He really excelled himself this time:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress is being made in European Council discussions on reform of the European Union treaties.The answer is, as we can surmise, none whatsoever but it would not do for the Noble Minister to tell the truth in that stark fashion. Instead, Baroness Anelay of St Johns said:
My Lords, the UK regularly discusses EU reform with counterparts both in the European Council and bilaterally. We have already made progress. The June European Council conclusions clearly set out a strong commitment to reforming the EU and it needs to address the UK’s concerns. We will continue to work with our European partners to achieve these reforms, many of which can be made right now.Well, all right. Let us not use nasty expressions like "none whatsoever". How about "not very much at all"? Would that do?
Lord Dykes had not finished. His follow-up question was a masterpiece of superciliousness (I doubt if he understands anything about the EU) and complete irrelevance.
I thank my noble friend for that Answer. In the mean time, can I tempt her to endorse the very wise advice of our new British Commissioner, Jonathan Hill, that everybody should calm down and avoid hysteria about the rather technical nature of the budget dues dispute, because our membership of the EU is surely the essential requirement and target, and is much more important than appeasing UKIP and other Europhobes?HMG in the person of Baroness Anelay simply ignored his question or comment and answered something completely different though not very adequately:
My Lords, the policy of this Government is to argue for the interests of this country. My noble friend is right to point to the very detailed nature of the investigation that must now take place of the demand, out of the blue, for an extra £1.7 billion. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has made clear that Her Majesty’s Treasury will now assess the data in exhaustive detail to check how the statistics were arrived at and the methodology that was used. After all, it is British taxpayers’ money and therefore it needs to be examined in detail and discussed properly by Finance Ministers. That will happen tomorrow.Then came a great deal of waffle that sort of criticized the status quo but managed to imply that the best way of changing it is by keeping it in place as much as possible.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch managed to upset the apple cart for a short time:
My Lords, assuming that the Government have at last seen through the propaganda that the EU has brought peace and prosperity and is useful for trade, geopolitics and so on, why cannot they also see that the EU is wholly unreformable and that the only sensible thing to do is to get out of it and help to close it down? What is the point of the European Union?Let it be noted that this is what the noble lord has been saying for many years but it is not, as far as any of us can tell, UKIP's policy, which is merely a demand for a referendum as soon as possible.
Baroness Anelay's reply, as expected, was not particularly informative:
My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lord still fails to see the benefits that we have achieved by our membership of the EU, but also the achievements that we need to have through reform to make sure that we can continue to be a successful member. That is where we want to be. We want to see the EU reformed with us as a strong member of it, and other countries recognise that it needs reform. As to leaving it—not now.Still, one must take one's entertainment wherever one can. Baroness Ludford is no longer a highly paid member of the Toy Parliament and will now have to make do with the considerably reduced amount of money she can get in the House of Lords.