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Serious and Organised Crime: Prüm Convention

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 6:07 pm on 8th December 2015.

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Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker Conservative, Wycombe 6:07 pm, 8th December 2015

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has made a strong case for the functions that the measure would deliver, because there is a strong case for that. Indeed, I am astonished not only that Interpol does not, in the 21st century, make such functions available to the whole world, but that we seem to have given up on making Interpol fit for the 21st century and a world of global crimes in which we ought be able to pursue people, wherever they come from, not merely in the European Union.

The key problem is rehearsed in the Government’s business case for Prüm. The Command Paper says on page 51:

“The current Government would not have ceded CJEU jurisdiction over the field of policing and criminal justice during negotiation of the Lisbon Treaty.”

We can see immediately where the Government’s heart is. The Command Paper continues:

“It is clear that accepting CJEU jurisdiction over measures in the field of policing and criminal justice is not risk free. This is because the CJEU can rule in unexpected and unhelpful ways.”

It goes on to discuss how difficult it is to overturn decisions made by the Court, and says:

“The Government considers, however, the risk of CJEU jurisdiction to be at its greatest as concerns matters relating to substantive criminal law. This is a matter that should be determined by our sovereign Parliament, particularly given that the relevant measures are often open to wide interpretation. This also reduces the risk of the EU obtaining exclusive external competence in relation to such matters.”

The Government express concern about the prospect of third-country agreements. That is the problem. If we hand over control of this area, the EU will be able to enter into third-country agreements and we will not be able to do anything about it because we will be under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. That is the heart of the matter: again and again, the Government are a foot-dragging and reluctant participant in European measures, yet we go ahead anyway, despite all our misgivings.

This is something that we really ought not to go ahead and do. Although other Members have played it down, it is a serious matter that, as my hon. Friend Mr Rees-Mogg explained, we are progressively surrendering our own common law system of justice and home affairs. It is not right that we should constantly position ourselves as judging on merit, moment by moment, yet continuing down the path of integration. My right hon. Friends the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister have made similar remarks in the past. I shall not torture them by rehearsing those and putting them on the record now.

It seems to me that there is a clash between heart and head. In our hearts we want our Parliament to be sovereign, and we wish to co-operate in pragmatic and reasonable ways. Of course we do—we all do. But the Government’s pragmatism takes over. They see that in order to co-operate on an intergovernmental basis, the right to bring forward such a treaty lies with the European Commission. The European Commission is not interested in bringing forward such a treaty because the Prüm arrangements have already been drawn up, so what do we do? Instead of asking the Prime Minister to renegotiate this set of powers in his outstanding renegotiation, which would be consistent with what he has said before and consistent with the tone of the report, we do what is easy—we opt in because the arrangements are before us.

We should go another way. We should vote to leave the European Union, take control back to our Parliament and yes, of course, deliver these practical, sensible measures with safeguards over which this Parliament can have authority. We should go forward on the basis of trade and co-operation and act to deliver it as though we mean it.