[Relevant documents: Nineteenth Report from the European Scrutiny Committee, Documents considered by the Committeeon
I beg to move,
Protocol 36 is the part of the Lisbon treaty that relates to the United Kingdom’s opt-out from the policing and criminal justice measures that were adopted before the treaty came into force. The opt-out provisions are unique to the United Kingdom, and were negotiated by the previous Administration. Under the terms of protocol 36, the UK had to decide before the end of May 2014 whether it wished to opt out of all the police and criminal justice measures—some 130 in all—that predate the Lisbon treaty. The opt-out had to be exercised en masse; we could not simply leave the measures that we did not like.
The House is getting a chance today to debate the European arrest warrant. The House has been clear that it wished to have such a debate. We were very clear during the debate on the business motion that regulations are before the House, and the House will vote on those regulations. I have also been very clear about the Government’s position. We have brought those particular regulations before the House because they are the only ones that we need to transpose into UK legislation. I will come on to comment on the European arrest warrant. As I said earlier, I am very clear that the vote today relates to whether or not the UK opts back in to the package of measures that we have negotiated. The package comes together; it is not an a la carte menu from which one can pick and choose.
No. I can tell the right hon. Lady that I would certainly not stand at the Dispatch Box and disagree with the Speaker’s ruling. The Speaker’s rulings are about what happens in this Chamber and what votes are on. In fact, the words I have just said agree with the Speaker’s ruling—that the vote will be on the regulations on the Order Paper. We have tabled the motion because we believe it right that the House, in debating and considering the package of measures that we want to opt back in to, sees very clearly what legislation is necessary to transpose certain measures.
But the Speaker has said in terms that we are not voting on the European arrest warrant. Is the Home Secretary now arguing that by voting for the regulations tonight we are joining the European arrest warrant?
I have been very clear that the formal vote before the House is on the regulations. I have also been clear that the Government—I will come on to explain our timetable, which has some relevance to this matter—want to opt back in to measures that are in a package. If the House votes against transposing some of those measures into UK legislation, it is effectively voting against our package of measures. On that basis, we can speak about all the measures within the package of 35 measures.
I have explained that the statutory instrument transposes those measures that require legislation. I repeat—I am happy to speak about this again later—that we are not required to transpose the European arrest warrant into UK legislation because it is already in UK legislation, in the Extradition Act 2003.
We had an opportunity to exercise the opt-out, and we did so. We have brought back more than 100 powers from Brussels.
I will make some progress, because the time for the debate is now more limited and I know that many hon. Members wish to speak.
As the Prime Minister says, we have overseen the biggest return of powers since this country joined the EU, but we have always been clear that we wanted to remain part of a smaller number of measures that give our police and law enforcement agencies vital and practical help in the fight against crime. This Government and this party will never put politics before the protection of the British public and that is why we are seeking to remain part of a package of 35 measures that help us to tackle serious crimes and keep this country safe.
Will the Home Secretary confirm that in the event the House votes down these 11 measures, she will still be free to opt in to the European arrest warrant and, what is more, she will still be free to move forward with those 11 measures through other parliamentary means? That is the case, is it not?
We have been very clear that we have brought before the House tonight those measures that are required to be transposed into UK legislation. We have also been clear that in the Government’s view, a vote against those regulations is a vote against the package of 35 measures. I have been very clear that the 35 measures hang together. Even though only a small number require transposing into legislation, they are a package of measures and not a pick and mix.
I am going to make some progress.
The package is the product of careful deliberation in this House and beyond. It follows consultation with the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, our security and intelligence agencies, the devolved Administrations and the Lord Advocate in Scotland, the Government of Gibraltar, victims’ groups and many more. It has been scrutinised by Committees in both Houses of Parliament and the Justice Secretary, and I, along with other Ministers, have appeared before those Committees to give evidence on the Government’s approach. We have also published two Command Papers on the issue.
I am pleased that we will, I hope, opt in to a range of these measures. As the Home Secretary says, this has taken a huge amount of time, effort and negotiations with Europe. How much benefit is there, given that most of the measures to which we are not opting in have expired?
There is considerable benefit, and I point my hon. Friend towards the measures on minimum standards for the justice system—there are about 20, I think. It is not the view of the Government, and it is certainly not the view of the Conservative party, that we should be part of the European justice system that some people think some of Europe wishes to introduce. Coming out of the minimum standards measures was an important part of ensuring that we did not go in that direction.
My right hon. Friend mentioned the scrutiny process, but, as she well knows, all three Select Committees—the European Scrutiny Committee, the Select Committee on Home Affairs and the Select Committee on Justice—have said that there has not been proper consultation with Parliament on these matters. What has happened today amply demonstrates our concerns and nothing has emerged to change our view. Will my right hon. Friend explain how on earth all this has happened?
I am aware of the views expressed to this House by my hon. Friend and by the Chairmen of the Justice and the Home Affairs Committees. I remind my hon. Friend that I, the Justice Secretary and other Ministers have appeared in front of the Select Committees of this House, of the European Scrutiny Committee and of Committees of the House of Lords on a number of occasions on the subject of these measures. We have also held a number of debates on the Floor of the House and varying views have been expressed from both sides of the House about the measures that have been proposed.
Given that the Home Secretary wrote yesterday in The Sunday Times that the European arrest warrant and 34 other measures were in the package proposed by the Government, and given that she knew that the European arrest warrant was one of the most controversial of those measures, will she explain why she has included those issues in the regulations that we are discussing today but left out the European arrest warrant?
It has been made clear that it is possible to discuss the other measures in our debate today, and I have explained why the regulations include only certain measures—those required to be transposed into UK legislation.
My hon. Friend Dr Huppert was right to refer to the package of 35 measures being the product of tough negotiations in Europe. In July, when we last gave Government time for a debate on the issue, I informed the House that good progress had been made in negotiations with the European Commission and other member states and that we were close to reaching an in-principle agreement. The matter had been discussed at the General Affairs Council in June, but some member states had expressed technical reservations. I published Command Paper 8897, which included the full list of measures discussed at the General Affairs Council and impact assessments of each of those measures. I had hoped to be able to return the matter to Parliament for consideration before the summer recess, but the reservations expressed by other member states meant it was not possible to do so. In September, two of those member states lifted their reserves and I am pleased to be able to inform the House that on Friday Spain, the one remaining member state blocking the deal, formally lifted its reservation in Brussels.
I believe that the deal we have negotiated in Europe and that we are bringing before the House today is a good one for the United Kingdom. It includes important tools such as SIS II, the second-generation Schengen information system, which the United Kingdom is scheduled to join shortly. That will further strengthen our ability to detect foreign criminals at the border, including individuals wanted in their own countries for serious crimes such as rape and murder.
The package of measures we have negotiated includes Europol, which does excellent work under its British director, Rob Wainwright, to tackle cross-border crimes. Three weeks ago, for example, Europol played a key role in Operation Trivium, a UK-wide operation led by West Midlands police that saw police forces from 14 European countries jointly targeting foreign criminals in the UK. Senior officers from across Europe came together at the control centre in Edgbaston to witness the operation in action and Europol provided a mobile unit to co-ordinate activities on the ground. In the first 48 hours of the operation, more than 700 suspected criminals were arrested and a further 950 were handed on-the-spot fines for minor offences, cautioned or summonsed to court. They included a 51-year-old Polish man arrested on suspicion of involvement in a fraud of more than £11,000.
Europol also played a key part in tackling the horsemeat scandal that so appalled this House and the British public last year, as did Eurojust, another of the measures in our package.
The Home Secretary keeps talking about a package of measures, but, of course, this is not a package of measures but things that she has bundled up into a package. As she appears to be making up parliamentary procedure as she goes along, will she explain how on earth those people who agree with some of the measures but not others should vote this evening?
I described them as a package because that was what was open to us under the terms of the Lisbon treaty negotiated by the previous Labour Government. We have to opt back in to a group of measures. There are measures in the package that interrelate. For example, the European supervision order relates to the European arrest warrant. We cannot simply pick and choose individual measures; many of them interrelate and should be considered together.
The Home Secretary made but a fleeting reference to consultation with the devolved institutions, but since Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom to share a land frontier with another EU member state, will she take the opportunity to put on the record that the Justice Minister in Northern Ireland, David Ford, and the Assembly support the measures before us this evening?
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising that point. The Justice Minister in Northern Ireland supports the measures, as does the Justice Minister in the Republic of Ireland, Frances Fitzgerald, who has made very clear the consequences if the House rejects the measures and if the Government do not opt in to them.
The Home Secretary may recall that she and I stood on the same Conservative manifesto, which said very clearly that a Conservative Government would reassert the “ultimate authority” of the House of Commons over important matters and repatriate powers in criminal justice. Does she not see the danger that if we opt back in to 35 measures, without having any legislation to assert our primacy, our criminal justice system can be entirely controlled from Brussels?
I will refer later to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and what that means in relation to the measures before us. This is a simple decision about whether we want to be part of practical law and order measures that make a difference to the ability of our law enforcement agencies to catch criminals.
The support and co-ordination provided by Eurojust were invaluable to the UK’s law enforcement agencies and prosecutors during the fraud investigation that followed the revelation of the horsemeat scandal. Eurojust was extremely proactive and offered immediate assistance to the prosecutors in our Crown Prosecution Service, and provided vital information on investigations that were being carried out right across Europe.
I will make a little progress before I take more interventions.
The assistance of Eurojust has proved instrumental in the prosecution of animal rights extremists in the UK. Through its facilitation of meetings between the relevant European jurisdictions, evidence was obtained of the existence of an international conspiracy to blackmail the suppliers and customers of Huntingdon Life Sciences which was used in the UK trial.
I ought to declare an interest because my wife is a judge who deals with European arrest warrants on a regular basis. The suggestion that there is no judicial oversight of European arrest warrants in this country is nonsense. Please will my right hon. Friend stick to her guns, because I do not want this country to become a haven for foreign criminals?
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his comments. I assure him that I will refer to a number of measures that will ensure that there is judicial oversight of the European arrest warrant and proper consideration of such cases in the United Kingdom. He is absolutely right about another thing. The Government have negotiated this package and are bringing it to the House because we believe that these measures are necessary to ensure that we can continue the job of keeping people safe and bringing criminals to justice.
