Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Some figures

There was a reply from the Government on June 28 to Lord Pearson's question about the allocation of resources.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what was the United Kingdom's gross financial contribution in sterling in 2009 to (a) the European Union, (b) the Commonwealth, (c) the World Trade Organisation, (d) the United Nations, (e) the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, (f) the International Monetary Fund, and (g) the World Bank.
The response is long with figures given from the different departments that deal with the different organizations. Readers will probably want to read them all for themselves. However, it is sufficient for the moment to point out that
The Government's latest estimate of the UK's gross contribution to the European Union, after taking account of the UK abatement, was published in Table 3, page 62, of the 2009 European Community Finances White Paper (Cm 7640). This was published on 20 July 2009 and is available in the Library of the House. The figure for 2008 is £7,791 million and the estimate for 2009 is £7,770 million.
That is a lot of money and when one adds to it the money that goes to the IMF, the WTO, the OECD, the UN (£75.6 million) that deficit begins to look a little more comprehensible.

You can still see it

The first story on Monday's Newsnight was about the Government's intention to cap non-EU immigration. It remains on iPlayer till 11.19 pm on Monday, July 5. You can watch the whole programme here. Lord Pearson's contribution starts here.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Of course if they are British eurocrats ....

On June 24 Lord Eden of Winton asked HMG "what savings are being made in the administration of Government". Lord Sassoon's response was quite bracing:
My Lords, the Government have announced savings in the current financial year of £6.2 billion, of which £360 million will be made in the administration budgets of central government departments, and £400 million will be made in the administrative costs of quangos. The Government have also announced in the Budget £3.3 billion of savings from freezing public sector pay for two years from 2011-12 for those earning above £21,000. A portion of these savings will be made within administration budgets. The Government are committed to reducing the administrative costs of Whitehall and of arm's-length bodies by at least one-third. Further details and spending plans will be set out at the spending review on 20 October.
These measures will not be sufficient and there seems to be no mention of the newly instituted quangos such as the Office for Budget Responsibility, whose creation was so egregious that even Direct Democracy has been unhappy about it.

Scrolling down the Hansard page on can find Lord Pearson's question:
My Lords, did the noble Lord see the recent article in the Daily Telegraph which estimates that up to 2,000 Eurocrats are paid more than the Prime Minister? Why do we go on sending some £8 billion in cash every year to support these people, who then go on to inflict such ruinous over-regulation on our economy?
To which Lord Sassoon replied:
I thank the noble Lord for his concern about the costs of bureaucracy in Brussels, about which we, too, are of course very concerned. The Government will be taking steps to make sure that the budget contribution to Europe fully reflects the need for Europe to restrain its costs. So far as concerns Eurocrats, we want to make sure that the best-quality British officials play their part as senior officials in Brussels.
Translated into every-day language, this says that HMG will make lots of noises about the need for Europe to restrain its costs but nothing much will come of that. However, we are going to make very sure that our people can get as much from the trough as all others do.

Friday, 25 June 2010

No that was not quite the question

On Wednesday, June 23 there was a Starred Question in the House of Lords about this country's international competitiveness, asked by Baroness Valentine. It was very general, deliberately so, one assumes:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they intend to take to protect and strengthen the United Kingdom's international competitiveness.
The reply by Baroness Wilcox was also very general:
My Lords, we are committed to maintaining and improving our international competitiveness by restoring macroeconomic stability, helping provide infrastructure, science and research and better linking higher and further education into the economy. We will ensure that regulation is proportionate and will work towards having the most competitive corporate tax regime in the G20.
Then there were other general questions and answers. Towards the end of the allotted 7 minutes Lord Pearson asked:
My Lords, does the noble Baroness recall the estimates made by the EU enterprise and industry commissioner, Mr Gunter Verheugen, that EU overregulation was costing us some 6.4 per cent of GDP per annum-around £84 billion today? Why do Her Majesty's Government insist on staying on the "Titanic" when the iceberg of international competition is staring us in the face?
To this Baroness Wilcox gave a very curious reply:
The noble Lord will be very pleased to know that we have already said that we will look seriously at the gold plating that we have been doing to European Union regulations. I am sure that he will support us in that.
Very nice, too, except that this was a reply to a completely different question, one that had not been asked.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Lord Pearson on Premier Radio

Lord Pearson will be giving a wide-ranging interview on Premier Radio, to be broadcast on Saturday at 8 pm. More information on the UKIP website.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Apparently there is no difference between UKIP and the Coalition Government

