First, I would like to pay a personal tribute to my hon. Friend Tristram Hunt. He grew up in the best constituency in the world and went to school in the best constituency in the world, Hampstead and Kilburn. I also thank him for sending me a long handwritten letter after my maiden speech, which was much appreciated by a newbie.
I am in danger of breaking the rules again, so I will come to the debate at hand. The problem with being so low down the pecking order is that everything has already been said and articulated very well by others, but I thought I would speak about the worries of my constituents, 75% of whom voted to remain in the EU. As such, they voted in support of continued security co-operation with our European partners, as indeed they did on many of the other matters raised in today’s important debate. As Londoners, the strength of feeling over the upcoming renegotiations on security protection should come as no surprise. London residents are obviously not alone in their experience of the devastation inflicted by terrorism, but they are particularly clear-minded when it comes to the value of EU-wide security arrangements in bringing people to justice.
Ben Howlett has already referenced a time when the European arrest warrant played a crucial role in allowing the police to do their jobs, help keep Londoners safe and bring offenders to justice. He cited the famous example of 2005, when the failed bomber, Hussain Osman, was brought to justice in just a few weeks because of our access to the European arrest warrant.
Other agencies and conventions, such as Europol, which has been mentioned several times this afternoon, and the European Criminal Records Information System help to combat crime across borders through international co-operation and the sharing of forensic data. For a global city such as London, where my constituency is, abandoning European security co-operation could compromise our effectiveness in confronting a number of issues beyond terrorism, including human trafficking, intellectual property crime, money laundering and mobile organised crime groups.
I believe that my friend, the Mayor of London, was absolutely right to demand that London has a seat around the table, alongside the devolved nations, in ensuring that continental security apparatus is kept intact. It was extremely disappointing to see no direct reference to London’s additional law enforcement needs in the Prime Minister’s statement yesterday.
The Government’s decision in December to opt into new Europol regulations was a welcome one, and in principle, would appear to back up the Prime Minister’s words on maintaining a continental approach when gathering criminal intelligence and producing threat assessments. Londoners—not just in my constituency, but everywhere—will want to know whether the Europol regulations we have adopted will outlast the EU negotiations, and whether the Government will develop alternative frameworks of co-operation on policing and security matters, including on the matters I have outlined. Only when we have such answers will my constituents be reassured that their security needs and those of fellow Londoners are being considered with the utmost care by this Government.
Beyond continued co-operation and information sharing with our European partners, it is clear that Brexit will pose financial challenges to the economy. One area that we shall scrutinise is, of course, the money spent on policing, particularly the current spend. In arranging any post-Brexit settlement, the Home Office must fully recognise London’s position as a major global capital. It is no surprise to know that this city incurs extra security costs in trying to keep the large population safe when policing major events and in protecting our most famous landmarks, such as this Parliament in which we sit today. At present, these extra needs cost £300 million a year, but London receives funding from the Government only for barely half this amount. So in addressing our post-Brexit security and law enforcement needs, making sure that the capital has the money to protect itself will be of the utmost importance. We want answers from the Minister on this issue.
I have a few other questions that I want the Minister to answer. Will he ensure that the Home Office gives the Met the full amount it needs through the national and international capital cities grant? There is currently a more than £100 million shortfall, which threatens the police’s ability to protect Londoners. Will the Minister make it clear where our future lies in respect of our relationship with Europol? This will be vital for accessing criminal records information systems, yet we know the EU’s deputy chairman has already made it clear to Denmark that it
“should not be under any illusions” about its ability to negotiate a parallel agreement to membership.
Finally, there is the question that everyone has asked over and over again. What will be our future relationship with the European arrest warrant? In November, the Director of Public Prosecutions said that up to 150 essential extraditions would not have been possible without the European arrest warrant system and our relationship with it, and the former director general of MI6 has warned that losing abilities such as that provided by the arrest warrant would make the UK “less safe”.
I hope that the Minister will make it clear how we can continue to protect our citizens and to protect London, where my constituency is. I urge him to address these practical questions: that might even earn the Government some good will from those who will be sitting on the other side of the negotiating table. As I am sure the Minister will recognise, the No. 1 priority of any Government is to ensure the security of their civilians, but it is not entirely clear to me at present how this Government intend to do that.