I will outline some of the other vital measures in the package of 35 measures. However, I said earlier that I would say a little about the timing of today’s debate, which I think is relevant to the consideration that Members have given to the motion. Now that the final reservation has been lifted on our deal, which, as I said, happened on Friday, we must allow for discussion at a Council in Brussels before the month is out. Very few appropriate options remain. We must add items to the agenda of a Council 16 days in advance to guarantee their inclusion. That means that we do not have long to complete our domestic processes. To avoid an operational gap for our police and law enforcement agencies, we must complete the entire process before
I hope that my hon. Friend will forgive me for just one moment. He will know that I am usually very generous in giving way to him during debates on European matters, even though I sometimes disagree with the points that he makes. However, the point that I am about to make is important too.
If we do not complete the entire process before
In the light of what has happened so far and the fact that we do not have the opportunity to vote on the European arrest warrant, as Mr Speaker has indicated, will the Home Secretary confirm that we will have an opportunity to do so, as was promised not only by her, but by the Prime Minister? We have not had such a vote. Will she guarantee that we will have one after a proper debate on the matter?
I have set out quite clearly the Government’s view on the motion before the House and the debate that we are having. I will attempt to make progress, because I want to get on to some of the other issues, including the European arrest warrant. I recognise the degree of interest in that and the concern that remains among some hon. Members. That is why I wish to have time to speak about that particular measure.
“There is only one problem with the right hon. Gentleman’s …question: we are going to have a vote, we going to have it before the Rochester by-election—his questions have just collapsed.”—[Hansard, 29 October 2014; Vol. 587, c. 301.]
What has changed, Home Secretary?
We are having a vote on the regulations tonight and it has been made very clear that people are able to discuss the European arrest warrant in the debate.
If we were to vote against the motion tonight and did not opt back in to the measures—because a vote against the motion tonight would be a vote against the package of 35 measures—we would find ourselves kicked out of Europol within weeks and our extradition arrangements would be thrown into legal uncertainty, potentially for years. That would risk harmful individuals walking free and escaping justice, and would seriously harm the capability of our law enforcement agencies to keep the public safe.
I will make a little more progress and will then give way to my hon. Friend.
For the reasons I have just given, the Government have always been clear that it is in our national interest to remain part of these vital measures and to do so without an operational gap.
Over the past four years, and particularly since we announced our intention to exercise the opt-out in July 2013, a number of hon. Members have proposed alternative courses of action to me and my right hon. Friend the Justice Secretary as we have undertaken our negotiations in Europe. A number of hon. Members are interested in the position of Denmark with regard to justice and home affairs matters. Some have said that it provides a potential model for the UK to follow. I believe that it is a false comparison. Denmark has a separate protocol to the Lisbon treaty that excludes it from participating in post-Lisbon justice and home affairs measures. It has concluded third-country agreements with the EU because it has no other way to participate in those measures.
By contrast, protocol 36 to the Lisbon treaty sets out the process by which the UK can opt out of and rejoin justice and home affairs measures. There is no precedent for an international agreement between the EU and a member state that already has the ability to participate in EU measures by specific means. The European Commission argues that protocol 36 provides adequate provision and renders a third-country agreement unnecessary. Riding roughshod over that would involve walking away from a very good deal for the UK and risk damaging our support for future negotiations in Europe. Even if we could persuade the European Union, it would take years to thrash out, guaranteeing a lengthy operational gap in the fight against crime and a risk to the British public that would be unacceptable.
Finally, I hope hon. Members will heed the Danish example in full. Every agreement that Denmark has made separately with the European Union has required Denmark to submit to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. In effect, the Danish agreements that have caught the attention of some hon. Members simply bind Denmark to EU law by another legal means. I suspect that is not what those hon. Members had in mind.
I have explained that only a certain number of the measures require transposition through the regulations before the House. The regulations make provision to give effect to the European supervision order in England and Wales, and in Northern Ireland. That allows British subjects to be bailed back to the UK, rather than spend months and months abroad awaiting trial. It will therefore stand alongside the reforms that we have made to the arrest warrant, making it easier for people like Andrew Symeou, whose case has been championed admirably by my hon. Friend Nick de Bois, to be bailed back to the UK and preventing such injustices from occurring in future. The connection between the supervision order and the arrest warrant, one of which is being transposed in the regulations and one of which is not, is an example of the inter-connectedness of the package of measures.
My right hon. Friend is being very generous in giving way.
I mean this question completely sincerely. One reason why I passionately support the British courts and jury system is that one never knows when one might get into trouble or be wrongly accused oneself. I realise that it is extremely unlikely, and it is a personal question, but if she were wrongly accused of something in, say, Croatia, would she rather rely on British justice and traditional extradition procedures or on the say-so of a prosecutor in Croatia?
If my hon. Friend will forgive me, I will come on to explain how we have changed the European arrest warrant so that British judges are now interposed in the system in a way that they were not always in the past. Those measures have been an important advantage, and some arrest warrant requests to the UK have already been rejected as a result.
I do not want to lose sight of some of the other measures in the package. For example, the regulations also cover the European criminal records information system. We are already taking steps to identify foreign nationals who are abusing our openness and hospitality by committing crimes in this country. Operation Nexus, a groundbreaking initiative taken by the Metropolitan police and immigration enforcement, helped us to remove more than 2,500 foreign nationals during its first two years, including 150 dangerous immigration offenders considered by the police to represent a particularly serious threat. As I said, it began with the Metropolitan police, but it has recently been extended to the West Midlands, Merseyside and Greater Manchester forces and six other forces including Police Scotland, and we wish to extend its work to every force in England and Wales. ECRIS is a key tool that supports that operation and thereby helps to keep our streets safe.
As people find it easier to move around the globe, we must ensure that our law enforcement agencies can exchange information more readily too. In 2006, the UK made and received no requests at all for criminal records from other EU member states. In 2012-13 we made over 25,000 requests, and last year that figure was 41,500. I recently announced that the Government would increase the number of criminal record checks on foreign nationals by introducing full checks on foreign nationals arrested in the Metropolitan police area. Given that 30% of those arrested in London are now foreign nationals, it is clear that that is an operational necessity. That is also why our package of 35 measures also includes the Swedish initiative, which simplifies the exchange of information and intelligence between law enforcement agencies, and the data protection measure, which protects personal data transferred in the fight against crime. Those measures both require transposition, and they are covered in the regulations.
Another of the measures in the regulations provides for joint investigation teams between our police and their European counterparts. It allows our police to participate in cross-border operations such as Operation Birkhill, which saw five criminals sentenced to a total of 36 years’ imprisonment this summer for their involvement in the degrading trafficking into the UK of over 120 women from Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland; and Operation Rico, which resulted in 110 arrests, mostly in the UK and Spain.
The Home Secretary is being generous in giving way. She has made a strong argument for cross-border co-operation with our European partners, but one measure that she is not opting into is the internal security fund, which involves about £3 billion for measures across Europe to tackle cross-border crime. We are one of only two countries that have not opted into that; will she consider doing so, so that we can continue to work across borders?
We were clear about the package of measures that we wished to opt into—the 35 that we identified. We looked at all the 130-odd measures that were subject to protocol 36, and we believe that the package that the Government have published for Members is the right one to give our law enforcement agencies the powers they need.
Another measure in the package is the prisoner transfer framework decision, which helps to remove foreign criminals from British jails—prisoners such as Ainars
Zvirgzds, a Latvian national convicted of controlling prostitution, firearms and drug offences and assault. In April 2012, he was sentenced to thirteen and a half years’ imprisonment in the UK, and in June this year he was transferred out of this country to a prison in Latvia, where he will serve the remainder of his sentence. Had it not been for the prisoner transfer measure, he would have remained in a British prison at a cost to the British taxpayer of more than £100,000.
As I indicated earlier, I have taken part in a number of debates on these issues. From those debates, and from the debate that we had earlier and the comments that right hon. and hon. Members have made today, it is absolutely clear that the measure that attracts the most interest from Members is the European arrest warrant.
Extradition is always an emotive subject. It raises important questions about the civil liberties of British citizens, the quality of justice in other countries, the role of our own courts and how we bring criminals to justice, and I understand those concerns. I remind hon. Members that I am the Home Secretary who blocked the extradition of Gary McKinnon to the United States, and who reformed our extradition arrangements so that, when prosecution is possible in both this country and another, British courts can block extradition overseas if they believe it is in the interests of justice to do so. I therefore share many of the concerns that have been raised about the European arrest warrant in the past. Indeed, as a member of the shadow Cabinet I voted against its transposition into British law by the last Labour Government. That is why, as Home Secretary, I have legislated to reform the operation of the arrest warrant and increase the protections that we can offer to British people and others who are wanted for extradition.
The changes that we made through the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 mean that the arrest warrant that sits in our package of 35 measures is a better and safer arrest warrant than the one operated over the past decade. Under the last Government, British citizens could be extradited for disproportionately minor offences, so the law has been changed to ensure that arrest warrants are refused for those suspected of minor offences. A British judge must now consider whether the alleged offence and likely penalty is sufficient to make someone’s extradition proportionate, and a British judge must also consider whether measures less coercive than extradition are available to foreign authorities.
I am grateful to the Home Secretary for taking a second intervention from me.
The Home Secretary knows well that a Mr John Downey walked free from the Old Bailey earlier this year. He had been charged in connection with the Hyde park bombing, which killed four innocent British soldiers, and was also sought in connection with the Enniskillen bombing and the murder of two Ulster Defence Regiment men in Northern Ireland. He walked free because the Northern Ireland Office had signed off a letter in 2007—not during the current Administration—for a category of people known as the on-the-runs. Mr Downey is now enjoying the air of County Donegal. Would the UK opting into the European arrest warrant help the Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland retrieve Mr Downey to face serious criminal charges if the Police Service of Northern Ireland had sufficient evidence?
I recognise the case that the hon. Lady raises and her concern about it. I do not think it would be right for me to comment from the Dispatch Box on an individual case, particularly one that involves certain other matters that are not only relevant to the measures that we are discussing. As she says, they relate to decisions taken some time ago about the issue of on-the-runs.
