HL Deb 19 October 1999 vol 605 cc946-60

3.42 p.m.

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington)

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I wish to repeat a Statement which is being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. The Statement is as follows:

"Together with my right honourable friends the Foreign Secretary and the Home Secretary, I attended a special meeting of the European Council from 14th to 16th October, in Tampere, Finland. The main purpose of the meeting was to agree the priorities for action by the European Union and member states in the field of justice and home affairs.

"We agreed action in three areas. First, oil asylum and immigration, we agreed a common approach to the way in which member states deal with applications for asylum, to remove the incentive for asylum seekers to shop around, and to ensure that asylum seekers are dealt with in the first EU member state they enter.

"We agreed effective action against illegal immigration, especially against trafficking in people; a commitment by all EU member states, to treat third country nationals who are legally resident in their countries fairly and without discrimination. All EU countries are now committed to providing equal access to education, healthcare and other benefits, as we do already for long-term residents in the UK.

"We agreed action in relation to the six countries of concern studied by the High Level Working Group, set up late last year—Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Morocco, Albania and Iraq—using a broad approach involving all available EU policy instruments to tackle poverty and other root causes of migration.

"Secondly, on judicial co-operation, we agreed that there were important areas where court decisions in one jurisdiction should be recognised elsewhere in the EU. This is needed to provide legal redress for individuals and companies when their problems, in business or leisure, originate in another member state; and to co-operate better in bringing criminals to justice.

"The British proposal that the cornerstone of policy in this area should be mutual recognition of court decisions, rather than the harmonisation of laws, was adopted unanimously. The European Council agreed that there must be drastic simplification of the present slow and laborious arrangements for giving effect in one member state to the decisions of a court in another member state.

"The European Council also decided that practical steps should be taken—for example agreeing on common procedures for making small claims across internal EU borders together with better information available to the public—in order to improve the access of all member states' citizens to justice throughout the European Union.

"Thirdly, on combating cross-border crime, the European Council decided on a series of measures. At the United Kingdom's suggestion, there is to be a new Task Force of European Police Chiefs working alongside Europol, to plan and organise joint police operations across Europe. There was also agreement on our proposal to set up a European Police College.

"A new body will be established, consisting of national prosecutors, magistrates and police officers, to assist and support investigation of organised crime and the prosecution of those involved.

"The principle of mutual recognition should apply to judicial decisions in criminal cases, particularly those required to secure evidence and seize assets.

"Action will be taken in due course to replace extradition with a simplified system for convicted criminals. We will also develop a fast track extradition process for those accused of serious crime.

"In addition, we agreed on a new focus among member states on youth crime, crime prevention and the protection of the victims of crime. A comprehensive list of the action agreed by the European Council is to be found in the Council's Conclusions, a copy of which has been placed in the Library of the House.

"In addition to its main business, the Council discussed the situation in Pakistan, following the military takeover there. It also had a preliminary discussion of the prospects for EU enlargement, an issue which will be a major topic for the Helsinki European Council in December. It was unanimously agreed that our commitment to enlargement must proceed.

"In the margins of the European Council I made clear to the Prime Minister of France and the President of the European Commission that France's failure to permit the sale of British beef was unacceptable, and that the French Government had to implement the EU decision.

"The EU Scientific Committee is due to complete its review of the French Advisory Committee's report before the end of this month. If there is no new scientific evidence, the President of the Commission has agreed with me that he will insist that France implements the earlier ruling, and will take legal action if the French Government fail to do so.

"We will pursue every available avenue to ensure that British farmers can exercise their right under European law to sell beef throughout the EU, and of course it is only because of European law that we are able to do this with the backing of the law.

"At the Tampere Council we restated and safeguarded essential British national interests on asylum and immigration. We reached agreements with our European partners on law and order issues, which of their nature do not respect national boundaries and where international co-operation is vital. We restated the overwhelming scientific evidence on the safety of British beef and the fundamental importance of swift observance by the French Government of European Union law. In short it was, I believe, a successful Council in which we engaged constructively with our European partners in support of British national interests".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

3.48 p.m.

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, I thank the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement today. What can I say other than that we welcome the progress that was apparently made at Tampere on a number of issues, for example, on co-operation against organised crime, on drug trafficking, on money laundering and on fraud? This is valuable and sensible co-operation which the whole House would support.

