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Lord Lester of Herne Hill: Very well, I accept that the noble Lord may have had his reservations, but the point that I am making is not to pin liability on the noble Lord with regard to inconsistency--a great philosopher once said that consistency was simply the mark of narrow mindedness, so I do not criticise the noble Lord in any way for any inconsistency--my point is simply that we sat for months, heard evidence and came to the conclusion that the criticisms levelled at the door of the European Court of Justice were ill founded. That was the report that we gave to the House.
I do not see how one can have transnational co-operation, whether under the third pillar or the first pillar, in police and criminal matters (with judges and members of the police service) without the safeguards needed by the judiciary--both the national judiciary and the European judiciary. What is admirable about the scheme in the treaty is that for the first time it incorporates standards of human rights, gives the power and the duty to the courts (the national courts and the European Court) to safeguard those rights, and ensures the necessary co-operation across frontiers by police services and judges in combating serious crime and in promoting decent principles of expedition and the like. For those reasons, it seems to me, with the greatest of respect, that the real objection (which is the basis of these amendments) is not to a particular form of the treaty but to the European Union itself. That is why I am firmly opposed to this amendment and to anything like it.
Lord Monson: Before the noble Lord sits down, does he not agree that one problem is that not everybody agrees about what constitutes fundamental freedoms, which is essentially a vague concept? Indeed, not everybody would agree on a precise definition of "democracy". There are those on the continent and, indeed, in this country, as the noble Lord well knows, who do not believe that the first-past-the-post system is democratic. Might we not find proportional representation of some sort foisted on us by the European Court as a result of this treaty?
Perhaps I may answer the noble Lord in this way: we are called citizens of Europe as well as citizens of this country. We are all entitled to equal protection of the basic rights guaranteed by, for example, the human rights convention whether we are in this country or any other member state. The bodies that must guarantee those rights are all three branches of government in this country and those across Europe.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My name has been put to several amendments in this large group, so I rise to support them. If passed, their general effect would be to spare this country from Title VI or the new Articles 29 to 42 of the treaty, which are largely new provisions governing police and judicial co-operation on criminal matters, as so excellently exposed by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon.
It is hard to read these clauses and not appreciate how far and how fast the European Union is moving to full judicial and political integration. These articles seem light years away from the referendum campaign of 1975, when we were assured that we were voting on whether or not we wanted to stay in the Common Market and that no conceivable loss of our national sovereignty was at stake. It is not hard to imagine the effect on the British people if these articles had been put in front of them at that time with the warning that they were just around the corner.
The same effect on the British people would have been achieved if the Maastricht Treaty had been put in front of them, but, alas, we are no longer debating that treaty now. The European "salami slicer" (to use the famous description coined by my noble friend Lord Tebbit) has moved on--and what juicy slices of our national sovereignty continue to fall from its relentless blade with this Treaty of Amsterdam! Of course, as usual, the Euro-language in which it is couched remains opaque to the point of obfuscation, but we only have to look back to see where we thought we were at the various stages of our weary European journey to know now that the signposts painted and erected by our politicians--of both main parties--were always misleading. We should now know that all roads, in the end, lead to the ever-closer union of the peoples of Europe, as clearly set out in Article 1 of the treaty, whatever contrary gloss our politicians of the day may contrive to put on the clauses concerned. So it is with these articles and so, no doubt, it will be with the present Government's answers this evening.
If the Minister does not agree with me, can he show me how these articles and the rest of the amendments agreed at Amsterdam do not contribute to that ever-closer union of the peoples of Europe? Indeed, can he give me any example where amendments to the Treaty of Rome do not take us towards political union? When do they ever go in the opposite direction? If the Minister is good enough to attempt to reply to this question this evening, I hope that he will not say, as the noble Lord, Lord Lester, implied, that subsidiarity has done anything to preserve our national independence because clearly it has not, as we shall see when we come to its place on the Marshalled List. The trouble with subsidiarity always was, and still is, that it refers to areas which do not fall within the exclusive competence of the Community, and it is the Community which takes the decision as to which those areas are.
It is against that depressing background that I enter the detail of some of these clauses and put a few questions to the Minister. First, let us look at the first paragraph of Article 29, where we see that the Union's objective--always remembering, alas, that we form part of that Union--is now, among other things, to prevent and combat racism and xenophobia. I gather that the earlier drafts of the clause placed racism and xenophobia in the criminal category, to be dealt with by the proposed vastly expanded Euro-police force. But in the end those sins got let off criminality and are now merely to be prevented and combated. So, may I ask the Minister exactly how we are to combat xenophobia, and what the penalties will be for its perpetration?
I think I understand the crime of racism, which I am sufficiently mundane to see quite simply as a breach of our own race relations legislation--and quite right too. But xenophobia may be more interesting. Can the Minister tell me exactly what xenophobia is? As the European superstate continues to gather substance and, in effect, pretends to its own bogus nationality, my worry is that it will come to regard those of us who wish instead to see a Europe of democratic nations freely trading together as xenophobic.
If I dare to look forward to the day when we have a Europe of nations without a European Parliament, Commission, Council of Ministers or European Court of Justice--if, in short, I see the Treaty of Rome as a colossal mistake for the peoples of Europe, whom I love--does that make me, or might it make me, a xenophobe? If so, what penalty may be in store for me? I urge noble Lords not to dismiss my dream as entirely fanciful.
The ill-fated project of European economic and monetary union, when it collapses, may well have an unravelling effect on the Treaty of Rome. The European Union's unattainable ambitions towards enlargement, when they fall into disarray, as they surely will, may compound this effect. In those circumstances, a very large number of the people of Europe may then stand back and take an objective look at the bloated and misguided bureaucracies in Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxembourg. They may ask themselves: what on earth is the point of them all? If I and others reply that there is not any point at all and that the concept of the Treaty of Rome became redundant when the Berlin Wall came
My second question is perhaps easier. In Article 29 the European Union bravely sets out to combat fraud, which appears to be making off with about 10 per cent. of its budget each year. I ask the Minister what importance is at present attached in Brussels to the several excellent reports on fraud in the Community by your Lordships' Select Committee. Is there any sign of acceptance of your Lordships' concept of truly independent auditing and reporting of public expenditure on the British model, perhaps with auditors supplied by the donor countries? I put it to the Minister that the British presidency should give us a good opportunity to push these suggestions to a fruitful conclusions; or will the Minister tell us that there is still not the will in Brussels to cut this huge cancer out of the decaying European body politic?
Incidentally, I have to remind the Minister that your Lordships' Select Committee did not attach much priority to a souped-up Euro police force in the fight against fraud, but I fear that it will have become part of the justification for what is now proposed. Furthermore, it is hard to see why all the plans put forward by these clauses could not be achieved by intergovernmental co-operation instead of by expansion of the Treaty of Rome. Here I take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill.
Thirdly, can the Minister explain what Section 4 of Article 34 means? The Minister will remember one of the questions put to him by my noble friend Lord Renton, with which I associate myself. I ask the question because Section 2 of that article seems to imply that, acting unanimously, the Council may--the word "may" may be significant--do certain important things such as adopt binding framework decisions for the purpose of approximation of the laws and regulations of the member states, as my noble friend Lord Renton pointed out. But Section 4 says that for procedural questions the Council shall act by a majority of its members; in other words, no longer by unanimity. I would have thought that most of the objects of Article 34 could be described as procedural questions. It would be good to hear the Minister confirm that unanimity and therefore our veto really do apply to all the plans emerging in Article 34.
Finally, can the Minister say anything about the Corpus Juris which I understand is the Commission's detailed but as yet unpublished plan for a single inquisitional system of criminal justice throughout Europe? Apparently, this plan was revealed to a selected audience in San Sebastian in Spain in April 1997, with its first phase covering only crimes against the EU budget. But the President of the European Parliament has said since that the intention subsequently is to extend it to all areas of criminal activity. If that were to happen it would sweep away our system of common law, habeas corpus and trial by jury. Can the Minister bring us up to date with this plan? Can he also assure
I fear that the Minister will in good faith give us just those assurances. But, seeing the way the salami-slicer has gone on slicing over the years and seeing it run smoothly through these articles, I trust the Minister will understand if some of us are unable to believe him and wish to support these amendments.
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