UFOs, Faked Moon Landings, and Fiscal Policy
9 hours ago
Nevertheless, not one of the currency union's founding fathers will admit that it was poorly designed. The currency union brought together countries that weren't compatible economically simply because it was opportune politically. It replaced the currency exchange rate, the standard mechanism for balancing out differences between national economies, with the principle of hope. Now, the common currency was supposed to make the economies align themselves with each other, practically automatically.
In reality, however, the differences between the economies of the euro-zone countries became larger rather than smaller. The so-called "Club Med" countries benefited from the low common interest rate. They lived beyond their means and they consumed more than they could afford -- to the detriment of their already weak ability to compete.
A country with a flagging economy normally devalues its currency. Doing so makes its goods cheaper on the global market, allowing it to increase exports and cut back on its deficit. But, in a currency union, there isn't an exchange rate that can serve as a compensatory mechanism. If a country doesn't have a sound economy, the tensions only increase.Yes, and your point is? I hear readers ask. Well the point is that the article appeared in Der Spiegel. Worth reading.
It is uncertain whether negotiations with the lenders will start at all in January, after the IMF said on Wednesday the government should work with it on policy issues such as the central bank law if it wants talks to progress.
Hungary needs a new financing deal to back up investors' confidence and help retain its access to market funding next year when it has to refinance 4.8 billion euros worth of foreign currency debt, including repayments of a 2008 IMF/EU bailout.
Parliament, where the ruling Fidesz party has a two-thirds majority, is expected to pass the central bank bill smoothly. That could add to pressure on the forint, which fell to a one-month low on Thursday, hit by a scrapped bond auction.
Fidesz has amended the law to address most complaints from the European Central Bank, but has not backed down on a planned boost in the number of rate-setters and vice governors that critics say the government could use to influence monetary policy.Other proposed laws are listed by The Contrarian Hungarian [scroll down].
The European Economic Community (EEC) for which the British signed up in a 1975 referendum—a community of free trade and cooperation, not supranational bureaucracy—is long gone. Worse, even today's less-palatable EU will soon no longer be on offer.There is the basic mistake of assuming that Britain signed up to the EEC in a referendum. As we all know, the 1975 referendum was called after two years of membership and some cosmetic "renegotiation", the gist of which nobody can recall. The question was not about whether anybody wanted to go into the EEC but whether they wanted to stay in.
Up to now, however, the U.S. has pursued a policy of propping up the euro while discouraging British independence from Brussels. This is incredibly short-sighted. Using the vehicles of the Federal Reserve and the International Monetary Fund to try to fill the gaping hole in Europe's finances will get everybody nowhere. Instead, British, American and Canadian policy makers (along with their Nafta partners in Mexico) should be taking the long view and preparing for a future in which the unsustainable euro zone inevitably collapses. Welcoming Britain back into the North Atlantic economic community would be a win-win for all involved.It is unlikely to happen for a while since Britain is not free to join anything while she remains in the EU and that has not changed, despite the post European Council grandstanding.
To ask Her Majesty's Government why the draft Bill on House of Lords Reform makes no provision for defining the powers of an elected second chamber.A fair question. After all, once the make-up of the House of Lords changes, its role and duties will change, too. The notion that the Upper Chamber is secondary to the Lower rests entirely on the assumption that the former is unelected. That will, logically, change once they are both elected and we have something resembling a Senate. Also, the elected members will expect to be paid and paid as handsomely as their colleagues are in the Lower House. In other words, everything will be different. Lord Strathclyde (for it is he, again) does not think so. At least, the people who wrote his reply do not think so.
My Lords, the draft House of Lords Reform Bill specifically provides that nothing in the provisions affects the status, powers or jurisdiction of either House of Parliament. We therefore do not believe that it is necessary to define the powers of this House in primary legislation.The rest of the short debate, which is well worth reading, consists of peers attempting to point out to the noble Minister that the provisions of the Parliament Act applied to one elected and one unelected Chamber and, therefore, cannot apply in the same way to two elected ones, with the said Minister refusing to acknowledge that black is black and white is white. I quite liked Lord Howe of Aberavon's contribution (yes, yes, Geoffrey Howe):
My Lords, is it not possible that including such provisions in the Bill would make lucid and clear the increased risk of conflict between the two Houses and the disastrous consequences of the creation of a new structure? Will my noble friend tell the House whether that is the explanation, and is it the consequence of idle carelessness or deliberate deceit?Dear me, what a suspicious nature some people have.
