Valery Giscard d'Estaing's proposal that the EU gain the power to determine the rights of individuals in criminal procedures was met with scepticism by an influential Lords Committee report published today.

The House of Lords European Union Committee was reporting on the draft Constitutional Treaty produced by the Convention on the Future of Europe, chaired by former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing.

The Committee concluded that it was unacceptable for the EU, without the consent of every country, to be able to change the rights of individuals in relation to such fundamental rights as:

  • jury trial

  • the right to silence

  • the acceptance of evidence.

Should the proposals, contained in Article 16 of Part 2 of the Constitution, come in to law, they could have serious consequences.

The Committee states that "Criminal laws and procedures lie at the heart of legal traditions" and "reflect fundamental historical, political and constitutional differences" and, as such, if the EU has to act, it should only be in very limited fields.

Part 2 of the draft Constitutional proposes a number of other important changes.  It would take forward common policies on immigration, border controls and asylum and would strengthen the roles of Eurojust and Europol, which ensures coordination between prosecuting authorities and police forces respectively in relation to serious crime.  Furthermore, the Commission would have a right to initiate legislation in police and criminal law matters. 

To counteract the extension of powers to the EU, the Committee proposes a "red card" whereby the Commission would have to withdraw any proposal in these areas to which half of all national parliaments in the EU object. The Committee also rejects outright the plan for there to be a European Public Prosecutor.  It says such a post would not be "a realistic and practical way forward." 


1. The members of the European Union Committee that produced this report were:

 Baroness Billingham

 Lord Brennan

 Lord Cavendish of Furness

 Lord Dubs

 Lord Grenfell (Chairman)

 Lord Hannay of Chiswick

 Baroness Harris of Richmond

 Lord Jopling

 Lord Lamont of Lerwick

 Baroness Maddock

 Lord Neill of Bladen

 Baroness Park of Monmouth

 Lord Radice

 Lord Scott of Foscote

 The Earl of Selborne

 Lord Shutt of Greetland

 Baroness Stern

 Lord Williamson of Horton

 Lord Woolmer of Leeds.

2. The report is published by the Stationery Office: The Future of Europe: Constitutional Treaty - Draft Article 31 and Draft Articles from Part 2 (Freedom, Security and Justice), House of Lords Select Committee on the European Union, 16th Report, Session 2002 −03, HL Paper 81.  Copies are available from the reception of 2 Millbank House.

3. The Convention on the Future of Europe was set up by the Laeken Declaration with the remit of detailing options for the future of the European Union.  It is composed of over 100 members from Member State governments, national parliaments, MEPs, Commissioners, representatives from candidate countries and other observers.  It aims to produce a draft Constitution by June this year.

4. The House of Lords European Union Committee is scrutinising draft Articles as they arise from the Convention.  So far it has published reports on Draft Articles 1−16 (9th Report, HL Paper 61) and 24−33 (12th Report, HL Paper 71).

Further information from:

- Nicolas Besly

Clerk  020 7219 4930

- Jillian Bailey

Press and Publicity Officer  020 7219 8659