This may sound slightly odd to readers of this blog but, according to Lord Strathclyde it is true. Well, let us have a look. Yesterday Lord Trimble asked a Starred Question about the eurozone and British economy.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations they have made to members of the European Union to protect the British economy from the financial situation in the eurozone.
The answer was bland, to put it mildly:
The Chancellor of the Exchequer and Treasury Ministers attend regular meetings of EU Ministers, including the Council of Economic and Finance Ministers-ECOFIN. These discussions cover a wide range of issues, including the ongoing situation in sovereign debt markets.
Understandably, Lord Trimble was not satisfied and pursued the matter through two supplementary questions:
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his Answer, and I draw attention to my entry in the register of interests. I have two points to raise with him. Funds have been established to try and help countries in the EU that are in difficulties, but one of the underlying causes of those difficulties is the loss of competitiveness. Is that likely to be solved before the money and time run out? If it is not solved by then, what then happens?

Secondly, I draw my noble friend's attention to the alternative investment fund managers directive that is currently being imposed on us. The European Parliament estimated that that directive would cost the European Union as a whole roughly 0.2 per cent of its GDP, but, as most of the alternative investment funds are in the United Kingdom, the potential cost to us is much greater. Have the Government managed to draw any of this directive's teeth? If not, how much is it likely to cost the United Kingdom?
Lord Sassoon's response, especially to the second point was not very reassuring.
My Lords, I will deal first with the question of competitiveness. The UK Government, the European Council and the Union well recognise that competitiveness must be improved in parallel with steps that are being taken to deal with the immediate financial situation of a number of member states. I draw my noble friend's attention to the EU economic taskforce under the leadership of the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, which will report to the October Council. As well as dealing with crisis resolution matters, it has competitiveness indicators very much on its agenda. Indeed, it considers competitiveness absolutely in parallel with crisis resolution issues, as well as more broadly as part of the Europe 2020 exercise.

On the alternative investment fund managers directive, the European Council and the European Parliament have each taken positions that do not agree with each other, so the UK Government and the industry have a short window up to the end of July in which to make final representations and attempt to make sure that we get the best deal for what is a very important industry for the City of London out of this trialogue process.
A short window; final representations; the best deal - none of this fills anyone with any kind of certainty that the AIFM Directive will be anything but a catastrophe for the City. Indeed, those reforms that Lord Sassoon was appointed to supervise may well become unnecessary if the EU has its way - there will be no City to reform.

Lord Pearson intervened with a question that followed up matters raised during a previous debate:
My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that a good way in which to protect the British economy would be to refuse to underwrite massive sums for Brussels, such as the £8 billion mentioned by his noble friend Lord De Mauley on 8 June, which are illegal under the treaties? How many billions are we going to be exposed to through the illegal breach of Article 125, which forbids member states to bail out others?
Tut-tut, said the Minister, things are not as bad as all that. We may be handing money over but it is all completely legitimate. No rules are being broken.
I thank the noble Lord for his questions. First, to be clear, it is the view of the UK Government that no illegal action has been taken under Article 125 or any of the other relevant articles. On the UK's exposure, we have not as a country participated in the €440 billion special purpose vehicle for assistance. We do, however, participate in the €60 billion finance facility, which is available to any member state under Article 122.2 and which we think strikes an appropriate balance between the eurozone taking primary responsibility for stabilisation within the eurozone and the important part that we have to play as part of the wider EU 27. For completeness, we participate in the IMF standby facilities.
Later in the afternoon came the statement about the European Council and its achievements, which, in the short term, have been minimal though the intention to strengthen economic governance will, if carried out, have a dire effect on all European economies, regardless of how they are performing at the moment.

During the subsequent debate Lord Pearson asked about the ever-present threat to make all governments submit budgets to the Commission (the decision on that will be taken in September):
Turning to the Statement, does the noble Lord agree that it really is beyond belief that the EU should presume to examine our Budgets before Parliament debates them when its own internal auditors have been unable to sign off its own accounts for the past 15 years? Can he comment on that? Will he also comment on Mr Van Rompuy saying last week that the Government's refusal to submit our Budget to Brussels is unfinished business? How will the Government react if they are outvoted on this in the autumn? Finally, and more widely, the Government's protestations of their innocence do not exactly chime with the wording of the Council's conclusions. I shall read three extremely briefly. First,

"we fully agree on the urgent need to reinforce the coordination of our economic policies".


"All Member States are ready ... to take additional measures to accelerate fiscal consolidation".


"The crisis has revealed clear weaknesses in our economic governance, in particular as regards budgetary and broader macroecononmic surveillance. Reinforcing economic policy coordination therefore constitutes a crucial and urgent priority".