Nevertheless, by the logic of the prevailing view of freedom of speech, protesters in the future will be able to storm into lecture halls and/or seize radio and television stations in order to deliver their message and then claim that their freedom of speech is violated when the police come to eject them, even though the police in such cases would in fact be acting precisely in order to uphold the freedom of speech. Indeed, since the days of the so-called Free Speech Movement at Berkeley, back in the 1960s, disruptions of speeches delivered by invited guests have occurred repeatedly on college campuses, in the name of the alleged freedom of speech of the disrupters. No attention has been paid to the actual violation of the freedom of speech of the invited speakers.
The prevailing view of freedom of speech is a major threat to freedom of speech. Not only does it provide justification for actual violations of freedom of speech of the kinds just mentioned, but it also makes freedom of speech appear to be a fundamental enemy of rational communication. Speakers cannot address audiences, professors cannot lecture to students if disrupters are permitted to drown them out and then hide behind the claim that they do so in the name of freedom of speech. If the prevailing view of freedom of speech were correct, the ability of speakers to speak and professors to lecture would require accepting the principle of the need to violate freedom of speech.Read the whole piece. I don't often recommend this site but, for once, its publication is spot on while approaching the subject from an unusual angle.
My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to the Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Unless any noble Lord objects, therefore, I beg to move.There were no objections and the motion was agreed to.
8.94 If no amendments have been set down to a bill and it appears that no member wishes to move a manuscript amendment or to speak to any clause or Schedule, the Lord in charge of the bill may move that the order of commitment (or recommitment) be discharged. This motion may be moved only on the day the committee stage is set down for and notice must be given on the order paper.There can be amendments at the Third Reading, which is scheduled for December 21 and the Government and Opposition Front Benches may well decide to defeat the Bill. We shall see. It is entirely possible that nobody wanted this debate now just in case the truth about the non-veto of the phantom treaty might come out.
8.95 The Lord in charge of the bill says:
I understand that no amendments have been set down to this bill, and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee.
Unless, therefore, any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment [or recommitment] be discharged."
8.96 The Question is then put "That the order of commitment [or recommitment] be discharged." If this Question is agreed to, the next stage of the bill is third reading.
My Lords, why are the Government so keen on all these referendums on the comparatively minor matter of who becomes the mayor in these cities while they refuse a referendum on the far greater issue of whether we stay in the clutches of the corrupt octopus in Brussels or leave them?Well, as far as I can see, as readers of this blog know, a referendum of that kind would be a disaster as people, who were easily bamboozled by the Boy-King's phony veto of a non-existent treaty would undoubtedly vote to stay in but reform the unreformable. However, that cannot be HMG's argument. So what did Lord Strathclyde reply, having disposed of another objection:
As for the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, in the spirit of Christmas, it is always good to hear him. I hope he has a very quiet and restful time over the next two or three weeks, and if he wishes to have an even longer restful and quiet time, I am sure that would be appreciated by most of us, particularly those who work on European business.A period of silence, eh? So we can get on with our business of handing over whatever remains of this country's sovereignty.
It must be dawning on all but the most obtuse member of the banking elite that they can’t possibly steal enough money from German taxpayers to save the Greek government from default. Put it off, maybe, but collapse is inevitable.
Once this happens, what is the purpose of casting Greece into some selective temporary financial purgatory where the irrelevant Greek economy can continue embarrassing anyone foolish enough to lend their dysfunctional government a dime? Why not go all the way and give the country what many of its people have been violently demanding for almost a century?
Let them have Communism.
Hard as it is for young people to believe, Communism was once a major historical force holding billions of people in thrall. Outside the halls of elite universities, who still takes it seriously? Sure we have Cuba, where the Castro deathwatch is the last thing standing between that benighted penal colony and an inevitable makeover by Club Med. Then there is Venezuela, though hope is fading that Hugo Chavez will carry the Bolivarian banner much longer now that he’s busy sucking down FOLFOX cocktails while checking for signs that his hair is falling out. And frankly, a psychopathic family dynasty ruling a nation of stunted zombies hardly makes North Korea a proper Communist exemplar.