However, will the noble Baroness clarify the significance of the Prime Minister's agreement to measures to institute some common legal procedures across Europe? As she said, harmonisation of laws would be a bad idea. It is important that each government in Europe retain jurisdiction over their legal system. The noble Baroness will know that Italy, for example, is presently considering major constitutional reform of the system of prosecution in legal cases. That is their business and not ours. Will the noble Baroness assure the House that none of the measures that the Prime Minister has agreed will undermine any part of our own historically distinct legal system or lead to a corpus juris in Europe? That is something that we would firmly oppose.

Perhaps I may turn now to the question of beef. The noble Baroness's right honourable friend did not secure agreement to the early lifting of the ban on British beef. Can she say when she believes the ban will be lifted in every country? Was the Prime Minister's special relationship with Chancellor Schröder, a co-signatory of the declaration on the third way, of value in lifting the ban? If so, how long will the ban remain in force in Germany?

Would it not help if the Government showed some confidence in our own beef by lifting the ludicrous ban on beef on the bone, as this House has consistently demanded since last summer? Perhaps I may formally ask at this stage for an early debate in the House on the problems of the UK livestock industry.

In his Statement, the Prime Minister said that the continuing ban on our beef was unacceptable. Why is it continuing? When he imposed new burdens on British business by importing the working time directive and the social chapter, he told the nation that his positive policy would bring gains for Britain. We already know the cost to British business, but where are the gains from this policy for British farmers?

We welcome the preliminary agreement at Tampere to invite the six second-wave countries to start EU membership negotiations. Enlargement will mean major changes in the way Europe operates; that is inevitable. The issue is what those changes will be. Is it not in the interests of Britain and Europe to argue, as we do, for a flexible Europe of nation states co-operating together? A government committed to that vision would be pressing for treaty amendments at the next IGC which will allow nations greater flexibility. Is that not necessary to protect the great strengths that nation states bring to Europe while at the same time enabling a wider Europe to work?

That is the position of the Opposition, which is very different from the position of the Government. They seem to believe that they can make progress in Europe only by surrendering British self-determination to Europe step by step. Did we not see the real agenda of the Government reflected in the report of the so-called three wise men, who include a much respected member of the House, the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Highbury. The noble Lord was appointed a Minister by the Prime Minister; he is now an adviser to the Prime Minister. He became one of the three wise men with the approval of the Prime Minister. Does his report represent government policy, including as it does a recommendation that qualified majority voting should be the rule in Europe, and thus for the abolition of the national veto in key areas of policy? Were the Government aware in advance that these were likely to be the recommendations of the three wise men? Is that why it would have been difficult for the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Highbury, to continue his distinguished ministerial career because his views on Europe are not those of Her Majesty's Government—or because they are one and the same?

I understand that Mr Prodi was the Prime Minister's own candidate for the presidency of the Commission. I hear that they are close friends; indeed, I hear that Mr Prodi was warmly welcomed at the Prime Minister's villa in Tuscany in August. Do all the propositions for European development put forward by Mr Prodi since the summer represent government policy? Perhaps the noble Baroness can tell us how many of those matters have been discussed between Mr Prodi and the Prime Minister. If not, can the noble Baroness tell the House of two proposals from Mr Prodi or the wise men with which the Government disagree') If the Leader of the House is not able to answer today, I would be grateful if she would write to me on these points.

Would it not be in the interests of this country and of Europe as a whole for the Prime Minister to put forward the alternatives to these ideas rather than welcoming them and persisting with the fraudulent insistence that the advancement of any alternative proposals means withdrawal from the European Union? After all, if that had been the case, he would have told anyone arguing for the British rebate that they wanted to withdraw; he would have told anyone arguing for opt-outs from a single currency and a social charter that they wanted to withdraw. Is the noble Baroness aware that the only senior politicians to have stood for election on a platform of withdrawal from Europe are her very own right honourable friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary?

As my right honourable friend Mr Hague has rightly summarised, the people of this country want to be in Europe but not run by Europe. That is why they and we will support positive measures for further cooperation within Europe—as at Tampere on crime—but, on the other hand, both they and we will be vigilant against the stealth tactics of giving away British self-determination on the sidelines.

