Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Travel can broaden the mind

It never ceases to amaze me how much travelling members of both Houses of Parliament do. Whenever there is a debate about foreign parts in the House of Lords, there are numerous peers who have just come back from those parts or parts not too far from there. Sometimes this means they actually know a little more about the parts they have come back from, sometimes they seem to have a memory of comfortable flights and nothing much more. In this they reflect the situation in the country at large and, particularly, the media.

On February 26 the Grand Committee discussed the European Union Association Agreements for Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine and, as one would expect, various speakers have recently come back from various places.

Lord Bowness had
just come back from the meeting of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, where discussion about the situation in Ukraine dominated proceedings. However, deep concerns were also expressed about Russia’s intentions in respect of Moldova and Georgia—and the Baltic states, which are outside the area we are discussing.
The Earl of Sandwich
was in Georgia last July, just after the association agreement was signed, and I cannot underestimate the euphoria that there was, but of course I was among Ministers and people negotiating the agreement.
Interestingly, he noticed one big problem:
The Georgian Orthodox Church is not exactly of the same mind and I think it may lead them all downhill.
In fact, the Earl seems to have done his homework, which one has to admire, especially when one recalls that peers are paid no more than expenses and only when they are in the Chamber not when they are doing extra reading or research. (I have no idea who paid for his trip to Georgia.)
I note from the Explanatory Memorandum that the impact is very modest on the UK economy. The figure of £0.6 million is quoted. Perhaps the Minister could reassure me that this really is the bottom end of the range and that Georgia, if the situation remains stable, can expect a gradual improvement. I would also like to be reassured that there has been no further development on the Russian front in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It is not a stable Government—there has already been a change of Minister since we were there—but I am very pleased to read in press reports of the solidarity there is between Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia. They were, for example, at the celebration of the centenary events of the Maidan in Kiev. The Georgian President was invited, and I know that there has been a lot of exchange. I do not think that these association agreements need disturb the Russians unduly. We have moved on from last year and must all expect greater prosperity to follow from them.
Lord Balfe is a delegate to the Council of Europe, which necessitates some travelling back and forth and has long experience of the European Parliament, which may not be as useful as all that, which brings me to Baroness Ludford.

The noble lady, a stalwart europhiliac, an MEP of some years and a woman who can get hysterical on the subject of "climate change" made the following slightly surprising statement:
My Lords, I also thank my noble friend the Minister for her helpful introduction and explanation of the situation. I spent many years making EU law, but perhaps not so much time implementing it, and therefore I am not familiar with this process. Before moving on to other things, perhaps I could ask about the draft Explanatory Memorandum. It explains that one of the effects of the order, declaring that the agreement is to be regarded as an EU treaty under the ECA 1972, is that certain rights and obligations under the agreement automatically become law in the United Kingdom and then subordinate legislation can be made to give effect to the provisions of the agreement. I am not clear which rights and obligations automatically become law. It may be that the noble Baroness can take me aside at some point and explain how all this works, and that will clear my confusion.
She was, indeed, enlightened on the subject by Baroness Anelay in her responses to comments:
My noble friend Lady Ludford asked specifically about the procedural aspect, referring in particular to the Explanatory Memorandum, and which obligations are implemented and how. The European Communities Act 1972 provides the mechanism for implementing in UK law our obligations under an EU treaty, which is what the agreements become under these orders. That is the way in which the provisions of the agreement are given direct effect in UK law. Not every provision in the agreement would need to be the subject of legislation, but where we need legislation, which some parts may do, the order gives provision to that effect in UK law. This is about providing that kind of consistency.
For all of that, it is a little puzzling that the noble lady had spent all those years making EU law and has absolutely no idea how it affects member states and how it is implemented.


  1. You can say what you like about the EU, but as evidenced by the link you provided on The Baroness Ludford, they certainly know how to look after their own.

    "The Member receives a pension from the European Parliament in her capacity as a former MEP
    The Member has for the period August to end October 2014 been receiving a transitional allowance from the European Parliament in her capacity as a former MEP"

    But to summarise the EU is still trying to expand up to the borders of Russia, undeterred by events so far. Still, if it gets a bit sticky we can send the Light Brigade I suppose.

    1. Or the Heavy Brigade, which was actually successful and, therefore, had no poems written about its charge. Just one of those things. As a matter of fact, that agreement, which was signed by sovereign countries that are not part of Russia are a long way from taking them into the EU. But eurosceptics have decided that the best kind of foreign policy is appeasement of dictators and nothing will budge them from it.