What the world needs, lest we forget, is a contemporary example of Communism in action. What better candidate than Greece? They’ve been pining for it for years, exhibiting a level of anti-capitalist vitriol unmatched in any developed country. They are temperamentally attuned to it, having driven all hard working Greeks abroad in search of opportunity. They pose no military threat to their neighbors, unless you quake at the sight of soldiers marching around in white skirts. And they have all the trappings of a modern Western nation, making them an uncompromised test bed for Marxist theories. Just toss them out of the European Union, cut off the flow of free Euros, and hand them back the printing plates for their old drachmas. Then stand back for a generation and watch.
The land that invented democracy used it to perfect the art of living at the expense of others, an example all Western democracies appear intent on emulating. Being the first to run out of other people’s money makes Greece truly ripe to take the next logical step beyond socialism.Read the whole piece. It's hilarious and not exactly untrue.
The real news in Asian politics yesterday, the kind of thing that will likely show up in the history books, was a quiet meeting announced by the State Department. If you missed it, it’s because people didn’t cover it much, but for the first time ever, India, Japan, and the US held a round of trilateral talks on the future of Asia and the strategic picture. The session, reads a State Department media release, “mark[s] the beginning of a series of consultations among our three governments, who share common values and interests across the Asia-Pacific and the globe”. These three powers aren’t an alliance; the US and Japan have a treaty of alliance, but India remains non-aligned — and has no plans to change. This is an entente, not an alliance. It is a community that rests on common concerns and common views about important developments — but ententes are important. This one in particular (which besides the Big Three also includes important regional presences like Australia, Vietnam, Singapore and others) may play a bigger role in US foreign policy than NATO as time moves on.That last comment ought to make the story important to us as well.
European finance ministers looked unlikely to reach a target of boosting IMF resources by 200 billion euros to ward off the debt crisis on Monday, after Britain said it would not take part in a plan aimed specifically at helping the euro zone.
In a three-hour conference call, ministers also assessed plans for tighter euro zone fiscal rules - a new 'fiscal compact' - that policymakers hope will insulate the 17-country currency zone against a repeat of the two-year debt crisis.
Treasury sources said Britain had made it clear on the call it would not participate in the plan to increase IMF resources by up to 200 billion euros, with 150 billion of coming from euro zone central banks.
"We were clear that we would not be making a contribution," one treasury source said, while another added that there was "no agreement on the 200 billion" euro funding boost.A Treasury official says? Well, then it must be true.
However, many members of the IMF, including Britain and the US, are refusing to put in extra contributions to save the currency.And, as one reads on, one finds the following ominous words:
Officials last night admitted Britain could still give up to £10 billion to the IMF for a new global bail-out fund, just not one specifically aimed at saving the euro.Not everything is as it is first reported. In fact, nothing is.
Seema Malhotra, a former adviser to Harriet Harman, retained the seat for Labour after a swing of 8.56% points from the Tories.Labour majority is 6,203, which is, weirdly, higher than the 4658 it was in 2010. On the other hand, the low turn-out does not exactly show that the voters of Feltham and Heston are enamoured of the Labour Party, though Ed Miliband remains safe for the time being.
Malhotra increased Labour's majority from 4,658 to 6,203 when she won with 12,639 votes. Mark Bowen, the Conservative candidate, came second with 6,436 votes. Roger Crouch, the Liberal Democrat, fought off a challenge from the UK Independence Party to hold third place with 1,364 votes. UKIP won 1,276 votes.
The fund revealed in its official Survey Magazine that non-euro countries would put up a quarter of all new money under the EU summit deal.What else might have happened at that meeting about which we have not been told?
“European leaders agreed to make bilateral loans to the IMF of as much as €200bn —with €150bn contributed by eurozone members and €50bn from other members of the EU,” it said.
The report relied on a briefing by IMF chief Christine Lagarde, who was in the room with EU leaders during last Friday’s summit talks. Britain is the EU’s only large economy outside the euro.
The EU statement contained no reference to the €50bn figure for non-eurozone states. “If Britain has really agreed to this, it is a huge deal,” said Julian Callow at Barclays Capital.
David Cameron gave no hint of such an obligation in his statement to the Commons on Monday. “Alongside non-European G20 countries, we are ready to look positively at strengthening the IMF’s capacity to help countries in difficulty across the world,” the Prime Minister said. “But IMF resources are for countries not currencies, and can’t be used specifically to support the euro.”
