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The UK’s Justice and Home Affairs Opt-outs

Volume 584: debated on Thursday 10 July 2014

[Relevant documents: Twenty-first Report from the European Scrutiny Committee of Session 2013-14, The UK’s block opt-out of pre-Lisbon criminal law and policing measures, HC 683, and the Government response, HC 978; Ninth Report from the Home Affairs Committee of Session 2013-14, Pre-Lisbon Treaty EU police and criminal justice measures: the UK’s opt-in decision, HC 615, and the Government response, HC 954; Eighth Report from the Justice Committee of Session 2013-14, Ministry of Justice measures in the JHA block opt-out, HC 605, and the Government response, HC 972; First Joint Report from the European Scrutiny, Home Affairs and Justice Committees of Session 2013-14, The Government’s response to the Committees’ Report on the 2014 block opt-out decision, HC 1177, and the Government response in the letter of 6 April 2014 from the Home Secretary and the Justice Secretary to the Chairs of the three Committees; Fifth Report from the European Scrutiny Committee, HC 219-v, Chapter 8; Decision pursuant to Article 10 of Protocol 36 to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, Cm 8671, July 2013; and Decision pursuant to Article 10(5) of Protocol 36 to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, Cm 8897, July 2014.]

I beg to move,

That this House has considered the UK’s Justice and Home Affairs opt-outs.

I have just noticed the right hon. Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson) sitting in solitary splendour on the Opposition Front Bench.

On 24 March this year, Francis Paul Cullen was sentenced to 15 years in prison for a series of sexual assaults on children. He committed those offences over a period of more than three decades while serving as a priest in Nottingham and Derbyshire. His victims were both boys and girls, and were aged between six and 16. The judge said that their

“whole lives have been blighted”

by this

“cunning, devious, arrogant”

man. Indeed, one of them tried to take their own life.

When his crimes came to light in 1991, Cullen fled to Tenerife to evade justice. Last year, after 22 years on the run and two decades of further suffering for his victims, he was extradited from Spain on a European arrest warrant. This spring, he pleaded guilty to 15 counts of indecent assault, five counts of indecency with a child and one count of attempted buggery. After a lifetime of waiting, his victims who were watching in that courtroom in Derby finally saw justice done.

That harrowing case and too many others like it form the backdrop to today’s debate. Francis Cullen is just one of the despicable and cowardly criminals who have fled our shores to try to escape British justice. In an earlier age, he might have succeeded. Under the system of extradition that existed before the European arrest warrant—the 1957 European convention on extradition—his 22 years on the run would have rendered him immune from prosecution by the Spanish authorities, helping to bar his extradition back to the UK. It is thanks to the European arrest warrant that Cullen is behind bars at last.

I know that many right hon. and hon. Members have concerns about the way in which that measure has operated since the Labour party signed us up to it, and I have shared many of those concerns. That is why I have legislated to reform the operation of the arrest warrant and increase the protections that we can offer to those who are wanted for extradition, particularly if they are British subjects.

First, Members were concerned that British citizens were being extradited for disproportionately minor offences. We changed the law to allow an arrest warrant to be refused in respect of minor offences. A British judge will now consider whether the alleged offence and likely sentence are sufficient to make the person’s extradition proportionate. Secondly, Members were concerned that people could be extradited for actions that are not against the law of this land. We have clarified the rules on dual criminality to ensure that an arrest warrant must be refused if all or part of the conduct for which the person is wanted took place in the United Kingdom and it is not a criminal offence in the UK.

These are serious matters. Nobody wants to protect criminals. However, there is a lot of concern about these matters in the House of Commons, not least because it is difficult to argue to our people that we want to take powers back from the European Union if we are giving it powers. Will my right hon. Friend give the House an assurance that although this is effectively an Adjournment debate on a one-line Whip, there will be a substantive vote after a proper debate so that the House of Commons is able to vote on these matters?

My hon. Friend causes me to progress to another part of my speech. I want to make the situation absolutely clear. As he knows, we have had a number of debates on this matter in the House, and the Justice Secretary and I have made a number of appearances before various Select Committees, including the European Scrutiny Committee. We had hoped and intended that by this stage we would have reached agreement on the full package that we are negotiating with the European Commission and other member states. That has not happened. The package was discussed at the General Affairs Council towards the end of June, but some reservations have still been placed on it, so we do not yet have the final agreement. However, we believed that we had sufficient knowledge to make it right and proper to have this debate in the House today.

Sorry, I am still responding to my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh). I am trying to answer his question as carefully and clearly as possible.

The House will have the opportunity to vote on this matter in due course, but having said that we would bring the matter back to the House before the summer recess, I thought it right and proper to give the House the opportunity to have this debate.

I am very grateful to the Home Secretary. I apologise if I interrupted her.

I am sure that the Home Secretary will make it clear to the House that if we do not have the European arrest warrant, we will need to have a large number of individual treaties with individual countries. My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) and I are both old enough to have practised at the Bar when that was the situation. I remember that, whether one was prosecuting or defending, it could take ages and ages, going to Horseferry Road magistrates court time after time, with adjournment after adjournment, year after year, before someone was extradited.

My right hon. Friend makes an extremely valid point. It is the point that I had hoped to illustrate with the case that I set out at the beginning of my speech, which is that the European arrest warrant has given us distinct advantages in our ability to have criminals extradited back to the United Kingdom and, indeed, to extradite people elsewhere when they have committed crimes that warrant that extradition.

I will, if my hon. Friend will wait a moment.

There have, of course, been a number of concerns that we have addressed in our legislation. That is an important point. I was in the middle of setting those out, but before I go on with the list, I will give way to my hon. Friend.

The Government, in their July 2013 Command Paper, said that

“it may be possible to negotiate bilateral treaties…with the EU”.

The EU now has legal personality and I believe that there is legal advice, at least in the Ministry of Justice, that says that a bilateral treaty with the EU would be possible. Why is that avenue not being pursued?

There are two issues in relation to that. First, people often say, “That’s what Denmark has; it is able to negotiate directly because it has a complete opt-out on these matters.” However, Denmark does not have any other legal avenue for opting in to those measures. As the Commission has made clear, given that there is another legal avenue for the United Kingdom—as negotiated by the previous Government—that is what should be pursued, rather than a separate extradition treaty with the EU. Secondly, I say to right hon. and hon. Members who think that some form of bilateral treaty would be a way of getting around the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, that Denmark has been required to submit to the jurisdiction of the ECJ as part of the conditions of agreeing a treaty with the European Union.

The Home Secretary is right that the European arrest warrant is needed and right in principle, but the Home Affairs Committee was concerned about the way it has operated. I know she has worked hard to put forward changes, with forum bars and other such issues, but at the end of the day she does not have control over the judiciary in a country such as Poland. Some of those countries are issuing warrants that are executed in our country, and it is extremely difficult to control that.

That is one of the issues we are addressing. One problem that has been raised—particularly in relation to the country that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned—is the number of arrest warrants being issued for offences at the lower end of the scale that would perhaps not be treated in the same way in the United Kingdom. That is why we have considered the issue of proportionality, and introduced the requirement that a British judge will consider whether the alleged offence and likely sentence is sufficient to make someone’s extradition proportionate. We have written the need to address that issue of potential disproportionality into our legislation, and it will come into effect soon.

I am grateful for that information. Further to what the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) said, the Committee also decided, because of the concerns of so many Members, that there should be a separate vote specifically on the European arrest warrant when this package comes before the House. Will the Home Secretary agree to give the House a separate vote on that?

I am well aware of the views that the Committee put forward in its report, and as I indicated in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh), we have not yet agreed absolutely the final package with other European member states and the European Commission, and some technical reservations have been made. We are working on that and expect to be able to remove those reservations, and the House will have an opportunity to vote in due course.

My right hon. Friend said that we have legislated in a way that protects us from the issuance of trivial European arrest warrants, but surely those will be subject to the European Court of Justice. They could, in future, strike out our own legislation, reinforcing concerns among Conservative Members that this Parliament continues to be sidelined in favour of the European Court of Justice.

My hon. Friend should look to other member states in the European Union that are already subject to the European Court of Justice and already exercise a test of proportionality on such matters. To return to the point I made earlier, although some may think that an arrangement similar to that held by Denmark would get over that problem, it would not because part of the arrangement is precisely being subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

If I may I would like to get to the end of this list of measures so that right hon. and hon. Members are clear about the provisions we have made in UK legislation. Hon. Members were concerned about arrest warrants being issued for investigatory purposes rather than prosecutions, and that is the third issue we addressed. We have legislated to allow people to visit the issuing state temporarily to be questioned ahead of an extradition hearing in the UK, if they consent to do so. Members were also concerned about the prospect of people being charged with offences over and above those specified in their arrest warrant if they chose to consent to extradition, so our fourth measure is to lift the requirement that individuals lose their right to “speciality protection” when they consent to extradition.

Finally, a number of hon. Members—particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield North (Nick de Bois), who has spoken passionately in the Chamber about the case of his constituent, Andrew Symeou—were concerned about people being detained for long periods overseas before being charged or standing trial. Our fifth change, therefore, was to change the law to prevent lengthy pre-trial detention. No longer will people be surrendered and have to wait months or years for a decision to be made to charge or try them.

Does the Home Secretary understand that either this House is sovereign in criminal justice or the European Union is, and that if we opt into this measure, the European Union becomes sovereign? She has rightly pointed out lots of defects with the arrest warrant, but once we have given away our sovereignty we have no absolute right to stop or change things in the way that we can if we keep the authority here.

The point I have made to my right hon. Friend, and others in the past, is that of course there is a question about the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, and we have already opted into measures post the Lisbon treaty where the Court operates. We have seen decisions by the ECJ that have been unhelpful—perhaps I can put it like that—such as the Metock case, or the case I referred to earlier when making a statement to the House. We believe that the Court should not have the final say over matters such as substantive criminal law or international relations, and that is why we are not rejoining more than 20 minimum standards measures on matters such as racism and xenophobia. That is why we will not be rejoining the EU-US extradition agreement, and we should be able to renegotiate as we see fit. I am clear that we should have the final say over our laws.

By already opting out of certain European measures, we have taken powers back from Europe that had already been signed away. The process we were left with, which was negotiated by the previous Government, was an unappealing choice between the potential impacts of ECJ jurisdiction over those measures that it is in the national interest for us to rejoin, or the prospect and dangers of an operational gap.

I am being generous and will continue to be generous to my right hon. and hon. Friends, all of whom I know have firm views on this matter. I say to hon. Members, however, that I too have firm views about ensuring that from 1 December this year, our police and law enforcement agencies can continue to do the job we want them to do in catching criminals and keeping people safe.

As my right hon. Friend knows—she has said this already—there are concerns that our laws are being made elsewhere in this context. She then says that in fact we will keep control over our laws. That is precisely not what is happening because, as she knows from the statement she made earlier today, through section 3 of the European Communities Act 1972, the European Court of Justice overrides not only this Parliament voluntarily, but also our Supreme Court.

As I indicated earlier, the House will introduce its own legislation to ensure that we are able to do what we wish to do in terms of the powers of our law enforcement agencies and our security and intelligence agencies. We must, however, make a choice on some of these measures, and the question is whether we believe that we need such measures to keep the public safe and ensure that people are brought to justice, or not. I believe that with the measures we have negotiated, both I and the Justice Secretary—he has also been working hard on this matter—have recognised those issues and will ensure that our police and law enforcement agencies are able to do the job we want them to do.

I am extremely grateful to the Home Secretary and sorry to trouble her a second time. This argument that our whole security depends on the European arrest warrant must be false. An answer was given to the European Scrutiny Committee about how many indictable offences there were in the UK in one year, and the figure was 377,000. In a four-year period, however, there were only 507 requests for us to use a European arrest warrant to the continent. That is 125 a year against 377,000 indictments in this country. Our security is not dependent on the European arrest warrant.

I find my hon. Friend’s argument strange. He says that, simply because a small number of serious criminals such as murderers are extradited on the European arrest warrant compared with the number indicted here in the UK, we should not worry. If somebody has committed a murder and we wish to extradite them from another European member state, we should be able to do so. The EAW, as all those who work with it will recognise and confirm—it has been confirmed in evidence to Select Committees—is a better tool to use because it enables extradition to take place more quickly.

As I have indicated, the Council of Europe arrangements, which were in place previously, had a time limit. Had the European arrest warrant not been in place, we would not have been able to extradite the individual I mentioned earlier, Mr Cullen, back to the UK to face justice, and his victims would not have seen justice done. All the provisions—[Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) mentions the DNA database from a sedentary position. He and I have a different opinion on the database because he would like everybody in the UK to be on it.

All the EAW provisions to which I have referred have been made in UK law and will commence later this month. I believe they will make an important difference in the operation of the arrest warrant. The Labour Government could have made all those changes during the eight years they oversaw the EAW, but they failed to do so. That failure has coloured the views of many in the House and beyond it about the EAW, but it should not cloud the fact that the EAW is a vital tool for ensuring that justice is done in this country and for keeping the British public safe, as has been so clearly impressed on me and Committees of the House in evidence given by the police and prosecutors who use it. I take that responsibility as Home Secretary very seriously, and it underpins everything I say in the debate and the process that has brought us to this point.

It might be helpful to remind hon. Members of the background. When without the promised referendum the previous Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown), signed the UK up to the Lisbon treaty, he ceded more powers to the European institutions and gave up our veto over police and criminal justice matters. We got very little in return, but one of the few things we got from that flawed negotiation and imperfect treaty was the option to opt out of all the police and criminal justice measures that were agreed before the Lisbon treaty came into force. However, that opt-out had to be exercised en masse before the end of May 2014. Following votes in both Houses of Parliament last year, that is exactly what the Government did. That decision is irreversible and will come into effect on 1 December 2014. From that date, we must either opt back in to the smaller number of measures that we think are vital for the protection of the British people and other victims of crime, or face an operational gap that will hamper the efforts of our police and law enforcement agencies.