May I commend my right hon. Friend and ask her to stick to her guns on this matter? She is delineating the changes that she has caused to be made to the European arrest warrant. It is different from how it was before, and we can and must support it in the interests of justice, because it will prevent this country from becoming a safe haven for terrorists and criminals. Furthermore, does she recall that Keith Bristow, the head of the National Crime Agency, told the Committee that I sit on, the Home Affairs Committee, that he supported the European arrest warrant? He said that it was the best tool to accomplish what my right hon. Friend and the rest of the House want to achieve.
My hon. Friend makes a good point, and as an assiduous member of the Home Affairs Committee he has looked at the matter in some detail. He is absolutely right that the Committee was clear about the benefits of the European arrest warrant. We have indeed made changes to it, thanks to which the National Crime Agency refuses requests before they even get to our courts in the case of the most trivial offences, freeing up police and court time for more serious matters.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. In your ruling, you made it clear that reference to the European arrest warrant was to be made only in passing. The Home Secretary has been speaking about the European arrest warrant for the past 10 minutes. Is that not in total contravention of what you ruled earlier?
I said in my statement that I intended to offer latitude, so that the matters of which the House wishes to treat may be properly aired. I appreciate the hon. Gentleman’s intentions in seeking clarity from the Chair, but nothing I have heard so far has conflicted with that. I intended—and I intend—pragmatically to handle matters from where we are, which, as I think we all agree, is sub-optimal.
Our reforms have also clarified the rules on dual criminality to ensure that an arrest warrant must be refused if all or part of the conduct for which a person is wanted took place in the UK and is not a criminal offence in this country. The National Crime Agency is now refusing arrest warrants where it is obvious that the dual criminality test has not been met. It has done so nearly 40 times since our reforms came into force in July. Under the old arrest warrant, people were being detained for long periods overseas before being charged or standing trial. We have changed the law to require that a decision to charge, and a decision to try the person, has been made in the requesting country before they can be extradited.
clause, does she have confidence—this is something that I and my constituent lack—that the decision to charge and try will necessarily follow with the same speed and alacrity as in this country and many other countries? We are totally reliant on those other countries to enforce such measures quickly, else people will languish in jail because there is a difference between the decision to charge and the different decision to try.
In our changes to the legislation we are clear that this is about the decision to charge and to try. As I mentioned earlier, my hon. Friend has been assiduous in championing the issue because of the case of his constituent Andrew Symeou and we all recognise that that sort of circumstance led many people to query the European arrest warrant and be concerned about its operation. The legislative changes we have made allow a British court to decide that unless there is a decision to charge and try an individual, it can reject the European arrest warrant. In addition, we have also made changes so that an individual can be transferred temporarily to give evidence and be returned to the United Kingdom, or to give evidence by video link, for example, so that they do not need physically to be taken to the other country concerned.
I am grateful for the Home Secretary’s attempt to explain that point, but perhaps I can ask her about another issue. The courts are not allowed to take into account the record of a country in its effectiveness at pursuing a case from charge to trial-ready. Would such a requirement on the courts provide more confidence that they can look beyond the initial application to extradite and hold to account countries that fail to deliver?
I did not have to ask this time, and I am grateful to the Home Secretary. I fully agree with what she is saying about the European arrest warrant and with many of the changes that she has managed to introduce and negotiate with other countries. I agree with all that, but not with the process she is adopting. On
The Speaker has already said that this is not a vote on the European arrest warrant. So that all Members of the House can at least reckon that they have had a fair deal, will the Home Secretary please give us a proper vote next week?
And the hon. Gentleman started off so nicely—such a disappointment. As I have said, the National Crime Agency is refusing arrest warrants in certain circumstances, and as I indicated in response to my hon. Friend Nick de Bois, those require people to be able to be charged and stand trial. Some hon. Members were worried that arrest warrants were being used for investigatory purposes rather than prosecution, and, as I said, that is why we have allowed people to visit an issuing state temporarily to be questioned, or to do so via a video link without even leaving these shores.
These post-July changes are extremely welcome, but one point that has not yet been made is that 95% of European arrest warrants that are applied for from this country are for foreign nationals. It is foreign countries wanting their nationals back to prosecute them—these are foreign nationals, foreign criminals, who have come to the United Kingdom because they think that it can be a safe haven. The European arrest warrant is enabling the countries where the offences were committed to get their nationals back—95% of those warrants do not apply to UK citizens but to foreign citizens.
My right hon. Friend makes an important point. He is prescient because it was a point to which I was coming soon in my speech, and it is an important statistic. Sometimes people think that the European arrest warrant is just used to extradite United Kingdom citizens from the United Kingdom, but that is not the case.
Hon. Members have expressed concerns about people being charged with offences over and above those specified in their arrest warrant if they consent to extradition, so we have lifted the requirement that individuals lose their right to “speciality protection” when they consent to extradition. Those changes have been made in UK law, and came into effect earlier this year. They are already making an important difference to the operation of the arrest warrant.
The concept of proportionality is hard to define and therefore hard to understand. The Home Secretary has already given examples of cases that have been refused on the basis that they are too trivial. Can she give an example of the least serious offence where extradition has been possible since July?
I do not have a list of all the European arrest warrants that have been refused, but there are two steps to the proportionality decision. The first is an administrative decision taken by the National Crime Agency as the body that initially receives the request. Then there is the possibility for the courts to make a determination about proportionality, and they will consider a variety of issues. It is not a tick-box approach; the courts will make judgments not just about the nature of the crime but about the nature of the disposal available in the other member state in relation to that crime, so that they can decide whether the arrest warrant is appropriate.
My right hon. Friend Sir Tony Baldry indicated that the vast majority of people extradited from the UK—more than 95%—are foreign nationals. They include suspects wanted for 124 murders, more than 100 rapes, nearly 500 serious assaults and seven terrorism cases. In the same period, the arrest warrant has been used to return 647 people to this country to face justice. The list includes 51 suspected killers, 80 suspected paedophiles, 46 suspected violent thugs, and one suspected terrorist.
I am glad that my right hon. Friend has come to the issue of the United Kingdom causing the extradition of others from abroad. Does she accept that the European arrest warrant brought an end to the rather hideous spectacle of well-known criminals living off their ill-gotten gains and sunning themselves on the Costa Brava?
My right hon. and learned Friend makes an important point, and there are many people, particularly from Spain, whom we are now able to extradite in a rather more efficient process than was the case previously, and they are exactly the sort of people to whom he refers.
I say to right hon. and hon. Members that I am conscious of the time I have been speaking for. I have taken a number of interventions, but I wish to make progress because others wish to speak in this debate.
Some opponents of the European arrest warrant say we should refuse to remain part of it and instead rely on the European Council convention on extradition of 1957. However, as my hon. Friend Mr Raab noted on the radio last week:
“If we have to fall back temporarily on the old Council of Europe conventions, extraditions will be slower.”
That view was echoed today by the House of Lords Extradition Law Committee, which stated that
“there is no convincing case for disagreeing with the conclusions previously reached by the European Union Committee that ‘If the United Kingdom were to leave the EAW and rely upon alternative extradition arrangements, it is highly unlikely that these alternative arrangements would address all the criticisms directed at the EAW. Furthermore, it is inevitable that the extradition process would become more protracted and cumbersome, potentially undermining public safety.’”
I am very grateful for my right hon. Friend’s elucidations. What I am seeking to understand is why we cannot opt out of all the measures, including the EAW, and negotiate a bespoke arrangement without the erosion of democratic control through the European Court of Justice and other means. I listened very carefully to what she said earlier—the Commission’s view that this was unprecedented—and I appreciate it would take time and a lot of diplomatic elbow grease, but can she confirm that there is no legal bar to that course of action and that it is a question of political will?
I recognise my hon. Friend’s point. It is one he has made to me on a number of occasions. I have addressed the two areas where people have sometimes said that alternative arrangements could be made. The first is that we would fall back on the Council of Europe convention of 1957. I have been absolutely clear in the remarks I have just made that there is one crucial aspect that would cause us problems: the length of time that extradition procedures would take. As the House of Lords Extradition Law Committee has just said, that could undermine public safety.
There is another aspect in which that would be problematic were we to be negotiating with other member states. Without the arrest warrant there are 22 member states in the EU, including France, Germany and Spain, that could refuse to extradite their own nationals to the UK. In the past five years alone, more than 100 people from those countries have been returned to Britain to face justice, many for serious crimes including rape and murder. One of those was Andreas Ververopoulos, a Greek, who committed a violent and sickening sexual assault on a 16-year-old girl in Hampshire in 2007 and then fled home to Greece. In July 2013, Hampshire police linked him to the crime using DNA and an arrest warrant was used to return him to the UK. In April this year, he pleaded guilty to his crimes and was sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment. The judge in the case said it was
“an appalling attack on a young and vulnerable girl”.
After seven years of further suffering, the victim and the victim’s family finally saw justice done.
The right hon. Lady knows that I have answered that question previously.
The right hon. Lady is right that the case I cited was a particularly difficult and awful case in terms of the crime that was committed. Without the arrest warrant, the individual who committed that crime would still be in Greece today. Before it came into force, Greece did not surrender its own nationals. Indeed, it entered a reservation to the 1957 convention specifically barring the extradition of Greek nationals, so the victims of brutal crimes, such as in this case, would go on suffering. We owe it to them to heed the old warning that justice delayed is justice denied.
I want to come on to one final relevant point that was hinted at by my right hon. Friend Mr Redwood earlier: the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. This pass was sold when Mr Brown signed the Lisbon treaty. Our opt-out only applies to those policing and criminal justice measures that precede it. Since the Lisbon treaty came into effect, the UK has signed up to 90 new justice and home affairs measures, accepting the jurisdiction of the ECJ over them. We face the same choice today: whether to accept the jurisdiction of the ECJ over the small package of measures that we wish to remain part of from
I am certainly no enthusiast for the European Court of Justice. The ECJ should not have the final say over matters such as substantive criminal law or our international relations. That is why, as I indicated earlier, 100 or so measures the Government have opted out of, and will not rejoin, include more than 20 minimum standards measures on sensitive matters such as racism and xenophobia. It is why we have opted out of, and will not rejoin, the EU-US extradition agreement. It is this place that should have the final say over our laws on these matters, and Her Majesty’s Government should be able to renegotiate such arrangements as they see fit.