I will concentrate on two areas: the European working time regulation and its impact on the training of young doctors and other healthcare professionals in our country; and the impact of the clinical trials and data protection directives on our ability to conduct high-quality clinical research. On the European working time regulation, there has been extensive review and discussion about its potential implications. Its purpose is well recognised, but the unintended consequences with regard to the practice of medicine are not always so well recognised.I quoted most of Lord Kakkar's speech because it is about important matters that do not get aired frequently enough in public and because what he says shows our impotence in the face of EU regulation, whether it comes in the form of Directives or Regulations.
If the working time regulation had provided demonstrable evidence of an improvement in clinical quality, the safety of patients and the training of our young doctors and other healthcare professionals, it would be a very reasonable regulation to adopt and apply to the practice of medicine in our country. However, there is little evidence that the regulation restricting hours of work to 48 per week and applying to medical practitioners in training has achieved those objectives.
Clearly there are differences between different disciplines in medicine. The craft disciplines of surgical practice such as my own require a high level of exposure to large numbers of cases in order to develop technical skills, and also a broad ongoing continuity of management of patients to develop the judgment necessary for ultimate independent consultant practice.
The Royal College of Surgeons has taken a keen interest in the potential impacts of the working time regulation on surgical training in our country. In 2010 it produced a report that looked at the potential cost implications of the application of the working time regulation with regard to surgical training. In the two years prior to the introduction of the working time regulation, it collected data using freedom of information requests that were responded to by 96 acute NHS trusts, and extrapolated the findings to the 160 acute trusts where surgical training takes place. It concluded that in the year of introduction of the working time regulation, expenditure on locum costs to cover rotas as a result of the regulation increased from some £540 million a year to £750 million-an increase of more than £200 million.
That was across the board. When the royal college looked at surgical locums, it concluded that costs increased from £170 million a year to £230 million-an extra £60 million spent on locums as a result of the application of the working time regulation restricting surgical trainees to working 48 hours a week. It also tried to determine the number of surgical hours lost per month as a result of the restriction to a 48-hour working week and concluded that some 400,000 surgical hours a month were lost as a result of the restriction. If we were paying this price for achieving an improvement in clinical care or in training, it might be completely justifiable. However, the Royal College of Surgeons and the Association of Surgeons in Training concluded that that was not the case.
The second area is the impact of European directives and regulations on the conduct of clinical research in our country. Twelve per cent of the global citations in clinical and healthcare research are of publications from United Kingdom institutions and nearly one-quarter of the 100 leading medicines in the world have been developed in our country. Biomedical research is therefore hugely important to our economy and in terms of what we can do for our own people as well as for others around the world. In January a working group at the Academy of Medical Sciences chaired by Sir Michael Rawlins published a report, entitled A new Pathway for the Regulation and Governance of Health Research,which looked at ways of ensuring that we remain competitive. It concluded that the European clinical research directive has had a detrimental impact on the conduct of clinical research in our country. The directive was introduced for good reasons-to improve ethical standards and to ensure consistency of data and, ultimately, to ensure that patients are strongly protected in all clinical research-but there have been unintended consequences which have made the approval of clinical trials much slower and the conduct of clinical trials less effective. It has also increased the cost of doing clinical trials, so much so that, in 2000, 6 per cent of all patients going into clinical trials globally came from our country while, by 2006, the number had fallen to only 2 per cent of patients going into clinical trials. That has a very serious impact on our ability to function in that area.
These conclusions were also confirmed by your Lordships' Science and Technology Committee in its second report for Session 2008-09, on genomic medicine, chaired by my noble friend Lord Patel. It also concluded that it would be important for Her Majesty's Government to review the working of the clinical trial directive and the data protection directive, which were having a detrimental impact on the conduct of clinical research in our country. I know that the Government are keenly aware of these important issues and that they are trying to address them. If a committee were established to look at the benefits and costs of our membership of European Union, consideration of the impact of European regulation on the conduct of research and the training of our doctors are important topics that should be considered.
The noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, referred to another area of great strength for the UK: our world-beating excellence in clinical research. He made some telling points but, on the broad point about working time regulations, I stress that the Government are committed to the view that working people should decide the hours that they work, and we will continue to make that abundantly clear to the European Commission.Very nice, too, but how is this world-beating excellence to be preserved and developed with the insane regulations that are destroying it?