When the Justice Secretary and I came to the House last July, we explained that we had listened carefully to the views of our law enforcement agencies and prosecutors, and concluded that a small number of measures that were subject to the opt-out decision add value in the fight against crime and the pursuit of justice, and that it would therefore be in our national interest to rejoin them. We listened to right hon. and hon. Members, and carefully considered the reports of the European Scrutiny Committee, the Home Affairs Committee and the Justice Committee, before opening formal negotiations with the European Commission, the Council and other member states.

Good progress has been made, and I am pleased to be able to report that we have reached an in-principle deal with the Commission on the non-Schengen measures, which fall under its purview, and we have made good progress on the Schengen measures, on which the outline of a possible deal is now clear. I indicated earlier that the matter was discussed at the General Affairs Council on 24 June, but technical reservations remain, and discussions continue with the aim of allowing those reservations to be lifted. Therefore, the negotiations are ongoing, but, as I have said, the Justice Secretary and I have been clear throughout that we will update Parliament as appropriate and give right hon. and hon. Members the opportunity to debate the issue. That is what we are doing today. Last week, we published the Command Paper—Cm 8897—which includes the full list of measures that were discussed at the General Affairs Council, and impact assessments on each of the measures. That fulfils the Government’s commitment to provide those impact assessments and further demonstrates our commitment to parliamentary scrutiny of the matter.

Many were sceptical that a deal could be done, and many believed that the European Commission and other member states would force the UK into measures that we did not want to rejoin, but I am proud to say that we have been able to resist many of the changes demanded by others, and have not been pushed into rejoining a larger number of measures. We are clear that the deal is a good deal for the United Kingdom.

One measure that we have successfully resisted joining is Prüm, a system that allows the police to check DNA, fingerprint and vehicle registration data. I have been clear in the House previously that we have neither the time nor the money to implement Prüm by 1 December. I have said that it will be senseless for us to rejoin it now and risk being infracted. Despite considerable pressure from the Commission and other member states, that remains the case.

All hon. Members want the most serious crimes such as rapes and murders to be solved and their perpetrators brought to justice. In some cases, that will mean the police comparing DNA or fingerprint data with those held by other European forces. Thirty per cent. of those arrested in London are foreign nationals, so it is clear that that is an operational necessity. Therefore, the comparisons already happen, and must do so if we are to solve cross-border crime. I would be negligent in my duty to protect the British public if I did not consider the issue carefully.

Will my right hon. Friend explain to the House why it is so important to have those cross-border co-operation arrangements with the EU and not with the entire world?

Our police forces of course co-operate with other police forces throughout the world in bringing criminals and perpetrators to justice. The European arrest warrant—I will repeat myself—is an extradition arrangement that improves on the extradition arrangements that we had previously. I recognise that there have been concerns about it, but we have legislated on those concerns here in this Parliament.

I was describing the Prüm system, which is about the easy, efficient and effective comparison of data when appropriate. We have been clear that we cannot rejoin that on 1 December and would not seek to do so. However, in order for the House to consider the matter carefully, the Government will produce a business and implementation case and run a small-scale pilot with all the necessary safeguards in place. We will publish that by way of a Command Paper and bring the issue back to Parliament so that it can be debated in an informed way. We are working towards doing so by the end of next year. However, the decision on whether to rejoin Prüm would be one for Parliament. Unlike the Labour Government, who signed us up to that measure in the first place without any idea how much it would cost or how it would be implemented, the Government will ensure that Parliament has the full facts to inform its decision.

On another subject, I know that my right hon. Friend the Justice Secretary will want to address the probation situation in his closing remarks—that is another measure we have successfully resisted rejoining.

The Government propose to rejoin other measures in the national interest. We wish to rejoin the European supervision order, which allows British subjects to be bailed back to the UK rather than spending months abroad awaiting trial. That will stand alongside the reforms we have made to the European arrest warrant, and make it easier for people such as Mr Symeou to be bailed back to the UK and prevent such injustices from occurring in future.

We are also seeking to rejoin the prisoner transfer framework decision, a measure that my right hon. Friend the Justice Secretary considers important. The framework helps us to remove foreign criminals from British jails—prisoners such as Ainars Zvirgzds, a Latvian national convicted of controlling prostitution, assault, and firearms and drug offences. In April 2012, he was sentenced to 13 and a half years imprisonment in the UK. Last month, he was transferred out of this country to a prison in Latvia, where he will serve the remainder of his sentence. Had it not been for the prison transfer measure, he would have remained in a British prison, at a cost to the British taxpayer of more than £100,000.

We wish to rejoin the measure providing for joint investigation teams, so that we can continue to participate in cross-border operations such as Operation Birkhill. That collaboration with Hungary, funded by Eurojust and assisted by Europol, led to five criminals being sentenced at Croydon Crown court last month to a total of 36 years’ imprisonment for their involvement in trafficking more than 120 women into the United Kingdom from Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland. One of those convicted, Vishal Chaudhary, lived in a luxury Canary Wharf penthouse and drove a flashy sports car bought from the money he made selling those women for sex. Chaudhary and his gang managed their operation from a semi-detached house on a suburban street in Hendon, and operated more than 40 brothels across London, including in Enfield and Brent. Their victims were threatened with abuse if they tried to contact their families. Some were forced to have sex with up to 20 clients a day. These are the victims of crime that the measures we are debating today help. Joint investigation teams are a vital tool in the fight against modern slavery, a crime this House so passionately demonstrated earlier this week it wants to see tackled. I hope the House will support rejoining the measures that will help us to do that.

I support everything the Home Secretary has said in respect of these policing issues. However, why have we not rejoined the European criminal information system, which would have provided us with information on those who come into this country and already have criminal convictions?

We discussed the measure the right hon. Gentleman refers to in front of his Committee and other Committees. There are a number ways in which we deal with these matters in terms of exchanging information. I want to be sure that I am looking at the measures to which he is referring and I think that they are Council framework decisions 2009/315/JHA and 2009/316/JHA. They require member states to inform each other about convictions of EU nationals and are an important tool for sharing data. The reason I am hesitating here is that we were certainly discussing the possibility of rejoining this particular measure. [Interruption.] It is in the 35. Yes, that is why I was hesitating. The right hon. Gentleman said we were not in it and I thought it was in the 35 measures we are rejoining, precisely because it gives us the opportunity to share this information.

We also wish to rejoin the Naples II convention, the principal tool for customs co-operation. Operation Stoplamp, which used this measure to exchange vital information with our partners, resulted in the seizure of 1.2 tonnes of cocaine with a street value of about £300 million—again, an outcome I am sure everyone in this House will welcome. We are also seeking to rejoin Europol, which played a key role in helping our law enforcement agencies to fight those criminals who tried to exploit British customers by adulterating our food with horsemeat. It is doing excellent work under the leadership of its British director, Rob Wainwright.

Those are just a handful of examples that illustrate why our participation in these measures is in our national interest. Today’s debate is not about the flawed treaty to which the previous Labour Government signed us up; it is about the decisions we must take now to protect the public and keep the British people safe. The Government’s policy is clear: we have exercised the opt-out and negotiated a deal to rejoin a limited number of measures that we believe it is in the national interest for us to remain part of.

I look forward with interest to the speech from the right hon. Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson), as it would be helpful to know the Opposition’s position on these various measures. Every time we debate them, we see a slightly different position coming forward. I am sorry that the shadow Home Secretary is not here to tell us herself, but perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us whether they would have exercised the opt-out that they negotiated. Would they have remained bound by all 130-plus measures, rather than negotiating a limited number in the national interest? Would they have changed the law to protect British citizens, as we have done in relation to the European arrest warrant? Would they have risked infraction proceedings by rejoining Prüm without fully considering the facts?

The evidence suggests that the Opposition do not share the determination of this party and this Government to reduce the control Brussels has on our criminal justice system. Their position has always been to say one thing and do another. There was a manifesto promise for a vote on the Lisbon treaty, but they refused to hold a referendum. They said they would protect British red lines, but they gave up our veto in policing and criminal justice matters. They negotiated an opt-out and then voted against using it. That contrasts with the position taken by this Government. We support, and have exercised, the United Kingdom’s opt-out. We support the return of powers from Brussels to the UK. We support acting in the national interest by rejoining a limited number of measures to protect British citizens and the victims of crime. This is consistent with our approach to the Europe Union as a whole.

I notice that the title of the debate actually refers to opt-outs. Apart from Prüm, can the Home Secretary name one thing that they are not opting into that will make a significant difference in repatriating competence to the UK—one single issue apart from Prüm?

It is not that we are opting back into Prüm. We did not join Prüm in the first place, so that is rather different from the measures in the 35. My right hon. Friend the Justice Secretary has spoken in front of Select Committees on a number of occasions on the importance of not opting into those minimum standards measures in relation to the justice system. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman has a look at those.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly taken tough action to stand up for Britain in Europe by cutting the EU budget, saving British taxpayers more than £8 billion, vetoing a new EU fiscal treaty that did not guarantee a level playing field for British businesses and refusing to spend British taxes on bailing out the euro. It is under this Prime Minister that Britain did not budge on the principle that it should be for the elected Heads of national Governments, not the European Parliament, to propose the President of the European Commission. What I have outlined today is another example of this Government standing up for the United Kingdom’s best interests, bringing powers back home while doing all we can to keep the British people safe. That is the sort of leadership in Europe that this country needs.

For 30 of the past 35 minutes, the Home Secretary had me on board. It was only in the last five minutes that she lost me. It was almost a first. I appreciate that we have a meeting of minds on several issues. I was probably more in tune with her than she is with some of her own right hon. and hon. Friends—an unusual situation in which to find myself.

I thank the Home Secretary for her contribution, on which there is a large element of agreement with the Opposition. I also thank the three Select Committee Chairs, the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) and the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith) for their contributions to the discussions on these key matters.

We have been here before and I suspect, given what the Home Secretary said, that we will be here again before the end of the year. I can see from the contributions from her own side, in particular from Government Members here today who perhaps have a greater level of euroscepticism than I do, that there was not a universal welcome for her statement. There will not be a universal welcome for her projected policy positions later this year, but I want to be positive if I can and support the Home Secretary’s objectives.

The motion today is that this House has considered, not decided on, the opt-outs. My first point is one the Home Secretary touched on, but we would welcome clarification. It goes back to the point raised by the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr Redwood): when will there be a final package on these measures and when will we be able to not just debate but vote on them? December is looming and I would like at some point to have an indication, from the Home Secretary or the Justice Secretary, of when we can expect to have a vote. At the moment, there is no clarity on when that final vote will be.

Will my Opposition Front Bench colleagues support a separate vote on the European arrest warrant? It caused the Home Affairs Committee a great deal of concern.

I am relaxed on that, but I do want the European arrest warrant put in place. We have had some safeguards, but I will outline in due course why I want to see it put in place. It would be helpful to have clarity on when the discussions will be concluded and can be voted on. I appreciate that the Home Secretary has some difficulties, but it would be helpful to the House, for the reasons set out by my right hon. Friend, to have an indication on when we can expect to have a complete package to vote on.

How will the right hon. Gentleman feel on 15 June next year, when some of us will commemorate Magna Carta’s 800th birthday and he will have been party to giving away a very big, fundamental principle under that charter of English law and English jurisdiction to a foreign power we cannot control?

The right hon. Gentleman will know that, as a Welsh Member of Parliament, I take a great interest in such matters. I will look at this from the perspective that I think the Home Secretary is looking at it from, which is: what is in the interests of reducing organised crime, child trafficking, prostitution, drug running and terrorist activities, and ensuring that we prevent future victims and have the best possible protections in place for the United Kingdom across Europe following negotiations?

My right hon. Friend has not dealt with the terrible accusation, which the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr Redwood) has just made, that the EU is a foreign power. We are one of the 30 countries that control the EU. It is part of what we are. Idle talk of it as a “foreign power” shows where the right hon. Gentleman is. He should be in the United Kingdom Independence party, not the Tory party.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for pointing out that nuance in the intervention by the right hon. Member for Wokingham. I regard myself as a European and British citizen and part of—

I appreciate that others take a different view, but that is my view.

I welcome today’s debate because I believe—again, I think the Home Secretary shares this belief—that crime and criminals do not respect national borders. Technology has moved on in the last 15 to 20 years, which means that a range of issues need to be addressed not just within the boundaries of the United Kingdom, but across Europe as a whole. Free movement and new forms of criminal activity, such as cybercrime, require collective action across Europe.

In this very interesting exchange between those on the Front Benches, who seem to be largely in agreement, let me ask the same question that I asked the Home Secretary. Would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to explain to me and the House why we have an arrangement with the European Union on this basis and not one to deal with other murderers, traffickers and the rest of it in the rest of the world? Can he explain what is so special about the European Union in this context?

As I think the Home Secretary also indicated in our little tête-à-tête of agreement, there is a wider world outside Europe, but we have strong ties with Europe. We have free movement in Europe on a range of matters. We do not have free movement from outside the European Community, so there are issues that we should ensure we deal with within the European Community.

We appear to be reaching an extraordinary position, in that the right hon. Gentleman seems to be advocating the free movement of people all around the EU, so that criminals can come and go as they please, but then we need these ridiculous measures to try to deal with that. Why do we not just take a more simplistic approach and scrap the free movement of people? Then perhaps we would not need all these ridiculous measures in the first place.

Again, I think the hon. Gentleman perhaps has more in common with other parties than his own on that issue. Some of the changes that have taken place—in technology, free movement, cybercrime, new forms of crime, child prostitution, trafficking and drugs—demand a Europe-wide solution, and I think the Home Secretary has accepted that. They are international crimes that know no borders and they need international solutions. Each crime is creating new victims. I believe it is the duty of this House to ensure that we work with our European partners to reduce that crime, bringing criminals to justice and, yes, co-operating to do so.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say, therefore, what exactly the organisation called Interpol does, which is supposed to be worldwide?

As the former Minister for policing and counter-terrorism in the last Government, I could spend the next 25 minutes giving the hon. Gentleman a whole lecture about what Interpol does. The key issue is that there is a range of measures. I believe that if he went back to south London this evening and asked his constituents whether they wanted effective co-operation to tackle drug abuse, child trafficking, prostitution and international terrorism, the answer would be a resounding yes. It is something the Home Secretary believes is right; it is something we believe is right.

