European Commission: National Parliaments

Part of Deregulation Bill (Programme) (No.3) – in the House of Commons at 5:11 pm on 10th March 2015.

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Photo of Pat McFadden Pat McFadden Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 5:11 pm, 10th March 2015

The procedures we are talking about here are in line with European law. I think what the right hon. Gentleman is driving at is the question of vetoes, and we do not have vetoes. It is important for clarity, as well as the political debate between us, to be clear that these yellow card procedures are not national Parliament vetoes of the kind he may be referring to, and there is a difference between the two.

The objections to the establishment of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office focused on the Commission’s own interpretation of subsidiarity, the comparison between the new proposals and the arrangements already in place and the question of whether this proposal would add value in combating fraud. The House of Lords has issued a report on this matter, and it gave the following verdict:

“We fear that under the Commission’s proposed model an EPPO enjoying exclusive competence for PIF crimes”— financial or fraud in the European Union crimes—

“would be in danger of being overwhelmed by its workload, and its structure would not be sufficiently robust to enable it to monitor its investigations and prosecutions in the Member States. We see a similar problem with the Presidency’s alternative proposal. The evidence we received on the proposed introduction of a collegiate structure into the EPPO overwhelmingly suggests that this would complicate the prosecution of these crimes even further.”

Its reservations about the proposal were clear, and we shared many of them, although for the sake of clarity and completeness I should say that that does not mean that we on the Opposition Benches object to all European involvement in matters of criminal justice. Without rehearsing debates in the House on the European arrest warrant—that may be to the relief of all—we believe that that measure does have a useful role to play in combating crime both here and elsewhere in the EU.

Following all these exchanges and the rejection of the yellow card procedure by the Commission, there have been proposals from a number of Parliaments, including the Dutch and Danish Parliaments as well as our own, for reforms to the yellow card procedure. We welcome the Commission’s willingness, indicated by Mr Juncker, to establish a working group on the role of national Parliaments in the EU, but it is important that that is a serious process and that it takes the suggestions for different reforms seriously. We would also endorse the sentiment in the Government’s response to the reports about the value of Commissioners appearing before national Parliaments to explain and answer questions on the Commission’s actions and policies. We would like to see more of that in the future.

The important point is that, however many opinions are submitted or whatever the architecture of the yellow card procedure, it will be seen to be of little value if it is simply ignored. To refer to the question of Mr Redwood, we do not seek to turn the legal basis of the EU on its head or make demands which are incompatible with membership, but we do believe that dialogue between the Commission and national Parliaments must take seriously not only the sum of correspondence over the course of a year but its content.