I understand the concerns raised about the European Court of Justice in the many debates we have had on protocol 36. I believe we must look again at this matter in our renegotiations with the European Union before the referendum that a Conservative Government will deliver by the end of 2017. In the meantime, however, we must act in the national interest to keep the British public safe. We have therefore exercised an opt-out, which it seems no one else would have exercised. We have brought back more than 100 justice and home affairs powers that had already been signed away. We have listened to those who work tirelessly to keep us safe on which of the tools at their disposal are vital to their important work. We have gone to Europe and negotiated a good deal for the United Kingdom. We have won support from the Commission and other member states to remain part of a smaller package of measures in the national interest. Now we must vote to transpose those measures that require transposing and, in doing so, vote to seal the deal.
Today we have had a completely shambolic debate. The Home Secretary has given an excellent account of why we should support policies that are not on the Order Paper. She has given an excellent defence of the European arrest warrant, which is not on the Order Paper. I agree with her that the European arrest warrant is immensely important. It helps us to fight crime. It helps the police, in Britain and across Europe, to stop murderers, traffickers and sex offenders. It helps us to deport more than 1,000 suspected foreign criminals primarily to their own countries to face justice. Given that there is a majority in this House in favour of the European arrest warrant, why on earth are we not voting for it? Why the sophistry? Why the games? Why the dancing around? It is just baffling that the Home Secretary is playing games with something so important to criminal justice and to the fight against international crime and terrorism.
The draft regulations cover a series of measures—the 11 measures that are on the Order Paper—and we support them. The confiscation orders, freezing orders on criminal records, the European supervision order, the joint investigation teams—we support them all. We support the measures on confiscation and freezing orders because no country in the EU should become a safe haven for criminal assets. We should be able to confiscate them wherever they are held. We support the two measures on criminal records and conviction. Exchanged data on the conviction of EU nationals should be harnessed for us to identify, locate and stop EU criminals entering our country and committing crimes. We support the European supervision order as a vital reform to interact with the arrest warrant, because suspects awaiting trial should, if appropriate, be in their home state. We support the joint investigation teams because we saw with Operation Golf that co-operation in complex investigations means we can arrest 126 traffickers from across Europe and safeguard vulnerable children not just in Britain but across the continent too. We support the prisoner transfer framework, because it makes it harder for other member states to refuse to take back their nationals from our prisons. We should have that co-operation in place.
We support the rest of the 35 measures that are not on the Order Paper—the measures we do not have a chance to demonstrate our support for and to vote for tonight. We saw, with the problem of foreign criminals entering in the UK, that the Schengen information system is also vital and necessary. We need Europol to support and co-ordinate cross-border investigations. We support closer co-operation on combating child abuse imagery, because with this crime there are no borders and the police need to work with police across Europe and across the world too. We support action to tackle football hooliganism across borders, and as we have made clear many times in the House, we particularly support the EAW. The Association of Chief Police Officers has described it as an essential weapon, and distinguished legal figures, including the former President of the Supreme Court, have argued that
“Britain also risks becoming a safe haven for fugitives from justice, a handful of them British citizens, but the vast majority foreign nationals wanted for crimes elsewhere in Europe.”
And they are right.
As the hon. Gentleman knows, there were cases before the introduction of the EAW when it took years to extradite suspects—for example, suspected terrorists back to France. We should not be in that situation. If we have people in our country wanted in France for serious crimes, particularly terrorists allegations, we should be able to deport them to face justice.
Is not the important point that in a completely multilateral system we do not stand out, whereas if everybody else opted into the justice and home affairs measures and the EAW, and we alone stood outside, we would become a safe haven, because it would be much easier to stay in this country for extended periods than in any other EU state?
The hon. Gentleman is right. It is suggested that we could arrange separate extradition treaties, but in the past when we did that, they took too long and caused immense problems. In the case of Rachid Ramda, the Algerian national arrested in the UK in connection with a terrorist attack on the Paris transport system, France sought extradition from the UK in 1995. The process was completed in 2005. That was when the EAW was not in place.
My right hon. Friend started by calling the proceedings in the House “shambolic”. Does she agree that the Home Secretary has got herself into a mess, but that equally the Prime Minister has got himself into a mess, because on
My hon. Friend is right. The Prime Minister was asked specifically about the EAW, not the 11 measures on the Order Paper, and he could not have been clearer: he said there would be a vote before the Rochester by-election. That he and the Home Secretary think they can rip up promises made to the House shows that they are not taking this Parliament seriously.
Nice try. I will come to the issues that the Home Secretary has opted out of in a second, but the idea that the Home Secretary’s utter shambles today is the fault of the previous Labour Government is pushing the hon. Gentleman’s political argument to a ludicrous extreme.
The statistics are clear: the EAW helps us to deport foreign criminals and terrorists, and of the 1,057 people removed under an EAW last year, only 43 were UK nationals, and eight of those were connected to child sex offences. It is because the EAW and the other measures are so important that we should be having a vote on them now.
The Home Secretary has form. We saw it when she was asked about the net migration promise. No ifs no buts, the Prime Minister made a promise—a contract with the British people, he said—but she said it was no longer a promise but a comment. We saw it again today when she dismissed the Prime Minister’s promise to the House that there would be a vote on the EAW.
Frankly, the whole opt in, opt out process has been a con. It is an in/out hokey cokey back to where we started. On the measures to be opted out of, the Prime Minister promised the biggest transfer of power from Brussels back to Britain by opting out of more than 100 measures, but what powers in practice have been brought back? Britain will no longer be expected to have a good practice guide on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, but we will keep one anyway; Britain will not sign up to having a contact point for cross-border allegations of corruption, but the police and Border Force will still have one anyway; we will not sign up to receive a directory of specialist counter-terrorism officers, but we will get someone to send it to us on the side; we will not sign up to a whole series of accession measures that apply to other countries and did not cover us anyway; we were already opting out of the European judicial network, and we will carry on opting out of it; and we will not be involved in setting up contact points to deal with the other countries in pursuing those responsible for genocide, but we will—quietly—let Europol know whom they should ring.
Time and again, the Home Secretary claims to be repatriating huge numbers of powers, when in fact she is simply opting out of dozens of measures that either do not operate anymore or which cover areas where we plan to carry on regardless, whether we are in or out.
So much for a repatriation of powers—it is a repatriation of other people’s phone numbers. She has taken back the
Yellow P ages
. Congratulations to her.
The right hon. Lady has said she disagrees with the opt in, opt out process. Will she remind the House which party was in government when it was negotiated?
Given the shambles the Home Secretary has presided over today, the idea that she wants to make this about the last Labour Government is frankly ludicrous, and it makes her look silly. She decided what she wanted to opt into and out of, and she then claimed to the House that she had repatriated powers and safeguarded the hugely important things she is still too scared to give the House a vote on.
Since the right hon. Lady has been busy disparaging the 100 things or so she signed up to, does Labour now acknowledge that the Lisbon treaty was one of the greatest betrayals of this country on record?
Again, nice try. The problem is that we are debating a series of measures that we and the Home Secretary think we should be opting back into. We think that the 11 measures are important, and we want to have a debate today on the additional measures we also think we ought to opt back into: the EAW and the rest of the 35 measures. I understand that the hon. Gentleman and other Conservative Back Benchers disagree, but at least we should have the debate. I can reassure the Home Secretary that there would still be a strong House of Commons majority in favour of her 35 measures, because they are important for fighting crime. Surely, however, we should have that debate so that the House can send a strong signal to Europe and the courts that we support these measures—that they are the right thing for fighting crime and for Britain and Europe.
Is the shadow Home Secretary effectively saying that she agrees with the treatment of the Kings: a small child with a brain tumour is taken away from his parents in Spain, a European arrest warrant is issued by the British courts—after the July reforms—and the parents are arrested? Was that a good way to treat a child?
I think there was dreadful decision making in that case. The police should not have continued with the EAW—they should have withdrawn it—and I think it was a bad decision. However, the hon. Gentleman will know of cases in this country where the police wrongfully arrest somebody; we do not then conclude that the police should not have a power of arrest. Instead, we say there should be proper and thoughtful decision making. What happened to that family should not have happened, and the whole House will have immense sympathy with them. They should not have been put through what they were put through.
Of course, the big difference is that in the case of the Kings, this European arrest warrant is subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. It overtakes the Supreme Court; it overtakes this Parliament because the Lisbon treaty has allowed it to do so. That was passed by the right hon. Lady’s Government, but the bottom line is that it has created grave injustice.
As I have made very clear, the police and the CPS should have withdrawn that arrest warrant much earlier; it was the wrong thing to do. I also think it important for the police to be able to work with other police forces right across European and right across the world, and to have these particular powers in place to work in Europe. The Home Secretary agrees, and we agree with her that this is the right thing to do, but the way in which we have had this debate in Parliament today has been utterly chaotic.
We have heard from Sir William Cash about the Kings, but what about Hussein Osman, one of the 21/7 bombers, or the murderer Jason McKay and many more appalling cases of appalling crimes that have been brought to justice by the European arrest warrant? Yes, there have been a few odd mistakes, but a massive number of criminals have been brought to justice who, if the hon. Gentleman had his way, would still be lounging around, posing a threat to the public.
My hon. Friend is right. A huge number of people, including more than 1,000 foreign citizens, are deported from this country, having been suspected of committing crimes, to face justice. I think it is right that we have the ability to do so.
The Home Secretary has basically told us that we should be grateful for the debate that the Government have somehow conceded should take place. You gave your ruling, Mr Speaker, that we were not having a vote on the European arrest warrant. The Home Secretary then stood up and completely contradicted that. She went on to say that we were voting on a package of 35 measures and that it was not a “pick and mix”. Why, then, has she picked and mixed only 11 of the measures and put them on the Order Paper rather than the full package of 35? The Prime Minister said categorically that we would have a vote on the European arrest warrant, yet he has refused to allow it.