May I make the same point to the right hon. Gentleman that I made to the Home Secretary? The figure is only on average 125 people a year. He is making it sound as if the whole country will disappear down a crevasse if we do not have the European arrest warrant, but if 125 people are slightly more difficult to bring back, the world will still go round.

The hon. Gentleman is talking about a small level of crimes, but they include crimes that could destroy the centre of London and crimes that involve the murder or death of individuals, along with child trafficking, prostitution and drug abuse. They might be a small number in the overall gamut of crimes in the United Kingdom, but if they require international co-operation to bring people back to justice, prevent those crimes in the first place and ensure that we collect individuals and bring them back here, that is something worth considering.

My hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg) is a great guy, but I do not think he has got his figures right. According to evidence submitted by the Association of Chief Police Officers to the House of Lords European Union Select Committee,

“In 2010/11 the UK received 5,382 EAW requests and made 221 EAW requests to other EU states. The UK surrendered 1,149 individuals (approximately 7% of which were UK nationals, the other 93% being fugitives to the UK).The UK had 93 people surrendered to it.”

Therefore, we actually surrendered a large number of people who were not UK nationals. Someone who is a criminal somewhere else is likely to be a criminal here. Does that not demonstrate that the European arrest warrant actually works perfectly well in getting rid of some very dangerous people from this country?

May I just say happy birthday to the right hon. Gentleman? I am an avid reader of The Guardian in the morning and his birthday appeared in that. His contribution supports my argument and that of his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, so it is a valid point, well made.

The figure given to the European Scrutiny Committee was 507 whom the UK asked for between 2009 and 2013. I am interested in when it benefits the United Kingdom, not when it benefits the continent.

The hon. Gentleman should reflect on what he has just said. The removal from the United Kingdom of an individual who has committed a heinous crime in this country to their own country for conviction, sentencing and incarceration benefits the United Kingdom. Equally, if an individual commits a crime abroad that requires them to be brought back to justice here—or if they commit a crime here and flee abroad, as the Home Secretary said—and they are then brought back here, that is beneficial to victims and to justice.

We entirely agree that it is often in the UK’s interest to do that, and that is exactly why we would rapidly introduce a piece of legislation in this House allowing sensible arrangements to get rid of nasty people.

I want to focus on some key issues that, again, the Home Secretary mentioned. Which rational hon. or right hon. Member of this House would not want a prisoner transfer agreement between European nations? Which rational person in this House would want to have trials in absentia because of the lack of an agreement? Which rational person would not want the joint operation teams, which the Home Secretary mentioned, to bring criminals to justice? Which right hon. or hon. Member would not want supervision orders across EU borders? Which right hon. or hon. Member would not want the collection of fines across Europe, Eurojust tackling serious organised crime or, indeed, the arrest warrant to bring criminals back to justice?

It would be better if we conducted this debate on the basis that we are all in favour of those things. It is the means of achieving them that we are discussing. The idea that, because an hon. Member is against the European arrest warrant, he is against all those things is insulting and stupid.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his contribution, but what those effective means are is a fair debate to have. I believe, as I think his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary does, that those things are best done through European co-operation. Indeed, the European arrest warrant has been of interest today, so let me quote from a statement made last year:

“Since 2009 alone, the arrest warrant has been used to extradite from the UK 57 suspects for child sex offences, 86 for rape and 105 for murder…63 suspects for child sex offences, 27 for rape and 44 for murder were extradited back to Britain to face charges. A number of these suspects would probably have not been extradited back to Britain without the arrest warrant. We owe it to their victims, and to their loved ones, to bring these people to justice.”—[Official Report, 9 July 2013; Vol. 566, c. 178.]

That was the Home Secretary, speaking last year. I say to the hon. Gentleman that, irrespective of his views, those individuals were brought back by that arrest warrant. The alternative suggestion, made by the right hon. Member for Wokingham, is one where we negotiate X number of individual arrest warrants—

I happen to think—it is a matter of debate and it will develop during the afternoon—that this is a far better way of dealing with the problem than we have now.

Today’s debate is one in a series. We have waited and waited; we have had debates and debates; the bus arrives, with not one, but two or three coming at once; yet the Home Secretary has not yet brought the final measures before the House. To be honest, I think that the right hon. Lady would rather be at the dentist having her teeth pulled than be here having the discussion she is having with her right hon. and hon. Friends. She has been brought to this debate by the three Select Committees, which are eventually getting the Home Secretary’s capitulation to common sense and Europe-wide justice and co-operation. It has, I think, hit the right hon. Lady, after looking at the matter in detail, that it is rather useful for our police to have access to criminal records or driving offences for when European lorry drivers tear up the M1 or the M6.

The truth is that the Home Secretary’s opt-out strategy ultimately becomes an opt-in strategy. The measure of the complexity of the negotiations is indicated by the fact that she is now acting in the interests of Britain rather than in the interests of Conservative Back Benchers and the Eurosceptic Members here today. She has promised to garner favour with the Tory right, but she is ultimately opting into measures that we support because she now understands that the police want European co-operation and that criminals are not Eurosceptics. She understands that our ability to bring them to book and to get justice for their victims should not be compromised.

The issue of the transfer of powers is interesting. The right hon. Lady has said what she is opting into, but she has not said what she is opting out of. These are not really significant matters. She has looked at opting out of issues such as signing joint proceedings on driving licences that are not in force and are out of date. We are not signing up to a directive on international organised crime that was closed down two years ago. We are not signing up to guidelines on working with other countries on drug trafficking, but we will carry on doing that anyway. We are not going to sign up to measures on cybercrime or mutual legal assistance because they have been superseded by other measures to which we signed up instead. We are not signing up to minimum standards on bribery because we are meeting them under our own Bribery Act 2010. We are not signing up to measures to tackle racism because we meet them under hate crime legislation that is in place. We are not signing up to measures on accession because they never applied to us in the first place, and we are not signing up to receive a directory of specialist counter-terrorism officers because someone will probably send it to us in the post instead.

The measures that the Home Secretary is signing up to are sensible ones, whereas the ones she is not signing up to are either from the past, superseded, not relevant or not appropriate for us. The right hon. Lady has posed as the great Eurosceptic champion of the Conservative Government when what she has done is to sign up to things that I would sign up to, which many of her hon. Friends would not sign up to. The things that she has not signed up to are things that are, as I say, not relevant, not appropriate and not needed now.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree with me that the Home Secretary and the Home Office have spent hours, days and months working to ensure that the many concerns people had about the European arrest warrant have now been addressed in UK law?

They have indeed spent many hours, days and months, and I have spent many hours, days and months in Committee dealing with those matters, too. We did not oppose what the Home Secretary brought forward; we supported it. There was no difference between us and the Home Secretary on those matters. It could have made a difference—and, dare I say it, it could make a difference now—if the Home Secretary had brought forward several months ago the measures she has just brought forward now. She could have had an in-principle discussion—

The Justice Secretary says that they did, but he needs to reflect more on the record. The Home Secretary has tried to indicate that some of these matters might be up for discussion, but ultimately, as she knows, they are in the interests of crime fighting, the interests of victim prevention and the interests of ensuring that we bring criminals to justice.

I think that my right hon. Friend is being kind to the Opposition and, probably correctly, to the Home Secretary, who has worked hard on this issue. The Justice Secretary, however, defended the position previously. They will accept minimum standards on organised crime, but they will not accept minimum standards on terrorism. It is totally illogical. The Justice Secretary has forgotten about that. I raised the issue on the Floor of the House previously and the right hon. Gentleman could not reply then and he cannot reply now.

My hon. Friend raises important issues, but my chief point to the Home Secretary is that she could have indicated her commitment to opting in to these issues more strongly and earlier, which would have put her in a much better place in the negotiations. [Interruption.] The right hon. Lady says she did, but I do not think she did. We will have to disagree and reflect on the issues again. The Home Secretary has tried to be Eurosceptic and to compromise with her Eurosceptic Back Benchers, but they will never compromise on these issues. She needs to take a firm stance to ensure that the House has a vote and agrees these measures because they are good for crime prevention, good for victims and good for bringing people to justice. She needs to bring the vote forward as quickly as possible so that we can shake off the Eurosceptics and show that we in Britain are committed to working with our European partners to crack down on crime and ensure that both Britain and Europe become safer places.

This issue is not at all about shaking off Eurosceptics; it is about deciding what is sensible for the United Kingdom in line with our values, our traditions and our own rule of law. As many right hon. and hon. Members have indicated, there is no reason for these provisions that could not have been achieved by other means. Furthermore, I have still not had an answer to the question: what is so special about the European Union and the cross-border arrangements that operate within it, compared with anywhere else in the world, where we will find murderers, traffickers and all the other problems that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary mentioned? The problems are found in the rest of the world and in Europe, yet we have these special arrangements for Europe alone. The answer is simple: it is about sovereignty.

This is all about giving in to the European Union, through the European Communities Act 1972. Watching both Front-Bench teams is rather like watching an attempt to get out of a paper bag—except for the fact that this paper bag is a steel mesh. The steel mesh is the European Court of Justice and sections 2 and 3 of the European Communities Act. I respect what the Home Secretary is trying to do because she is stuck and trapped in arrangements that are being dictated by the very people—Mr Juncker, for example, who came forward with these proposals from the European Commission, and Viviane Reding, another European Commissioner of the first order—who are committed to driving forward these arrangements in the belief that if they manage to secure a EU-wide criminal justice system, they will make further progress towards the European political union that they want. That is really what it is all about. It is simply naïve and disingenuous to put it any other way.

Does my hon. Friend remember that when we had Conservative Governments, we always understood that, and it was a fundamental principle that home affairs and foreign affairs had to be kept outside the treaties and outside the purview of the European Court of Justice through the three pillar structure?

That is absolutely right. I have followed these matters with what could be described as a mild degree of interest since the Maastricht treaty, in which we were promised all these pillars, but they have all now collapsed as though Samson had stretched out and pulled them down, bringing the whole of the criminal justice arrangements we had previously enjoyed crashing down with him.

Despite all the promises that were made, during the Lisbon treaty debates my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench and I, who were then in opposition, voted against every single measure. We were completely united as a party, not just as Eurosceptics but as sensible people—rational people, if I may say so to the right hon. Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson). The bottom line is that we have now completely reversed our position and are in the process of accepting 35 measures that we would not have contemplated when the Lisbon treaty was going through.

Many of the issues that have already been raised and will be raised later during the debate are of deep concern not only to many Conservative Members but, I would say, to many people throughout the country, as the votes in the European elections indicated. I think that this is just another example of our giving in to European measures when there is no real, rational reason for doing so, given that there are criminals—murderers, traffickers and so forth—throughout the rest of the world.

From 1 December 2014—the right hon. Member for Delyn mentioned this, but I want to reaffirm it from this side of the House—the Court of Justice will exercise full jurisdiction over all EU police and criminal justice measures. As a result, the Commission will be able to infract member states—bring them before the Court, because we have allowed it to do so—and request a fine if they fail to implement the measures correctly. National courts will be able to seek preliminary rulings from the Court on their interpretation or validity. That is a matter of grave concern to the United Kingdom. The European Scrutiny, Home Affairs and Justice Committees —the Chairmen of all three are present—were concerned about the 2014 block opt-out decision, and every one of us, including all the members of my Committee, was critical of the Government’s reluctance to engage fully with Parliament. All the Committees’ reports are tagged to this debate.

The history of the issue has not been by any means a happy one. In their response to the reports, the Government stated:

“ For the avoidance of doubt, we reaffirm our commitment to hold a second vote in both Houses of Parliament before making a formal application to rejoin any measures. We continue to believe that in order for this vote to be as informed as possible, it should be held after we have reached an ‘in principle’ agreement on those measures we will seek to rejoin.”

The problem is that this debate—a general debate—is not meeting what we understood would be the case. I remain somewhat surprised that we are engaging in this debate when the timing of and procedure for the real debate have not yet been spelt out. I hope that, when he winds up today’s debate, the Justice Secretary will give us a clear, factual indication of when that vote and that debate will take place, because that is what the Government have committed themselves to doing.

My hon. Friend makes a crucial point. We understood from the Home Secretary that there would be a vote, but we have been given no assurance that there will be a debate prior to that vote. Will my hon. Friend be seeking clarification on that?

That is exactly what I have said, and that is exactly what we need to have an answer to. What we do not want is a short debate followed by a vote. We want a comprehensive debate on the Floor of the House of Commons—no ifs and no buts. I am sure that the Justice Secretary will be able to give us that assurance.

A letter written to me by the Home and Justice Secretaries dated 3 July confirmed that an agreement “in principle” had been reached with the Commission on the non-Schengen measures, but not on the overall package. According to the Home Secretary, a number of “technical reservations” remained in regard to the Schengen measures, and the General Affairs Council maintained that position the other day. We must have a further, full debate on the Floor of the House, and a vote, once full agreement has been reached.

I want to put a number of questions to the Government. I should be grateful—as, I think, would the rest of the House—if the Justice Secretary responded to them when he winds up the debate.

We need the Government to explain the reasons for the changes to the 35 measures, and to identify which changes demanded by the Commission and the other member states they were able to resist. We want them to clarify whether these are the measures that the Government themselves wish to seek to rejoin, or whether they are measures that they are compelled to rejoin in order to secure a coherent package that is acceptable to the Commission and the other member states. In a nutshell, was this a deal made behind closed doors and conducted to a great extent, if not entirely, by officials, and to what extent does it reflect coalition politics?

We note that the 35 measures present only part of the picture. We ask the Government to complete the picture by making available to Parliament a list of all the pre-Lisbon measures that were subject to the United Kingdom’s block opt-out as of 1 December 2009, but no longer are because the UK has opted into amending or “repeal and replace” measures.

We should like the Government to explain why the

“solution concerning the Prüm Decisions and the Probation Framework Decision”

which was alluded to in the Council press release issued after the General Affairs Council on 24 June, is not mentioned or explained in Command Paper 8897, in the Minister for Europe’s written ministerial statement of 30 June informing Parliament of the outcome of the Council, or in the letter of 3 July from the Home and Justice Secretaries to me, as Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee. We note that details of the “solution” have emerged through press releases and reports and not through the provision of information to Parliament, and we want to know whether the Government regard that as an appropriate way for them to engage with Parliament.

