Appearance of News-watch before the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I cannot resist speaking briefly in the gap, because I think this is the first time in 25 years that I am able to congratulate an EU Select Committee on one of its reports, and indeed the Government on their reply.
I also take the opportunity to apologise for scratching last Wednesday 11 March from our debate on the competences review, or balance of power between Brussels and our Government. A long-standing family engagement meant that I could not have stayed to the end—not that I would have asked the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, any questions. I would just have explained why the whole exercise is pretty much a waste of time that will do little to curb the appetite of the corrupt octopus in Brussels.
I will, however, take this opportunity to say that I am disappointed that the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, took the opportunity—at col.748—to criticise me and my views on the European Union in my absence. The richest bit of this criticism was perhaps that the noble Lord opined that Euroscepticism in this country is a belief, a faith, a prejudice. Yet it is surely our Europhiles who demonstrate a disease-like blind faith in the project of European integration, which is failing before our eyes, causing great misery across the continent, and which will continue to do so until it eventually collapses.
This report and the Government are rightly critical of the Commission’s stubbornness in continuing with its plans for a European public prosecutor. I therefore thought that it might be helpful if I put the powers of the unelected Commission on the record, perhaps for the first time, so that people can see what our powerless national Government are up against.
First, the Commission enjoys the monopoly to propose in secret all EU legislation, and thus a large proportion of our national law.
Secondly, its proposals go for still-secret discussion in COREPER—the Committee of Permanent Representatives, sometimes described as EU ambassadors—where the bureaucrats from the member states negotiate their national interest, the members of the Commission having sworn allegiance to the EU and not to support any partial national interest. I have never understood how our privy counsellors square their oath of allegiance to Her Majesty with that one. That is their problem, I suppose.
Thirdly, when the proposals emerge from COREPER as pretty much a done deal, they go for ratification to the Council of Ministers from the member states, in still largely clandestine discussion, and to the European Parliament, with its powers of co-decision.
Fourthly, our Parliament can scrutinise the emerging legislation but cannot change it. Indeed, it has never done so, as we see with this proposed public prosecutor.
Fifthly, the Commission then becomes the sole enforcer of all EU law and can impose massive fines for transgression, subject only to the Europhile Luxembourg court.
Sixthly, the Commission manages the EU budget so badly that the EU’s accounts have not been signed off by its internal auditors—there being no external auditor—
for the last 19 years. If a public company was in a similar position, its directors would have been in jail many years ago.
Seventhly, the Commission negotiates all our foreign trade arrangements, again badly. Singapore has had free trade agreements with India, China, Japan and the United States for 10 years, but we have none because the Commission is in charge on behalf of all the member states.
I cannot help feeling that if the British people understood the full extent of the unelected Commission’s powers, which I have set out above, and how powerless their Parliament has become in this and other matters, their dislike of our EU membership would increase even further.
I have only one question for the Minister: what happens if the Commission decides to plough on with this proposal?
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the benefit or disbenefit of Single Market legislation to United Kingdom companies which do not export to that market.
Lord Livingston of Parkhead (Conservative): The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has not carried out any assessment of the benefits or costs of single market legislation to UK companies which do not export to that market.
HL Deb, 17 March 2015, cW
News-watch monitored nine BBC programmes for a period of six weeks between Monday 21 April and Sunday 1 June 2014. The BBC Radio 4 programmes selected for monitoring and analysis were: Today; the World at One (including the World This Weekend each Sunday); PM; The Six O’clock News; The World Tonight. The television broadcasts comprised the three main BBC1 bulletins – News at One, News at Six and News at Ten – and BBC 2’s Newsnight.
The survey interval focused on the 31 days preceding the European election, polling day itself, and 10 days subsequent to the election. This 42 day period equated to approximately 280 hours of broadcasting.
This latest survey covers fourteen weeks between September 16 and December 21, 2013 and encompasses every word spoken about the EU over 84 editions, adding up 251 separate items and a total of 121,000 words. The analysis is based on widely accepted data analysis techniques used by academics in media schools at universities such as Leeds and Loughborough.
BBC Director General Lord Hall told the House of Commons select media committee in a
hearing in October that the Corporation was determined to deliver impartiality by ensuring
that a range of voices on key issues was heard.
Newswatch’s latest figures – based on monitoring approximately half of the Today editions
since 2005 – show the programme has carried interviews and soundbite contributions
from only three left-wing advocates of withdrawal. The statistics show that there were
3,513 contributions to the various EU discussions on Today in nine years, but that
withdrawalists from the Labour Party and British left represented just 0.09% of guests, or
one in every 1,171 EU-related appearances.
The three speakers who contributed to the EU debate were Labour MP Austin Mitchell in
September 2009, Labour MP Gisela Stuart in October 2012, and Labour Party donor John
Mills in June 2013. Their combined contributions amounted to approximately 5 minutes
of airtime, but only 1 minute featured the speakers actually making any sort of case for
The latest News-watch report shows that Today went out of its way to give those who were opposed to change in Britain’s relationship with the EU – including Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg – multiple platforms in which they had clear time and space to advance arguments in favour of their views, including the hotly disputed claim by Europhiles that 3.5m jobs would be lost if the relationship with the EU was fundamentally changed. This assertion went unchallenged by the Today presenter.