Again I urge the Home Secretary to rethink. It is not too late for her to rethink and to provide the House with a specific vote on the European arrest warrant. It is true that some of her Back Benchers would vote against it, but the rest of us would vote for it. On the Labour Benches, we want enthusiastically to endorse the Home Secretary’s measures; on the Conservative Benches, Members want rebelliously to oppose them—but we all want a parliamentary vote.
Is not the truth that the Government took the European arrest warrant out of the motion because the Home Secretary and the Chief Whip thought they were being clever? They took it out because they wanted to minimise the rebellion. They wanted to tell journalists that it was a vote on the European arrest warrant, but tell the Back Benchers not to worry because they were voting only on prisoner transfer agreements. They wanted to pretend to Parliament that this was a vote on a package of 35 measures, yet let their MPs fend off UKIP in their constituencies by claiming that they never voted for the most controversial plans.
I have the privilege, unlike the right hon. Lady, of being in receipt of communications from the Whips and from the Home Secretary about today, and I have to say that we were all perfectly well aware of what we are debating, as the right hon. Lady has made clear.
It might have been helpful if the hon. Gentleman had explained that to some of his fellow Back Benchers—and certainly to us, as we really would have liked to know. We thought we were coming to vote on the European arrest warrant. When we saw the motion on Thursday and Friday last week, I specifically wrote to the Home Secretary to ask for clarity, because it was utterly baffling to us.
It is not as simple as that. The ruling refers to state papers, and I do not honestly think that some document circulated clandestinely or otherwise as a result of the wishes of Her Majesty’s Government Whips Office necessarily constitutes a state paper. It is probably just some piece of advice or other material being lobbed around the Chamber. It does not have a hallowed status.
I have not seen the document in question, although it may be presented at some point. At this stage, all I am saying is that it is not obvious to me that a state paper is at stake or that the hon. Gentleman has suffered any detriment. We will leave it there. I think that the right hon. Lady was about to take an intervention from Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg.
My hon. Friend Ben Gummer quite understandably does not read his communications from the Whips Office with care and attention. Had he read section 4 of the document on today’s business, he would have found that it said:
I hope I have been able to clear up this matter.
Now that the hon. Members for Ipswich (Ben Gummer) and for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg) have referred to this document, it really must be put in the public domain. The hon. Member for North East Somerset has kindly put it in front of the House so that that we can all consider it.
Let me now give the Home Secretary the opportunity to agree from the Dispatch Box that there will be a vote—an additional vote—on the European arrest warrant before the Rochester and Strood by-election. Let me give way to the Home Secretary so that she can do this. [Hon. Members: “Come on!”] She has not done so, and that is really disappointing. Let me give her one further opportunity to do so, because it is a huge concern for this House if we do not have the opportunity to put the European arrest warrant beyond legal doubt—we know the mischief lawyers will make through judicial reviews. Let us have a chance to give a strong signal that we support all 35 measures, not just the 11 that appear on the Order Paper. [Interruption.] It is no good the Home Secretary saying from a sedentary position that we will do that by voting for this motion, because Mr Speaker has said that it is not a vote on the European arrest warrant. We are therefore acting on advice from the House. I urge the Home Secretary again to stand up and say that she will withdraw this motion and give us the opportunity to vote on the full 35. I will let her do so.
I have to tell the Home Secretary that this puts the House in an extremely difficult position. She has effectively said that Ministers are just going to make it up. The Speaker has been very clear that this motion does not include a vote on the European arrest warrant. The right hon. Lady has said that she is going to reinterpret this in any way she chooses. That is an irresponsible way in which to treat this House. If she brings this motion back tomorrow, with all 35 measures included, we will support it. We will work with the business managers, we will support it, we will vote for it. Then there would be no doubt that we had categorical support for all 35 measures. The Home Secretary should do that tomorrow. We will get it through—there is plenty of time. Will she do that tomorrow?
If the Home Secretary will not do that tomorrow, she is playing fast and loose with the criminal justice system and fast and loose with this Parliament. On that basis,
Mr Speaker, I think we need further debate now, and to return to the issue tomorrow. We have loads of time tomorrow. There is plenty of time for the Home Secretary to do this tomorrow. We could get it all in place. On that basis, I move that the Question be not now put.
Order. The question is, that the Question be not now put. As the Previous Question is an unusual procedure, addressed on page 404 of “Erskine May”, I ought to explain the effect of so deciding. I should perhaps first make the point that the question is debatable. If the previous question is agreed to, the draft regulations will not be further considered at this sitting. If the previous question is negatived, the Chair will be required to put the question on the draft regulations straight away, with no further debate. Only if the previous question is withdrawn can the House continue to debate the regulations. As usual, withdrawing the previous question would require the unanimous assent of the House. I repeat, for the sake of clarity and the benefit of Members, that the question is, that the Question be not now put.
Order. Before I put the Question, I want to hear from the Home Secretary.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I understand that your clarification meant that it was now possible for speeches to be made in relation to the question that has now been proposed, which is that the question should not now be put. In that case, I am very happy to speak, and other Members may wish to do so as well.
Order. Let me say, for the avoidance of doubt, that that is perfectly orderly. I did say that the question was debatable. No Member appeared to be standing, and Members seemed to be expressing a will to reach a decision by making their voices heard. However, the Home Secretary is perfectly entitled to speak on the matter, and she will now do so.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Yvette Cooper appears to have been getting herself into quite a state about this particular issue. I am very happy to explain the position to the House again, very clearly. It is very simple. There is a timetable that we must follow if we are to ensure that we can opt back in to measures by
I think that the context is germane to the question of whether the motion be approved, or not approved, as the case may be. I therefore think that an excessively narrow interpretation would be wrong. I think it only right for the Home Secretary, if she wants to speak to the Question that the Question be not now put, to have an opportunity, in an orderly way, to make her case. Let me now hear what I hope will be an orderly account.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I am grateful for your ruling on what matters are relevant to the speech that can be made in relation to the question that has now been put.
The motion is about whether or not we should vote on the regulations that are before the House today. As I have made very clear, we put those regulations before the House today because of the timetable with which we are dealing in relation to ensuring that we are able to opt back in to the measures that we need to opt back in to by the requisite date—
As my right hon. Friend will know, the European Scrutiny Committee has considered all these matters carefully. If, as is the normal course of events, we were debating a Bill rather than what is provided for by the Lisbon treaty, all 35 of these measures would be before us in the form of separate clauses, and amendments would have been tabled. What we have been debating, however, is a non-amendable motion. Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Home Affairs Committee itself said that there must be a separate vote on the European arrest warrant? How does she reconcile what she said this afternoon—and, indeed, what she is saying now—with the fact that there will undoubtedly be no vote on the European arrest warrant, although several Select Committees have said that there should be?
I would have called the hon. Gentleman to speak on this proposition in due course, but I have a feeling that he has already done so. So be it. I call the Home Secretary.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
As I made clear earlier, I am well aware that my hon. Friend Sir William Cash, as Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, and his colleagues who chair the Justice and Home Affairs Committees, have indicated their wish for separate motions and separate debates on particular parts of the measures, including the European arrest warrant. However, I have also made clear that the Government put the regulations before the House today so that the House could see the legislative process that would be put in place. There is no requirement in legislation for any measure to be put in place for us to remain party to the European arrest warrant.
I must point out, with great respect, that what my right hon. Friend is saying is, “We will go by prerogative.” That smacks of everything that is in direct contradiction to the evolving democracy of the House of Commons. The fact is that it was the prerogative that was displaced by parliamentary change and reform. What she is saying is that, on this particular matter, she will decide on behalf of the Government without regard to what Parliament has to say, and that is unacceptable.
I am not saying that. I suggest to my hon. Friend that I have been very clear about this matter. The Government have negotiated with the European Commission, and with other member states, a package of measures for us to opt back in to. We believe that those law and order measures are necessary for ensuring that our law enforcement agencies have the tools that they need to catch criminals and to deal with matters of justice, which is why we have put before the House legislative measures that will enable United Kingdom law to accord with that package of 35 measures.
The Home Secretary has dug herself into a hole. She will not allow the House to decide on the very important issue of the European arrest warrant. Why does she not simply support the procedural motion so that she can go away, have a think, and then come back and allow the House to vote on whether it wants to enter into the European arrest warrant or not?
The House said absolutely clearly that it wanted to debate the European arrest warrant, and we have been debating the European arrest warrant. I am very happy to speak about the issue, and I am sure that other Members wish to speak about it as well. I understand that, if the Question put by the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford is agreed to, the debate will be ended in relation to the European arrest warrant, and the debate will be ended in relation to the regulations.
Order. May I say something for the sake of clarity? I do not dissent from what the Home Secretary has just said, but what I said, quite specifically, was that if the previous question were agreed to, the draft regulations would not be further considered at this sitting. I did not say, and I am not contending, that debate on these matters will be over for good. I am simply saying that the debate on the regulations would be over for today. It would of course be open to the House, which is in control of these matters, to have that debate on a subsequent day if it wished.
May I take this opportunity to remind Members on both sides of the House that we in Northern Ireland face an unusual threat? [Interruption.] May I ask Opposition Front Benchers to keep quiet for a moment?
The situation in Northern Ireland is very serious. Dissident republicans—the Real IRA, or whatever they want to call themselves—hide beyond the border in the Republic of Ireland. They come into Northern Ireland, and they murder people. We had a prison officer murdered two years ago, on
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for setting that out so clearly, and she is obviously deeply concerned about that point. She intervened on me earlier in relation to a particular case, and I would add to that that while, of course, in any individual case it is up to the independent police and prosecution services to choose what to do, if we were not in the European arrest warrant it would, as she has indicated, be harder for us to extradite people who had committed offences in Northern Ireland and who were now in the Republic of Ireland. The Minister for Justice in the Republic of Ireland has been very clear that if there is any operational gap at all between being in the European arrest warrant and opting back in to it, which there would be if we reject the package of measures, that would have serious consequences because it would be assumed that the arrangements currently in place would no longer be extant.
