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As noble Lords have pointed out, in particular the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, we have now given national parliaments for the first time direct powers enforcing the principles of subsidiarity. We accept too that what will be important about that is how we make sure that they actually work. I referred earlier to my conversations with Catherine Day at the Commission the week before last. I know that she was very concerned to think about the broader dialogue that the Commission can have with national parliaments beyond the treaty; in other words to be able to engage quickly and to engage parliaments at the Green Paper stage of Commission thinking, which is something that they are obviously clearly interested in and involved with, and something that I very much encouraged them to do. As well as the formal mechanisms described of orange and yellow cards, having a dialogue that informs the Commissions policy-making process would be just as important, because those informal dialogues, in the sense that they are not formally in the treaty but are formal in terms of making sure that they take place, would be very important in so doing.
We have talked about the eight-week timetable, which is an improvement on what has been proposed before. During that time, nothing can be placed on the provisional Council agenda, so nothing can be prepared while that process is going on, which is an area that noble Lords will be concerned with. I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, said about COREPER. When I was in Brussels 10 days ago, our permanent representative was hotfoot from several extremely long COREPER meetings, and that is certainly what I recall from being involved with the justice council.
It is worth bearing in mind, for those who are not familiar with the process, that if you are a Minister attending from 27 states, you fly in for the meetings. Noble Lords opposite will remember well that you are well briefed, but you have not had time to have the detailed discussion. The work that goes on in COREPER is completely invaluable. What will happen post the ratification of the treaty is that all proposals for legislation will go through COREPER. Noble Lords know the work that it does in preparing for the Council, together with the European Parliament, which is the legislator, as the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, mentioned. Article 240 of the TFEU sets out with minor changes what
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Again, we find ourselves very quickly into the role of the European Court of Justice. My noble friend Lord Radice said it very well when he said that the role of the European Court of Justice is to interpret the treaties. By definition, its role is described and prescribed by that; by the treaties that the member states agree. It is a creation of the treaties; it is not superior to the treaties. Its job is to interpret the legislation that is decided by the Council or, where co-decision applies, by the European Parliament as well.
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: Can the Minister deal with one point made by the noble Lord, which is about the role of the European Court particularly in respect of the working-time directive? It was brought forward as a health and safety measure, and the Government of the day appealed on the grounds that it was not a health and safety measure. I remember being told at the time that because the European Court had a duty to promote the acquis, that meant that there would be a move towards integration and towards furthering those powers and that therefore our chances of success were limited. Would she like to comment on that?
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: I cannot comment on the specifics of the working-time directive, because I do not have the details at my fingertips. The point about the promotion of the acquis, as I interpret itwhich is the body of lawis that if you accept that the role of the European Court of Justice is to interpret what has been determined in the treaties, which the member states operating together agree, the European Court of Justice will play a role in interpreting the acquis.
The noble Lord used the word promote. It is an interesting wordlike subsidiarity, it has many meanings, depending on how one looks at it. But I am quite clear that the role of the European Court of Justice is to interpret and examine cases that are brought before it. As we can discuss at greater length when we debate the European Court of Justice, we have been successful in arguing our point when we bring cases before it. We bring those cases before the court so that it can look at the legislation and the interpretation thereof. In addition, we have four judges involved with the European Court of Justiceno member state has more.
I hope that I have answered sufficiently for one nightit is after 10pm, and I promised noble Lords that we would try not to run late. We have had a good first day but a slow one. The noble Lord, Lord
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Lord Pearson of Rannoch: I think it is normal for the mover of an amendment to reply at the end of the Ministers response, as quickly as possible. The noble Lord, Lord Williamson, and other Members of the Committee have extolled the value of subsidiarity but not one has answered my question about any single piece of European legislation being withdrawn as a result of subsidiarity. Those of us who have put our name to the amendment maintain our position that the thing is useless and should be taken out of the treaties.
We were not impressedand neither, I was glad to see, was the noble Lord, Lord, Huntby the system of yellow and orange cards. We agree with the German constitutional court that all those footballing metaphors are ineffective and impractical.
I will ask and answer my next question, because we are in a hurry. Is there any possibility under subsidiarity and under the new protocol of the acquis communautaire being reversed by the Luxembourg Court of Justice? The answer is no. Nothing will be reversedthe ratchet will continue to grind towards the ever-closer union of the peoples of Europe, required by the treaties. We will continue to be cursed with legislation from Brussels about which the House of Commons and your Lordships' House can do nothing. I refer to the ladders directive, which means that you can no longer climb a ladder unless someone is holding the bottomvery good for our building trade. The food supplements directive, which is going through now, will control the amount of vitamins we can eat. Then there are the directives on the height of rocking horses in the nursery and on light bulbsvery important. These directives all come from Brusselssubsidiarity is nothing. Generally speaking, the nooks and crannies of our national private life, which we were assured at Maastricht would no longer continue to be invaded, will go on being invaded by the vibration directive and the 50-page directive on the manufacture of condoms. There is no hope for subsidiarity and no hope for this project. With those thoughts, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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