Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Well, what about that European Public Prosecutor?

On Monday, June 21, the Prime Minister’s rather boastful and vaguely worded statement about his great achievements during what he erroneously called the European Council (he meant the IGC as my colleague has explained) was repeated in the House of Lords as well.

Despite much of the subsequent discussion being dominated by europhile peers who make a point of rejoicing at whatever is agreed on in EU meetings and whatever is imposed on the parliament and people of Britain, there were one or two telling sallies.

Lord Strathclyde, Leader of the Opposition, correctly talked about the European Council. He challenged the Prime Minister and his representative in the Upper House, Baroness Amos:

"The Prime Minister's Statement says: This treaty makes clear where the EU can and cannot act".

Will the Leader of the House point to the passage in the treaty that says precisely where that is made clear? There is much more. Where is the bonfire of regulation? Where is the halt to the onward march of integration?

The presidency's conclusions signal legislation on financial services, on professional qualifications and social security co-ordination; common action on copyright and patents; initiatives in consumer protection legislation; measures on air quality, maritime law, biodiversity and climate change; urgent work on corporate governance, action on chemicals, directives on services and a strategy on sustainable development. We have even instructed the Commission to draw up plans for a European gender institute—as if the Gender Recognition Bill before our Parliament is not enough. I shall not read on, but that is just the summary of what has been agreed at the weekend.”

Lord Tomlinson, one of the europhile peers, tut-tutted that Lord Strathclyde was going beyond the actual text of the treaty. As we have no final text of the treaty, this is a very easy thing to do. He then went into the usual refrain:

“Does my noble friend further agree that, in order to achieve the fullest possible participation and informed decision-making in a referendum, it is imperative that the Government find an appropriate way to provide factual information to as wide a group of the public as possible so that we can have a proper public debate based on real information about the treaty and its contents rather than the contents that others have imagined?”

His noble friend, Baroness Amos, needless to say, agreed. However, she did not live up to this noble sentiment. When Lord Lamont asked:

"My Lords, can the Leader of the House explain why, prior to last weekend, the Government stated that they were opposed to the concept of the public prosecutor, even if it were to be preceded by a unanimous decision? Such a post was stated to be unacceptable, even with the unanimity qualification. Why have the Government changed their mind?"

Her reply was a little confused:

"My Lords, we saw no reason to create the post. We have ensured that under the treaty a public prosecutor could be created only by unanimity. That means that our consent would be required to create such a post. However, at the moment we see no reason to create such a post."

Why agree to the post if they see no need for it? Experience tells one that whatever finds its way into a treaty and, presumably, the Constitution, will eventually be realized, whether there is an immediate agreement or not. Clearly, the assumption that if the British Government finds something "totally unacceptable", it will ensure that the Constitution will have no references to it, is completely wrong.

To read the full debate click here

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