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?