppet of the French or German Governments when he was Commissioner, may I ask whether the Minister is aware that the picture presented by my noble friend of the activities of the European Commission is frankly a travesty and unrecognisable by anyone who has any intimate knowledge of the workings of that institution? Will the Minister confirm that whatever else the Government intend to try to achieve at the IGC, it does not involve the repeal of the Treaty of Rome.