I am sure that the Leader of the House will accept that these are great matters and that no public relations campaign—however glossy and whoever may be involved—will obscure the key issues which have to be determined in Europe on which there is no third way, only ultimately yes or no in a referendum. Does the noble Baroness accept that it is not harming Europe or being non-European to state what is right for Britain in Europe? Does she further accept that the most minor criticisms of the European Union are not a fundamental attack on our membership? I look forward to the noble Baroness's reply.

3.55 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

My Lords, I also thank the Leader of the House for her Statement, which was based upon what is unquestionably a summit of great importance and one in which large steps forward were taken in co-operation within Europe, not least against organised crime, trafficking in people and the drugs trade.

As a member of another opposition party I suspect I will not find a great deal of harmony with the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, but, as he did, I start with the subject of beef. Can the Leader of the House say whether we are correct in believing that unless there was the machinery in the European Union, and if Britain was outside that machinery, there would be no way whatever in which we could directly challenge the French ban? The machinery is available to have the ban lifted. I congratulate the Prime Minister on the successful efforts he made at the summit to raise the matter.

Secondly, can the noble Baroness confirm that if this House is—as members of all parties claim it is—committed to the historic concept of enlargement, then institutional change cannot be avoided? Institutional change is an essential part of making an enlarged European Union work. I believe the wise men are to be congratulated on having grappled with some of the most difficult issues: the size of the Commission, the nature of voting and the strength or power of the European Parliament. Perhaps the noble Baroness will confirm that enlargement inevitably means substantial institutional changes if we maintain our commitment to the former Communist states of eastern and central Europe that they will soon become members of the European Union.

Thirdly, does the Leader of the House agree that the steps taken in Tampere—to establish a task force of European police chiefs; to strengthen the work of Europol; to agree to mutual recognition of the work of the courts of Europe; and for different courts to accept the admissibility of evidence which might be gathered by different police forces within Europe—are a central part of the battle against organised crime and money laundering, which is rapidly getting out of control? Does she further agree that the very pragmatic, sensible and practical British public are right to decide that they will have nothing to do with those policies which suggest that no such response is needed? In short, does she agree that the public are living in the same age as the Government? I fear that there are some who live in a different age. In that context it is not surprising that some 56 per cent of the British public regard the stand on Europe of the Leader of the Opposition as a reason for not voting for him, rather than a reason for voting for him. It simply departs from reality—and reality is harsh and choices have to be made.

Finally, I turn to the major part of the Tampere Summit's conclusions and ask the Leader of the House three questions. First, can she say something about the strengthening of civil liberties and the extension of the European charter of rights to balance, as must properly be done, the greater powers given to European police forces and courts, with which we strongly agree?

Secondly, does the Leader of the House accept that mutual recognition in the courts would be of great benefit to consumers in this country, especially those who wish to pursue small claims, or to pursue their rights under the procedures of consumer action, and to those seeking maintenance or pursuing divorce proceedings against someone resident in another European country? The legal process should be speeded up and made less expensive.

Thirdly, does the Leader of the House agree with indications made at the Tampere Summit that it is absolutely vital that steps should be taken to establish common minimum standards for dealing with refugees and asylum seekers, and that measures should be put in place to stop the traffic in human beings? Does she further accept that a resolution must be reached over the differences between British and European courts on the issue of non-state acts of persecution, which has been discussed extensively during consideration of the Immigration and Asylum Bill?

Finally, does the Leader of the House agree that the Tampere declaration marks a major step forward in dealing with some of those diseases that afflict the whole of Europe? In that context, may I congratulate the noble Baroness and Her Majesty's Government on their position taken in Tampere on the issues of racism and xenophobia, and on their determination that minorities and third country nationals shall be treated with fairness and justice? That is very much what we on these Benches believe to be one of the great objectives of Europe: securing the rights of all people resident in the Continent.

4.1 p.m.

Baroness Jay of Paddington

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, for their responses to the Statement and for their general recognition of the important steps forward that have been taken. I certainly endorse the final point made by the noble Baroness concerning the objectives of the summit; namely, protection of the rights of every citizen in Europe; the provision of greater safeguards for those rights; and wider opportunities for people in difficulties because their lives have been affected by different upheavals. Immigrants and asylum seekers need help to overcome their problems concerning issues of immigration and jurisdiction.

