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EU Justice and Home Affairs Directives

Volume 553: debated on Tuesday 13 November 2012

9. What consideration the Government has given to the UK opting out en masse from EU Justice and Home Affairs directives. (127918)

As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary announced to this House on 15 October, the Government are currently minded to opt out of the measures included in the 2014 decision en bloc, and to consider which measures it is in our national interest to rejoin. This is a complex issue, and we are considering carefully the individual merits of each measure, continuing to work with law enforcement and criminal justice partners to do so. We are committed to a vote in both Houses before we finalise our decision.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. Will he tell me whether he is considering undertaking international co-operation on EU justice and home affairs rather than simply looking at the option of opting back in to specific EU directives?

I give my hon. Friend that assurance. It is absolutely clear that we can work with international partners effectively in fighting crime, as we do with non-EU allies around the world, without necessarily handing over sovereignty over these measures to the European Court of Justice. We are looking very carefully at where there is good reason to opt back in and it is in the national interest to do so, but we will not take those decisions lightly.

Yes. [Interruption.] I am fully awake, thank you.

The Members behind the Secretary of State are determined to break with so much to do with European law and Europe as a whole. Does the right hon. Gentleman not recognise that the European convention on human rights, the European Court of Human Rights and all the advantages that have been given to people who would otherwise be denied human rights across Europe are very important, and that we should dedicate ourselves to supporting that principle even though at times a European court, just like a UK court, can make decisions that are inconvenient and are seen to be unhelpful to national Governments? That is the whole principle of the independence of the judicial system.

The European convention on human rights was written in the 1950s by Conservatives at a time when Stalin was in power in Russia and people were being sent to the gulags without trial. What has happened over 40 or 50 years is that the judgments around the human rights framework have moved a long way from the original intentions of the authors of the convention. That is why it is my strong belief that change has to happen.