We seek further information on the content of the deal that has been made, including any processes for consulting Parliament. We want to know how much the UK has invested so far in its preparations for implementing the Prüm decisions, and we ask the Minister and the Secretary of State to set out the Government’s current assessment of the utility of the Prüm and probation framework decisions.

We want to know about the reliability of some of the assumptions underlying the Government’s impact assessments, especially in regard to measures such as the prisoner transfer framework decision, when the capacity to operate the measures may be in doubt in some member states, or when the risk of legal challenge on human rights grounds—based, for example, on article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights if prison conditions are regarded as inhuman or degrading, or on article 8 if there is interference with the right to respect for family life—could be regarded as significant.

We note that the possibility of adverse rulings by the Court of Justice does not feature among the “key assumptions/sensitivities/risks” in the impact assessments, although concerns about the extension of the Court’s jurisdiction to EU police and criminal justice measures are at the heart of the block opt-out.

We note that the Government claim to have taken into account the views expressed in our report, as well as those of other Committees. We want to know whether they accept the assessment of our Committee that the selection of measures to rejoin

“does not signify any lessening of UK involvement in the key measures governing law enforcement cooperation in the EU” ,

our assessment that many of the measures, because of their inherent significance and impact on individuals, are likely to be more susceptible to adverse judgments of the Court of Justice than the numerically larger number of measures that the Government do not propose to rejoin, and our assessment that there is

“little evidence of a genuine and significant repatriation of powers”.

So we are asking a significant number of questions, and I am putting them on the record now, because we are going to have another debate at a later time. We want to know the significance of the answers to these questions and weigh them up in the light of the general principles I put forward at the beginning, and we need to know about the timing of this debate. We want to know not only when it will take place, but what measures it will cover, as well as receive assurances about the motions that will be tabled. I ask the two Secretaries of State to listen to this very carefully—they are having quite an interesting conversation with one of the Whips at the moment. Would they be good enough to listen carefully? We want to know that the motions will be tabled with sufficient notice to enable Members to prepare amendments, and we reiterate the position on the form of the vote set out in our Committee report: there should be separate motions for each of the measures the Government propose to rejoin.

That is an important practical question about that debate, and I believe it is incumbent on the Government to answers the questions this afternoon so we have a clear picture of the way forward and so we know that this debate will not be just a waste of time, given that we have got another debate and another vote to come when all these measures are going to be finally decided. They are critical measures of great importance not only in terms of criminal justice matters, but also in respect of the whole question of the sovereignty of the United Kingdom and its rule of law.

It is a pleasure to follow the Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), and as I have not done so previously, may I congratulate him on the knighthood that has been bestowed on him, which was very well deserved, and may I also say how pleased I am to see the right hon. Member for Banbury (Sir Tony Baldry) here today, because I understand it is his birthday? What a glorious way to celebrate a birthday, talking about the European arrest warrant and the prisoner transfer agreements!

I welcome this debate. As the House has heard from the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), the Chairs of the three Select Committees wrote to the Justice Secretary and the Home Secretary asking for an early opportunity to debate these issues, and our letter was received very courteously and we now have a debate as a result of our representations. In the view of the Home Affairs Committee it would have been much better if this debate had taken place before the negotiations began. That was one of the recommendations we made after we took evidence from the Home Secretary and others about these important measures, because we felt strongly that if Parliament had made its views clear before the Home Secretary and Justice Secretary started their negotiations, that mandate would have bolstered them in their negotiations with their European partners. Unfortunately, such a debate did not take place before the negotiations began.

I agree with the Chairman of the ESC that there ought to be a vote on this issue. I am glad the Government have said they will have a vote. I would be surprised if there was not a debate before the vote. Even though we are probably only going to have the usual suspects here, I think it should be a long debate, rather than an hour-and-a-half debate, because these are very important measures. What we have asked for—I will come on to this later when we look at the European arrest warrant—is a separate vote specifically on the European arrest warrant. The Committee produced a unanimous report, and those who serve on the Home Affairs Committee have different views on the European Union, so getting a unanimous decision on something of this kind is quite difficult. The Committee unanimously decided, however, that we should be asking for this because of the representations we had received from so many people, including hon. and right hon. Members, about the way in which the European arrest warrant operated.

We have heard what the Home Secretary has done, and I welcome all the steps she has taken, and also the views of the Opposition Front Bench in Committee when it looked at the way in which the arrest warrant was operating. We heard specific evidence in the Committee from, among others, the hon. Members for Enfield North (Nick de Bois) and for South Dorset (Richard Drax) about individual constituency cases where the European arrest warrant had gone wrong. I and the Committee accept the principle of the European arrest warrant. We believe this was an important measure to enable countries that are members of the European Union—and, indeed, beyond, through bilateral agreements —to bring back into the country and offer up those who are wanted in respect of criminal matters. So the principle is fine. However, our concern was the practice, and the examples we received caused us enormous concern.

There was the Andrew Symeou case, which was told to us by the hon. Member for Enfield North, and the case of Michael Turner—a gentleman who was extradited to Hungary and incarcerated there and who never faced any charges and who is a constituent of South Dorset—and other examples that caused Members to say that the European arrest warrant was good in principle but not necessarily good in practice and had caused their constituents a great deal of concern.

As we have heard, the number of requests to our country far exceeds the number of requests that we make. The total cost of executing an incoming European arrest warrant in the United Kingdom is approximately £20,000. The 999 received by the United Kingdom in 2011 are estimated to have cost around £20 million. So this is not justice on the cheap. It costs a great deal of money to execute these warrants.

Our concern was the way in which they were being requested by certain European countries, and I have mentioned Poland but there were other examples. Indeed, if we look at the requests made of Germany and other countries where people are wanted, we see the figures are just as high. The Home Secretary has great negotiating skills, charm and powers of persuasion, which I saw for myself at the Police Federation conference earlier this year, so she is no pushover, and I am sure she went in there and negotiated strongly on behalf of our country, as Ministers have to do, especially knowing the views of Parliament. The fact is, however, she does not have control, and neither does the Justice Secretary with all his great skills and ability, of the Polish judiciary. They do not have control of the Latvian system of justice. They do not have control of the way in which these warrants are issued in the first place. They do have control over the execution, but not over the issuing.

There are some other issues around the European arrest warrant and trying to reform it. While we might want to have reforms that make it function better, is it not the case that the European Commission, in co-decision with the European Parliament, has to have the final say on these matters? So we might want to have this reform, but it might never come forward, and that is a fundamental problem about the opt-in, because we give these powers away completely once and for all.

I defer to the knowledge of the hon. Gentleman with all his vast experience of European affairs. Having served as an MEP for so long in the east midlands, he sought asylum here in the House of Commons and he has rightly raised one of the big issues. We can negotiate, but at the end of the day it is an issue that we need to confront. How are we going to persuade the European Commission on these very important matters?

We have heard about the wheelbarrow case—the man accused of stealing a wheelbarrow who was the subject of a European arrest warrant—and those absconding from prisons on day release or those accused of minor drugs offences. There was a man who gave false details on a £200 bank loan that had already been paid off. A warrant was issued, it had to be executed and that cost £20,000. So the Home Secretary is right to give us the headline examples—as the shadow Immigration Minister also did—of people who commit terrible crimes in other parts of Europe and whom we feel obliged to give back as quickly as possible, but many, many examples go the other way and that shows there are still problems with the warrant. The Home Secretary has made big efforts to make these matters more effective by introducing the forum bar and giving more powers to the judges to look at such cases, but that is not enough when European partners are not prepared to reform their judicial systems, where so many warrants are being issued.

The Home Secretary is often reluctant to tell me about her travel plans after she has been to some of these countries but I am sure that, like me, she has been to Poland. I went there with members of the Committee and we talked to prosecutors there. The first question they asked was, “Are you coming to talk about the European arrest warrant?” We said, “Yes we are, because we are really concerned. Why are the Polish judges issuing so many warrants when, in our view, they are not merited?” These warrants undermine the principle of the EAW when they are issued for such trivial reasons as the theft of a wheelbarrow. Obviously, it is extremely important for the person who has lost the wheelbarrow, but in the whole history of the world, to coin a phrase of the hon. Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg), it is not that important—it is certainly not worth £20,000. So more work needs to be done.

Even when that work is done, the Committee is very clear that we must have a separate vote on the EAW. We are happy to have the package as a whole put before the House. I am not sure how many of these 35 measures can go through the House within a parliamentary day, but we draw a line in the sand about the EAW: Parliament is concerned about it and we therefore need a vote.

We could debate all 35, with a full day’s debate for each one—we are not exactly overwhelmed with business.

That is a good point, but luckily I do not have control of the parliamentary day. These are representations we need to make, and we will see what the will of Parliament is. Let us recall some earlier ministerial words:

“I hope that today I have conveyed to the House not only the Government’s full commitment to holding a vote on the 2014 decision in this House and the other place, but the importance that we will accord to Parliament in the process leading up to that vote.”—[Official Report, 15 October 2012; Vol. 551, c. 35.]

It could be that Members want a vote on each of the 35 measures, but the Committee definitely wants a vote on the EAW, because we think it stands out in the business that the Home Secretary and Justice Secretary are currently discussing in the EU.

I welcome what is being proposed on Europol, and the Committee is a great fan of Rob Wainwright, the British head of Europol, who is doing a terrific job. Anyone who has visited Europol will have seen the work being done there, which is impressive and effective, and helps in the fight against organised crime. Europol works well with Interpol, although I know comments were made about Interpol. I and others have visited Interpol, which provides a huge benefit to cross-border action against serious and organised crime, illegal migration, people trafficking and all the other issues about which the House is very concerned. At the moment, there are 3,600 internationally active organised crime gangs operating across Europe. We cannot deal with those on our own, especially as far as cyber-crime is concerned; we have to deal with them through Europol. The Home Secretary is right to opt back in to those proceedings. I am not sure about one or two of the other Europol decisions, but if we are going to have further discussions, we will raise those at that stage.

In this context, does the right hon. Gentleman regard Albania’s candidacy for the European Union with equanimity? [Interruption.]

I apologise, but I could not hear the hon. Gentleman because the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Sir Richard Shepherd) was muttering so I was looking at him. I wonder whether the hon. Member for Stone would repeat that.

I just wanted to know whether, in the context of the issues of justice and home affairs and all the matters we are discussing today, the right hon. Gentleman regards with equanimity the proposed candidacy for EU membership of Albania, given its very serious crime, trafficking and all the rest of it.

Anyone can apply to join the club; we do not mind people wanting to apply to join. The problem is that there are serious issues for all applicant countries to address, and Albania has to recognise that there is a big problem with organised gangs operating from there. A huge amount of work still needs to be done before Albania becomes a full member of the EU, and the hon. Gentleman is right to focus on that. Let me touch on what we must do with applicant countries—here is a mea culpa, if I am allowed to make one on behalf of the previous Government. Those of us who were enthusiastic about enlargement of the EU—I still am—should have realised that once a country has joined we tend to allow it just to continue on its own, without providing the support—not financial support, but all the other support—needed to make it a full member of the EU. That is why we need to work with countries throughout this period. We always invite countries to join, but when they are in we leave them on their own, and that is a mistake. There is a lot of work to do on Albania, and I am sure the Albanians understand that and are going to have a lot of help along the way.

I am glad that we are opting in to the European criminal records information system, because it allows the courts to make the right decision on those who appear before them. We need to know when dangerous criminals are coming into our country, which is why it is good that we are opting in to that measure. I am sure the Justice Secretary welcomes the prisoner transfer agreement, because he has worked hard to get it going. Two of the top three countries in respect of the 10,695 foreign prisoners we have in our prisons, who are costing us £300 million, are EU countries—Poland and Ireland. Anything that helps us work with European colleagues to make sure that people go back to their country to serve their sentences is to be welcomed.

I welcome the progress that is being made. We must have another debate in Parliament. The process of scrutiny must continue, but at the end of the day there has to be a vote on these measures, as the Government have promised, and specifically on the EAW. That is the strong feeling of every member of the Home Affairs Committee, and I hope I have conveyed that to the House today.

First, Madam Deputy Speaker, may I apologise for missing the start of the Home Secretary’s speech because of a meeting with a Minister which had been arranged before today’s timings were affected by the earlier statement? I am very glad to follow my colleague the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz). We have worked together, along with the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee, to try to improve the way Parliament is able to address these matters. It has been a struggle, and the outcome in terms of the process is still far from satisfactory, but we have reached this point and we are having this debate. There will be a debate and a vote or votes at a later stage—we are still unclear as to what that procedure will be. This has at times been like getting blood out of a stone, and I do not think that is particularly in the Government’s interests. I appreciate some of the problems that they face, but in order to obtain parliamentary support they need to give Parliament the opportunities to feel confident that it has been able to examine things properly. I am therefore glad that we now have the Command Paper, which includes all the impact assessments. It would have been very helpful to have had those much earlier, and of course we still do not have the impact assessments on those measures the Government do not propose to enter—perhaps those would have helped to illuminate the Government’s reasons for the decisions they made.

There are no changes in the opt-ins in the Ministry of Justice field; the changes are in the much larger number of measures that come within the Home Office’s sphere. The Justice Committee has therefore already examined and reached conclusions on the measures, and it is unlikely to do a great deal more on the issue between now and the later stages of consideration. We published a report, and the Government are still pursuing a view with which we broadly agree, and I will explain why.

The measures include six mutual recognition measures, including one on financial penalties that originated with the United Kingdom and Sweden. There are measures on previous convictions, prisoner transfers, judgments in absentia and European supervision orders. The Government propose to rejoin all those measures with one exception, which is the probation measures framework decision, to which I will return. The Committee agrees that the Government were right, in the national interest and in the interest of effective cross-border co-operation, to seek to rejoin five of the measures.

The Committee of course strongly supports the UK’s participation in the prisoner transfer framework decision because it is a priority to reduce the number of foreign nationals held in UK prisons. That decision is also an important part of the overall package for reforming the European arrest warrant. The Committee is particularly conscious of the problems presented by the large number of foreign nationals in UK prisons. Those are nationals from many countries in UK prisons, and the Government must continue their efforts in relation to those countries. With European countries, however, there is a much better prospect of achieving a prisoner’s return to their native country because we are not dealing with countries in which human rights considerations, on the face of it, would appear to prevent a return.

