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Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his detailed answer. I agree that it is important for the organisations to carry out their duties without being impeded and that the commitment was entered into in good faith, but I am sorry that the Minister cannot reassure us on this occasion. I look forward to meeting the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, at a later stage. However, the issue is so important, given that the British presidency is coming up and the possibility that this could be on the agenda, that I wish to test the opinion of the House.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move that Clause 5 do not stand part of the Bill. I imagine that your Lordships will not be surprised that I have chosen to exclude EU bodies from the immunities proposed by the Bill, given my antipathy to the whole project of European union. But there is also a perfectly good reason for singling out the EU and its various bodiesthe other seven organisations covered by the Bill do not have such a substantial and growing influence on our daily life as does the European Union. That is not to say that I agree that the other bodies should have these immunitiesI do not. I am not sure that I understand any longer why even foreign embassies should continue to enjoy them. Be that as it may, what is it that these bodies, their functionaries and their functionaries' families and householdsnot to mention their dogs and mistresses, as we see from col. GC 44 in Grand Committee on 11 January, when the Minister did not deny these extensionshave to do which sets them above our national law?
My amendment would leave new bodies under the EU umbrella out of the Bill. It is worth placing on record in these proceedings on Report a Written Answer that I received on 11 January, but which did not reach me in time for our Committee proceedings that day. I had asked Her Majesty's Government
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which EU institutions already qualified for immunities and tax privileges, what those immunities and tax privileges were and to which EU institutions they proposed to grant similar status under the Bill. The Answer was that the privileges and immunities include,
The Answer also revealed that, thanks to the European Communities Act 1972, which absorbed the 1965 protocol on the privileges and immunities of the European Communities, the immunities are already extended to,
"the European Parliament, the Council, the Commission, the Court of Justice, the Court of Auditors ... the European Central Bank, the European Monetary Institute and the European Investment Bank; and ... to certain representatives of member states and certain officials and servants of the Communities".
"The provisions of the protocol have also been applied to bodies created under the Community and to certain officials and staff engaged in the work of such bodies".[Official Report, 11/1/05, col. WA 33.]
I am not entirely sureand no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, will intervene if I am wrongbut I believe that those last bodies may be those revealed in the letter that he sent on 20 January to my noble friend Lady Rawlings, who also asked for their identity in Committee.
In Committee, the Minister said that there were 19 such bodies, but it seems that one had been counted twice, so we were left with 18. I appreciate that the letter has been placed in your Lordships' Library, but nevertheless I believe that it would be helpful if the 18 bodies were revealed in the Official Report. They are: the Agency for the Management of Operational Co-operation and the External Borders; the EU's Community Plant Variety Office; the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work; the European Aviation Safety Authority; the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training; the European Environment Agency; the European Food Safety Authority; the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions; the European Maritime Safety Authority; the European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products; the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction; our old friend, the European Monitoring Centre for Racism and Xenophobia; the European Network and Information Security Agency; the European Railways Agency; the European Reconstruction Agency; the European Training Foundation; the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (Trade Marks and Designs); and the Translation Centre for the Bodies of the EU.
I hope that gives your Lordships some idea of the scope of existing EU activity in our daily lives and of the number and variety of new bodies that we may expect to receive these privileges and immunities in future under the Bill. One has to ask why any of those bodies need those immunities.
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I repeat a question that I put to the Government in Committee and to which I did not receive an answer. Why should any of those foreign bodies, particularly the EU bodies, be blessed with those immunities, when foreign companies working in the UK do notor, for that matter, which our companies and representatives working abroad do not enjoy? What is it that these bodies do which qualifies them for these privileges which are not available to the people who make the money which pays the tax which pays for all of them?
I suppose that part of the Government's defence for their position on this Bill and for the immunities proposed by the Bill may be that they are part of a system that has been running for yearsthat they are nothing new. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, advanced that philosophy in his answer to the previous amendment. But that defence should not wash. If a system has been running for years, that does not necessarily justify its continuance, especially if it is increasingly out of date and unnecessary. The noble Lord said that the immunities were necessary for the function of these bodies; could we draw that out a bit? Why are they necessary for their function?
Finally, I am aware that the Government may repeat what they said in our earlier proceedings on the Billthat they, the Executive, have already signed up to the Bill under various international treaties, so Parliament, the House of Commons and your Lordships' House, are honour-bound to rubber stamp the agreement reached in international forums. This is not the time for a general debate about our relationship with the European Union, but I trust that your Lordships will agree that this is the assumption that has already handed so much of our sovereignty to Brussels.
Thanks to successive EU treaties, vast swathes of our national life which used to be entirely controlled by Parliament have been handed over to Brussels. Under the treaty establishing the European Communities, for instance, our commerce and industry, social and labour policy, environment, agriculture, fish and foreign aid have become subject to the qualified majority vote in the Council of Ministers. The country faces unlimited fines in the Luxembourg Court if Parliament were to refuse to ratify a law thus passed in those areas.
I know that some noble Lords, led perhaps particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, would like EU integration to proceed apace to its logical conclusion. Indeed, he has been very interesting on the philosophy that underpins his approach to the subject. But I trust that that does not prevent him agreeing with me on the amendment. I trust that it is common ground that no more of the EU's servants should be given the immunities and privileges envisaged in the Bill. I beg to move.
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