European Union (Amendment) Bill
Lord Hunt of Wirral (Conservative)
My Lords, proposals for a European Public Prosecutor are not new but, as our European Union Committee stated in its report at paragraph 6.209, this is the first time the structure for implementing this idea has been included in the treaties, and the inclusion of the relevant article makes it more likely that this post will one day be created. We have raised this question from time to time because it causes concern.
This amendment seeks to ensure that Parliament has the opportunity to scrutinise and vote on any proposal to set up the role of a European Public Prosecutor, or to extend his or her role. As with so many other amendments that we on these Benches have tabled, this will not in any way tie the hands of the noble Baroness the Leader of the House or force her or any of her colleagues to take action that they have not already indicated they wish to take. Along with most of the provisions that we have attempted to scrutinise, these two were utterly opposed by the Government originally. Some Labour Back-Benchers in the other place expressed their opposition to them and others in the Liberal Democrat and Labour Parties have admitted that these provisions might be a cause for concern.
I am fully aware that there is a lock on these provisions. It would be necessary for the United Kingdom to opt in to this area before there was any possibility of the public prosecutor having the right to operate here. I am also aware that Ministers say that it is very unlikely that we will ever opt in. Unfortunately, we have come to accept that we can take little comfort from such ministerial assurances. I hope I am right in saying that there can be very few remaining in this Chamber who do not accept that a parliamentary vote is a necessary and valuable safeguard to protect against any change in policy on the part of the Government or, indeed, any ministerial U-turn on a subject as important as this. Nor is it just a matter of holding the Government to their stated policy: it is also a matter of protecting the United Kingdom against the negotiating triumph that the Secretary of State claimed in the other place when 38 out of 40 amendments that the Government proposed to the treaty were not accepted.
Many of us have from time to time been troubled by the idea of the public prosecutor. These provisions are therefore worrying and their implementation will always be controversial. I very much hope that I shall be able to persuade the Minister that she ought to give an undertaking to this House that a measure such as this will never be implemented without the profound and meaningful involvement of Parliament. If she is so persuaded, this amendment would be a fast track to bring about that objective. I beg to move.