One of the five measures, the European supervision order, enables a defendant or suspect on non-custodial pre-trial bail or other supervision to return to their home member state to await trial there under supervision, and we support and welcome that measure. The probation measures framework decision provides the basis for mutual recognition and supervision of suspended sentences, post-custodial licences and community sentences, and the Committee noted the Government’s concerns about the measure’s operation:

“In view of the potential value of the Framework Decision we consider that the Government should pursue the matter in their negotiations on the opt-in list to see whether these concerns can be dealt with. We would not wish to rule out participation in the measure if concerns about its drafting can be overcome”.

We discovered from another source that a solution to that problem is alleged to have been found. The source was a press release issued by the General Affairs Council on 24 June, from which it appears that the Government have undertaken to consider opting back in to two Prüm decisions and the probation measures framework decision at a later stage.

In evidence to our Committee on 9 July, the Lord Chancellor admitted that he had been pressed by the Commission to rejoin the probation measures framework decision, arguing that it was closely linked to the prisoner transfer agreement. He repeated the objections that he had previously expressed to the Committee, particularly that we do not have much experience of the measure’s operation in other countries and the legal problems that it might cause. He said that the solution reached in the negotiations was that the UK would look at the matter again in the next Parliament to see whether rejoining would be in the national interest. It would have been preferable if the Government had volunteered information on that, either in correspondence or in a Command Paper, instead of leaving it to Committees to glean information from Council press releases and media reports.

More generally, the Justice Committee supports the Government’s choice of measures to rejoin in the national interest and in the interest of fighting crime. We reached some agreement with the Government on minimum standards measures that set standards already met by the United Kingdom. We said that

“the arguments for opting into the…minimum standards measures are primarily symbolic, and our view is that those arguments do not outweigh the disadvantages of bringing wide areas of criminal justice in the UK unnecessarily into the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union.”

Many traditions in our judicial systems in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland are different from those that prevail in continental practice, and it therefore makes sense not to become involved in matters in the European Court of Justice when doing so does not serve the national interest. There is value in signing up to minimum standards measures if it has a persuasive effect in other countries, but the Committee’s view is that that is outweighed by the disadvantages of creating case law in the European Court of Justice on matters that do not need to be treated in that way.

The changes to the list of 35 measures do not appear to affect the overall balance of the package. Some of the changes are the consequence of measures ceasing to be subject to the block opt-out, and others, such as the additional measures on Europol and the Schengen information system, are ancillary to the Government’s decision to participate in Europol and the Schengen information system and may be regarded as necessary on the grounds of coherence and practical operability. It is interesting that the Government have achieved the conjuring trick of changing the list of measures while retaining the same total number. I suspect that has something to do with internal party management within the Conservative party, but the outcome for the balance of the measures will continue to be supported by the Committee. The measures that the Government have agreed to opt into will materially assist in the fight against serious crime and in the safeguarding of the freedom of our citizens. The Government have my support.

As could be imagined, tailgating the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) on these issues in the European Scrutiny Committee on behalf of the Labour party is a tortuous but enlightening process. It is interesting to note that the original Command Paper 8671, which was published in July 2013 and which we discussed on the Floor of the House, has been slightly amended. Most people probably do not realise that what we are discussing now is a similar, but not identical, list of 35 measures set out in Command Paper 8897 on 3 July 2014, so there have been some small amendments along the way.

I recommend that interested people outside the House not only listen to the debates, which are enlightening but repetitive, but read the relevant documents from the European Scrutiny Committee, the Justice Committee and the Home Affairs Committee. Those documents give a flavour of the minutiae about which the European Scrutiny Committee in general differs from the Government. Although I have my concerns about the European Union, and particularly about the behaviour of the Commission, I am not a conspiracy theorist. I do not support the hon. Gentleman’s often-repeated analysis that it has been set out in a dark room somewhere in the European Commission that this will all eventually lead to a united states of Europe controlled by a bureaucracy in Brussels that is helped by the European Court of Justice and many other manipulative organs of the European Union.

The fact is that the European Commission, at its heart, tends to have a competence creep mentality. In many areas the Commission is making everyone do things according to its will when those things do not require such direction. I am a great supporter of devolution in Scotland and other parts of the UK, and I am a great supporter of subsidiarity, but not the subsidiarity set out in the Lisbon treaty. It is a falsehood to say that the Lisbon treaty has given more power to Parliaments.

In that sense, I wonder about the Government’s approach to the opt-outs that we are debating. We know there is a block opt-out on all 133 measures, most of which, as has been articulately stated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson), have been superseded or are redundant. On a few issues, we might want to argue about the final details of whether we should have opted in to certain justice standards, but at the heart of the debate is a feeling that the Government have not been willing to be open enough about that fact, which was a point raised by the Chair of the Justice Committee, the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith). The reality is that there have been no massively significant changes to the competences that have been drawn back to the UK, because most of the 133 measures have been superseded, are redundant or have never been used. Therefore, the myth being created, which is that this process is about repatriating powers to the UK—one that has been put forward by the Government—is such an obvious falsehood that the public are becoming more and more disillusioned and sceptical about the Government’s position.

I think that the majority of the coalition Government are pro-EU and want to see us solidly at the heart of the EU and influencing it. I think that they are deeply committed, as I think we on the Opposition side are, to reforming the EU, making it more relevant and finding a way to draw back to the member states the powers that they wish to apply in their own right. But that is not what people are seeing in this debate.

For example, the Justice Committee reached the conclusion—on page 6 of its eighth report of the 2013-14 Session—that in the previous debate the House was not being asked at that stage to endorse the list of 35 measures that the Government intended to opt back into, but the Home Secretary used the debate again and again to claim that the Government had the support of the House of Commons for what they were doing. She gave the impression again and again, in writing and in the spoken word, that that is what we did. We started a process and considered a Command Paper, but we did not conclude that it was correct or endorse it; the public were given the impression that somehow we had.

The position taken by the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee is supported by its members—certainly the 13 who were there, including myself. We think that the House should debate and vote on each of the 35 measures—I saw you flinch, Madam Deputy Speaker, when that was suggested. They might be all in the same order and, as the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee pointed out, there are key issues, so it might be possible to group them in such a way that Members can express their opinions by voting on groups.

However, I certainly agree that we should have some kind of debate—it is a pity that it is being done in this context—about the European arrest warrant, because I think that it is the right kind of measure. We would not want to replace it with a country-by-country arrangement based on applications to bring people back individually. I will give an example. I hope that my friend—and I do regard him as a friend—the hon. Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg) is listening. After the 7 July bombings, the fact that we could return one of the bombers to this country within three weeks was a massive example of why such an arrangement is fundamentally sound. However, it might have to be modified in some ways to stop the nonsense of having applications for cases of wheelbarrow theft or £200 loans with the wrong details and all sorts of trivia.

I want to expand on a case from my constituency. It concerns a family with a custody order over a child. The father, who is Polish, abducted the child and took it to Poland, so the grandfather and a friend went to Poland, took the child and brought it back to Scotland. The father then claimed that he had been assaulted during that process. A European arrest warrant was sought and the case was taken to a Scottish court, but it ruled that the warrant was not valid because the witness was clear that no assault had taken place and that what they had done was to apply the court’s ruling that the mother, who is Scottish, had the right to custody of the child and that the father had abducted the child. That seemed to be the end of the matter, and it sounded sensible to me. However, something went wrong with the process. Only last year the grandfather, who is now not in good health, and his wife decided to take a holiday in the Netherlands. When he stepped off the plane in Amsterdam, he was arrested and sent to Poland. He had a heart attack there and ended up in hospital. When the court in Poland eventually looked at the case, it concluded that there was no case to answer and that the European arrest warrant was not valid, so he was released. Now his health is even worse.

Why is there no process—I have asked the Home Secretary this—whereby all the agencies that sign up to the European arrest warrant can be informed when a court rules against an attempt to use it in the country in which it is attempted to be served? Why is there no transmission of that information? The grandfather could have gone on holiday anyway in the EU and he would probably have been arrested and sent to Poland, and for a European arrest warrant that a court had already ruled was invalid. It makes no sense to me that these things still stand. Apart from the trivia, it is the mechanism of how they are applied that worries me.

The basic fact of this debate is that the European Scrutiny Committee, the Home Affairs Committee and the Justice Committee felt that the Government were not giving enough information and that they were not willing to accept that it is not enough to bring back one blockbuster motion stating, “We’ve had a negotiation and signed up to 35 items. Take it or leave it.” It cannot be done like that. If it is done like that, it will undermine the Government’s credibility. The Opposition would then be in a difficult situation, because we would have to either support the motion, if it was all that was available, table a counter-motion of some kind in order to divide up the 35 items, or use some other process in order to respond to what the British public, Parliament and the three Committees want, which is a debate on the fundamental issues in the package so that we can vote on them individually and say, as I hope we will, “Yes, we are behind this move to sign up to the 35 items.”

Some of us might like to see some other things opted into, with a little bit of finessing by the Government so that we keep progressing along the path that I think we are on with justice and home affairs. My worry is not about justice and home affairs and a corpus juris for Europe; my worry is with the economics of the European Union that are destroying the economies of the subservient countries that have come into it and are under the fiscal compact and the eurozone’s stability and growth pact. That, to me, is what is damaging the project for Europe, not justice and home affairs. I am not worried about the fact—this was put to me in a private conversation with another hon. Member—that the Queen has to register and prove that she is a real British citizen so that her bank account can be used across Europe. What worries me is that we are damaging other people in Europe for the power of the economic giants, including us—we are a much-diminished giant, but we are still benefiting from it. I want the debate to take place in such a way that people can say afterwards that there is a united feeling in this House that the European Union is a good thing.

I will also put down a marker for those on my Front Bench. I want to see us sign up to a referendum on the European Union and to go out with like-minded people across the House and win a yes vote to remain in the European Union and build Europe for the benefit of British citizens.

I have been in this House for seven Parliaments. Each has seemed to have a different character, but there has been one consistent thread across all that time: the integration within European processes. That has had support on high days, on holidays and in opposition. I see it as a fundamental task of the House of Commons to challenge perceived wisdoms and reflect the responsibilities and interests of those we are elected to represent.

I have also seen the continuing theme of membership of the European Union over all that time. It has never quite been a settled issue. For all the trumpets and bands, all the songs and the universal praise, there is a deep underlying tug. It is really about a sense of country. Who are we? It has always been about that. That, after all, is the first duty of a sovereign state, I would argue: to protect the interests, freedoms and liberties that we have enjoyed under our form of constitutional arrangements. What we are really seeing is a struggle over the British constitution. Oh, but does it not evolve over time? Yet, looking back, there has been one constant theme, which is that people profoundly believed in many of the central precepts of what constitutes a sovereign state. I am driven in my memory by certain observations, too. The German constitutional court made the observation that democracy lies not in the institutions of the community, the European Union, but in the national state, and yet everything that this House seems to do in recent years is to surrender and denigrate that nation state—the very concept by which we have authority in this House.

What is the criticism of the European arrest warrant? It is that it is promoted on the basis of a benefit, but to many people it is actually a degradation of the security of the British people. The fact that they can be taken away from within this jurisdiction by almost a mandate, which will, in time, be governed by the European Court of Justice is a loss of the authority of our own legal and justice system.

The House is well aware that, in recent months, a series of High Court and Supreme Court judges have been writing essays, making a plea about the way in which the discretion and the interpretation of human rights is conducted. The most central purpose of a Government is law and order and the effectiveness with which they protect the citizen, and no one can dispute that our Home Secretary is fierce in her determination to protect the British citizen. But, actually, the greatest protection of a citizen and a coherent society, which is what we call the sovereign state, lies within the commitment of the people to their institutions and their way of self-government, and that is what this measure undermines.

I am concerned about the nationalist tone of the hon. Gentleman’s contribution. Under his logic, Scotland should vote yes to independence in September, and I am totally opposed to breaking up the United Kingdom, which I happen to think respects Scottish subsidiarity.

I will not trade remarks on this matter. I was also born in Scotland, and I am deprived of a vote on something that affects my cousins and my relatives. This has been a Union for 300 years, and we have been united by the sentiments of those people. Not so very long ago—70 years—the Scots, the English, the Welsh and those from Northern Ireland stood together against the greatest danger of our time: the monolithic power of Germany. I see this not as nationalistic but as a reflection and a pride in who we are, what we are, what this nation has accomplished and our ability to govern ourselves. The Scots will make their own decision; I am not involved in that because I do not have a residence in Scotland. Anyone passing through who might temporarily have a residence there can have a vote. No, no that is not democratic, and it is not the spirit of the Union. The Union has fought together, worked together and made something together, and that is the Union I am concerned about, not the European Union. When we come to deal with these matters, we will find that we have surrendered our very sense of “these are our people.”

As a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, we looked at these extradition orders. The Home Affairs Committee and the Justice Committee have looked at these matters, too. No one has made any mention of this, but one of the best things in the process were the groups that have spoken and given testimony to those Committees. The Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee talked about those who are genuinely concerned about the way in which all of this has happened. I half expected to hear mention of the Staffordshire case in Genoa in which a man, under these extradition endeavours, was found guilty of murder, although he had never been there or even near there. No, the integrity of a nation is founded on its institutions and also the law. In this country, I maintain that we have a pretty high degree of acceptance of the process of law and judgment and the way in which it is made. What we are now confronted with is the triviality of a central bureaucracy that sets out to be a great state, which I know the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Michael Connarty) for honourable reasons passionately believes in, but who in the end will protect us? That can only be the people of our own country and our own institutions.

I find no comfort in this succession of cases, which have been listed by the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, and which the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk also knows well enough about. We have all had constituents who have expressed a concern that the British Government—Parliament—seem to have no effectiveness in the world. I do not blame anyone for that. It is a crisis in our nation that we have to question who really governs us. I maintain that it is us who should govern us, and by that I mean our own Union.