Will the Home Secretary confirm that there is time tomorrow to debate this, and we would then be able to vote on the whole package of 35 measures, support all of them and have no operational gap by
If the right hon. Lady is concerned about the operational gap, she is perfectly able to vote for the regulations we have put before the House tonight. She talks about wanting to have time for debate. I say to her that we had time for debate and what has happened is she has raised another motion that is interrupting that time for debate.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that this is an example of game-playing by the Labour party on a crucial matter of law and order and the national security of this country? Opposition Members stand up and say at length how they want to debate this matter, how they want to extend the debate and how they want to cover every angle of it, and then they use an arcane procedure, for which we have to look up the precedents in “Erskine May”, to curtail the debate, and they do so with a view only to obstruct the proper business of this House, against the interests of justice and law and order.
The hon. Gentleman can do so, but it is for the Chair—[Interruption.] No, no other debate is required, as has politely been suggested from a sedentary position. It is for the Chair to decide whether to accept what is effectively a closure motion, and the answer to the hon. Gentleman is that at this rather early stage in debating these particular matters—the previous question—I do not accept the closure motion. We are in the middle of a speech by the Home Secretary and there may be other contributions. A former senior Cabinet Minister wishes to contribute and possibly other Members, so I would take a view on that matter in due course, but not now.
As I understand it, if the Government defeat the Opposition motion there will be no further debate, which would frustrate debate on a very important matter on which the Government wish to have more time. In that event, will the Home Secretary make more time available if colleagues are going to help her vote down the Opposition motion?
I did not move this motion that the Question should not now be put. I was very happy for this debate to carry on this evening, because there are hon. and right hon. Members of this House who wish to contribute to it. The right hon. Lady the shadow Home Secretary has taken the decision that she wishes possibly to curtail the debate that takes place in this House today on this matter. We started this debate shortly after 4.30 pm—
I will do in just one moment.
We started this debate shortly after 4.30 pm, after we had had the urgent question following questions. There was a good length of time available, in which hon. Members, with the degree of latitude you indicated you would give them, Mr Speaker, in relation to the motion on the regulations, would have been able to debate matters that were not just the measures in those regulations. We then went into a business motion debate, which took a considerable time. We have now got into the debate proper on the regulations, but what we have seen—
My hon. Friends are queuing up to intervene, so I ask my hon. Friend to wait.
What we have now seen is a deliberate attempt by the Opposition to change the terms of this debate and to stop the debate taking place, and I have to say to the right hon. Lady the shadow Home Secretary that she says she supports the regulations and she says she supports the Government on what we wish to do, and in that case she should allow the debate to take place and vote on the regulations.
I am very concerned that these measures have a deadline, which is beyond this House’s control, of
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is it in order for the House to ask you to say how many hon. and right hon. Members have written to you asking whether they might catch your eye in this debate, so that if this motion is agreed the House will know how many hon. and right hon. Members will have been prevented from contributing to the substantive debate we were having before the shadow Home Secretary moved her motion?
The answer is that a considerable number of Members have applied to speak in this debate. If memory serves, approximately 20, possibly slightly more, wished to speak in the debate as a whole, not in the debate on the previous question—obviously I have had no written applications on that, because it has only just been introduced. On the overall debate today, I had approximately 20 requests to speak. If those Members do not have the opportunity to do so, they will be denied the opportunity today, but they would not, of course, be denied the opportunity subsequently.
On the point the Home Secretary has just made on the importance of debate and the point made by my right hon. Friend Sir Tony Baldry, as I understand the procedure, now that we are debating this motion there will be no further debate regardless of the result of the vote we are about to have. Am I right in thinking that?
I hesitate to give an absolute ruling, because Mr Speaker has, of course, made it absolutely clear what would happen, but the Question is that the matter be not now put and, as I understand it, if that motion is passed, the draft regulations will not be put to this House. We have been very clear about the timetable we need in order to address this matter.
We are in quite a serious position now. This is a very important matter and it looks as if, whatever happens in the vote in a few minutes’ time, there will be no further debate today. I beg the Government: this is an important issue and we can come back tomorrow. We can just set aside time, have a proper motion, and vote on the European arrest warrant. That is the clear, simple, honourable and direct way of proceeding.
I say to my hon. Friend, as I have been saying throughout the debates on the various motions tonight, that the Government have been very clear about why they have brought the regulations forward in the form they have done in relation to UK legislation, but we are also very clear that if this House votes in favour of the regulations, then it is endorsing the package of measures the Government have brought forward to ensure we can maintain the ability of our law enforcement agencies to deal with matters they need to deal with.
So determined are we that the House should be able to debate and pass these regulations and the rest of the 35 measures that we will not jeopardise those regulations. We want to have a vote tomorrow. The business managers can agree, and will agree, to have a debate and vote on all the measures tomorrow. If not, the Home Secretary can have our Opposition day debate in order to do it then, so there is no gap and we can get all these measures voted on in this House.
The right hon. Lady doth protest too much. If she wishes to have a debate and to vote on the regulations, that option is open to her tonight. However, she has chosen to play politics with the matter and tried to curtail the debate. As we have heard from the Speaker’s answer to the point of order raised by my right hon. Friend Sir Tony Baldry, a significant number of Members have indicated that they wish to speak in the debate on the regulations. The Speaker has granted latitude regarding the subjects that Members may speak about, and we are able to debate the European arrest warrant and other matters that are not in the regulations.
It is open to the House to have that debate but, sadly, the right hon. Lady has chosen to take a step that could curtail the debate and ensure that the regulations are not put before the House, in which case it would not be possible for Members to have their say on these important matters. She and I agree on the importance of these matters. My hon. Friend Sir Edward Leigh and I might disagree on how some of them should be finalised and on whether we should be party to the measures, but I am clear that, at this point, the House of Commons has an opportunity to debate and vote on measures that relate to law and order in this country. These are important decisions for the House to make, and I have clarified for the House the exact form of the regulations.
Is the Home Secretary saying that, if the House votes to terminate this debate today, she will refuse to have a further debate on the European arrest warrant and the statutory instruments—[Interruption.] I know she is saying that we can debate the matters now, but is she saying that if we vote not to do so, she would refuse to have any further debate on them?
I have made it absolutely clear that we have had an opportunity to debate these matters today. Ample time has been set aside for the debate. The point of the business motion on which we voted earlier was to ensure that we could have a lengthier debate, rather than the hour and a half that would normally be set aside to debate such regulations. The Government have given time to Members to make their points and contribute to the debate before voting on the regulations. We have been clear about our position on the regulations, but the shadow Home Secretary is now suggesting that she wishes to curtail that debate. The opportunity was there for hon. Members.
This is an important matter, on which different views are held. I have made it clear why we have brought forward the regulations and why we should debate and vote on them now. We need to make these decisions in order to inform the European Commission and other member states and to enable the Council to take a decision, to ensure that there is no operational gap on
I am mindful of the fact that my right hon. Friend has stressed the importance of the timetable—[Interruption.] I slipped out of the Chamber for one cup of tea; otherwise, I have been here for the duration of the debate. I hope that John Robertson will withdraw that remark. Will the Home Secretary explain what difference it would make if we postponed the debate from today to tomorrow or next week, given that we were promised a debate and a vote on these matters by
My hon. Friend puts it very well. We said that we would bring this debate to the House and enable a vote to take place according to a particular timetable, and we have done so. We have introduced the measures in the form of regulations because these are the only ones that require transposing into UK legislation. It is absolutely clear what the legislative approach would be. I think that Members would be unwilling to accept any decision by the Government not to introduce the regulations or not to show Members before the
I have not been in this House for quite as long as some right hon. and hon. Members but it is clear to me that all hon. Members wanted an opportunity to stand up and put their arguments on a variety of matters, including the European arrest warrant. That option was open to Members tonight, but the shadow Home Secretary is saying that she wants to forget about the timetable and about our need to put the regulations before the House. Instead, she seems to be saying that the Government should not have brought the debate to the House, because she does not happen to think we have done it in the way she wanted. Well, that is not a position that I am willing to accept. I have made it clear why the regulations have been brought forward and why we feel it necessary to do so. We have debated the European arrest warrant and, had she not moved her motion, other Members would have been able to debate it as well. Her motion is not an attempt to ensure that the House has a proper debate. It is not an attempt to ensure that the House votes on these important measures. It is just an attempt to take away—
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the motion smacks of political opportunism on the part of the Opposition? Does she also agree that it is ironic, or perhaps just odd, for them to be talking about voting on this matter given that we are in this position as a result of the Lisbon treaty, which the Labour Government negotiated so ineptly and negligently? In the light of the incompetence of the previous Labour Government and of the current Labour Opposition, one might almost think that they were leaderless.
I thank my hon. Friend for reminding us of the difficulties that the Labour party is having with its leadership. I will make no further comment—[Interruption.] He tempts me to comment on why the shadow Home Secretary has been intervening in the debate in certain ways this evening, but I will not do so. He has made an important point.
Earlier, I asked the right hon. Lady who had negotiated the opt-out, opt-in arrangements in the Lisbon treaty. She was unwilling to answer the question, because it followed on from her complaining about the inadequacies of those arrangements. Those inadequate arrangements were negotiated and introduced by her own Government, of whom she was a Cabinet member. She refused to accept that point, however. She will not accept any suggestion that we are now having to deal with these opt-out, opt-in arrangements as a direct result of the Labour Government’s negotiations on the Lisbon treaty. This situation is not a result of the way in which this Government have been dealing with these matters. I have made it clear that we should have been able to continue the debate tonight. It is quite wrong for the right hon. Lady to have introduced the new motion and I hope that, on that basis, hon. Members will vote against it.
May I ask the shadow Home Secretary to reconsider the rather extraordinary step she has taken of presenting this archaic motion and, indeed, ask the House to consider quite where we are getting to on this issue? Nobody enjoys a good procedural row in the House of Commons as much as I do, and this is one of the best we have had for many years. It is perfectly straightforward—people are entitled to do this if they wish—but the House ought to reflect on what impression this is going to give to the outside world if we are not careful. We are discussing serious matters, yet we are all frolicking about in a rather schoolboy manner while the Whips try to get people to come back for an unexpected debate early in the evening. Let us be candid about what is happening.