I am also grateful to the noble Lord and the noble Baroness for emphasising their support for some of the points made at Tampere on questions of combating organised crime, particularly on issues of international crime such as money laundering, the drugs trade, trafficking in individuals and so forth. Those issues were very much part of the discussions and, indeed, of the presidency's conclusions. As the noble Baroness recognised in her final remarks, it is important that these matters are addressed on a pragmatic and practical basis by the members of the Union in terms of an exchange of good practice and a full understanding of the ways in which different systems work. We welcome and applaud the need for collaboration on the more effective introduction of practical proposals for dealing with international crime. That was sensibly recognised by all Ministers at the summit, and was reflected in the conclusions.

The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, rightly recognised that this is a different procedure from that of moving towards the harmonisation of legal systems, or indeed the organisation of a joint European corpus juris, as he mentioned in his closing remarks. The adoption of the UK language on mutual recognition is important, because that will mean more acceptance and understanding of the different standards and methods used in each other's legal systems. However, we recognise too that it is important to accept that the processes of a court in one country should be recognised and understood in another. It is well understood, for example, that within the British Isles we have two—indeed, three—systems of justice and differing legal arrangements. Between England and Scotland there is perfectly clear recognition of the significance and importance of each country's judicial systems and legal processes, without there being a common corpus juris, or indeed anything which could be described as the harmonisation of our laws.

The noble Baroness asked about the charter of rights. The point of the conclusion of the presidency and the Tampere declaration was to endorse the practical arrangements for the body established at the Cologne European Council and that fundamental rights applicable at Union level should be consolidated in a charter. As the noble Baroness may be aware, a group of some 60 people has been charged with preparing that draft before the Nice European Council in December 2000. The Tampere Council endorsed that proposal and agreed that the work should be taken forward with that end date in mind.

The noble Baroness also raised the matter of minor civil cases. I agree with her that mutual recognition of legal systems would, indeed, assist in the areas of consumer rights and small claims, as they are called in this country. They could be dealt with more effectively across the European Union. I agree that that is a way in which citizens of this country should feel a practical effect from the outcome of the Tampere Council.

I shall turn now from those practical and pragmatic conclusions, which I am sure the House will endorse for their useful contribution to Facilitating the organisation of individual citizens' lives within the European Union, to a more problematic area immediately identified by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde; namely, British beef. Of course, as the noble Lord will be aware, we shall now wait until the EU scientific experts' meeting reaches its conclusions on 28th October. We are confident that the outcome of that meeting will be to endorse the position taken by the UK in assuring the European Union of the safety of British beef. We do, of course, need a swift settlement to this dispute so that British fanning and the beef industry can get on with the business of building our markets abroad. As the Prime Minister said in his Statement which I have repeated, and as has been declared in all of the informal statements made after the Tampere meeting, there appears to be no new evidence for the French to present to the EU scientific experts' committee. Further, the Commission has given an undertaking that if new evidence is not produced to affect the outcome of the Eli scientific committee's conclusions, the Commission will take legal action against the French. We are convinced that that will be unnecessary, because we expect the scientific conclusions to endorse our legal position.

Of course it is right to say, as did the noble Baroness, that if we did not have the framework of European law, there would be no legal method of seeking redress. We would have to rely only on influence rather than on the structure of the law, which it is hoped will support what the scientific committee says and, if necessary, will be taken forward by the Commission. However, as I have said, we very much hope that it will not come to that.

On the question of enlargement, both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord will be aware t hat there is a common understanding between our partners that the April IGC meeting is intended to be a rather limited and pragmatic approach to the practical arrangements for enlargement rather than a form of "back to first principles" pulling up of the roots such as that which the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, suggested may be appropriate. I am sure that he will forgive me if I do not follow him down the road of a widespread and historical revision of European positions, on which I think he was attempting to draw me. As he said, there may be an opportunity for further discussion. There is always room for debate on such issues in your Lordships' House. However, I would be in very deep trouble with my noble friend the Chief Whip if I were to commit anyone to a dale or the possibility of an immediate debate of that kind. Nevertheless, as the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, will be well aware, that is the kind of matter which needs to be decided through the usual channels.