I was deeply distressed when I heard the words of the Home Secretary, who fiercely defends us, in impossible cases, against treaty after treaty into which British Governments have entered. I even consider the United States treaty on extradition to be grotesquely misjudged. Of course the wonderful thing is that there will always be a judge who will find good merit in whatever the British Government are proposing. I will take issue, because my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who is undoubtedly a doughty, valiant and fierce fighter, has achieved very little in the face of these international organisations that we have so joyously, easily and with great hallelujahs joined, and yet those organisations all sting us, because in the end they have taken away from the very sovereignty of our people. When we talk about the sovereignty of Parliament, we mean the people, and ultimately all of our fates are decided by them. In our grotesque shifting away from the authority of the people, we lose them, and that is why there is such a great disconnect.

I am glad to see that my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab) is in his place. He has catalogued many of these cases and understands their interconnectivity with what has happened. This is a bound Parliament now. It is bound not by the people but by our own passing views of the great affairs of the world. I fear that we have lost our nerve in some way. I watched a celebration of the end of war in Europe 70 years ago, and I saw elderly people, who had lost friends and colleagues, showing such pride that even alone Britain could stand for something; and we do stand for something. It does not need the buying of votes or the passing over of great sums of money. I listened with alarm that Albania will be “brought up”. This is a union that has been founded on the transfer of payments. Now, I believe, and my dad taught me, that we earn our own living. That is the truth that this country seems to be waving away. We pass over money in vast sums. I wonder why we are giving £9 billion net a year to fund European integration. We watched Ireland—I feel tremendously for Ireland—which had a near transfer of 5% of GDP to support the move to the future. It did that on its own, and the way it has come through the crisis has been an amazing feat of self-discipline and obedience to European precepts.

So we come to the substance of the debate. We are giving over to others the ultimate rule on the protection of our own citizens. This will come under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, which most people would agree is an integrationist court, governed by the central proposition of ever-closer union. I think of the glory of Europe historically—the nation states of Europe, the cultures, the universities, the interconnectivity, but not the throttling blanket that the European Union now represents to many of us.

Many people knock us and say, “But wasn’t there something we could have done?” We had a constitution that never doubted who was in charge—the people. We have transferred that role to international friction-making devices such as the European Union. We should be seen by our people as defending the interests of the people. I have always been cautious about a declaration from the Front Bench—any Front Bench—that says, “We act in the national interest.” The national interest is what this House decides, and ultimately what the people decide.

The whole course of the European project has been to avoid any engagement with the people over what is a non-democratic and largely unsuccessful Union, other than for the transfer of vast sums of money. We have to do something about that, and these opt-ins, opt-outs, see-all-round-abouts amount, in the end, to what the Government disguise and pretend is not really happening, as if it were a grand scheme. I have lost all confidence in understanding what central Government or the Foreign Office do these days, other than remaining quiet.

It is always a pleasure to follow a brother knight. I take this opportunity to echo the comments of the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) on becoming a brother knight. The whole House should congratulate you, Madam Deputy Speaker, on having become a Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, an order of chivalry considerably more senior than that of us mere Knights Bachelor. I can think of no better way of spending my birthday than in group therapy with brother knights, my hon. Friends the Members for Stone, for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh), for Aldridge-Brownhills (Sir Richard Shepherd), for Aldershot (Sir Gerald Howarth) and for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith), so it has been a good debate.

The issue before us is what is in the national interest, what is in the interests of our constituents, and what will make us safe. In that regard I thought it might be helpful to ask Thames Valley police what they thought about the European arrest warrant. I have rather a high respect for Thames Valley police. I have lived in the Thames valley pretty much all my life, and those of us who are Members of Parliament for constituencies in the Thames valley are rather proud of Thames Valley police. They directed me to evidence on the European arrest warrant that was submitted to the House of Lords in 2012 on behalf of the Association of Chief Police Officers. ACPO consulted chief constables and police authorities around the country. It was seeking to give advice to the House of Lords on which parts of the opt-out should be opted back into, and it recommended above all else that the European arrest warrant be opted back into under the same arrangements as were then in place.

When did this House decide to abdicate to ACPO on matters of civil liberty or constitutional importance?

I should have thought that, on a matter of law and order, even my hon. Friend would think it might just be sensible to take the advice of police forces up and down the country. Whatever we do in the House ought to be evidence-based, and I should have thought the evidence from police authorities and police forces around the country might be rather cogent and sensible evidence in these circumstances.

The ACPO assessment confirmed that the European arrest warrant is the most important of all the measures in the area of justice and home affairs. Most of the police forces and chief officers—I am sure that if my hon. Friend, for example, were to ask the chief constable of Essex and the Essex police force, they would make this point to him as well—believe that opting out of the European arrest warrant and relying on alternative arrangements would result in fewer extraditions, longer delays, higher costs, more offenders evading justice, and increased risks to public safety. They went on to say that the European arrest warrant

“has been in operation for eight years and has now become a mainstream tool. . . In 2010/11 the UK received 5,382 EAW requests and made 221 EAW requests to other EU states. The UK surrendered 1,149 individuals (approximately 7% of which were UK nationals, the other 93% being fugitives to the UK).The UK had 93 people surrendered to it.”

ACPO observed:

“These trends in extradition reflect the increasing international patterns of crime and offending. Open borders across Europe, free movement of EU citizens, low cost air travel, cheap telecommunications, the internet and the expansion of criminal networks across national boundaries are all contributory factors to the growth in extradition requests. These are irreversible changes which need to be matched by increasing flexibility on the part of European law enforcement and criminal justice agencies.”

ACPO went on to say:

“Further evidence of these changes is to be found in data concerning arrests. Recent data gathered by the MPS”—

the Metropolitan police service—

“in the first quarter of 2012 showed that of 61,939 people arrested in London, 8,089 were nationals from EU countries (13%) and 9,358 were foreign nationals from outside the EU (15%). The presence of fugitives from justice fleeing to the UK is a significant public safety issue. In 2011/12 the MPS received 50 EAWs for homicide, 20 for rape, and 90 for robbery. Each of these cases represents a person who is wanted for a serious crime who fled to the UK. There is strong evidence to show that foreign criminals who come to UK continue to offend when in the UK. There is a real risk that opting out of the EAW and relying on less effective extradition arrangements could have the effect of turning the UK into a ‘safe haven’ for Europe’s criminals.”

I am listening intently to what my right hon. Friend is saying. We should listen to ACPO, but I do not think that in its evidence to the House of Lords Committee ACPO made the argument that he is making in his speech. In respect of fugitives coming to the UK, there is no reason, in or out of the European arrest warrant, why we cannot just deport them. Deportation powers would provide a much quicker route even than extradition under the European arrest warrant. The wider question is whether we could get people back. That is an important point, but ACPO’s evidence focused on the latter, not the former.

I am quoting verbatim from ACPO’s evidence given to the House of Lords. I will share it with my hon. Friend afterwards, but it is verbatim, so I am afraid that he has misdirected himself or misremembered the evidence that ACPO submitted. I am pretty old and gnarled but I can remember from when I practised at the Bar as a prosecutor that it was a nightmare to return foreign offenders overseas using bilateral agreements—it could sometimes take years with multiple applications. I recall application after application at Horseferry road magistrates court as we ploughed through various procedural points to get people deported.

I go on to quote verbatim, so there is no possibility of misunderstanding for my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab), from ACPO’s evidence to the House of Lords. It says that the European arrest warrant is

“an efficient system, built upon mutual recognition of criminal justice systems between member states and an obligation to comply with a properly constructed warrant. Barriers which previously existed have been removed. The nationality of the person sought can no longer be a barrier to affecting an extradition request. Under the previous arrangements many European states, such as Germany, France and Poland, did not allow their nationals to be extradited to stand trial and required them to be tried in their home state…Prior to the introduction of the EAW, extradition between European states where it did occur could, and often would, take many months in uncontested cases and many years in contested cases.”

I can testify to that, having been involved in some of those cases. The evidence continues:

“EAW data from the Commission to the European Parliament show that across the EU it takes an average of 17 days to surrender a wanted person”.

Thames Valley police gave me just two very recent examples in which the European arrest warrant had made my constituents safer. Under a recent European arrest warrant, they arrested a Polish individual wanted for armed robbery and burglary in Poland, clearly safeguarding the local community as the Thames Valley police had no intelligence that there were individuals residing in our area who had been assessed as high risk. The warrant was received, processed and executed within 24 hours, removing a potential offender and providing reassurance to the community. Another individual wanted for taking part in the murder of two youths in Milton Keynes was also arrested in Holland under a European arrest warrant. The European crime unit extradited him to the UK, where he now awaits trial, and two other suspects were sentenced in an earlier trial to more than 30 years’ imprisonment.

It is said by some, including my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton, that we should rely on deportation and other extradition proceedings, but we need only contrast the speed of those cases with what happened with Abu Hamza. Fourteen years after his arrest on behalf of the USA under legal conditions largely identical to the 1957 treaty, he was finally extradited to the USA to face terrorism charges there. Do we really want to see repeated Abu Hamza-type situations in our extradition processes? These are not isolated examples of where the European arrest warrant has been of benefit. Numerous other examples could be cited.

The European arrest warrant is cost-efficient. If we relied on a 1957-type mechanism we would commit ourselves to footing the legal bill for extradition processes that went on for years and cost the public purse hundreds of thousands of pounds. The public and the judiciary are frustrated that the extradition of terrorists is often delayed for years. The return to the 1957 process could make this long, drawn-out process the norm. That might not have been such a problem 20 or 30 years ago when criminals rarely crossed borders, but nowadays that is routine.

ACPO concluded in its evidence to the House of Lords and Parliament:

“The view therefore of ACPO is simple. The EAW works very effectively and increases the safety of the UK public. It is for this reason that ACPO strongly supports the EAW.”

I hope that before we next debate and vote on this issue in the House, chief constables and police authorities will write to every right hon. and hon. Member making clear the position of local police forces and drawing Members’ attention to the benefits that the European arrest warrant has had in their own areas.

I fully appreciate that Members of this House oppose anything that has the word “Europe” in it. I genuinely love my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills, but I have heard that speech now about 50 times during the 30 years for which I have been a Member of this House. The fact that one is opposed to the European Union is not sufficient to jeopardise the safety of our constituents or our national interest. The Home Secretary, by opting back into a number of these measures, particularly the European arrest warrant, is, in my view and judgment, doing something sensible, proportionate, in the national interest and, most importantly of all, in the interests of my constituents.

I am grateful to have the opportunity to follow my right hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Sir Tony Baldry). The burden of his case appears to be that the efficacy of any extradition arrangements should override any other balanced argument about what might be affected by them. He demonstrates how easy it is to be seduced by expediency, convenience, efficiency and pressure from the police, who have only one objective, and that is not to create more of the stronger human rights or protections for citizens that they feel obstruct their task of maintaining law and order. That is why this House does not abdicate decisions on matters of constitutional importance or human rights to ACPO.

The Abu Hamza case took so long because we had lost control of our law and because we no longer control the human rights jurisprudence in our courts. The lesson of that case is precisely the opposite of what my right hon. Friend suggests. We should take control of our own laws by enacting laws from this place rather than abdicating authority to other places, least of all to foreign powers.

I was struck in this debate by how my right hon. Friend wanted to caricature the objections to the provisions, saying that anybody who is obsessed with the issue of Europe will stand up and object to anything. I am a trustee of the Parliament choir and last night we sang alongside our German counterparts, the Bundestag choir, in Westminster Hall. I stood shoulder to shoulder with a fellow bass from Germany and that is the kind of unity, brotherhood and friendship with our European partners that we want to demonstrate. It should be possible to discuss the practical arrangements we have with each other without being impugned as some kind of right-wing xenophobe, but I am afraid that my right hon. Friend fell into that trap.

Another striking point about this debate is that although the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), the former Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Michael Connarty), and the Chairman of the Justice Committee, the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith), each expressed support in principle, they were a great deal more chary about the consequences and effects of signing up to these arrangements than either of the Front-Bench speakers.

I take on board what my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said about the additional protections that she thinks she has obtained for the exercise of the European arrest warrant, whereby we now have domestic legislation in place to deal with matters of disproportionality and dual criminality. That goes to the heart of the wider context of this debate as to whether we really control the terms of engagement that we are entering into with this instrument and whether this House has any control over the terms of engagement that our law has with our membership of the European Community.

This debate exposes the dislocation between the words of our political leaders and their actions. What we are discussing today feeds the discontent and disillusion that people feel about our politics and politicians and about the UK’s relationship with our EU partners. We have seen across the House the same old cosy consensus between those on both Front Benches that encouraged UKIP to such new heights in the recent European elections.

The very title of the debate, which says that it is a general debate on the UK’s justice and home affairs opt-outs, is misleading. The UK has already exercised our opt-outs from the justice and home affairs provisions under the Lisbon treaty. This debate is about whether the Government should opt back in to 35 of these measures. Unlike what was agreed—it pains me to say this—about these provisions at Lisbon by the previous Government, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is proposing a major and permanent transfer of power from the UK to the EU: a transfer of more sovereignty which, nevertheless, escapes a referendum under the European Union Act. This is yet another example of politicians seeking to provide reassurance to voters without actually meaning it. The transfer includes a permanent commitment to the notorious European arrest warrant, which is intended to remove the recourse of a citizen of the UK to the courts in the event of such a warrant, whatever UK legislation is place, with the new provisions themselves vulnerable to being overridden by the European Court of Justice.

The idea that any extradition arrangement we enter into with other EU states would necessarily be subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice is, in itself, an admission of how overreaching the European treaties have become. There are still parts of our law that are immune from the reach of the European Court of Justice. It should be possible to reach an agreement with the European Union that the European Court of Justice will not arbitrate in disputes between the United Kingdom courts and the European courts in such matters. The fact that there is an assumption that the European Court of Justice will preside over any dispute between the United Kingdom and the EU on any matter demonstrates how overarching the reach of the Court under these treaties already is. That goes to the heart of what we are tangentially discussing, which is the future of the UK’s relationship with our European partners.

