House of Lords Questions

European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I regret that I did not speak at Second Reading or in Committee, owing to previous engagements. I want to speak briefly on this amendment, as it reveals what noble remainers really want: they want a second referendum on the result of the Article 50 negotiations in the hope that the people will change their mind. I hope to spend a minute or two trying to persuade supporters of the amendment why are they are wrong to do so, and to do that one has to look at the bigger picture. What I cannot understand, and what beats me—

Lord Taylor of Holbeach:  I am sorry. The noble Lord could have made a Second Reading speech at Second Reading. I would be grateful if he addressed the substance of the amendment.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, if the noble Lord wants me to deal with that, I thought I had advice that, as it was a two-day debate and I was not able to be here for the opening speeches on the first day, I could speak on the second. I make no complaint. Owing to a prior engagement, I could not get to the opening speeches and that is why I did not speak. That is really not important or relevant to this debate. As I was saying, what beats me is why so many noble Lords still fervently believe that the European Union, which is the project of European integration, and its single market, are somehow good things—that is why they support this amendment—when clearly they are not. They have become bad things. As I have said many times in the House over the past 26 years, the project of European integration was honourable when it started: it was to get rid of war in Europe and all the rest of it. As Jean Monnet said in 1956—

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: The noble Lord is very courteous. He listens to what I say but chooses to ignore it. I would be grateful if he addressed the subject of the amendment and then let other noble Lords have a say.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I am quite happy to sit down, but I am trying to persuade supporters of this amendment that they are wrong, because the whole project has gone wrong. Is that not something that noble Lords wish to hear?

Noble Lords: No!

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: Okay, I shall skip over why the single market is a bad thing, I shall skip over the strength of our hand—because they have so many more jobs selling things to us than we do to them—and I shall skip over the fact that noble remainers who support this amendment still think that somehow EU money exists, when it does not. After every penny that the European Union gives us, we are still left with £10 billion a year net, which is—I will give noble Lords a new statistic—the salary of 1,000 nurses every day, at £27,500 a year. Whatever happens, we will go on trading with our friends in Europe, because they need it more than we do. I end with a word of advice for the Liberal Democrats. I fancy that they are considering supporting this amendment. Their very own policy from the election before last—I do not know what it is now because it is difficult to follow Liberal Democrat policy—was that membership of this House should grow to represent and reflect the votes in the previous general election. In the last election, the Liberal Democrats got 5% of the vote. That should give them 43 seats in this House. Instead, they have 102. I will pass over in silence the fact that we got 8% of the vote, which should give us 69 seats, and we have precisely three. More seriously, however, if the Liberal Democrats use this dishonest advantage—by their own standards and manifesto—to vote down the will of the British people and the House of Commons, they will reveal their contempt for democracy and do your Lordships’ House no good at all.


Trade and Investment – Motion to Take Note

Trade and Investment
Motion to Take Note
3.06 pm
Moved by Lord Maude of Horsham

To move that this House takes note of Her Majesty’s Government’s support for trade and investment and the contribution such support makes to economic growth.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, it is an honour for me to speak in this debate because it was opened by the noble Lord, Lord Maude, with his maiden speech. I have had a nodding acquaintance with the noble Lord for many years, which from my side has always been respectful, although I suspect that the noble Lord may have sometimes regarded my views on the EU as coming from a rather unruly lower boy at the bottom of the lower fourth. So it is a privilege to be allowed to join the grown-ups today and I promise to be on best behaviour in his honour. Even so, I must pick on one central tenet of the Government’s position on trade and investment in this country, and that is the Government’s support for the

idea that our free trade with the EU and the rest of the world is best secured from within the single market and that that trade and the jobs which depend upon it would be in danger if we left the EU. I suspect that this question—what I call the “3 million jobs” question—will be one of the key battlegrounds in the forthcoming national debate about our EU membership. I have wearied your Lordships several times over many years as to why, given political will, jobs will be created if we leave the EU, if we get rid of the unnecessary EU regulation in our domestic market which comes with that membership, if we keep our trade with the single market and if we expand it in the growing markets of the future. So I will not repeat all the facts and arguments of us “come-outers” as to why we would indeed be better off out of the EU; I suspect that there will be time for that in our coming debates on the referendum and other matters.

