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Eu Constitution

Volume 407: debated on Wednesday 18 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on those sections of the draft EU constitution relating to (a) tackling terrorism and (b) external order controls. [118739]

The existing Treaty on the European Union includes preventing and combating terrorism as a Union objective and already provides for extensive police and judicial co-operation. This has been strengthened by the action agreed at the Tampere European Council in October 1999. This co-operation is in Britain's national interest as we face the threat of terrorism and has already proved its worth, for example by ensuring that all member states have effective legislation on combating terrorism.The effect of the new draft treaty is to draw together all the elements in the fight against terrorism in a single merged treaty. I believe it will provide a strong framework for effective EU action against terrorism in the future.Provisions on external border controls are also already provided for in the Treaty establishing the European Community. They are the basis of firm collective action by member states to tackle illegal immigration. Those provisions have been amended and incorporated into the new draft Constitutional Treaty. I believe they will provide the framework we need to establish strong and effective external border controls across an enlarged EU.Nevertheless, the United Kingdom does not intend to give up its right under the Treaties to exercise at its frontiers with other member states such controls on persons seeking to enter the United Kingdom as it considers necessary. As a consequence of this position on frontiers, the United Kingdom has not participated in certain measures relating to external borders. But, within this constraint, we will continue to seek to co-operate with EU colleagues to the maximum extent possible, without prejudice to the maintenance of our national immigration controls.For further information about the Government's position on the articles in the draft Constitutional Treaty dealing with the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice, as presented to the Convention by the Praesidium on 14 March, I refer the hon. Member to the Explanatory Memorandum deposited by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Jack Straw) on 2 June.