The noble Lord raised a question which has been much referred to in press comments; namely, the report of the so-called "wise men". It is only fair to my noble friend Lord Simon to make it clear to the House that my noble friend was acting entirely in a private capacity in his membership of that committee. Indeed, as I understand it, the report was produced only for Senor Prodi, and not for the Council of Ministers. It is not even clear that Senor Prodi himself will accept all of its findings. Of course, any discussion on its implications would have to be taken forward by the Council of Ministers. The noble Lord will be only too aware that discussions on extending the remit of the Union, enlargement and its constitutional arrangements are not the business of the Commission but rather of the Council of Ministers.

The noble Lord asked me to identify matters which were not in agreement with government policy. I ask the noble Lord to look at the issue the other way round. The report which he mentioned is absolutely not the blueprint for a federal superstate. Let us identify, for example, the points that it does not mention. It does not mention European taxes; it does not mention a European army; and it does not ask for an elected European government. It seems to me that, by omission, one could identify those things that one need not fear.

In his opening remarks the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, described those parts of the Tampere Statement which were important and influential in affecting the lives of the citizens of the European Union. I agree with him entirely that they indicated valuable and sensible co-operation. That was the Government's aim at Tampere and that is what has been achieved.

4.10 p.m.

Lord Shore of Stepney

My Lords, I have noted the remarks made by my noble friend and I have also read, perhaps unwisely, the presidency conclusions which were available in all 20 pages of their text. Frankly, it is difficult to reconcile the tone and content of the one statement compared with the tone and content of the other. What we have before us and what was being discussed at Tampere is a major step towards "freedom, security and justice" throughout the whole of the European Union area. "Freedom, security and justice"—I thought that I had been living all my life in an area of freedom, security and justice. Therefore, I have a somewhat lukewarm approach to that claim.

But that was not the only claim. The member states also made great steps towards a common policy on asylum and immigration and, further, they set up a new body to study a charter of rights, which will be a kind of written constitution for the whole of Europe, if and when it is completed. Now there is a great difference here, is there not? I should like my noble friend to assure me and to confirm that the provisions of the protocol to the Amsterdam Treaty that was made in the names of Britain and Ireland still stand. Perhaps I may quote the terms of it. On Title III(a) of the treaty, dealing with asylum and immigration, the protocol states: None of the provisions shall be binding upon, or applicable in, the United Kingdom". No common immigration and asylum policy for us! Does that still stand or has it been abandoned?

Secondly, can my noble friend confirm that the new proposals which she listed affecting Europol, the Eurojust unit and the European Police College are not just jumping off points for a European version of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the case of Europol and for the establishment of a European public prosecutor as part of the corpus juris plan, of which we have heard before? Finally, will my noble friend take on board the fact that from long experience what we have with our European friends is, first, the landing of a bridgehead in a new area of what were previously our own national concerns, followed by a further attack as they march out of the bridgehead to take over a still larger area of our affairs?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, my noble friend has trespassed on the time that other noble Lords may wish to use for brief comments and questions.

Baroness Jay of Paddington

My Lords, I am tempted to say to my noble friend that, if he feels that he has been living under a system of European security and justice, he has not perhaps suffered from some of the problems of being an immigrant or an asylum seeker in some of those jurisdictions. In order to be brief, I can say in answer to all of his questions, no, there is no agreement under Tampere for there to be a common European asylum and immigration policy. There are pragmatic attempts, as was mentioned in the Statement, to try to make it possible for people seeking asylum to be treated equally in all of the different countries. No, there is no recommendation under Europol and Eurojust procedures for there to be a European public prosecutor. And, no—as I indicated in my answer to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, about the misreading of the understandings which were put forward in the brief summary document by the so-called "three wise men" and which has no executive influence over the IGC or anything else—there is no move towards a federal system of justice.

Lord Waddington

My Lords, perhaps I may ask the noble Baroness to get a little nearer the kernel of the matter. Signor Prodi and numerous European statesmen have said that their goal is a single European state and at every conference we see movement, little by little, closer to that goal. Now it is clear that the train is travelling faster in the direction of a single European state. If the Government really do not want to be on the train when it reaches its destination, at what stage do they plan to get off? That is the real question. Surely we are entitled to know the Government's sticking point.