I think the Minister agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, about the working time directive and other European legislation that is damaging our National Health Service. He said that he would continue to press the Commission on this point. My final question to the Minister is: what is the point of the United Kingdom continuing to press the Commission on these and other burdens that come from Brussels? With 8 per cent of the votes in the Council, there is nothing that we can do to reverse them and we will not do so.Quite so. Has that changed at all in the last few days? I think not.
Scotland Yard yesterday said it has absolutely ‘no evidence’ that News of the World journalists deleted Milly Dowler’s voicemail messages.It seems that the police may have wanted to tell the family this but were not allowed to do so by the family lawyer. Perhaps.
The police force’s barrister made a dramatic intervention at the Leveson inquiry into press standards.
Neil Garnham QC said the ‘most likely explanation’ for the disappearance of the messages is that they automatically ‘dropped off’ the network after 72 hours.
Stephen Greenhalgh, who has led Hammersmith and Fulham council for five years and is close to Boris Johnson, wants to help channel Whitehall and local authority funds to the White City Estate in Shepherd's Bush.I recall that when Westfield opened they announced their commitment to local jobs. I also recall that when the snow came most of the shops had to close because the staff could not get in, which would indicate that by then the jobs were not local or that the local talent could not be bothered to walk down the road to the place.
He said: "White City has been a huge disappointment over a long period of time in terms of money that has been spent. For example, Westfield opened in the area with 8,000 new jobs and very few of them went locally.
"Nearly £70 million of taxpayers' funds - or £17,000 per household - is spent in this area every year. Despite this, unemployment is twice the borough average, the area has high levels of overcrowding, relatively low educational attainment and relatively high levels of crime." Commentators said the move could lead to similar projects being set up around London.
My Lords, we are committed to reducing net migration to tens of thousands, not hundreds of thousands, by the end of this Parliament. We have already introduced an annual limit on the number of non-EU workers, overhauled the student visa route and increased enforcement activity. Our next steps are to break the link between temporary and permanent migration by restricting settlement rights and to reform family migration.The relevant part of the discussion comes some way down when Lord Willoughby de Broke asks:
My Lords, if the aim is to reduce net immigration, will the noble Lord say whether he is going to repatriate the power over immigration from the EU? It would surely help to reduce net immigration if we controlled immigration from the EU.The answer?
My Lords, there are no plans to do so.Of course not. We cannot do anything about it as we have no right to change EU rules.
Of course, a revolution was required in the City after the mad bubble. Many of the reforms since 2008 have been good, including getting banks to hold more capital, be more liquid and cut their leverage. Some have even been excellent. The move to introduce resolution schemes and living wills to allow even the biggest banks to fail in a controlled way – more advanced in the UK than elsewhere – will help banish bailouts for ever.The outcome of the last two days' shindig in Brussels does not alter any of that.
But there have also been lots of job-destroying, stupid and unnecessary policies, punitive taxes and a relentless stirring up of anti-City sentiment. The British government has also tolerated or even embraced a tidal wave of EU rules, nearly of them flawed or disastrous. Hedge funds, private equity, insurers and now accountancy firms have all been hammered; new pan-EU regulators have been created. The coalition’s original aim was to shrink the City; then to shrink it as a share of GDP; now, with manufacturing in recession again, it has suddenly realised that it must find growth and jobs wherever they are created. Fine – but it shouldn’t pretend that it has always been the City’s best friend.
The Community Charter of the Fundamental Social Rights of Workers was adopted in 1989 by all Member States except the United Kingdom. The objectives of the Charter have been included in the Treaty of Amsterdam since the integration of the provisions of the Maastricht social protocol in the Treaty. The Lisbon Treaty makes reference to it in title X on social policy (Article 151 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).I seem to recall arguing this for some time with a number of people who "knew better".
Mr Douglas Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what recent assessment he has made of the costs and benefits of proposals to withdraw from the European Social Chapter; and if he will place any such assessment in the Library.Can we now stop talking about it as something we shall repatriate just as soon as that commission starts working on what it is we want to repatriate and how we should go about it?
Mr Davey: None. There is no distinct “European Social Chapter”; the EU's provisions for social and related matters are integrated into the treaties.
Mr Douglas Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what representations he has received since May 2010 calling for the UK to withdraw from the European Social Chapter; and if he will place a copy of any such representations in the Library.