However, I would like to take this opportunity to refer the Minister to the briefing notes on the website. I have recommended these to your Lordships before but I am not sure that Ministers or their officials in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills have yet concentrated on them with the enthusiasm which they deserve. They have the advantage of being very brief, as they are designed for businesspeople, who do not have time for lengthy papers and, using official statistics, they constitute most of the economic case for the UK to leave the EU.

To make the noble Lord’s task easier, I shall pick out just a few of those briefing notes now. For instance, there is No. 82, entitled “Post-withdrawal, agreement on free UK-EU trade is inevitable”. This deals with the central fallacy of those who wish to stay in the EU because they fear that jobs might be lost if we left. These Europhiles, if I may refer to them as such, often give our car industry as a key example of one in which we would face new tariff barriers and so on, and thus lose trade and jobs.

If the Minister reads only one Global Britain briefing note, I recommend that he reads No. 96, entitled, “Post-Brexit, tariff-free UK-EU trade in cars will continue”. It is only one page long, well-spaced out, and most of the print is quite large. Its facts speak for themselves. We import twice as many cars from the EU as we export to it—1.4 million cars are imported and 0.6 million are exported. Of the 1.7 million cars imported into the UK in 2011, 83% were from the EU. EU manufacturers own 53% of the domestic UK car market, the Germans having 32%, with Volkswagen alone having 19%. The Renault Nissan Sunderland plant is the UK’s biggest car exporter, with 37% of all UK car exports. Our case—us Eurosceptics—is that these EU manufacturers will ensure that EU-UK free trade in cars will continue tariff-free in both directions, whatever politicians now pretend.

The EU is of course a customs union, not a free trade area. Briefing note No. 101 shows how customs unions have become an expensive and redundant relic from the 1950s, which is why there are now no significant customs unions left anywhere else in the world. The Minister and his officials might care to absorb, together with briefing note No. 101, briefing note No. 98, which reveals “The Hidden Cost of Exporting to the EU Single Market”—costs borne by an EU member state, such as ourselves, but not by countries outside the EU, such as the USA, China, Japan, South Korea and many others. This note sums up the 10 more respectable cost-benefit analyses over recent years, including one from the French Government’s leading think tank, one from the Swiss Government and even one from our own Treasury in 2005, which between them all put the costs of our EU membership at anything between 4% and 10% of GDP.

For those noble Lords who want to go more deeply into the subject, there is briefing note No. 92, which deals with global supply chains, through which much of modern international trade now passes, which take time to set up between suppliers and clients all over the world and which cannot be replicated overnight. We say that existing world trade arrangements will continue under the World Trade Organization, whatever we do about our EU membership. It is in the EU’s interest to continue existing arrangements with us because we are its largest client.

A number of your Lordships have suggested that we benefit from the weight of the EU’s account when it makes free-trade agreements on our behalf. We Eurorealists reply that, as the world’s fifth or sixth-largest economy, we would do better on our own in this area. We mention in passing that Singapore has had free-trade agreements with Japan, Russia and India for over 10 years, which we, as EU members do not enjoy. We point out that Switzerland has an FTA with China, which we do not, as indeed does Iceland—not exactly a vast economy.

In conclusion, I would be most grateful for some assurance from the Minister that he will look at the Global Britain briefing note No. 96—the one-pager—and encourage his officials to look at those that I have mentioned and the others on the Global Britain website. Their author, Mr Ian Milne, and I will be happy to meet the Minister or, if we are not grand enough for him, perhaps his officials, for any elucidation that they may require. I trust that we could thus inform the forthcoming national debate in this vital area.

In the meantime, I wish the noble Lord well in his new appointment.

HL Deb, 15 June 2015, c1035

Lord Pearson on European Union Select Committees

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: Noble Lords appear to be aware that in recent years I have regularly raised the balance, effectiveness and number of our European Union Select Committees before we agreed their appointment. For students of this important but perhaps refined subject, I last raised it on 16 May 2013 at col. 544 and on 12 June 2014 at col. 528.