Baroness Jay of Paddington

My Lords, I realise that it is possible for noble Lords to read into the most practical and pragmatic suggestions for basic arrangements, which I should have thought most noble Lords would support, some conspiracy towards federalism. However, as I tried to indicate in my earlier replies to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, there is little in the presidency's conclusions for Tampere that even the most conspiratorial eye could fall on and say that it fell into that category. As I said in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, there is even in this document, which is causing such excitement, the informal recommendations of the "three wise men". There is absolutely no indication, for example, of the three matters which I should have thought would have been central to the establishment of some kind of federal arrangement which would equate to a state. There is no suggestion of any harmonisation of taxes; there is no call for a European army— and there is no suggestion that there should be an elected European government. In my, perhaps the noble Lord would say naive, view, any suggestion that we were moving towards a federal state would at least encompass some of those.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire, as chairman of Sub-Committee F of the European Communities Committee, has asked me to apologise for the fact that he cannot be here. He has asked me to Indicate that the Select Committee, on which I too serve, will be looking at these proposals as part of its continuing work. Perhaps I may speak on behalf of the committee as a whole, whose membership included noble Lords of all political parties and of none. If noble Lords read our report which was debated last week they will see that we would strongly support the conclusions that were reached at Tampere on a practical and pragmatic basis and not on ideology or anything of that kind.

As a practising lawyer, one has to make a great reservation about the need for effective safeguards against the misuse of power, whether in this country or elsewhere in Europe. I should be grateful if the Leader of the House could indicate, without pinning down herself or her colleagues, whether that central weakness—the lack of effective safeguards—will be addressed. Can she give an assurance that political offences will not, for obvious reasons, be part of fast track and that, as far as concerns other matters, national courts will still be able to ensure the safeguard of a fair trial in other jurisdictions? Will the Government support some pan-European safeguards, whether in the charter of rights or in one of the two European courts, where national courts fail to provide those safeguards? Something of that kind would reassure concerned public opinion that one is not granting further powers without adequate checks and balances.

Baroness Jay of Paddington

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his welcome for the proposals and his remarks on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire. The broad answer to his question is: yes indeed, the question of safeguards must always be developed alongside that of additional arrangements which may extend rights That is fairly clear in matters of jurisprudence as well as in every other legal and political sense.

On the question of the fast track towards extradition, the noble Lord will understand that an agreement was reached in principle. The details of any arrangements for such a procedure need to be taken forward slowly and practically, and with a firm undertaking to explore safeguards and mutual recognition of those safeguards. That has been the linchpin of the UK's proposals.

It should be recognised that when the House of Lords held an inquiry into the corpus juris proposals on combating EU fraud, the House welcomed the mutual recognition proposals as, in its words, a more realistic way forward than corpus juris for building a European judicial system.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, it is not possible from the brief Statement made by the Prime Minister to have more than a general idea of what occurred at Tampere. Indeed, he himself says: A comprehensive list of the action agreed by the European Council is to be found in the Council's conclusions, a copy of which has been placed in the Library of the House". I have already examined that document, and I have a query in regard to its authenticity. The document referring to the Tampere European Council is entitled, Presidency Conclusions. We have met this kind of statement before. Presidency conclusions have subsequently proved, in many vital respects, not to correspond exactly with what has occurred. At the conclusion of the debate in this House last week on Tampere, I asked the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, whether he could arrange to have the document authenticated as the true conclusions of the European Council. Can we be sure that the English text referred to is the official version of what will undoubtedly be quoted by the Commission in any proposals that it places before us?

As for the institutional implications of enlargement to which my noble friend refers, is she aware that such a lengthy document needs careful examination? The Presidency Conclusions occupy 19 pages. The institutional implications of enlargement set out by this rather queerly appointed triumvirate occupy a further 15. I submit to the Government and to the House that, before Parliament as a whole can form any conclusions as to what occurred, and as to the merits of the arguments put forward on our behalf, it will be necessary to debate the matter fully with all the documents in front of us.

Baroness Jay of Paddington

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. I am afraid that I am unable to help him as to the exact formal status of the document and the accuracy of its translation, largely because it would be difficult for me to be absolutely honest in committing myself in saying that I know this to be an exact representation in English of the Finnish original. If a further matter arises which I need to pursue with him, I shall write to my noble friend.

I was slightly concerned, my noble friend already having read the document, that his practical point about its accuracy and status related to some conclusion which, with his usual assiduousness, he had found in one version but not another. Regarding the status of the document and its translation, I can only help my noble friend in the way that I have. If there is anything further that I need to say to him, I shall of course do so.