I agree with everything my hon. Friend is saying. In the United Kingdom, as compared with all the other 27 member states, we are in a unique position. Our European Communities Act is a voluntary Act. We do not have a written constitution. We are able to make the changes that are necessary to regain our sovereignty. When the Prime Minister says that our national Parliaments are the root of our democracy, he knows, and so do the Government, that we still retain the right to be able to make the changes in order to extract ourselves from situations that we regard as not being in our national interest.

I agree with the Prime Minister and with my hon. Friend on that point.

The Prime Minister recently told the “Today” programme that he wants to pursue a relationship with our European partners based on “trade and co-operation” and on being “an independent nation state”. I have to say that I cannot find any strand of consistency between the measures in this Command Paper and the aspirations expressed by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

May I remind my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who is not in her place at the moment, of what we said in the House about the European arrest warrant when we were in opposition? My right hon. Friend the Justice Secretary, as shadow Home Secretary, said in 2009 that it “undermined civil liberties”. My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, as shadow Justice Secretary, said in 2008 that

“once such things are subject to the European Court of Justice and the Commission…the Government will lose all control over standing up for United Kingdom interests in these areas”.—[Official Report, 29 January 2008; Vol. 471, c. 176.]

He also pointed out that the European arrest warrant

“is very different from…an international treaty obligation that the United Kingdom could decide not to follow if it infringed the human rights of those affected. We will be surrendering the final say about that entirely to a supranational body.”—[Official Report, 29 January 2008; Vol. 471, c. 175.]

The Foreign Secretary, as shadow Foreign Secretary, chided the previous Government for not keeping their promises on the EU when he said:

“Time and again they have made promises that they would not hand over powers to Europe, particularly on justice and home affairs, and time and again they have done exactly that, not least through the treaty.”—[Official Report, 4 March 2008; Vol. 472, c. 1684.]

My right hon. Friend now has to eat those words.

The Conservative party manifesto of 2010 promised

“three specific guarantees—on the Charter of fundamental rights, on criminal justice, and on social and employment legislation—with our European partners to return powers that we believe should reside with the UK, not the EU.”

Why have we abandoned that? It was based on a speech the Prime Minister made when in opposition, in which he promised to negotiate the three guarantees, one of which was

“limiting the European Court of Justice’s jurisdiction over criminal law to its pre-Lisbon level, and ensuring that only British authorities can initiate criminal investigations in Britain.”

Why have we abandoned that?

Much more recently, the Prime Minister wrote in The Sunday Telegraph on 16 March 2014 that one of the key changes he would seek in a renegotiation with the EU was:

“Our police forces and justice systems able to protect British citizens, unencumbered by unnecessary interference from the European institutions”.

Why have we abandoned that already? What did he intend to convey to voters in advance of the European elections? Surely not that he intended to do exactly the opposite a few weeks after the close of poll.

This year’s Conservative European election leaflet stated:

“We stand for a new relationship with the EU, bringing power back to Britain and away from Brussels”,

by, among other things,

“taking back control of justice and home affairs”.

If the UK intends to bring powers back in our renegotiation after the next election, it is a strange way for the Prime Minister to begin setting out his stall by giving up the very powers he said he would not give up.

That raises the question about the pressure on Ministers to continue supporting the process of EU integration because of coalition politics. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary’s blank denial that there could be any alternative to the European arrest warrant underlines that she may well have fallen prey to such pressures. Notwithstanding the fact that the main party in power has a different policy and was elected having opposed Nice, Amsterdam and Lisbon, Whitehall appears to be continuing to implement those treaties according to a policy of business as usual. More powers are being transferred from the UK to the EU, with EU legislation encroaching ever more on our justice system, as though there had been no change of Government.

I do not doubt that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is acting on advice and with complete integrity, but it may help if I, as Chairman of the Public Administration Committee, remind the House how advice to Ministers works in a coalition. The civil service is enjoined to serve the Government as a whole, not individual party agendas or the different agendas of individual Ministers. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that no serious consideration has been given to any alternative policy of negotiating a permanent bilateral agreement on these matters, like the 170 or so sovereign states that are not members of the EU.

If my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary had been minded to ask for credible submissions to support such a policy and then to act on them, it is not only the status quo in her Department, the Foreign Office and elsewhere that she would have had to fight. She would certainly have had the support of the Conservatives in that—if we were a majority Government, I doubt she would have had the support to act in the way she is acting now—but in this coalition, the quad would have vetoed that policy. It is, therefore, hardly surprising, four years since her appointment, that little work has been done on any alternative policy.

I think it is terribly important that we explain to the public what the quad is about, because it is Westminster-speak and I do not think the public understand that no policy is pursued by civil servants unless four individuals—the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury—sign off on them. Unless they do so, civil servants will not deal with those policies. That is what has stuffed us on the Conservative Benches.

I am not suggesting for a moment that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is not sincere in her belief. All I am saying is that the incentives against obtaining alternative advice are massive. If someone goes against the grain of the coalition, they are likely to be stopped at the end of the process anyway, so what is the point? And so we finish up in this position.

That episode highlights how impossible it is to put any political will behind the Prime Minister’s stated aim of a renegotiated relationship with the EU as long as we remain in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, who take a fundamentally opposite view to ours.

I normally agree with everything that my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Sir Gerald Howarth) says, but I wonder whether this quad thing is a bit of a myth. It is a convenient myth that the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Home Secretary find useful in explaining why they cannot pursue Conservative policies, but surely the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary can instruct their civil servants. I cannot believe it—I may be wrong; my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin) is the Chair of the Public Administration Committee—but it is an extraordinary way to run a country.

It has been made clear throughout the civil service that there can be no policy except Government policy, and Government policy is filtered through the coalition arrangements, over which there is a mutual veto in that unless there is agreement, there is no policy. If the Home Secretary had started out on the premise of an alternative policy—of multilateralism or of a simple bilateral arrangement on such matters—she would have been up against not only the vested interests in the EU, with their determination to block this kind of thing and the residual resistance of the status quo, but the added pressure against attempting to do such a thing that exists in the way the civil service operates under the coalition. I am afraid that that is just a fact. On some occasions, Ministers have asked for papers or legislation to be prepared on their behalf, and there has been a blanket refusal because it is not Government policy if it has not been approved by the coalition; that is a fact.

The episode demonstrates that another year of coalition is another year of paralysis and inertia on EU policy, because the machinery of government is hostage to the coalition. That is another reason why we should either end the coalition in the run-up to the election or, indeed, call an earlier general election. I believe that we will rue the day that we voted—I did not, but the House did—for fixed-term Parliaments.

The present paralysis also makes nonsense of the Government’s current policy on the EU. I admire the stand made by the Prime Minister over Mr Juncker, but it just shows that although the Prime Minister may get permission within the coalition to make what amount to grand gestures, he cannot get permission for any policy of substance that purports to advance the objectives he has so ably set out.

The decision on the justice and home affairs opt-ins should be seen in that very serious context, because there are very serious implications. The way in which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s challenge to Mr Juncker was dismissed at the Ypres summit indicates that the EU will resist any fundamental reform. That could not be clearer from the events at the summit. We saw not only how the ambiguity in the treaties will continue to be exploited by those who want to carry on the process of centralisation, but how the UK’s attempt to boost the role of national Parliaments—the fourth principle from the Bloomberg speech—was all but eliminated from the final conclusions, as was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash).

There should be no need in this House to reiterate the importance of our national Parliament to our democracy, or to point out that under the UK’s constitution Parliament is, and must remain, supreme. However, the Ypres summit and its decisions underline how EU treaties and institutions deny such an essential element of the UK’s constitutional autonomy under the present terms of membership. Since Maastricht, we have seen that opt-outs, subsidiarity and talk of different degrees or speeds of EU integration make no difference to the direction of the EU. Consequently, the legal protections concerning disproportionality and dual criminality are potentially meaningless.

Incidentally, the removal of the words “ever closer union” from the preamble of the EU treaties would make no change at all to how the European Commission, Court and Parliament behave. It would not remove a single treaty base of a single EU legal instrument or court ruling, and I emphasise that it would not prevent the European Court of Justice from setting aside any domestic protection that we may enact in respect of the European arrest warrant. That is because the EU treaties are not consistent with the UK’s constitutional position, or with the Prime Minister’s stated desire for the UK to be an independent nation state.

The practical importance of addressing the issues set out by the Prime Minister—they include immigration, freedom of movement, the single market and energy prices—is self-evident. However, any concessions that we obtain will be nugatory in their effect unless we also obtain recognition of the main principle at stake—namely, that of the supremacy of the United Kingdom Parliament.

In the UK, all EU laws and treaties rest upon the UK Parliament, which voluntarily agreed to the 1972 Act. This took place in the context of the unambiguous assurance that national sovereignty would be maintained after we joined. That was set out in the 1971 White Paper. Many subsequent treaties, and measures such as these, have been adopted by Act of Parliament, but the fundamental and ultimate role of the UK Parliament has never been vitiated. Had the UK adopted the EU constitution, that might have changed, but for now at least, the European Communities Act 1972 remains the foundation Act, and every EU law in the UK is subject to the constitutional principle of voluntary acceptance by the UK Parliament.

Those final conclusions of the European Council, along with so many other statements from other EU leaders and from European institutions such as the Commissioner and the European Parliament, do not accept our view. They speak and act as though the European Parliament is paramount, and attribute only a subsidiary role to national Parliaments, including our own. This reflects the political reality, which we Conservatives spelled out at the time, that the Lisbon treaty is the EU constitution in all but name. This justice and home affairs decision demonstrates that the Government are doing nothing of practical value to challenge that. The lack of any specific constitutional provision in the Lisbon treaty to make it autochthonous—that is, dependent on its own provisions for its authority, like a constitution—does not prevent the majority of EU states or the EU institutions from behaving in that way.

This question of constitutional supremacy has now reached a critical point. The point in the final Ypres conclusions about the need for “strong and credible” EU institutions but no more than

“closer involvement of national parliaments”,

underlines the fact that the EU is set against anything that seeks to reassert the supremacy of the UK Parliament in the European Union. It is beyond any doubt that such a proposal would even be considered, because it would take only one other member state to veto any such proposal.

In these circumstances, it would be impossible for any leader of the Conservative party to campaign to vote to stay in the European Union, either in a referendum or at the next general election, without making it clear that he had a clear bottom line in the renegotiations that our new relationship with the EU must be based on the supremacy of our national Parliament, at least, and that otherwise we would have to leave the treaties and seek that new relationship from outside.

Order. Bearing in mind the speech that we have just heard, I think I need to clarify that, although praying in aid supporting arguments is acceptable, the main purpose of today’s debate is to discuss opting back in. The hon. Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin) should perhaps have added at the end of his speech, “For all those reasons, I do not support opting back in.” This is not a general debate on the European Union, and I hope that the remaining Members will bear that in mind. Given that the hon. Gentleman looked so closely at the title of the debate, to which he referred at the beginning of his speech, I hope that he will in future pay a little more attention to a debate’s title when preparing the content of his speeches.

I am delighted to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin) and, indeed, my right hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Sir Tony Baldry)—a brother knight who had the responsibility of looking after my old school at Bloxham. I have always had great affection for my right hon. Friend the Member for Banbury, even though he has been somewhat unsound on European matters. No doubt he will be awarded some further grand honour by the Association of Chief Police Officers; I can see him as the guest of honour at a grand function, funded no doubt by G4S as there is no public money for such things.

I agree overwhelmingly with my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex, particularly on the sovereignty of this Parliament. Whereas it is entirely right that we should take into account the evidence of those who are operating at the coal face, such as members of ACPO, it is our duty here in this Parliament to look at the wider issues and the wider consequences.

I suppose that I take as my text the joint report of the European Scrutiny, Home Affairs and Justice Committees of 26 March, which states in paragraph 1:

“Whether EU measures covered by the so-called ‘2014 block opt-out decision’ continue to apply to the United Kingdom and become subject to the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice from 1 December 2014 is a profoundly significant issue.”

That is absolutely right and I pay tribute to the Chairmen and members of those three Committees for their detailed and measured response on this important matter. I also pay tribute to my right hon. Friends the Home Secretary and the Justice Secretary, on whose shoulders rests the responsibility for charting a course that not only satisfies the coalition, but reconciles the need to protect our constituents and secure law and order in this country, and the need to preserve the rights of this sovereign Parliament.

I will be brief, Madam Deputy Speaker, because I have just two key concerns and they are very straightforward. The first is that, by opting into these measures, we will lock ourselves into the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in perpetuity. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr Redwood) said earlier, home affairs and justice was originally a third pillar matter that was decided on by sovereign nations and was not subject to qualified majority voting. My hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex gave a litany of quotations, not least from my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, on the implications of signing up to these measures and subjecting ourselves to the European Court of Justice.

We have no excuse any more. We have seen how the European Court of Justice has sought constantly to arrogate greater and greater powers, and even to overrule our Supreme Court. We would be failing in our duty to the people we represent if we did not spell out to them the very real risks that lay before them if we continue to provide the European Court of Justice with further powers. By doing so, we undermine not only our position in this Parliament, but the interests of our constituents; for they will have no one to whom they can turn if the European Court of Justice continues to exercise these responsibilities.

My second concern is about the political message that will be sent out by the Government’s decision to opt back into 35 of the measures. As we approach the next general election, Europe is assuming greater and greater significance. Those of us who have banged on about Europe, to use a popular expression, have done so because European matters pervade our national life at every level. The biggest concern that the public have today is immigration. Why is that? It is because the issue of immigration is overwhelmingly about our ability to control our own borders.

I am sure that I am not alone in finding on the doorstep that our constituents do not believe the Prime Minister when he says that he will hold a referendum if we are returned as a majority Government at the next general election. That is the case, notwithstanding his efforts in vetoing the fiscal treaty, cutting the EU budget, supporting the European Union (Referendum) Bill and, most recently, tackling the issue of the presidency of the European Commission. He has demonstrated his commitment to trying to resolve those matters and addressing the real concerns of the British people, but because he suggested before the last election that we would have a referendum if we assumed power, that has been constantly brought up as though he has failed to deliver on a promise. That referendum was conditional on the Lisbon treaty not having come into force by 2010, but it did come into force and therefore there was no point in holding a referendum.

