HC Deb 02 November 2000 vol 355 cc555-6W
Mr. Cash

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on developments in the drafting of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. [135376]

Mr. Bercow

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs for what reason a draft Charter of Fundamental Rights is being negotiated by EU member states. [135574]

Mr. Vaz

In June 1999, the Conclusions of the Cologne European Council called for a Charter of Fundamental Rights to be drawn up to make those rights more visible. It was agreed that the Charter would be drafted by a body called the Convention, consisting of 15 member states representatives, 16 MEPs, 30 national parliamentarians and one Commissioner.

The Convention met regularly from December 1999 to October 2000. It circulated a final draft on 2 October. This was discussed by Heads of Government at the Biarritz Informal Council on 13–14 October. They agreed that the Charter should be proclaimed as a political declaration at the Nice European Council in December. Copies of the Charter text have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

The Government strongly supports the Charter. People need to know their rights. And the EU Institutions need to respect them. The Charter will help on both counts. It sets out fundamental rights and principles that the EU Institutions should respect when going about their daily business, and it promotes the visibility and accessibility of those rights.

The Charter is not legally binding. It is addressed to the EU Institutions, and to member states only when they are implementing Union law (Article 51(1)). It does not establish any new power or task for the Community or the Union or modify powers and tasks defined by the Treaties (Article 51(2)). It does not create any new powers for the European Court of Justice.

Individual Charter articles should be read in the context of the declaration as a whole, including the horizontal provisions. The meaning and scope of articles derived from the European Convention on Human Rights shall be the same as that in the corresponding ECHR articles (Article 52(3)). Charter articles based on EC/EU Treaty rights shall be exercised under the conditions and within the limits defined by those Treaties (Article 52(2)). Other articles make clear that the rights they concern are given effect only to the extent that they have effect in national laws and practices.

The Government believe the Charter will be good for Britain and good for Europe. Its successful negotiation is a vindication of our policy of positive engagement with our European partners.

Mr. Gill

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs who are the members of the Praesidium referred to in Convent 45, Draft Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union; and what are its powers. [135523]

Mr. Vaz

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave today, columns 555–56W, to the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) and to the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow)

The Praesidium was chaired by Roman Herzog, the Chairman of the Convention. The European Commission was represented by Antonio Vitorino, Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs.

The three Vice-Chairs were Inigo Mendes de Vigo (European Parliament), Gunnar Jansson (national parliamentarians) and Paavo Nikula followed by Bacelar de Vasconcelos and Guy Braibant (Finnish, Portuguese and French Presidencies).

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