|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Baroness Jay of Paddington : My Lords, I am tempted to say to my noble friend that, if he feels that he has been living under a system of European security and justice, he has not perhaps suffered from some of the problems of being an immigrant or an asylum seeker in some of those jurisdictions. In order to be brief, I can say in answer to all of his questions, no, there is no agreement under Tampere for there to be a common European asylum and immigration policy. There are pragmatic attempts, as was mentioned in the Statement, to try to make it possible for people seeking asylum to be treated equally in all of the different countries. No, there is no recommendation under Europol and Eurojust procedures for there to be a European public prosecutor. And, no--as I indicated in my answer to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, about the misreading of the understandings which were put forward in the brief summary document by the so-called three wise men" and which has no executive influence over the IGC or anything else-- there is no move towards a federal system of justice.
Lord Waddington: My Lords, perhaps I may ask the noble Baroness to get a little nearer the kernel of the matter. Signor Prodi and numerous European statesmen have said that their goal is a single European state and at every conference we see movement, little by little, closer to that goal. Now it is clear that the train is travelling faster in the direction of a single European state. If the Government really do not want to be on the train when it reaches its destination, at what stage do they plan to get off? That is the real question. Surely we are entitled to know the Government's sticking point.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I realise that it is possible for noble Lords to read into the most practical and pragmatic suggestions for basic arrangements, which I should have thought most noble Lords would support, some conspiracy towards federalism. However, as I tried to indicate in my earlier replies to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, there is little in the presidency's conclusions for Tampere that even the most conspiratorial eye could fall on and say that it fell into that category. As I said in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, there is even in this document, which is causing such excitement, the informal recommendations of the three wise men". There is absolutely no indication, for example, of the three matters which I should have thought would have been central to the establishment of some kind of federal arrangement which would equate to a state. There is no suggestion of any harmonisation of taxes;
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire, as chairman of Sub-Committee F of the European Communities Committee, has asked me to apologise for the fact that he cannot be here. He has asked me to indicate that the Select Committee, on which I too serve, will be looking at these proposals as part of its continuing work. Perhaps I may speak on behalf of the committee as a whole, whose membership included noble Lords of all political parties and of none. If noble Lords read our report which was debated last week they will see that we would strongly support the conclusions that were reached at Tampere on a practical and pragmatic basis and not on ideology or anything of that kind.
As a practising lawyer, one has to make a great reservation about the need for effective safeguards against the misuse of power, whether in this country or elsewhere in Europe. I should be grateful if the Leader of the House could indicate, without pinning down herself or her colleagues, whether that central weakness--the lack of effective safeguards--will be addressed. Can she give an assurance that political offences will not, for obvious reasons, be part of fast track and that, as far as concerns other matters, national courts will still be able to ensure the safeguard of a fair trial in other jurisdictions? Will the Government support some pan-European safeguards, whether in the charter of rights or in one of the two European courts, where national courts fail to provide those safeguards? Something of that kind would reassure concerned public opinion that one is not granting further powers without adequate checks and balances.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his welcome for the proposals and his remarks on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire. The broad answer to his question is: yes indeed, the question of safeguards must always be developed alongside that of additional arrangements which may extend rights. That is fairly clear in matters of jurisprudence as well as in every other legal and political sense.
On the question of the fast track towards extradition, the noble Lord will understand that an agreement was reached in principle. The details of any arrangements for such a procedure need to be taken forward slowly and practically, and with a firm undertaking to explore safeguards and mutual recognition of those safeguards. That has been the linchpin of the UK's proposals.
As for the institutional implications of enlargement to which my noble friend refers, is she aware that such a lengthy document needs careful examination? The Presidency Conclusions occupy 19 pages. The institutional implications of enlargement set out by this rather queerly appointed triumvirate occupy a further 15. I submit to the Government and to the House that, before Parliament as a whole can form any conclusions as to what occurred, and as to the merits of the arguments put forward on our behalf, it will be necessary to debate the matter fully with all the documents in front of us.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. I am afraid that I am unable to help him as to the exact formal status of the document and the accuracy of its translation, largely because it would be difficult for me to be absolutely honest in committing myself in saying that I know this to be an exact representation in English of the Finnish original. If a further matter arises which I need to pursue with him, I shall write to my noble friend.
I was slightly concerned, my noble friend already having read the document, that his practical point about its accuracy and status related to some conclusion which, with his usual assiduousness, he had found in one version but not another. Regarding the status of the document and its translation, I can only help my noble friend in the way that I have. If there is anything further that I need to say to him, I shall of course do so.
I recognise my noble friend's wish to debate these issues at greater length and in a wider context. As I said in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, the House is always interested to debate these matters and I am sure the usual channels will discuss that in the context of the general arrangement of the programme.
On the question of the report which my noble friend accords equal status with the conclusions of the ministerial council, I re-emphasise what I said to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. It is a useful and informal report, but it is a report by independent individuals to the Commission. We do not yet know the Commission's response. In the context of the IGC, it will be the governments of the European Union who will decide the outcome, not the Commission. They have already agreed, at the Cologne Summit, that the IGC will be short and that it will be focused on the practical arrangements for enlargement.
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, will the noble Baroness tell the House how it is expected to give practical effect to the conclusions reached in Finland? Will they be embodied in new legislation? If so, am I right in assuming that the detail of that legislation will tell us whether the suspicions entertained by a number of noble Lords regarding the Government's intentions are right? If they are to be embodied in legislation, when will that legislation be brought forward? If they are not, to what extent, and by what authority, will those conclusions be brought into effect?
Perhaps I may briefly ask about Pakistan. In view of the nature and failings of the Nawaz Sharif regime, would it not have been wiser to attempt to engage constructively with the new military regime in Pakistan to see whether it might be possible to agree internationally with that regime a timetable for a return to parliamentary government rather than to assume the worst at once--particularly in view, at the very least, of the muted response of the Pakistani people to the events of last week?
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page