Whither The Queen?
In talking with Lord Stoddart recently, I was reminded that Lord Pearson had asked critical questions about the unhappy effects of the Lisbon Treaty on The Queen. At the time, the Government was trying to ram through the European Union's Lisbon Treaty, and it seemed worthwhile to say, Just a minute, what will Lisbon do to The Queen?
On the 8th of June 2008, in the House of Lords, Lord Pearson moved and Lord Stoddart supported a motion that would have Parliament answer that question. However, the question was too unpleasant for Parliament to consider. The Government approved the Lisbon Treaty without giving the people the promised referendum and without allowing real discussion.
As George Orwell acidly remarked, "With any important issue, there are always aspects no one wishes to discuss."
One might imagine that the press at least would be interested in discussion, but one would be wrong. As a result, Lord Pearson's and Lord Stoddart's valiant interventions in the House of Lords in defence of the British Constitution and the independence of the British people and The Queen never reached the light of day. Today, these highlights from Hansard, which document some of the Lords' concerns, may interest you -
9 Jun 2008
Lord Pearson of Rannoch:
. . .in her Coronation Oath, the Queen promised to govern us and the Commonwealth according to our respective laws and customs. Many feel that those two aspects have been growing steadily more uncomfortable with each other since we joined the European Community in 1972, but that they may be brought into irreconcilable conflict by the treaty of Lisbon and as the European Union develops the powers that it will receive under that treaty.
. . .They suggest that the British people’s most important custom was that they elected and dismissed all those who made their laws. They say that that is still our most fundamental custom.
However, we have now reached the point where a majority of our national law is imposed by Brussels, on much of which the Government of the day can be outvoted and for which the House of Commons and your Lordships' House have become irrelevant. They fear that that situation will become worse under the Lisbon treaty, which grants the EU its own legal personality superior to that of the member states.
They ask: who is and who will be really giving advice to the monarch? Is it her Ministers, or have they become merely the mouthpiece for much of what they propose?
They also ask such questions as where the new EU president will leave the position of the sovereign as his role evolves. Will he come to receive ambassadors and sign treaties on behalf of the European Union with its new legal personality? Who will take precedence if the Queen visits the institutions of the European Union? These are the sorts of questions that the report requested by the amendment should seek to answer. . .
Lord Stoddart of Swindon:
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, chided the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, for wasting the House’s time in moving this amendment. He went on to speak for eight minutes as opposed to the noble Lord’s five, so he has no right to chide the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, for raising this very important matter. Indeed, I raised it myself at Second Reading, but I did not get a very satisfactory answer to my questions.
. . .I emphasise that the constitutional position of the monarch is that he or she acts on the advice of their Ministers. However, in matters concerning the European Union, especially in matters decided by QMV, Her Majesty will not act on the advice of her Ministers, but on advice tempered by the decisions of 26 other countries - decisions that British Ministers might very well have opposed. The advice tendered to the monarch will not necessarily reflect the policy of Her Majesty’s Government, nor that of Parliament. It will be decided by a group of foreign states. That constitutes a significant change in Her Majesty's relationship with her Government and Parliament.
There is also Her Majesty's position relating to the Commonwealth. This will now be quite different from her relationship to this country. Presumably she will still be offered advice by her Ministers in the Commonwealth, but that advice will not be constrained by a group of foreign countries. These implications for the monarchy should be explored properly by the Government and explained to Parliament. That is what the amendment ask - no more, no less.
Many will say that the position of the monarch is safe. However, there can be no doubt that, as greater EU integration proceeds, the institution of the monarchy could be seen as an anachronism. Many of our institutions have been undermined or reformed radically in the past 10 years. Hereditary Peers have been sent packing. The role of the Lord Chancellor has been all but abolished and the whole of the office dismissed from the House of Lords. The Law Lords have been ousted from Parliament and a Supreme Court established instead. Now the House of Lords is in danger of being abolished and, only recently, the role of Black Rod was diminished considerably, apparently without any real consultation with Black Rod himself. There have been a lot of changes over the past few years.
. . .Furthermore, it seems to me that the police and perhaps even the Armed Forces now believe that their allegiance is to the Government of the day rather than to the monarch.
With all these significant changes, constitutional and attitudinal, to the way that we are governed, it is little wonder that there is concern about the position of the monarchy in relation to the European Union- which, step by step, ratchet by ratchet, is proceeding to full union, a country called Europe. That is why we need this debate and the amendment, which seeks to ensure that the Government report to Parliament on the position of the monarch in relation to Parliament and the people, following the implementation of the Lisbon treaty.