As to balance, this proposed new committee appears to be just as Europhile as its predecessors. I do not pretend to know all their views, but of its 16 members I can detect only three who I would describe as mildly Eurosceptic and six who are among the most ardent Europhiles in your Lordships’ House. This is more important than usual in a year when we are approaching an EU referendum. Your Lordships’ other Select Committee reports are widely respected, and if our EU reports suffer from a Europhile slant, that will not be helpful to any fair outcome. I want to put the public on alert now, and I hope that I do not have to come back to this point too often in future.

I admit that the second part of my amendment, that our committees should be balanced between those who want to leave the EU and those who want to stay in, will not be easy to achieve. I put it down to underline what a Europhile place your Lordships’ House is when compared to public sentiment on this matter. In fact I can think of only perhaps a dozen of your Lordships who would be prepared to say publicly that we should leave the European Union whatever the outcome of the current negotiations. However, we should at least try to make our committees as balanced as we can, and at the moment we do not.

Our committees are there to hold the Government to account on the legislation that emerges from Brussels—that is what I am constantly told by noble Lords who favour the present arrangements. However, the trouble remains that that is all that these committees can do: they can only scrutinise, and the Government regularly ignore their findings.

I remind your Lordships of the scrutiny reserve, whereby successive Governments have promised not to sign up to any piece of legislation in Brussels if it is still being scrutinised by the Select Committee of either House of Parliament. Yet since July 2010, the Government have broken that promise 303 times in the Commons and 266 times in your Lordships’ House. Some 238 of those overrides were on measures being considered by both Houses. Each override means that a new EU law is being forced upon us without the consent of Parliament, because the EU juggernaut rolls on regardless. I hope the respected chairman of our EU Select Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, will not mind if I remind your Lordships of his disappointed interventions on that subject on 4 December 2014 at col. 1400 and on 17 December 2014 at col. 95. I do not know if he can reassure us now that, as a result, the scrutiny reserve is no longer broken.  I fear that our EU Select Committees do not and cannot hold the Government to account in Brussels. Since 1996, up to last year, the Government themselves have objected to and forced to a vote in the Council of Ministers 55 new measures, and they lost the vote on every single one of them. I add that the situation is just as depressing in that democratic fig-leaf, the European Parliament. Of its 1,936 most-recent Motions, a majority of all UK MEPs voted against 576 of them, but 485 still passed—a failure rate of some 84%. So it does not seem that our Select Committee reports carry much weight there either. None of that should surprise us. The big idea behind the EU has always been that member states should be diminished in favour of the unelected bureaucracy, under the pretence that that would maintain peace in Europe, which was of course, in fact, always sustained by NATO, not Brussels—but that is still at the root of our powerlessness in the EU.

Finally, my amendment would reduce our EU committees from seven to three, freeing up four committees for other work. It is those other committees that are so widely and rightly respected by the public, which we as a House are uniquely qualified to deliver, and yet we are only being allowed three new ad hoc committees and have turned down requests from noble Lords for no fewer than 42. I refer your Lordships to HL Paper 127 from our Liaison Committee, which details all those 42 committees which we will now not have. I understand that we may be making progress on a committee on foreign affairs, which would be a step forward. However, noble Lords’ suggestions from within 21 other areas of our national life are not being adhered to—the House will not be given those committees and the British public will not have your Lordships’ wisdom upon them. I therefore propose that we have four fewer, somewhat pointless EU committees, and four more to draw on the vast array of your Lordships’ knowledge and experience. I beg to move.

HL Deb, 8 June 2015, c640

Lord Pearson’s Question on News-watch Website

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I am most grateful. Have the Government examined the website, which shows how the BBC has so far failed to allow fair debate between the two sides in the forthcoming EU referendum and thus to respect its present charter? Might it be good to involve the public in the next charter by allowing the licence fee-payers to elect the BBC’s trustees and, through them, the chairman and the director-general?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: My Lords, I have not seen the News-watch website that was referred to, but I will obviously take the opportunity to look at it as part of my induction into this vital area. All aspects of the kind that the noble Lord describes will be looked at in the review. As I said, I think that the comments from this House will be very helpful to us in coming to the right conclusions.

HL Deb, 4 June 2015, c514

Lords Debate on European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EUC Report)

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?

HL Deb, 19 March 2015, c1186

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills written question

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