Which one is right-the Government's Statement or the Council's conclusions?
It was while replying to this question that Lord Strathclyde explained that there really are no differences between Lord Pearson's views and HMG's, on some subjects, anyway.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, is right when he says it is beyond belief that the EU should wish to inspect our Budget before it is presented to Parliament. He is entirely right. In that there is not a cigarette paper of difference between him and the Prime Minister, or I suspect even the Opposition. We would all agree that the EU has no role and no place to look at our budgetary arrangements and, indeed, our parliamentary procedures. That position has been made entirely implicit in the Statement that I repeated a few minutes ago. It is not unfinished business; it is firmly finished business and we will be leaving it entirely the way that it is currently.

The noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, made great play of looking at the conclusions and the Statement that we made. This is an old game to play and the noble Lord does it with great skill. I assure him that again there is no difference between the conclusions and the Statement that we made. They can live together entirely side by side and there is no difficulty for the Government.
So, have we just been given a cast-iron guarantee that the government will never allow the Budget to be vetted by the Commission before it is debated and decided by the House of Commons?

Lord Stoddart of Swindon seemed doubtful:
I want to make two points. First, with regard to the reference to budget surveillance on page 4 of the Statement, this does not go far enough. It says that,

"the UK Budget will be shown to this House first-and not to the Commission".
It is not a question of showing the Budget to the House; it is a question of the House of Commons agreeing the Budget before the Commission has its way. Surely that is right.

Secondly, why on earth do the Government continue to harp on about 40 per cent of our trade being with the European Union? The world is a much bigger place than that these days, so would it not be better if we expanded our trade with China, South America, India and indeed the Commonwealth, instead of concentrating on the backyard of Europe?
In response, Lord Strathclyde seemed to agree even with Lord Stoddart without actually saying anything much:
My Lords, on the question of the Budget, the noble Lord is in danger of tilting at windmills. We are not playing any verbal gymnastics that somehow when we say that it will be presented to Parliament first it means that round at the back door we are busily presenting it to the Commission. We are not. Tomorrow there will be a British Budget which will be presented to the British Parliament first. After it has been presented it will be a matter of public record and knowledge. I dare say that the Commission may be interested; it may indeed be very interested in looking at it before it is finally agreed by Parliament. Therefore, I do not think that there is a fundamental difference between the two of us on this issue.

Neither, incidentally, is there about what the noble Lord Stoddart of Swindon, said about trade with the rest of the world. It is an important plank of British foreign policy to expand our trade beyond Europe. That is vital to our long-term prosperity and the creation of jobs in this country. We are using all the natural advantages that this country has built up over many decades-centuries even-with countries whose economies are growing extremely quickly. To ignore them would be an enormous mistake. So I hope that I can put a smile on the face of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, by saying that I very much agree with what he said.
We have not sorted out the question of who will be making decisions on the post-September Budgets; neither has the Minister admitted that he was misleading the House with that figure of 40 per cent.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

More on that Article 125

Lord Pearson continued to question HMG (or the Coalition as it seems to be referred to even in official replies) on the subject of possible financial bail-outs. Yesterday's Hansard published his Written Question:
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether Article 125 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union can be used to require member states to provide financial support to other member states in financial difficulty; and, if so, whether it can be applied to the United Kingdom.
To which Lord Howell replied on behalf of the Coalition:
Paragraph 2 of Article 125 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union offers scope for the definitions attaching to the prohibitions in Articles 123, 124 and 125 to be more clearly defined by the Council. Nevertheless, Article 125 clearly provides that the Union shall not be liable for or assume the commitments of any member state and that a member state shall not be liable for or assume commitments of another member state. It is our interpretation that the article cannot be used to require member states to provide financial support to other member states in financial difficulty.
Well, that is good to know. However, it does not stop countries from "voluntarily" and as part of a "consensus" from offering help and if all the countries do so simultaneously, well that just will be a coincidence.

Friday, 11 June 2010

How much money are we handing over?

On Tuesday of this week, June 8, Lord Pearson asked a Starred Question:
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether Article 122.2 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union has been or could be used to require the United Kingdom to underwrite £9.6 billion of other European Union member states' debts.
The subject has been raised before. Then it was Lord Myners who was replying, now it is Lord De Mauley and matters have moved on.
My Lords, EU finance Ministers agreed on 9 May that up to €60 billion of emergency finance can be provided to any member state in accordance with Article 122.2. Only where there are defaults on loan repayments would there be a cost to the EU budget. Member states would be liable for a share. Based on the United Kingdom's contribution to the 2010 EU budget, the UK's share would be approximately 13.6 per cent, or up to a maximum of around €8 billion. Euro-area finance Ministers have also agreed a €440 billion package of assistance to be provided through a special purpose vehicle. The United Kingdom has chosen not to participate in this, and there is therefore no question of any liability arising to the United Kingdom.
So, it seems that in certain circumstances, like defaults on loan repayments, the UK will be liable for a share of the emergency finance to the tune of €8 billion, not a sum to be sneezed at.