If you are not interested in the future of the monarchy, you may, if you are British, be interested in the future of your money. Lord Pearson and Lord Stoddart addressed this question repeatedly. Here is Lord Stoddart commenting on Lord Pearson's efforts to have the Government say what it costs Britain to be part of the EU.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon:
The EU is an organisation to which a country either belongs or not. There is no halfway house. It is essential that there should be periodic examinations of the costs, not only in money terms but across the policy board, and any real benefits that might be obtained. It is absurd that the Government have not acceded to requests for an independent audit of United Kingdom membership of the European Union, so some of us have to try to do something, and the Bill [submitted by Lord Pearson] is about the only means available to us.
First, the costs in money terms have been mentioned, and I want to comment on them further. On 4 June, the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, gave me an Answer to a Written Question about the gross costs that this country pays every year. In 2007, the gross cost is £14.2 billion, and, by 2011, it will have reached £14.5 billion. That is in 2004 money terms, so the actual figures will be much larger than that. Taking into account all the receipts from the European Union—money coming back to us—at 2004 prices, the amount in net terms will increase from £4.7 billion in 2007 to £6.8 billion in 2011. One could reel off a long list of services that would benefit from that sort of money, but it is unfortunately going to subsidise services in other countries, services that are sometimes better than our own.
The second cost is in trade. I again asked a Question for Written Answer, which was answered by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, about the average deficit between 2001 and 2006. His Answer was that each year there was a deficit in trade of £27.1 billion.
Going in was represented as being essential for our trade, but running a consistent deficit is not helpful. We are not doing very well on trade.
We have also heard about the cost to industry of regulation. The noble Lord, Lord Pearson, quoted a figure of £60 billion a year. That differs from the figure given to me by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, in an Answer to a Written Question. That stated:“the total administrative burden on business, charities and the voluntary sector in England derived from EU legislation is approximately £6.3 billion per annum”.—[Official Report, 15/5/07; col. WA23].I would very much like to know the exact cost, and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, will be able to give it when he winds up.
The Government say that the costs are worth while because they allow us to trade freely with the European Union. However, countries outside the EU have trading relations, often better than our own, without incurring the costs that I have just mentioned. They are unnecessary costs and injure our competitive position. We are doubly disadvantaged in world markets. Furthermore, the annual total of some 2,000 laws and regulations from the EU affect all economic activity in this country, yet only 9 per cent of our GDP is involved in European trade. We have to incur huge regulatory costs for only 9 per cent of our GDP.
It is not simply trade and financial contributions. A Northern Ireland strategy paper indicates that more than two-thirds of administrative and legislative actions originate from or are influenced by decisions taken in Brussels. Huge areas of our national life are being decided not in this country by our own Government and Parliament but by a group of 27 countries, of which the UK is only one and in which it has only 8.5 per cent of the voting strength. There is a huge democratic deficit, which the noble Lord, Lord Vinson, mentioned and which the noble Lord, Lord Watson, wishes to close by giving the European Parliament a lot more powers. He has to understand that the more powers that are transferred to the European Parliament, the fewer powers there will be here, and that they will be exercised in an assembly where we have only 78 Members out of a total of some 730. If that is democracy as far as this country is concerned, I do not think much of it.
The EU’s policy is more and more integration. It is demanding more power over taxation and defence; it wants to police our seas and make the resources of the seas community property; it wants to take over much of foreign policy and diplomatic representation; and, of course, it wants a legal personality. That ongoing programme is bound to undermine the democratic Government in this country.
Those of us who oppose those developments and say that they will completely remove our national sovereignty are often told that we can always repeal the European Communities Act 1972. However, almost in the next breath, we are told that it is inconceivable that Britain should leave the European Union. . .
The Government should understand that it is not only a few malcontents who wish to halt the drive to further EU integration. In a recent poll, 70 per cent of the UK population were against further integration, and 50 per cent wished for a simple free trade organisation. A poll taken by Eurobarometer, which is a European Union thing, found that 40 per cent of those aged between 15 and 30—throughout the European Union, not just in this country - think that the EU means an excess of bureaucracy and a waste of money, and over a third of them see it as a threat to cultural identity and diversity. So there is scepticism not only in this country; it is widespread throughout Europe. People simply are not convinced by the claims made for the success of the EU by the political and bureaucratic elites in the member states. They are deeply suspicious of the constant drive for ever more powers to be ceded to the centralised Brussels institutions.
. . .There is life outside the European Union. That is where the future lies, not in the backwater of Europe. It lies in the wide, wide world - for example, in the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth, which we ought to develop, still represents 25 per cent of world population. The markets of the future will not be in Europe, even though Turkey and one or two other countries might join. The real markets are China, India, the United States and South America. Far from putting all our eggs in the European basket, we should make sure that our eggs are widely distributed throughout the world. Our Britain was built on trading with the whole world. That is our past, and it will be our successful future.
Frankly we were shocked by how little Britain actually sells to the EU in comparison with how much we pay for the privilege. There is a term for this. It is called highway robbery.
To paraphrase Oscar Wilde,
To lose The Queen may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose The Queen and your money looks like carelessness.