Mr Davey: There is no distinct “European Social Chapter”; the EU's provisions for social and related matters are integrated into the treaties. This Department regularly receives representations from stakeholders on matters concerning aspects of European employment law. It would not be practical to deposit all such representations in the Libraries of the House.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have agreed a list of powers to be repatriated from the European Union, and, if so, when they expect to launch negotiations with the United Kingdom's European partners.Lord Wallace of Saltaire, a committed europhiliac, responded in a suitably vague fashion:
My Lords, the Government are committed under the coalition agreement to examining the balance of competences between Britain and the EU. We have made no commitment to a particular outcome of this review. Work on the review has begun and is in its early stages.Lord Grenfell followed up in a somewhat breathless fashion:
My Lords, I am relieved to read that the Prime Minister has recognised that Friday's negotiations on a fiscal compact are not the occasion to try to repatriate any powers. That is good news, and it should at least save the Prime Minister from having another ASBO slapped on him by the President of France. The Prime Minister says that he wants to be constructive at these negotiations but that he will have some modest demands to make. Does the Minister agree that the chance to participate constructively in the negotiations being held among the 27 does depend on them being among the 27, because that gives him a seat and a voice, whereas if negotiations were confined to the 17 eurozone members he would have neither? If the Prime Minister arrives in Brussels with a list of concessions which he wants granted as a price for his co-operation, there is a serious risk that the 17, tired of Britain's repeated requests for special treatment, will simply close the door on the 10 outsiders and negotiate without them. What influence will he then have on the outcome?Since HMG has not the slightest intention of repatriating powers there really is not the slightest need to rejoice in the fact that they will not be using this occasion to do so. Then again, if this is not a good time to start those famous repatriations and renegotiations, when is?
My Lords, what would the Government's response be if, in the intergovernmental conference about to meet, a member state other than Britain were to introduce a proposal for the repatriation of some portion of the single market?To which the response is:
My Lords, I am happy to say that that is extremely unlikely. We are some way off an intergovernmental conference. The German Government believe that we can have a very short IGC next March and hope that ratification of limited treaty change can then take place by the end of 2012. The position of Her Majesty's Government is that treaty change is not necessary, as we argued when ratifying the Lisbon treaty and again on the EU Bill. The Lisbon treaty has an enormous amount of headroom under which powers can be taken, and we think advantage should be taken of that, rather than getting into the messy, unavoidably uncertain and long process of treaty change.Hmm. That is not quite the way this whole process has been presented to the media.
My Lords, given the requirement for unanimity among 27 nation states before a single comma can be retrieved from the treaties of Rome, is not all talk of repatriation a convenient red herring?Oh pshaw!
No. There is constant negotiation. The working time directive is currently under review, as the noble Lord will be aware. Sixteen member states, including Britain, currently have opt-outs. Twenty-three member states, not including Britain, are currently under contravention for not implementing the working time directive. There is therefore room for reconsideration.That's it then?
MOST countries will not get a vote on tighter fiscal integration, allowing Germany to force through new financial controls across the Eurozone, European Council president Herman Van Rompuy said yesterday in a report sent to EU leaders ahead of tomorrow’s two-day summit.I have already seen comments that this is a denial of democracy. Actually it is not, given that the EU structures are not exactly democratic. This may well be a denial by the EU of its own rules, which would not be the first time. (Here, here and here)
By changing only protocol 12 of the EU treaty, which relates to “excessive deficits,” Van Rompuy believes the proposed changes “do not require ratification at national level”.Well, now, will our valiant Prime Minister go along with that?
This means “rapid and significant changes” can be introduced to stop any repeat of the current debt crisis.
“It is crucial to enhance the credibility of our budgetary rules and to ensure compliance,” said Van Rompuy, which will help “restore market confidence in the Eurozone.”
The report also outlined plans to keep national debts below 60 per cent of GDP, and followed German plans for a “golden rule” on balanced budgets.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord McNally on 15 November (WA 140), whether the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Nick Clegg, is eligible to receive a pension from the European Commission; if so, when that pension will become payable; what will be its annual amount; and whether the terms of that pension constrain his actions.HMG's response was a little odd:
The Deputy Prime Minister is no longer eligible to receive a pension from the European Commission.No longer? What does that mean? Was he at any time and why is he not so any longer?