As has been mentioned before, Article 122.2 contradicts Article 125 as Lord Pearson pointed out in his follow-up:
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer, and I welcome him to his new position. However, I have to point out that this article can only be used legally to help with natural disasters, such as earthquakes and so on. Is he aware that the Eurocrats are also violating Article 125, which prohibits financial bailouts of any kind? If so, can he tell us what the sum of all this illegality is going to cost us?
Indeed, it is illegal, as Lord De Mauley more or less admitted but there is a way round that:
I shall first answer the noble Lord's question about Article 125-the so-called bailout clause-which states:

"The Union shall not be liable for or assume the commitments of ... governments ... A Member State shall not be liable for or assume the commitments of ... governments ... of another Member State".

That does not rule out member states lending each other money.
Indeed, it does not.

Inadequate answers

Some of Lord Pearson's Written Questions have been replied to, and very inadequate those replies are, too.

On June 7 HMG, in the form of Baroness Neville-Jones, responded to a question about the Common Immigration Policy in a bland and reassuring fashion:
Any EU legislation giving effect to the common immigration policy for non-EU migrants under Article 79 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union would be subject to opt-in arrangements. The Government will not opt into any measures that are contrary to their policies for immigration control.
The trouble with that response is definition. For example, how does the noble Lady and those advising her, nay, writing her replies, feel about Council Directive 2003/86/EC, on the right to family reunification? Would this be part of a common immigration policy? Article 17 of the Preamble says that the UK is not obliged to participate in this Directive. But is it actually going to? Will it decide to opt in to individual and, apparently, humanitarian measures of this kind?

On June 8, Baroness Neville-Jones (again) replied to the following question:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the status of the proposed European Public Prosecutor; and whether United Kingdom citizens may be extradited to stand trial in other European Union member states under its powers, or under those of the European arrest warrant.
One cannot help describing the bland and reassuring reply as being inadequate:
The Government do not support the creation of a European Public Prosecutor (EPP) and have made it clear that they would not participate in its establishment.

The Government are giving careful consideration to the UK's current extradition arrangements worldwide-including the European arrest warrant (EAW)-to ensure they operate effectively and in the interests of justice. A range of options are being considered and the Government will make an announcement in due course.
The noble Lady seems to have missed the status of the European Arrest Warrant. It is not an extradition treaty but EU legislation that has been implemented into British legislation through a Statutory Instrument. Are we to understand that HMG intends to review that piece of legislation?

On June 9 there were two Written Answers. One concerned the European Gendarmerie:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the status of the European Gendarmerie Force; what is its purpose; and whether they plan for it to be deployed in Britain.
Lord Howell's reply gives a detailed explanation of what the EGF is and assures us that:
The European Gendarmerie Force (EGF) is a police force with a military status that has full police powers in the jurisdiction of participating states, capable to respond to the full spectrum of police missions, both under civilian and military control. The UK is not part of this initiative. The Government see no circumstances in which they would consent to an EGF operation in the UK.
Well, that is good to know.

The second question was one that has cropped up year after year under various governments with the same inadequate response being given by them all.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will commission an independent cost-benefit analysis of the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union.
To be fair, Lord Howell's response was a little different from past ones; it did not say that the benefits of Britain's membership of the EU were incalculable. But it was clearly written by the same civil servants and delivered with the same aplomb as the noble Lord's predecessors used to do it:
The Government have no plans to commission such an analysis. We believe that membership of the EU is in the national interest of the United Kingdom. We intend to champion vigorously the interests of the UK and play an active role within the EU on areas of common interest.
Lord Howell must recall similar sentiments being expressed by Mr Major's government and where that got the country.

Friday, 4 June 2010

New Deputy Leader of UKIP appointed

Lord Pearson has announced that UKIP will now have two Deputy Leaders. Apart from David Campbell Bannerman, who remains in charge of policy, Lord Monckton (who, as Christopher Monckton was adviser to Margaret Thatcher) will also be Deputy Leader. Lord Monckton is a specialist on climate change and a fearless foe of man-made global warming fanatics.