Opt-in Decisions

Home Department written statement – made on 5th September 2013.

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Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

In his written ministerial statement on 20 January 2011, Hansard, column 51WS, the Minister for Europe outlined the coalition Government’s commitment to further strengthen parliamentary scrutiny of JHA opt-in decisions. This included a commitment, where there is strong parliamentary interest, to set aside time for a debate in both Houses on their proposed approach.

The Government have decided to offer debates in Government time on the following proposals, which it is anticipated will be published in 2013:

Home Office dossiers

Proposed regulation on Europol

On 27 March 2013 the European Commission published a draft regulation to repeal the existing Council decisions governing the European Police Office (Europol) and the European Police College (CEPOL). This will establish Europol as the “European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation and Training”. This measure has already been the subject of an opt-in debate in the House of Lords on 1 July 2013 and in the House of Commons on 15 July 2013. The Government have decided that the UK will not opt in to the regulation at the initial stages but that they should opt in post-adoption, provided that Europol is not given the power to direct national law enforcement agencies to initiate investigations or share data that conflicts with national security. The UK will remain fully engaged in the negotiations at all levels.

Proposed regulation reforming Eurojust

This draft regulation, which was published on 17 July, aims at developing and reinforcing Eurojust’s functioning and determining arrangements for involving the European Parliament and national Parliaments in the evaluation of Eurojust’s activities.

Proposal for a European Public Prosecutors Office (EPPO)

On 17 July, in parallel with the Eurojust proposal, the Commission also published a proposal to establish a European Public Prosecutors’ Office (EPPO). It is envisaged that the EPPO will initially be responsible for crimes against the financial interest of the EU. The Government have made clear in the coalition agreement that the UK will not participate in any proposal for a European Public Prosecutor.

Proposal on fighting money laundering

Money laundering is already a criminal offence in all EU member states and is listed in the treaty as one of the areas where the EU may create minimum standards for offences and penalties. The Commission has concluded that the absence of a common approach in member states to this issue hinders cross-border investigations and police co-operation, and is therefore suggesting the need to harmonise the offence of money laundering at EU level.

Ministry of Justice dossiers

Proposal for a directive on special safeguards in criminal procedures for suspected or accused persons who are vulnerable

The measure will aim to ensure that special attention is shown in criminal procedures throughout the EU to suspected or accused persons who are vulnerable, such as children and vulnerable adults (initiative 45). This will form measure E of the criminal procedural rights road map. It is expected that this proposal will be published in November 2013.

Initiative regarding legal aid in criminal proceedings

This will be the fourth step on the criminal procedural rights road map. The road map tasked the Commission with bringing forward a measure on access to a lawyer and legal aid at the same time. The Commission has decoupled the two, publishing the proposed directive on access to a lawyer in June 2011, with the measure on legal aid expected sometime in 2013.

Department for Transport dossier

Proposal for a directive on the definition of criminal offences and sanctions in the commercial road transport field

This measure is expected to establish common minimal rules with regard to the definition of offences and sanctions, including criminal offences, in the field of commercial road transport. Such a harmonisation aims to reduce distortions of competition and the unequal treatments when committing infringements. Formal proposals are currently expected in the autumn of 2013 as part of an internal road market package.

Measures may be added to or removed from this list depending on the level of parliamentary interest that is generated by the published proposal. The list is provisional depending on the Commission’s timetable which may change. It is also not always possible to predict, ahead of analysis of the final proposal, whether the opt-in will apply. Parliament will be kept informed of any changes, which will be discussed with the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee and the House of Lords European Union Committee.

The content of this statement primarily relates to arrangements for debates in the House of Commons. It is anticipated that the House of Lords will continue to call debates under existing procedures.