Parliament will be asked to vote on any new treaty relating to the European Union, Downing Street has said.Goodness me! Not really! I have news for Downing Street and the BBC: all the treaties have gone through Parliament and the legislation was passed as an Amendment to the European Communities Act 1972. That's it? Those are the great Conservative concessions to democracy?
No 10 said any treaty signed by the UK "will need to go through Parliament", although it did not say whether this would require new legislation.
Mr Clarke, the most pro-European Conservative cabinet minister, told the Financial Times he did not expect any repatriation of powers as a result of this week's summit: "No, we're not going to renegotiate any transfers of powers, in my opinion."He is not wrong about those famous renegotiations. Even Cameron is not saying they will happen, merely that he will demand safeguards. And who defines what are adequate safeguards? Why, Mr Cameron, of course. Neat, eh?
He said Britain should focus on "how to maintain the financial stability of the western world", adding it would be a distraction to try to open up discussions about the "wider structures of the union".
My Lords, is it not grotesque that an organisation that has not had its accounts signed off by its own internal auditors for 17 years-there being no external auditor-should be handed these powers, given that if it had been a private company in this country the directors would have been in prison every year for the past 17 years?And yet there are noble peers like Lord Davies of Stamford who can come up with questions such as this:
My Lords, a few years ago was there not a proposal that the Commission be given a duty of auditing the national accounts of member states? That proposal was turned down at the time by the Council. Is it not the case that if it had not been turned down and had been accepted, we would have had an earlier insight into the problems of Greece, the Greeks would have been unable to falsify their accounts, and the grave problems we all now face might have been significantly reduced?Is an organization who has not had its own accounts (or budget as it is grandly named) signed off by the Court of Auditors really a competent judge of what is and what is not adequate auditing?
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their assessment of the proposal by the European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs that the European Commission should have the power to scrutinise member states' budgets and impose such financial penalties as the Commission deems fit.As ever Lord Sassoon waffled in response though appeared to agree with the idea that national budgets should be subject to discipline from the Commission whose own budget ... etc etc.
My Lords, the Government strongly support the recently agreed economic governance legislation to strengthen the stability and growth pact. This provides for stronger and more responsible economic governance across the European Union. Under the new legislation, a range of financial sanctions can be imposed by Council within the euro area where member states are deemed not to have taken adequate action. Sanctions are set out under Article 136, which applies to the euro area only.Lord Willoughby then came back:
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. However, the statement by Commissioner Olli Rehn applies not just to the eurozone but to the whole of the EU, including this country. Therefore, will the Minister confirm that today's Autumn Statement by the Chancellor is nothing more than an aspiration-a wish list? Will he confirm to the House that this will have to be ticked off and agreed by the European Commission before it can take any effect?The response was somewhat mystifying though the noble Minister did admit that Britain is not entirely free from the various eurozone-related rules:
My Lords, this country has always been party to the stability and growth pact, but as I am sure the noble Lord knows, under Protocol 15 the UK has an opt-out, which means that we have to endeavour to avoid excessive deficits but are not subject to any sanctions such as members of the euro area are. Furthermore, the UK secured particular treatment that ensures-has ensured and will ensure-that Parliament will always be allowed to scrutinise the UK's budget ahead of the European Commission.It is, of course, reassuring to know that the House of Commons who had, in days gone by, fought for the right to control the finances of this country, will, for the time being, be allowed to scrutinise the UK's budget ahead of the European Commission. Allowed? By whom? As if I didn't know.
When this legislation enters into force later this year, the EU will have in place a much stronger framework for preventing the economic mistakes that have cast a shadow over the recent past.No mention of the UK's opt-out there or in this statement of November 8.
We will be able to scrutinise the Member States' public finances, in particular the level of debt, much more carefully and pre-emptively than ever before. This will include co-ordinated examination of economic policies and budgets in the first half of each year before their adoption by national parliaments in a process known as the European Semester. And budgets will have to be designed and presented according to a common framework, in line with best international standards, so that budget-making is more transparent both for citizens and policy-makers.
This is first and foremost about safeguarding financial stability in the euro area and in the EU by exerting preventive and effective surveillance, according to the rules we have democratically given ourselves.So who is right? The Minister or the Commissioner?
Let me be very blunt on this: It's either the EU institutions, according to our own rules, procedures and democratic accountability, or the market forces that will do the job. For me, as a committed European and a committed democrat, the choices are clear.