I recognise my noble friend's wish to debate these issues at greater length and in a wider context. As I said in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, the House is always interested to debate these matters and I am sure the usual channels will discuss that in the context of the general arrangement of the programme.

On the question of the report which my noble friend accords equal status with the conclusions of the ministerial council, I re-emphasise what I said to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. It is a useful and informal report, but it is a report by independent individuals to the Commission. We do not yet know the Commission's response. In the context of the IGC, it will be the governments of the European Union who will decide the outcome, not the Commission. They have already agreed, at the Cologne Summit, that the IGC will be short and that it will be focused on the practical arrangements for enlargement.

Viscount Cranborne

My Lords, will the noble Baroness tell the House how it is expected to give practical effect to the conclusions reached in Finland? Will they be embodied in new legislation? If so, am I right in assuming that the detail of that legislation will tell us whether the suspicions entertained by a number of noble Lords regarding the Government's intentions are right? If they are to be embodied in legislation, when will that legislation be brought forward? If they are not, to what extent, and by what authority, will those conclusions be brought into effect?

Perhaps I may briefly ask about Pakistan. In view of the nature and failings of the Nawaz Sharif regime, would it not have been wiser to attempt to engage constructively with the new military regime in Pakistan to see whether it might be possible to agree internationally with that regime a timetable for a return to parliamentary government rather than to assume the worst at once—particularly in view, at the very least, of the muted response of the Pakistani people to the events of last week?

Baroness Jay of Paddington

My Lords, in response to the noble Viscount's first point, I suspect that the Tampere proposals will be taken forward in a variety of ways. If we look, for example, at some of the detail of the proposals on the organisation of asylum and immigration, some are already envisaged in the Bill that is before the House. So in that instance, in a sense, we have acted and the European position is coming on line with some of our proposals in this area.

Some of the other matters mentioned in the Statement are matters of good practice. They are about the exchange of good practice and the understanding of practical institutional collaboration and co-operation, for example, on the question of exchange of information through the Europol system, which may lead to the more effective prosecution and resolution of civil cases, and on the question of small claims in the consumer field. As I understand it, that would simply be a matter of making the organisational machinery of exchange of information and understanding of each other's practice more effective. That could be achieved, for example, by utilising some of the new IT arrangements which enable Internet information to be exchanged and given good credence. There will be a variety of methods.

The noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, mentioned extradition. That would be a matter for legal change. As I said in my response to the noble Lord, that is in its early days of practical detailed planning. When it comes to the point of being put into practice, there would be need for a change in the law in that respect. My general reaction is that there would be a variety of ways of implementing these points. They are mostly about practical arrangements and the organisation of institutions.

On the question of Pakistan, the noble Viscount will be aware that we are reviewing aspects of our relationship with that country. There has been great concern about the military take-over. We can understand that there was an important need in the beginning to recognise that the military action taken was counter to all the democratic understandings of the basis on which, for example, the Commonwealth is founded. I am sure that the position of the Commonwealth will have been noted by your Lordships' House. The position taken by the Government in condemning the military take-over and urging an immediate return to democracy is supported by the Commonwealth. That is the forum in which we expect to take future relationships forward and the future development of our relationships with Pakistan.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, perhaps I may ask a specific question arising out of the Statement. It relates to the charter of human rights for the European Union. Is the noble Baroness aware that it was briefly touched on at the COSAC meeting in Helsinki last week? There was little support from parliamentarians at that meeting for the concept of a new charter of human rights within the Union. People believed that the European charter of human rights, ranging over many more countries, was sufficient in itself or could possibly be amended to include other items, if necessary, rather than having a separate and parallel charter of human rights for the Union alone.

Baroness Jay of Paddington

Yes, my Lords, I am aware that there have been such concerns and that there is anxiety that there could be an overlap, for example, between the rights listed in the charter and the ECHR. However, as I said in response to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, the working party of about 60 people, to which this Parliament will nominate two representatives, will examine the issue in detail.

However, it was felt at Tampere that there was scope for an additional charter of rights and that the working party for it should take it forward in the timeframe of looking to the European Council in December 2000. The fact that there could be perceived to be an overlap with the ECHR has already been recognised and will be taken into account if that practical work goes forward.