Thursday, 29 November 2007

The European Scrutiny Committee again

I have blogged before about the findings of the European Scrutiny Committee, most importantly here and here.

This committee released a follow up report on 27 November, it is Crown Copyright and you can read the whole report here but here are a couple of emphasis...

"With two weeks to go before the signing of the European Reform Treaty, the European Scrutiny Committee is publishing a second, follow-up report on the European Union Intergovernmental Conference. This new report concentrates on the Intergovernmental Conference process, the imposition by the Reform Treaty of legal obligations on national parliaments and the durability of the Government’s ‘red-lines’.
In this new report, which follows the Committee's Evidence Session with the Foreign Secretary and the October informal meeting of the European Council, the Committee repeats its earlier criticism that the Intergovernmental Conference process could not have been better designed to marginalise the role of national parliaments and to curtail public debate. The Committee remains concerned that the Reform Treaty may have imposed legal obligations directly on national parliaments in respect of their proceedings, and doubts that the Protocol on the Charter of Fundamental Rights will prevent the courts of the UK from being bound by judgments of the European Court interpreting and applying the Charter.

"Chairman of the Committee, Michael Connarty says, "Although the Government has secured the right to ‘opt-in’ in respect of justice and home affairs (JHA) matters it is clear that if the government opt in on any measure ultimate jurisdiction will transfer from the UK courts. There are also new and unquantifiable risks which may be incurred by future decisions by the UK not to opt in. These matters should be debated on the Floor of the House before the Treaty is signed.""

"The Committee notes from the Government’s evidence that the Charter will be legally binding and that the UK’s Protocol is not an opt-out. The Committee further notes that nothing in the UK Protocol will excuse the UK from the obligation to comply with interpretations handed down by the European Court, even where these are based on the Charter. The Committee considers that the only way of ensuring that the Charter does not affect UK law in any way is to provide that the Protocol takes effect notwithstanding the Treaties or Union law generally. Such provision has been made in the past in relation to concerns by Ireland over the law on abortion and by Denmark over land ownership (see Protocol No 17 to the EU Treaty and Protocol No 16 to the EC Treaty respectively) but this has not been done on this occasion. The Committee concludes that the Protocol does not provide a guarantee that the Charter can have no effect on UK law."

"The Committee draws attention to the consequences of transferring JHA matters to Title IV under the new Treaty. This will give the Commission power to bring infraction proceedings against Member States in respect of criminal justice measures and provide for the compulsory jurisdiction of the European Court, with the result that the Member States will lose the ability finally to determine their own law in areas covered by Union measures."

"The Committee notes that the Government’s ‘red-line’ was one to protect ‘the UK’s common law system and our police and judicial processes’. It is concerned that protection will be lost each time jurisdiction is conferred on the Commission and the European Court and calls for the arguments for and against opting into any particular JHA measure to be closely scrutinised by Parliament before any decision is made."

"The Committee’s Chairman, Michael Connarty MP, said: “Despite expressing our deep concerns that the government argue boldly for a form of words that would put the sovereignty of the UK Parliament beyond doubt, there is still ambiguity in the draft Treaty on whether a legal obligation is being imposed on Parliament in respect of its proceedings. This is not an area in which any ambiguity is tolerable, and we look to the Government to deliver on its undertaking. We also retain serious doubts about the effectiveness of the Protocol on the Charter, and conclude that despite the government strengthening control of the ‘opt - in’ arrangements, there will be a steady transfer of jurisdiction to the Commission and the European Court of Justice in the areas of Civil and Criminal Justice ”"

Do read the whole report at the above address, you will have to because I have seen and heard no coverage in the UK media and especially not on the pro-EU BBC.

No comments: