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Lord Renton: I warmly support the amendment. We have to be very careful indeed. The treaty proposes, without defining them well, various steps which are steps in the direction of integration within the European Union. The articles to which the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, has referred are somewhat vaguely worded. Perhaps that it is the intention, but we should be very careful about where they may lead.
One could make a rather long speech analysing the matter. I cannot do so because I do not have a copy of the treaty. I had to borrow one from the noble Lord opposite. I am grateful to him for that. The points that we have to bear in mind in particular are these. First, I refer to co-operation between the police forces of the various territories within the European Union. We already have Interpol, which has done great work for many years and has intensified its work in Europe since we joined the Community. I do not know of any particular reason why the present arrangements, which are helped by modern apparatus of various kinds, need to be intensified constitutionally. If they are to be, we should be told in what way it should be done. But I do not see the need for it.
As for judicial co-operation, we must bear in mind that the Union at the moment consists of 15 different countries with 11 different languages and at least half-a-dozen types of legal system. We know from our own experience within the United Kingdom that if one has different legal systems one must have separate judicial systems. For example, under the Act of Union Scotland kept its own judicial system and still has it; and woe betide us if we in England and Wales try to interfere with the Scottish judicial system. The courts in England and Wales and in Scotland have always been very careful and circumspect about not trying to interfere with each other's methods of reaching judicial conclusions. So when we find that there is to be co-operation between judicial systems we need to bear in mind that there are different systems of law which need different judicial systems, and we must not thrust one upon another. It is clear from the articles which the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, suggests should be left out that there is a danger of that happening.
Perhaps I may go into one piece of detail which is very significant. I took a careful note of it when I had the treaty in front of me. I refer to Article 11, Title VI. There is also something described as an article, but it should be a kind of sub-article; namely, K.6 paragraph 2(b). I shall leave out any irrelevant words. The words that matter are these, "The Council"--that is the Council in Strasbourg, which is an administrative body,
Under the original Treaty of Rome the six members who signed it said that they should assimilate their laws, but before we entered we said that we could not possibly accept assimilation with all the laws of the six countries which have entirely different systems from ours. Theirs was based on Roman law. Perhaps the Scots would have found it a little easier, but we really could not assimilate our laws. So the Treaty of Rome was amended under the treaty by which we joined. Assimilation was replaced by harmonisation.
Now there is a duty to harmonise the laws of 15 different countries, with 11 different languages and half-a-dozen different types of legal systems. The lawyers in the Commission have found that an almost impossible task. In the autumn of 1995 I attended the conference of the European Law Association, which is not confined to lawyers of the European Union, but includes others from other European states as well. The then head of the legal department of the European Commission, Herr Rolf Wegenbauer, who is a very able German lawyer and who, by the way, spoke beautiful English, said that the task had become impossible and that there needed to be fewer and better laws within the European Union.
Is the adoption of decisions for the purpose of approximation of the laws and regulations of the member states going to lead to fewer and better laws or to more laws and more confusing laws? We are getting into a terrible state. I do not understand the situation in our Foreign Office and with those Ministers who have responsibility. I suppose that they are pushed along so far and so fast with all the problems that arise, that somehow or other their minds have not been applied to the practicality of harmonisation. Now we have this further factor of approximation.
We need to be very cautious indeed about this. I hope that the Government will take on board the things that have been said by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, and the comments of other noble Lords who I hope will support him in the debate on this amendment.
Before I conclude, I wish to welcome the information that has been put before us. I have been in the House nearly 20 years, but I do not know what this splendid piece of paper is called. It lists the grouping of amendments. For the first time it shows what the groupings refer to. Under the title, "Justice & home affairs" there are listed all the amendments which the noble Lord is asking to be taken into account in moving Amendment No. 4. The list then sets out, "Police & Judicial Co-operation". But I must point out that when we come to Amendment No. 52 we are warned that we shall be dealing with "Harmonisation of Judicial Procedures". How on earth are we going to do that throughout the European Union?
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: When we come to consider these amendments it is very important to do so in their proper context. I remind the Committee that Article 6 of the Treaty of European Union, as amended in Amsterdam, provides that the Union is founded on the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human
I mention that because it is something to which all the national courts, parliaments and governments are and must be committed. It is something which the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg must take into account in protecting the rights of the citizens of Europe against the misuse of power.
It is made clear that the principle of subsidiarity is to apply and that power is not to be exercised at any greater level than is necessary to secure good government. When one turns to the provisions to which the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, has drawn attention, under Title VI: namely,
I suggest that they are serving a very important practical purpose. Criminality transcends national frontiers. To combat criminal wrongdoing and to deal with matters such as extradition and problems of conflict of jurisdiction between members states, requires trans-national rules and principles. One of the important purposes of Title VI is to provide a workable framework within which the national authorities are able to co-operate on judicial and other levels.
Therefore, it seems to me to be in the national interest of this country, as of the other member states, that there should be common action on police co-operation and judicial co-operation. I have not understood anything in the speech made by the noble Lord to suggest that common action and common co-operation are not necessary.
As regards the European Court of Justice, the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, will remember, I am sure, that he, like me, had the privilege of serving on the IGC Committee under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Tordoff. After sitting for many months taking evidence, we came to the unanimous conclusion, to which the noble Lord was party, that a strong and independent court of justice is an essential part of the structure of the European Union. We went on to say that we agreed with those witnesses who stressed the important role of the court in the consolidation of democratic structures and upholding the rule of law in the European Community. We rebutted the criticisms of judicial activism that had been made of the Luxembourg court, pointing out that we found, on the evidence, those criticisms to be wholly unfounded.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: I am not dealing with the individual reservations of any particular noble Lord, but with the unanimous conclusion that was reached by the committee, having taken evidence that the European Court of Justice had done a good job, had not usurped its powers, had acted within its jurisdiction and was vital to the maintenance of the European rule of law. One cannot have European co-operation--
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