Some 20 or 30 years ago, this sort of thing was quite excusable, and people just thought it was one of the things this House did, usually at bizarre hours of the night. Nowadays, that is not the mood out there and we have to be careful that we do not feed the thoughts of those who do not have a very high regard for parliamentary debate and for party politics, and who believed they were told to expect, as every Member of Parliament expected, that we were going to spend an evening having a serious discussion on how we organise our policing and criminal justice system to deal with the extremely important and growing problem of international and cross-border crime. If the whole thing collapses in time for everybody to go and have a good dinner in the early evening, that will not rise to the expectations of serious members of the public who expect us to have a proper debate.
I disagree with my right hon. and learned Friend profoundly. I came into politics only because I was sick of the state of it, yet tonight I see the House of Commons alive. We have the opportunity to find out whether the Government are even asking the right questions. Surely he can see that this is about Parliament seizing back the initiative and reconnecting representatives with the public, who are so upset, largely because of the incompetence of the Labour party.
I have every respect for the strongly held views of quite a lot of Members, including a lot on my side, who do not agree with me on this evening’s measures, but I think we would win back the respect of the public if we had a serious debate on them. We will not if we bog ourselves down in arcane procedural arguments, most of which are a novelty to people sitting in the Chamber at the moment; we are going into hitherto unknown areas. I have never previously heard a Front-Bench spokesman move this motion at any stage in any serious debate, and I do not expect I will for many years to come.
I sympathise with the shadow Home Secretary’s position; indeed, I agree with her on quite a lot of things. Her problem is that she is leading for the Opposition when in policy terms she agrees with absolutely everything the Home Secretary is proposing, and so do I. I congratulate the shadow Home Secretary on her responsible approach to the subject. Everybody in this country responsible for the fight against crime and for the criminal justice system, and wanting to protect the public, is in favour of this opt-in. I am even more closely aligned with her than with some of my colleagues. I voted with her on the Maastricht treaty. I also voted with her on the Lisbon treaty, which paved the way for these international agreements being reached. That has enabled us to be so much more effective than we used to be in dealing with international criminal fugitives, who not only thrived on the Costa del Sol but were very present in London when they fled to this country before we steadily began to develop today’s arrangements.
The shadow Home Secretary has, however, got absolutely no arguments against the Government’s proposals on the merits. She is therefore making a mountain out of a molehill of a parliamentary procedural thing, which she thinks serves her purpose. Of course she is also enjoying herself, which I quite understand in ordinary party political terms. She is allying herself with my right hon. and hon. Friends who profoundly disagree with her and with the Home Secretary, and who are totally opposed to me in my support for these criminal justice measures. The alliance between the shadow Home Secretary and some of the most dyed in the wool Eurosceptics in this House is a very unlikely one, but I go back to where I started.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows that I agree with him on many issues relating to the European Union, but I gently suggest to him that good Europeans like us need to understand that we have to carry the country with us. That requires proper processes in this House, not chicanery and not a proxy motion; we need a proper motion on the Order Paper, which is why every Committee that has considered this matter—the Home Affairs Committee, the Justice Committee and the European Scrutiny Committee—decided that there should be a separate motion. That is all we are calling for.
I hope my opening remarks made it quite clear that the one thing I am not going to do is get drawn back into this entertaining procedural debate we had earlier on. It seems to me as plain as a pikestaff that if we have a vote at 10 pm on what is apparently on the Order Paper, the Government will be bound either to proceed with the opt-in to 35 measures or not to proceed with the opt-in to any of them. I repeat that the public are expecting the House of Commons to debate this seriously. It may be that there are not enough Members of Parliament against it and there are not enough arguments against it to delay us much longer, but I do not think that is the case. Some very respectable Government Members are going to oppose it—if they ever get the chance.
One way or another, this argument about whether or not the strict requirements of parliamentary procedure—allowing everybody to get wildly indignant about what we all know is synthetic anger at the way the procedures have been brought forward—is not a wise way of proceeding. One thing that unites most Members so far, all the way from my hon. Friend Sir William Cash to me, is that we think these are serious issues, and to break down now in an atmosphere of such trivial argument will be a triumph for the UKIP but something that all of us ought to regret.
It is always a privilege to follow my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Clarke, with whom I disagree on only one thing: his statement that he enjoys procedural rows more than anyone else. The attendance in the House at the moment suggests that procedural matters can unite the House in ways that, weirdly, the serious matters we thought we were discussing today appear not to have done early on. I speak in the same terms as he has: in the context of strong support for the measures the Government are putting forward today and for the whole of the 35 measures, which is shared by the official Opposition.
On the shadow Home Secretary’s motion that debate be curtailed—that the Question be not put—it is important that some issues that have not yet arisen be discussed before the House decides whether or not to support it. Never having been here for this sort of debate before, I confess that I am not clear whether there is a winding-up speech from the Government. I see, Mr Speaker, that it may not be entirely clear whether or not there is a winding-up speech—I shall take silence to indicate assent. If there is a Government winding-up speech, I would be grateful if the Minister could address the point that has not come up yet: the attitude of the courts to the motion that we pass.
The point has been made by Members on both sides of this House that the motion before us tonight only commits us to legislating on a certain number of the 35 issues. Clearly, that will be a decision for the courts—the courts will enforce that. In the controversy, particularly about the European arrest warrant, there must clearly be the possibility of legal challenge at some stage, perhaps through an application for judicial review. There is always the prospect that what a Minister says at the Dispatch Box is taken as the intention of the Government of the day and has some weight with the court, but clearly it has much less weight than if this House had passed a legislative motion.
I speak with some experience, and with some scars on my back. As Immigration Minister, I was advised by Government lawyers that if we had a debatable motion and said things from the Dispatch Box in the House of Commons, that would entail the courts acting in a certain way on asylum appeals. As it turned out, that was not an effective way to make the immigration and asylum courts change how they operate. Subsequently, the Home Secretary wisely put through primary legislation to allow that to happen.
That experience is analogous to the current situation. Strong supporter as I am of all the motions that the Government wish to opt back into, I wish to know whether they would be fire-proofed against judicial challenge and whether, if we do not pass a motion explicitly opting into all of them, there is any area of ambiguity left that could be exploited by their opponents. It is perfectly clear from the debates that we have already had that the vast majority of Members are strongly in support not only of the motion before us tonight but of what could have been a wider motion to opt into all the elements—
The Opposition Chief Whip seeks to intervene from a sedentary position. I know that it would be improper for her to stand up and do so, but we are living in interesting times and debating unusual things, so perhaps she would like to speak as well.
Sadly not. There is a serious point for the Government to address. Given the passions that have been aroused and the novel constitutional and procedural territory into which we have now gone, it would be particularly bad if the House went through all of this, presumably passed this motion and came back on another day to do it again, and then discovered that some of this could be challenged or even overturned in the courts at a later date. Assuming that this debate follows the normal course and there are winding-up speeches, I would be grateful if the Minister could address that issue.
In a fit of enthusiasm earlier this evening, I voted with Yvette Cooper and the Labour party along with a rather distinguished collection of rebels from at least two diametrically opposed positions on Europe and from at least four different political parties. That was because we all shared her frustration at the outcome of the procedural shenanigans that have landed us in this situation in which we are voting on only 11 of the 35 justice and home affairs measures, and not specifically the European arrest warrant, which is the very one that we all wanted to debate and vote on. Now, the right hon. Lady has got a bit carried away. I cannot see any earthly reason, however frustrated we all are with the situation, for not voting on the 11 that we all agree on. There is no logic to that whatever. What justification is there for not voting on co-operation between asset recovery offices of the member states in the field of tracing the proceeds of crime? That is something on which we all agree.
Let me clarify this matter for the hon. Gentleman. We think we should vote in support not just of these 11 measures but of all 35 so that we have a vote from this House that puts it all beyond legal doubt, and we should do so tomorrow. We will work with him and the Government Front Bench to make that happen. The Government can have our Opposition day debate if they do not want to do it tomorrow.
There is actually nothing to stop the Opposition using their Opposition day debate for a further indicative vote on the European arrest warrant. I would entirely support the right hon. Lady if that is the motion she chose to bring to the House. However, that does not justify not voting on the statutory instrument that is required by the deadline of
Whatever the outcome of the Divisions tonight, I think it would be helpful for the House to know what happened to my constituent whom I visited in Wandsworth prison. I was appalled not only by how horrible prison is but by the miscarriage of justice experienced by my constituent.
In Romania, my constituent gave the equivalent of £2 to a young beggar. Two policemen immediately accused him of having sex with this boy, arrested him and took him to a cash point machine where he refused to pay them off as he had done nothing wrong. The prosecution was based on a witness who gave contradictory statements, and the policemen and the beggar were never seen or heard from again. My constituent was arrested on
My constituent returned home to the UK later in November, following direct advice from the then consul at our embassy. He refused to give money to his interpreter’s friends to make his files disappear, and so without either his knowledge, or that of the British embassy in Bucharest, he was tried and convicted in absentia—illegally—in 2005. An appeal followed, which led to another trial, of which neither he nor the British embassy were made aware. It was only on
“I am sorry that it has taken so long to get back to you.”
It told him that the Romanian Ministry of Justice had noted that
“you were sentenced to 7 years with…approximately £1,000 fine in moral damages and…approximately £140 for court expenses; your appeal against the above decision was made at the Bucharest Tribunal, the result was that your sentence was reduced to 4 years; this sentence was then open to appeal by the Prosecutor’s Office…and the initial sentence of 7 years was re-set. As far as we are aware, you will not be extradited but will have to pay the damages if the minor involved employs a lawyer to track you down.”
Although the first my constituent knew of these developments was on
The seriousness of the case to which my hon. Friend refers in his excellent speech will be listened to by his constituent and his constituent’s family. Does that not show that the voters who send us here do not want us to get involved in procedural shenanigans in the House of Commons? They would rather we have a proper debate and allow Members to raise constituency cases as my hon. Friend is trying to do.
