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Lord Stoddart of Swindon: Of course I must support the noble Lord's amendment. I thought he raised some very real fears. He referred to the BBC, which thinks that anybody who is a little concerned about the European Union and the direction it is taking must be completely and utterly mad. That accusation has been levelled at many of us for a very long time.
Many of us said, after 1985, at the time of the Single European Act, that we were on the way not to a federal Europe but to a unitary European state. Indeed, one needs only a cursory glance at what is being prepared and suggested by the European convention to see that it brings about that European unitary state. Our Government may resist many of the worst aspects, but if the past is anything to go by, they will talk a lot about it and say that they do not agree with this and that; but of course they will agree with this and that.
In support of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, I refer to Lord Denning, who made it clear in the House of Lords on 31st July 1986 that Acts of Parliament and decisions of our courts have been set aside and rendered invalid by decisions of the European Court, which is superior in all matters of EEC law not only to British courts, including the House of Lords, but also to Parliament where their Acts past, present or future have been, can be and will be declared illegal by an overweening court sitting in a foreign capital.
As we proceed with the completion of the internal market, the powers and decisions of this supranational court will impinge more and more on every aspect of our national lifesocial, legal, political, business, labour, economic and, indeed, on our relations with countries in the rest of the world outside the EEC. Business and individuals will find themselves unwittingly breaking laws of which they have no knowledge and which have been made, not by their own Parliament in public, but by the institutions of the EEC meeting in private, probably after wheeling and dealing in secret.
It seems to me that that great authority on constitutional and other law foresaw in 1986 exactly what would happen. The noble Lord, Lord Pearson, has every right to draw our attention to what could happen. I think that he will probably withdraw his amendment, but at least his concerns have been aired and it will be interesting to see exactly how the Minister replies.
Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: I would like to ask the Minister a straight question on the amendment. I do not share some of the views expressed by noble Lords who have spoken to it so far, although I tend to be a bit of a scepticabout everything, if possiblebecause I find it a useful way in. I resist, for example, taking things by way of revelation or faith, and I object to those who answer points, some of which have some substance, merely by making a joke. There is a certain arrogance which has overcome those who see Europe in a particular lightthey think there is some conspiracy of mirth and that they can answer all points at once. I do not find that attitude in the best traditions of English or, more particularly, Scottishto reveal
Is there any good reason why the European Union or an institution of the European Union could possibly be designated for the purposes of Part 1 in the world in which we live? If there is not, why does not the Minister say he will consider this amendment favourably?
Lord Filkin: I will certainly not make a joke about the powerful and strongly felt arguments advanced by the noble Lords, Lord Pearson and Lord Stoddart, on these issues. They are in part a debate about where the future of Europe negotiations are, where they are moving to and what might happen during the next year or so, by the time they come to a conclusion.
I understand why those concerns are raised. In a sense, they form a backdrop to issues of interest and concern, but this is a highly mobile and moving debate. There is a substantial amount of confusion and sometimes misinformation about what is or is not happening. Therefore, I do not intend to get into a detailed debate about what is happening on the future of Europe, although I have already given the signal that I am happy to talk about some of the matters with which I am involved, if that would be helpful. I have a very small part to play in some of the discussions on justice and home affairs. I will read what the noble Lords, Lord Stoddart and Lord Pearson, have said on this, and reflect on it to see whether anything needs a fuller response at a later stage.
Given where we are, the most helpful and straightforward response that I can make is relatively succinct. We are absolutely clear that we intend to designate individual countries and not the EU as a single entity. I will reflect on the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn of Charlton, but I cannot think of any good reason why anyone would think of designating the EU or an EU institution for the purposes of the process that we are discussing. I must reaffirm that the affirmative resolution of Parliament is sovereign in these respects. That is the decision of Parliament.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken, and I am glad to have been taken so seriously on this occasion. For many years, when the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, and Iand othershave risen to speak in the House on matters European, we were greeted with a groan. More recently, we have been greeted with a certain amount of jollity. On this occasion, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, for restricting his contribution to a wry smile.
I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Anelay of St Johns and others who supported the amendment. To the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn of Charlton, and answered, to some extent, by the Minister, I answer that I accept, of course, that, under the wording of the British Bill which we are considering, it might not be possible to designate the EU or an institution of the EU because they do not constitute territories. My worry, which I trust that the noble Lord will considerwe may discuss it more briefly at a future dateis whether the EU could designate itself and put itself into the position that I have indicated, if it is given the powers that the draft constitution envisages for it. However, as the noble Lord indicated, that is all to be decided at a future intergovernmental conference, and the eventual discussions which we will have in the House on the Bill which emerges from that.
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