Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

A threat to democracy

The Spectator - 19 May 2001

Sir

Nigel Farage certainly had some fun in his article ('The Tory wimps of Strasbourg', 21 April), but, as one of the MEPs targeted by him, I hope you will allow me the courtesy of an opportunity to reply.

Mr Farage quotes me as saying that the Charter of Fundamental Rights is 'noble in its intentions'. What he does not say is that in that speech, which I made in the Strasbourg plenary session, and subsequently in a published article, I went on to list the many reasons why I opposed it. I pointed out that, by extending economic and social 'rights', it would threaten the trade-union reforms of the 1980s, the rights of religious schools, and open the door to member states being forced by the European Court of Justice to allow homosexual marriages and adoption. I also criticised the ludicrously wide-ranging discrimination provisions, including those against language, which might, if interpreted literally, force UK hospitals to employ nurses who don't speak English. Most importantly, I argued that by transferring powers that traditionally belong to democratic parliaments to unelected judges (in this case European judges) the charter threatens to undermine democratic accountability.

I could continue, but readers must judge for themselves if Nigel Farage has represented my views accurately or not with regard to the charter or Europe generally.

Of course there will be a spectrum of views within a major political party, but the policy of the Conservative party, as stated by Francis Maude, our shadow foreign secretary, is to oppose any further significant transfer of powers to Brussels without the express consent of the British people - a policy that I fully support.

Dr Charles Tannock, MEP (Con)
Brussels