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Lord Monson: My Lords, perhaps I may suggest that to accept that police co-operation and judicial co-operation should be lumped together and dealt with as one, as the treaty does, is to fall into a trap. Police forces of friendly nations do co-operate and have always done so, both in Europe and elsewhere in the world. Indeed, the police forces of not so friendly countries--that is, countries that may be at loggerheads with one another--normally, and more often than not, also co-operate because it is in their mutual interests to do so. Hence, no new principle is being introduced here, although it is possible to argue, as many of us do, that no additional powers are needed.
However, judicial co-operation is another matter altogether. As a layman, I hesitate to try to follow in the distinguished and experienced steps of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, but, as I understand it, the judiciary of any normal self-governing nation state is, and should be, self-contained and independent, based on that nation's jurisprudence and cultural traditions. This does not apply only to self-governing nation states but also to the separate states and provinces of the United States, Canada and Australia where the judiciary in different states or provinces can approach similar cases in different ways.
The citizens of no continental nation have the benefit of habeas corpus or trial by jury. So far as I am aware, no continental nation has unpaid lay magistrates. Many of these countries require the imposition of minimum sentences for certain offences. We in this country impose minimum periods of disqualification for certain grave motoring offences. I played a small part in getting the minimum period raised from 12 months to two years for causing death by dangerous driving. If the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, is present, he may remember that. However, minimum periods of disqualification are a very different matter from stipulating minimum fines and--this is even more the case--minimum periods of imprisonment.
I am not arguing that our way is the only way of doing things and that it is necessarily better in every instance than the continental way. Intelligent men and women of goodwill speaking in good faith can legitimately hold different views on this. That is all the more reason why we should be permitted to continue doing things in our traditional way, and they should be permitted to act in their not quite so traditional way-- I believe their system has existed for no more than 200 years--if they so choose, without trying to harmonise the incompatible.
Speaking earlier this evening, the noble Lord, Lord Lester, indicated he believed that the principle of subsidiarity would protect our essential judicial independence. One would like to think that this would be so, but so often in the past subsidiarity has turned out to be a paper tiger against those pushing for more and more integration.
I make the initial observation, "You can say that again". It is of course quite clear, on reading through the various activities which are discussed in the treaty itself and which are laid down in precise terms when it suits, that there will be a significant amount of expenditure resulting from the Treaty of Amsterdam. I know full well that in the very next sentence the Government assure us in their explanatory memorandum that this will be within the existing limits laid down at Edinburgh and modified only slightly to deal with very small contingencies that have arisen since.
But one must be singularly unaware of the way in which the Community's budget is dealt with if one fails to realise that as a matter of course the Commission always contrives to arrange money under various headings which it has no intention of using at all, and which at a later stage it can transfer to other parts of the budget upon which it wishes to spend money but which it does not disclose at budget time. This is common practice in the Community. I have no reason to suppose that it has changed since I dealt with the European budget.
It is quite clear--even within this specific section which is dealt with at pages 16 to 21 of the Treaty of Amsterdam--that there is quite a large number of activities to be dealt with. Article K.13 deals with the financial part of it, paragraph 2 of which states,
It is remarkable that in the proceedings so far in Parliament, including those in another place, the budgetary implications of this treaty have not been discussed at all, even at Committee stage. There is a curious reluctance--apparently shared by both the political parties and indeed the third, and possibly also the Independents--to discuss the budget. In fact the 1998 budget went through on the nod in another place. It was passed at about 10.30 at night without much trouble.
If I may say so, it does not lie in the mouth of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, to protest at the vices of Her Majesty's present administration because under the government of the noble Lord the United Kingdom accumulated a deficit of no less than £30 billion in their contributions to the European budget. So far the Government have not endeavoured to achieve a deficit year after year on that basis. Nor has the country been impressed by it, because the budget simply has not been examined. It arrived too late to be dealt with by the Commons Select Committee on budgets. It arrived too late for it to be considered in a Select Committee in this House. That is surely quite remarkable.
I can understand a certain reluctance on the part of a new administration to get involved in assessing budgetary costs relating to an extremely complicated treaty. They must have noticed by now that the Commission is up to its old tricks once again. It is the oldest device in the world of a bureaucracy so to deluge its political masters, or alleged masters, with material that they cannot possibly cope with it. We know perfectly well that large numbers of Ministers never read the Treaty of Maastricht at all. I am bound to say that I do not remotely accuse my own Government of not reading the treaty; I am sure they have read every line of it and understand every line of it. However, they are under pressure. It is not only the Government that have been put under pressure by legislation of this kind. If the Committee re-reads it--I am sure it has read it already--it will find that it is tremendously complicated. Indeed, I suggest that the Select Committee has barely had an opportunity to read it. In another place the Select Committee on European Legislation is itself already under pressure. It was under pressure before this Government ever came into office. I have before me a document dated 19th March which relates to arrears of business in the Select Committee on European Legislation. I have examined it. I find that no fewer than 136 replies are still required by the Select Committee from various government departments. They go back to 1993 and 1994. In addition, the committee has another 40 or so documents before it, some without an explanatory memorandum, which it has to consider.
If the Select Committee in the Commons is that pressed, how can we get anyone to consider the mere financial implications? It simply will not do. It is not as though those who make inquiries do not have their difficulties in getting information not only out of the Commission but also out of the Government. Because of a question about which I have given advance notice to the Government recently, I hope that I shall obtain information from the Government. But such is not the case with the Commission.
A Member of the European Parliament, Mrs. Caroline Jackson, questioned the Commission. Her political persuasion is PPE, but there is general sympathy across the House on these Questions. I make no point about her party political persuasion; it is roughly the same as those of noble Lords opposite. Mrs. Jackson asked:
The MEP was exercising her undoubted right to obtain information from the Commission which would enable her to judge in her own mind the political priorities to be accorded to the expenditure running through the Community Budget. In order to determine the fairness of it, the contributions, net or otherwise, made by member states are of great interest to her. Surely she was entitled to a reply. Indeed, one of the first things that the present Government did was to publish those comparative figures for the year 1995. One has since been able to obtain figures, by methods of calculation which are not entirely unknown to your Lordships, for the 1997 sum.
However, let us listen to what the Commission said to this Member of the European Parliament which, if I correctly interpret the mood of Members of your Lordships' House, is held in high affection by many Members. In its reply, the Commission said:
Is that not charming? Despite that, possibly by an oversight, the Commission eventually published the budget for 1998 in the Official Journal. That has enabled figures to be worked out. I have no doubt that the Government will provide the figures in response to my question.
I have dealt with this issue during debate on this amendment because it has not been dealt with elsewhere. There has been no discussion in Parliament of the 1998 EU budget. There has been no discussion as regards those states in deficit and those in surplus. It is high time that these matters were addressed. They should be addressed in the spirit with which almost everything that happens in politics is pursued, in particular where the Commission is involved--the expenditure of money. A democratic government ordinarily provides, and should provide, for the public scrutiny and accountability of those who spend.
The matter is raised on this amendment because at this stage there is no other point at which it can be raised. I shall therefore spare noble Lords the repetition of the issue on every amendment in the hope that my words about the Community budget, upon which I have ventured to address the House on many occasions, often with its support, still apply; the dominant consideration must be the financial expenditure involved by the British taxpayer who so far has had a very raw deal out of his association with the Community.
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