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Serious and Organised Crime: Prüm Convention

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 4:38 pm on 8th December 2015.

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee, Chair, European Scrutiny Committee 4:38 pm, 8th December 2015

There is no doubt that there are a number of cases where improvements can be made. With respect to the difference between what we are doing in the European Union as it affects the United Kingdom and what is happening in the European Union regarding other countries, we still have those problems in other countries. Extending the jurisdiction to the European Court of Justice will simply not deal with the problem.

Furthermore, in reaching a decision Parliament is entitled to know which measures the United Kingdom would opt back into by rejoining Prüm; the relevant factors that prompted the Government’s change of policy on UK participation in Prüm; and how concerns expressed by the coalition Government in July 2013 have been resolved, as we have heard almost nothing about that today. The Government motion is far from clear about the measures that the UK will rejoin if Parliament votes for it today. It refers only to Prüm decisions, but there are three measures. Two Council decisions were adopted in 2008, and the third Council decision was adopted in 2009 on the accreditation of forensic service providers. The Government should explain why the framework decision is not expressly referred to in the motion and whether they accept that it is an integral part of the Prüm package.

In July 2013, the previous Government told Parliament that Prüm would be too costly to implement. The estimate, I understand, was £31 million. The Government expressed concern that Prüm’s technical requirements were out of date and that it would be better to see whether there was a more modern solution that allowed better exchange of information, for example, producing fewer false positives or requiring less human intervention. The Government now suggest that implementing Prüm would be significantly cheaper—about £13 million, not £31 million. Can they account for such a significant reduction in such a short space of time, and how credible is the cost assessment on which the revised estimate is based?

Furthermore, the Government do not explain what efforts have been made to craft a more modern solution based on up-to-date technical requirements which would substantially reduce the risk of false positives, not just in the UK but in the EU. The Government say that they will apply higher technical standards than required by Prüm—of course—for the UK’s DNA and fingerprint databases, but we should recall that DNA profiles and fingerprints of British citizens may be held on foreign databases, which may be subject to less rigorous standards than those proposed by the Government.

All in all, this is not a motion that should be passed, for the reasons that I have given: it interferes with parliamentary sovereignty, it extends the range of the European Court, and the Prime Minister himself has made it clear that he does not want an extension of EU jurisdiction. Indeed, I think the Home Secretary has said as much. The motion therefore does not stand up. We should not opt into these proposals. For many of us, this is a step too far.