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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

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by the Foreign Office deliberately so that one—let alone the people—is not able to understand it. One cannot see what new bits are added by the Treaty of Nice to what was there before. I commend volume one to the Committee. I have placed a number of free copies in the Library so that anyone who wants to have it can do so. One sees produced in black and white, not Technicolor—that is a step forward—the glorious Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

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,

    "Every person has the right to have his or her affairs handled impartially, fairly and within a reasonable time by the institutions and bodies of the Union".

Pull the other one! It goes on to say in paragraph 2 that,

    "This right includes:

    the right of every person to be heard, before any individual measure which would affect him or her adversely is taken;

    the right of every person to have access to his or her file, while respecting the legitimate interests of confidentiality and of professional and business secrecy"—

and presumably also of the bureaucracy—

    "the obligation of the administration to give reasons for its decisions".

Paragraph 3 states:

    "Every person has the right to have the Community make good any damage caused by its institutions or by its servants in the performance of their duties, in accordance with the general principles common to the laws of the Member States".

Paragraph 4 states:

    "Every person may write to the institutions of the Union in one of the languages of the Treaties and must have an answer in the same language".

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 say—it may not

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be today—whether industrial property rights cover what I call intellectual property rights dealing with industry products? I think in particular of the pharmaceutical industry. I presume that the reference in Article 229a might well be dealing with patents which have gone through various stages in your Lordships' House, let alone in Europe. But does the reference to industrial property rights cover intellectual property rights?

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 Monson: Perhaps I may correct the noble Lord. The actual phrasing is "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness".

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 course—they are enshrined in the American Declaration of Independence, the constitution of the United States, and elsewhere—are 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 override—I ask the Minister to confirm it—the 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.

10.30 p.m.

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 understand that the purpose of the amendment is to establish the significance or otherwise of mentioning the charter in Declaration 23. Many noble

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Lords in the Chamber have far greater legal competence than I, but earlier points raised in discussion on the Bill suggested that there is a difference between the workings of legal processes on the Continent and those of the United Kingdom. Whereas in this country we are accustomed to legal processes which interpret the words of Acts of Parliament, it is traditionally more common on the Continent to interpret the intention behind legislation. I believe that we need to consider what significance may be placed on any words attached to publications from the European Union, in particular what might be used in the courts. That point returns to the final question put by my noble friend Lord Pearson.

I have been struck by the words of the presidency conclusions of the Nice IGC. After welcoming the proclamation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the conclusion goes on to state that:

    "The European Council"—

surely this must have some weight behind it if the European Council has reached a conclusion—

    "would like to see the Charter of Fundamental Rights disseminated as widely as possible amongst the Union's citizens".

It goes on to say that,

    "the question of the Charter's force will be considered later".

It is not clear to me how to interpret the fact that the European Council would like to see the charter disseminated widely, then read and adopted, without it being treated as a charter of some significance; namely, forming a part of the intention behind the law as it stands.

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.

    "mark a definitive change in the Community which will move it away from the essential raison d'etre of its origins to become a full political union."

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

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national Parliament. What on earth has it to do with the European Union what we choose to have as our national Parliament?

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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