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Lord Stoddart of Swindon: I should like to help the noble Lord and the Minister. If it becomes part of the treaty it will become justiciable in the European Court of Justice, in which case it automatically overrides British law under Sections 2 and 3 of the European Communities Act 1972.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, is an authority on these matters, but, if that is the case, I should prefer to hear it from the Minister because that will carry more authority in this Chamber.
Next, which are the precise provisions of the charter that are superior to British law as it stands? If enacted, what rights does the charter give us which we do not already have? Do we really need lectures and charters on so-called human rights from bureaucrats in Brussels and the other nations of the European Union? Is this not an area in which we lead the world?
I hope that I can give the Minister some hope by quoting an article from the proposed charter which is to be found in volume one of the brilliant analysis of the Treaty of Nice by the British Management Data Foundation. The Committee will be aware that the foundation has produced analyses of the Treaties of Nice, Amsterdam and Maastricht which are the only versions that one can understand. One cannot understand the blue document that has been produced
If true, Article 41 is a colossal step forward for humanity in these days when our democracy is clearly being strangled by bureaucracy. It gives us the right to good administration. Does the noble Baroness believe that that will happen? Article 41 provides in paragraph 1 that,
Bearing in mind the present situation in which the democracy of the United Kingdom has become entirely strangled by bureaucracy and bogged down in all manner of bureaucratic obfuscation, does the Minister believe that there is any hope in that clause? If it comes to pass it would be a glorious advance.
My final question to the Minister is perhaps the most important. Once you have a declaration of this kind attached to the treaty, whether it is on page 78 or referred to elsewhere, is not the Luxembourg Court of Justice already taking into account in its judgments the content of this charter? The Luxembourg Court has already said that it is doing so. Therefore de facto the wretched thing is already with us. Is that so or is that a gross exaggeration which the Minister would like to put to rest?
Lord Lyell: I have paid close attention to the marvellous arguments of my two noble friends. Will the Minister point me in the right direction? Paragraph 2 of Article 17 refers to industrial property rights. A quarter of a century ago, I and others were dealing with the renewal of the law of patents in your Lordships' House. Can the Minister sayit may not
Lord Grenfell: The noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, spoke of rights enshrined in the charter that he would dismiss on the grounds that perhaps they would not be fulfilled. Do the following words ring a bell: the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of justice? On those grounds, would he be ready to tear up the constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights?
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: I think that it is in order for me to answer the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell. It is difficult to do so quickly within the parameters of a debate such as this. However, I go further than the noble Lord. I query whether there are any such things as human rights when you come to think of it. What there are, of coursethey are enshrined in the American Declaration of Independence, the constitution of the United States, and elsewhereare human privileges which have been acquired with great effort and great sacrifice over many years. When they are enshrined with that sacrifice and endurance in such things as the Declaration of Independence and the constitution of the United States, they have a real value. When they are simply proclaimed in this airy manner by such a body as the bureaucracy in Brussels and the European Union I fear that they will have no value. They will add nothing to the privileges which we in this country are fortunate to enjoy. I fear that they will overrideI ask the Minister to confirm itthe unwritten constitution of the United Kingdom with the great privileges which we have built up with great sacrifice over many years. I fear that they are a lot of hot air and very damaging.
Lord Blackwell: I should like to add one or two points to the debate and to express my support for the intention behind the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Howell. The issue under debate here is not so much the content of the Charter of Fundamental Rights or the nature of the charter. However as exchanges in the debate have made clear, if we were to discuss it, more issues would be raised than we could do justice to at this point in our deliberations on the Bill.
I note that the European Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs, Antonio Vitorino, also said recently that the drawing up of the charter is an extremely important issue for the European Union because if it was brought forward successfully, it would.
Once again, statements made surrounding the declaration by those who must be regarded as having some authority in the dealings of the European Union suggest that, notwithstanding the fact that this intention is tucked away in a declaration, it is intended that it should be disseminated and noted by the people of the European Union. Given that, I endorse strongly the final question put by my noble friend Lord Pearson and would ask the Government what significance, if any, they believe should be attached to this.
Finally, I should like to return to a point covered by the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Howell. Under Declaration 23(5), it has been noted that the future conference should give consideration to the role of national parliaments in the European architecture. I may be alone on this, but I find it rather strange and worrying that we should be suggesting that a European Council of Ministers should be deliberating, and out of those deliberations presumably intending to produce, some laws or regulations which, from outside the United Kingdom, attempt to define, prescribe or redefine the role of our
I had a nai ve idea that Ministers from the United Kingdom went to these meetings as servants of the Crown and of the national Parliament. I find it very strange to see that in this declaration we are suggesting, and giving precedence perhaps to the notion, that our national Parliaments were in some way subservient to the European Union and the European Council and that they had some prerogative to decide and define what role they were going to set out for our national Parliaments.
I support the amendment of my noble friend Lord Howell on those grounds as well, leaving aside the issue that we have discussed, namely, the Charter of Fundamental Rights. I should like some assurance from the Minister that she sees things in a different light.
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