Skip to main content

Devolved Administrations (EU Third Pillar)

Volume 560: debated on Tuesday 19 March 2013

6. What discussions he has had with the devolved Administrations on the proposed opt-out from the EU third-pillar arrangements. (148581)

Before the Home Secretary’s announcement, on 15 October last year, of our current thinking, my officials were in regular contact with colleagues in the devolved Administrations to inform the initial analysis of the measures subject to the 2014 decision. Those discussions have continued, and I was in Belfast in February meeting the hon. Lady’s colleague, the Justice Minister, David Ford, to discuss that very issue.

I thank the Minister for his answer, but he will be aware that, as Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK with a land border, moves to opt out of the third pillar could affect the effective operation of the European arrest warrant system between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Will he assure the House that the Northern Ireland Executive and the Justice Minister will be fully engaged in the issue, given its importance?

I can absolutely give the hon. Lady that assurance. I very much recognise the issue that she mentions, which was discussed at my meeting with David Ford. I can reassure her that we are mindful of the situation in Northern Ireland and giving it due consideration as we reach our decision.

Why are Ministers not engaging properly with the House on those opt-in decisions, given that the five memorandums promised for mid-February have not yet been produced and the Government appear to be discussing with the Commission important opt-ins without having discussed them with important Committees of the House?

I can give my right hon. Friend, and indeed the House, a clear assurance that this Government will go further than any Government in ensuring that the House is involved in the decisions that are taken, and that as we reach agreement within the coalition on the way forward, we will need fully to engage Parliament, his Committee and, indeed, all the Committees with a vested interest in the matter, so that they are able to express a proper view on it.