My hon. Friend is quite right, but this case gets a lot worse. This man was then held in a Madrid prison while an appeal against his extradition was submitted. The Foreign Office sent a letter to the Spanish authorities saying that, unless the Romanians were willing to ensure that a retrial took place, they should decline Romania’s request to have him extradited. No such assurance was given, but on
Order. These are matters of judgment and degree, and I have been listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman. In the debate on whether the question be not now put, it is perfectly reasonable for Members on either side of the argument to put their case with reference to matters that they think either do or do not require immediate resolution by the House. Where the hon. Gentleman strays somewhat beyond the legitimate parameters of this debate is when he starts to go into great detail, which he is now doing, of the particulars of the matter of the EAW or some other policy matter. That he should not do, and I am clear in my mind, upon receipt of suitable advice, that it would be unwise—I know the hon. Gentleman applied to me to speak in the main debate—for him simply to read out the speech that he would otherwise have made as though the motion moved by the shadow Home Secretary had not been moved. The hon. Gentleman might not have wanted it to be moved, but it has been moved, and he needs to display—dare I say it—a deftness of touch and an adaptability in terms of footwork.
What I would say to the hon. Gentleman is that it is very difficult to interpret the precise will of the House on these matters without notice. I am alert to the argument for closure, which is what he is seeking, but several other Members have been standing—[Interruption.] Order. Therefore, I am quite open to the case for closure after a reasonable interval, but I would like to see whether, when Bill Wiggin has concluded his speech—before it becomes even more disorderly—there are other hon. Members still seeking to catch my eye. If there are, and if my assessment is that they are likely to want to make orderly speeches, I might wish to hear them. If the hon. Gentleman is hopeful that closure might be accepted before too long has passed—I leave the House to consider what constitutes “too long”—he may not be disappointed.
I am sorry that I read some of my speech, Mr Speaker, and will leave it there so that you will not feel that I have strayed again. My purpose in speaking in this debate is that, as you have ruled that we are not debating something that we wanted to debate, I wanted the Home Secretary to hear of the specific injustices suffered by my constituent. I would have been able to read those out, but now I will not. Luckily for the House, I will not take a great deal more time. My constituent was told that he was not going to be extradited, but he was extradited on the day that the Spanish court decided that it would not allow that. I think that we need to be allowed to continue this debate—
Order. Ignoring the instruction of the Chair does not cease to be ignoring the instruction of the Chair just because it is done politely and with a charming smile. I think that the hon. Gentleman is concluding his speech—his peroration is being reached, and may ever have been concluded.
But very nearly.
Therefore, I hope that we will not rush to vote on this important matter, because there are serious cases. My constituent did not get legal aid to allow him to clear his name. Until we get the justice element right, we should not allow debates such as this to be curtailed too speedily.
Perhaps it is entirely appropriate that I should follow a Member who has been disorderly, given the nature of the House all day—in many ways this is the most disorderly I have seen it in 20 years. However, in one respect he demonstrated a really important point: he gave us an example of what we should have been debating had this parliamentary gambit not been attempted. What we have seen today is a very clever parliamentary gambit by Labour Front Benchers, but it is acutely undemocratic. It has denied Back Benchers on both sides the opportunity to debate one of the most contentious issues to come before the House for some time.
My right hon. and learned Friend Mr Clarke and I have completely different views on how this should proceed: he believes that this measure is entirely necessary for the delivery of law and order, and I believe that it is pernicious to law and order. I take the view that the first duty of this House is ensuring justice for subjects of the British Crown. What it has done, in fact, is allow a number of people, including the constituent of my hon. Friend Bill Wiggin, to suffer a miscarriage of justice and then have it arbitrated on in what could be termed a parody of a justice system in courts outside the United Kingdom.
My right hon. Friend makes an entirely important point. The House might be interested to know that my constituent Andrew Symeou, who languished in jail for 11 months and was not served well by the European arrest warrant, has just tweeted to say that today
“should be about preventing injustice and protecting British citizens, not be used as a political football!”
The debate should be heard.
My hon. Friend’s constituent is entirely right. There are many cases of British citizens, such as Andrew Symeou, Deborah Dark and Colin Dines, being badly mistreated. It is not just British citizens, because the leading criminal lawyers in 11 other countries have complained about this procedure in previous years. It is a very serious issue. This House, above all others, should have been in a position to debate it at some length, rather than being faced with this awful choice between accepting the Government’s business untouched and forgoing the debate altogether in the fond hope of having it another day.
If we accept the motion proposed by the shadow Home Secretary, we will not forgo the debate; we will be allowed a full debate and the Home Secretary will be able to return with a proper motion on the European arrest warrant. The shadow Home Secretary’s motion is much to be commended.
I have to say that I disagree with my hon. Friend—I very rarely do. I would have liked to have had a full-blooded debate with several motions on each component, or at least packages of components of this so-called package, but that was not available to us today, and there is no guarantee that we will get it if the Opposition’s motion succeeds.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right that there is no guarantee, should the Opposition’s motion be carried, that we would get the proper debate that so many people are demanding, but the Government, having behaved pretty shamefully today, will be facing huge embarrassment if they do not give in to the clear will of the House, which is that there should be more time for debate. I urge him to support the shadow Home Secretary.
I am afraid that—I will explain why in a moment—I am not in the business of casting something on the waters and hoping that it comes back. If I hear from both Front Benches that they have agreed to meet all day tomorrow to go through this business again, I will change my view, but I will not take a chance with something quite so invidious as this. Let us remember what we are talking about: taking British citizens, with no prima facie evidence, and sending them off to courts elsewhere in Europe. What we have been asked to debate assumes that those courts all deliver equal justice. Romania does not deliver equal justice. Nor does Bulgaria, Greece or Italy. Some of them have post-Soviet justice systems to which we are sending our constituents.
What is so anti-democratic about the Opposition’s proposal is that it would deny many Members who had intended to speak today the opportunity to do so, and that is a tragedy, because this House’s first responsibility, as I have said, is the delivery of justice for our constituents. We will not have the opportunity to discuss the alternatives, such as having a multiple-negotiated outcome, rather than the European arrest warrant. We will not be able to talk about the other implications of Europol and Eurojust for the actions of the European Court and the ability of the Home Secretary to pass laws that protect us. All in all, I think that this is a very unfortunate outcome for Parliament today—a very clever parliamentary trick, but very poor democracy.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is not only those Members who wished to speak tonight who have been cheated, but those who, like me, wished to listen to the arguments on both sides?
I agree with my hon. Friend. He will hear some of us attempting to stay in order—desperately, Mr Speaker—while making those arguments, but he will be unable to vote explicitly on them; he will have to vote on whether we have a vote on another day or we close down the debate today. That is not the way Parliament is designed to work. I am afraid, therefore, that this is a travesty of democracy.
I thank my right hon. Friend for making his comments. Would not the solution be for the Government to make it clear from the Dispatch Box that they will make time available to allow us to discuss the issue properly, as the country wants and as Parliament wants, and then we can move on? It is within their scope to do that now.
It is, of course, within their scope, and I was very tempted at the beginning of the exercise to suggest to the Home Secretary that she shoots the Opposition’s fox—that she says, “We’re going to have a day’s debate tomorrow. There you are. All over.” They would have looked stupid and we would have looked very democratic. Sadly, that did not happen. I will not vote for the proposal today. I may abstain, I may double-vote, but I am not going to vote for the proposal because I do not want us to leave uncovered an extremely important debate in the history of this House.
Last time the previous Question was moved, I voted for it. On this occasion I will vote against it. The difficulty is to work out what the Opposition feel they will achieve from this. Although there is always an argument about the Executive lumping together lots of decision into one vote, one of the more complex questions is when the Executive are bound by a motion of the House. It was obvious on the Wild Animals in Circuses Bill and various other occasions that the Executive are not automatically bound by motions in the House. The Executive are bound when they say they will be bound. On this occasion the Executive have said that they will be bound. There is therefore nothing else on that that the Opposition can achieve and the motion should be withdrawn.
I support the previous Question. To listen to some of the right hon. and hon. Members who have spoken, one would think that the Question destroyed our democracy, that it threatened our democracy or that it was bad for this debate. Not a bit of it. Of course the substantive Question is a matter of the first importance to justice, security, our international relations, our constitution and the democratic control of power.
In a moment we will have a chance to answer the question, “Are the Government asking the House the right questions?” I urge everybody to vote Aye and send the Government back to reformulate the question, come back to the House and ask us the right questions about matters of the most grave importance. The motion—the previous Question—is not a motion to destroy our democracy; it is a motion to save it, and I commend it to the House.
As the previous Question is an unusual procedure, I think I ought to repeat to the House the effect of this motion, because several Members have come up to me, quite understandably in this unusual situation, somewhat uncertain about what is at stake and what the implications of a particular course of action are. Let me try to help.
If the previous Question—that is, the motion put by the shadow Home Secretary at, if memory serves me correctly, 7.1 pm is agreed to—the draft regulations introduced by the Home Secretary will not be further considered at this sitting. That is to say, they will not be further considered tonight. If the previous Question is negatived—that is, the right hon. Lady’s motion is defeated—the Chair would be required to put the Question on the draft regulations straight away, without any further debate.
Lastly, before I put the Question, I can say to the House, with reference to an inquiry at a very senior level that has just been put to me, that yes, of course, if the House wishes to debate a motion or a set of motions of a similar or a different character, or a combination of similar and different characters, tomorrow, it is perfectly at liberty to do so. I am not saying it should do so; I am not saying any such thing. That is not for the Chair, but the House would be at liberty to do so with an emergency business statement to explain the change of business.
I hope it is clear what the implication of agreeing to the previous Question is—no further consideration of the draft regulations tonight. If the motion is rejected, the draft regulations would have to be put to the vote without any further debate. And yes, the matters can be treated of by the House tomorrow if colleagues wish to do so. My role is simply to facilitate the will of the House. Is that clear?
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can you confirm that the House will now move to vote on the 11 measures that the Home Secretary has put forward, which we support? Have you had any indication from Government Front Benchers, in the light of the speeches made in all parts of the House today, that they will come forward with a vote tomorrow on the remaining 24 measures?
I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for her point of order. As I indicated in my explanatory statement before this vote, in which I sought to explain to the House the implications of different courses of action, I had been approached about debating some matters tomorrow, and I explained what was possible, but no determination was communicated to me by Government on that matter. In the circumstances, therefore, the proper course is to proceed to the next vote, which flows naturally from the defeat of the first motion. I therefore now need to put the Question on the draft regulations straight away without any further debate.
Original Question accordingly put.
The House divided: