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Serious and Organised Crime: Prüm Convention

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 4:16 pm on 8th December 2015.

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Photo of Andy Burnham Andy Burnham Shadow Home Secretary 4:16 pm, 8th December 2015

The case the Home Secretary has just set out from the Dispatch Box was compelling and powerful, revealing, as it did, the zeal of the convert to the cause. She was right to make her case with such force, and I am sure my right hon. Friend would agree that the problem with the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Stone and others this evening is that it invites the House to prioritise the civil liberties of British citizens and risks to UK sovereignty over and above risks to national security. That is what the amendment to the motion invites us to do.

Of course our liberties and our sovereignty are important considerations, but the safety of the public must come first. That is the primary duty of any Government, and it is why the Government are right not to listen to the hon. Member for Stone. The truth is they got themselves into difficulty two years ago by listening to those siren voices, and I hope Members on the Treasury Bench will not make the same mistake today. Indeed, I hope they would have learned an important lesson from this whole episode. It was the European Council that required the Government, after notification of the opt-out, to conduct and publish a business and implementation case assessing the costs and benefits of Prüm. In other words, the EU forced the UK Government to face up to the benefits of European co-operation and in bringing this motion to the House tonight they are effectively conceding the EU was right all along.

That assessment was informed by a pilot undertaken by the Government which the Home Secretary referred to. It found an overwhelming case to opt back in. It involved DNA samples from 2,513 unsolved British murders, rapes and burglaries which were automatically checked against European police databases in France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands. Searching the profiles against the databases of those four member states revealed 71 scene-to-person matches and 47 scene-to-scene matches, five relating to rape, two to sexual assault and 23 to burglary.