As we talk about further negotiations with our European partners on reorganising Britain’s relationship with the EU, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex: this sends a completely different message. We have had the battle with Mr Juncker and expressed the Prime Minister’s rejection of ever-closer union and of the whole project, yet we will be portrayed by our opponents and by the public as having signed up to a raft of measures that touch on some of the most sensitive issues around the protection of our people, such as the ability to deport foreign criminals or return those who have fled the country but are charged with offences in the UK. People are bound to say, “We hear what you say about having a referendum, but when you’re faced with a practical decision on whether to opt back into home affairs and justice measures, you opt back in. We know what that means in terms of the European Court of Justice’s jurisdiction”.

Does my hon. Friend agree that there is a whiff of appeasement here? Basically, we do not want the jurisdiction of European institutions, including the Court, but on the other hand we do not want to resist their intrusion into our becoming more integrated into the European Union. When it comes to the balance between those two positions, the Government increasingly give the impression that they do not want to do that, but they go along with it in practice. That is a very dangerous path.

My hon. Friend is right, and I set out earlier what I felt the dilemma to be. Undoubtedly, the Home Secretary and Justice Secretary are receiving shed-loads of advice from law enforcement agencies, saying that we must protect the European arrest warrant and all our ties with our European partners because to do otherwise would make our task of enforcing law and order more and more difficult.

I understand where the Home Secretary is coming from, and again I will quote from the excellent European Scrutiny Committee, which is chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Stone. In its report of 7 November last year, it cited the Home Secretary as having said a year ago:

“We believe the UK should opt out of the measures in question for reasons of principle, policy, and pragmatism. And we should only seek to rejoin those measures that help us co-operate with our European neighbours to combat cross-border crime and keep our country safe.”—[Official Report, 9 July 2013; Vol. 566, c. 177.]

Who could possibly disagree with that? We are all in favour of that and of arrangements that enable the efficacious management of our borders, and the return of criminals and so on, but other issues are at stake. How will the European Court of Justice interpret these matters, and how—as I said a moment earlier—will the public see that? Of course we need to protect the public, but I suggest, as my hon. Friends have done, that we also need to resist the risk of subjecting ourselves to further control by the European Court of Justice.

How do we bridge the gap? I understand that it is entirely possible that transitional arrangements could apply from 1 December. Come 1 December, we opt out en bloc and at the same time opt back in on the 35 measures that are the subject of this debate. By then, it is possible to have transitional arrangements to extend our ability to have those measures in force, pending a final decision here in the UK. The Home Secretary has said that Denmark’s opt-out arrangements remain subject to the European Court of Justice. Why do we not have alternative arrangements that do not subject us to the ECJ? We do not need to follow Denmark’s example and can chart our own course. Surely this is a magnificent opportunity for Mr Juncker and his cohort to demonstrate their commitment to recognising that the UK’s issues need to be addressed and to accommodate the UK’s concerns. We can provide them with an early opportunity. Come 1 December, they can show us that, yes, they understand the nationwide concern in this country on these matters and come to an accommodation with the UK.

These are massively important issues. I understand from Ministers that there will be a proper full-day’s debate later this year, followed by a substantive vote, and not in a deferred Division or anything like that, when the House can have its proper say.

It is a great pleasure, as always, to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Sir Gerald Howarth), who put the arguments succinctly. I agree with the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin). Both my hon. Friends summed up the flavour of the debate. As we approach the end of the debate, the arguments on both sides have been fairly put, so I will not detain the House for too long.

As we saw in the recent European elections, there is a strong feeling in this country that we should have less interference from Brussels. The justice and home affairs opt-outs give us a golden opportunity to demonstrate to the British public that we are in tune with how they think about the European Union. They want less interference from Brussels, not more.

There is a strong feeling that people thought they were entering a common market back in 1973, and they voted to remain members of it in 1975. It was referred to back then as the European Economic Community and the Common Market. Effectively, it was a free trade area. However, those behind the grand euro project were not satisfied with just a common market. They saw it as just the first step towards building a single European superstate. The European Economic Community soon became just the European Community—the word “economic” was dropped altogether, reflecting the wider and grander aims of the European project. The European Community swiftly became the European Union, as another step was taken towards creating a single superstate.

Why did I start with that background? I did so because the European Union’s powers over justice and home affairs are an example of its growing power and influence. It has become far more than just a common market. It already has its own Parliament, its own flag, its own national anthem, its own civil service, its own foreign and diplomatic service and its own court. It has all the attributes of a state, so it is no surprise that those behind the European project want to develop a single Europe-wide system of justice and home affairs.

At a time when there is a desire among millions of our fellow citizens for the European Union to have less influence, we should be taking this golden opportunity to take back powers. Let us be clear on what is at stake: above all else, this is a matter of principle. If we exercise an opt-in—voluntarily, because there is no obligation on this country to opt in—it will mean that yet again the powers of the institutions of this country will be reduced and power transferred to the institutions of the European Union. At a time when we are saying to the British public that we want powers back from Brussels, it is not, I would venture to suggest, a very good start to voluntarily give up power over these 35 different measures.

As the Government themselves said when they gave evidence to the House of Lords European Select Committee:

“the practical effect of the ECJ gaining full jurisdiction in this area after the transitional period”—

which, of course, means from 1 December 2014—

“is that the ECJ may interpret these measures expansively and beyond the scope originally intended. This concern is compounded by the fact that the ECJ has previously ruled in the area of Justice and Home Affairs in unexpected and unhelpful ways from a UK perspective”.

So there we have it. The Government know that there is a real risk that once these powers are handed over to the EU there is no turning back and the European Court of Justice can interpret them as they think fit.

In the Government’s response to the European Scrutiny Committee’s November 2013 report on the block opt-out, the Government said the following about the rulings of the ECJ:

“We have also set out our concerns with the impact of these judgements on the domestic law. If we disagree with the ECJ’s interpretation of legislation, it will be impossible for the UK to amend the law itself. Indeed, it would be very difficult to alter it at all as this would require the Commission to propose an amendment to the EU legislation itself, or a cohort of Member States to do so under the auspices of a Member State initiative.”

Such a cohort would have to consist of a quarter of all member states. The European Parliament’s agreement would also generally be needed to amend the relevant EU legislation.

We must not forget that the European Court of Justice, in determining cases, would start to apply its human rights jurisprudence, arising from the European Union’s own charter of fundamental rights, to the UK’s policing and criminal justice system. It would, therefore, be all very well for us to try to negotiate or even unilaterally opt out of the European convention on human rights, but the fact remains that if we remain members of the European Union we would be bound by the European Court of Justice and its implementation of the EU’s charter of fundamental rights.

Perhaps the most worrying of the measures that it is proposed to opt back into is the European arrest warrant. We have heard much about it this afternoon, but let us be clear about what the European arrest warrant means. It gives other countries in the European Union the power to demand that a British subject be removed from this country and incarcerated in a foreign jail without any evidence being placed before a British court. Worst of all, the European arrest warrant could be used for some act or omission that is not a criminal offence in this country, where the conduct is wholly within a foreign country. Indeed, that aspect—dual criminality—was one of the principal grounds that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister used to argue against the introduction of the European arrest warrant in the Extradition Act 2003. He voted against it.

There is perhaps a silver lining to every cloud. As someone who thinks that this country would be better off outside the European Union, let me say this in conclusion. If the Government decide, as I am sure they will, to opt back into these measures—despite what those of us who have reservations might think, I am sure that in the fullness of time this House will vote to allow the Government to do so—they will hand over power to the European Union on these issues for ever more. However, in so doing, they will provide yet another reason why, I believe, in the fullness of time millions of our fellow citizens will decide that the only way for this country to regain its own sovereignty will be to vote to leave the European Union.

It is a particular pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (Mr Nuttall), although I am delighted that the Lord Chancellor will reply to the debate, because I believe he is the one person remaining in the Government who still believes what he believed in opposition. It is reassuring that at least some people do not find the trappings of office take them away from their previous beliefs.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin) mentioned, we have already looked at the falsehood that is in the title of this debate. We are meant to be debating the opt-outs, but they were decided a year ago. We are debating the opt-ins. That is all of a piece with the spin and the flimflam around this issue. We are not trying to stick to the facts. We have had bold promises—promises raised by the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz)—about consultation with Parliament and how we would be kept fully informed: a fine promise and constitutionally proper, but regrettably ignored.

We found out some information about the Prüm declarations not from a statement to this House or from evidence given to a Select Committee, but via a website called Statewatch, which reproduces leaked documents. It reproduced a “Limité” document from the European Union. “Limité” documents from the European Union can be shared with the European Scrutiny Committee and we then hold them confidentially. This one was not, perhaps because what it said was rather embarrassing. It stated:

“The UK government has also indicated that in a number of other cases it will set in motion a process towards the subsequent opting in to certain other instruments of particular importance.”

So it is not 35 opt-ins; it is more than 35, which they are not willing to tell us about through proper processes. We find out through leaked documents. Actually, it is not 35 anyway, because 14 were already subject to the block opt-out. So we are starting at 49, not 35, and the spin around it tries to lessen the impact of what is happening.

The failure to inform Parliament is, I think, even worse. There was a Council meeting on 24 June, after which the European Union put out a press release stating that

“the Council noted the conclusion reached between the Commission and the UK on the list of non-Schengen ex-third pillar measures which the UK will seek to rejoin”—

I emphasise “conclusion”. The written statement from the Minister provided to the House about a week later—we should note the delay before we were informed—said that

“the UK Government and the Commission had reached an understanding”.—[Official Report, 30 June 2014; Vol. 583, c. 48WS.]

There is a significant difference between an understanding and a conclusion: one has a finality about it, which does not leave much room for parliamentary consultation, while the other implies a continuing process. We have thus had a series of failures properly to inform Parliament—a failure to be entirely straight with the British people.

The effects are severe. The change from the third pillar to Lisbon is a major transfer of sovereignty, as established by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North, who quoted the Government’s own words in saying that. It is not, however, only the Government and the European Scrutiny Committee that make this clear, as it can be seen in the Home Affairs Select Committee, too. This is important because that Select Committee is not made up of shaven-headed Eurosceptics; it is chaired by a former Minister for Europe who views himself very much as a pro-European. His Committee’s report said:

“If the Government proceeds with the opt-in as proposed, we note that it will not result in any repatriation. Indeed, the increased jurisdiction of the ECJ may result in a net flow of powers in the opposite direction.”

Yet we have heard statements from Ministers saying precisely the reverse. There must be a thin line between on the one hand the point at which Ministers say things that are different from what they say to House of Lords Select Committees and from what reports of respected Committees of this House have said and on the other hand the sin of misleading Parliament. I know we will watch like hawks to ensure that that thin line is never breached.

Of the much-trumpeted opt-outs of nearly 100 items, 43 never applied to the United Kingdom in the first place. I have a list of the remainder. I asked 190 parliamentary questions to establish this list and to find out how many of the items were of any importance. Thirty three have been implemented and will bring no change at all; 12 have been implemented de facto and, again, there will be no change; two have been implemented but never used; and two have not been implemented. That leaves one, the Council Act of 17 June 1998, which has been implemented and will suffer from some change. Excluding Prüm, there is no repatriation of sovereignty at all from any of our opt-outs.

That leads us to the alternatives—those measures that the Government wish to remain within, as is clear from the treaties and from questions of international law. The treaties make it clear that provision is made for transitional arrangements. Hence, there need be no worry about a great chasm opening up on 1 December, when this mass horde of 125 criminals will suddenly appear on our shores, about which we should be terrified. It will not be like that at all because of the transitional arrangements.

Then there is the possibility of bilateral arrangements. The Home Secretary’s response on bilateral arrangements was so feeble: we know she has lost her much-respected special adviser, but I had not realised that the person on work experience was now writing her speeches. Just because the European Union does not like it—the Commission indicated that it would not accept it—are we saying that we should not use our power and influence as one of the great nations of the world and even try to negotiate what we want with an international body? Should we immediately kowtow and give in? What sort of a Home Secretary takes that approach?

It seems from the stance adopted by the Government that we are being invited to believe that the European Union is a deeply unreasonable institution that holds very hard and fast positions on which it is not prepared to compromise even in its own interests, let alone the interests of its member states. Does my hon. Friend not think that we should have tried a bit harder?

That is exactly the point I was making. It bodes ill for any proposal for renegotiation if that is the starting point. The moment the European Union says “We don’t like that very much, chaps” and we say “Oh, we’re frightfully sorry, m’lord”, we are not even going to try. We shall perform the kowtow, that wonderful act performed in front of Chinese emperors, whereby people would abase themselves three times before approaching the throne. That may be appropriate to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, enthroned in splendour as you are, but it is not, I think, the way in which Her Majesty’s Government should behave when dealing with international bodies.

Then there is the European arrest warrant, and the so-called guarantees that we have. As has already been established during the debate, European law trumps Acts of Parliament. So we can say that the European arrest warrant must not apply unless there is dual criminality, but unless the European Union accepts it, that is not the case, and dual criminality does not have to be shown in relation to 32 specified crimes where the arrest warrant applies. What the Prime Minister said to my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North during Prime Minister’s Question Time yesterday was, I am sorry to say, not factually accurate.

As for the numbers, I have banged on about them because of the hysteria that we hear from the proponents of the arrest warrant, who claim that our whole nation’s security is dependent on it. On average, 125 people are brought back to this country each year to face trial. In that context, the arrest warrant is to our benefit and in our interest. The people whom we expel we ought to be able to expel under our own law, and would be able to if only we had the gumption to pass our own laws. As was said earlier, we are now willing to sacrifice the fundamental principle of Magna Carta: that no one will be imprisoned, fined or held against their will without the judgment of a court. We are now willing to allow that principle to be abrogated by a Polish magistrate. Surely, wise and good though Polish magistrates may be, it is not worth the theft of a wheelbarrow to undermine something that has been our protector for 799 years.

I want to deal with the politics of this as well, for where does it leave not only the Government but the Conservative party, which had, until a few weeks ago, a really sensible, logical, well-thought-through position on the European Union. It had a strong and sound and firm position, which was to go for renegotiation and repatriate powers. Repatriate powers? When we have just surrendered them? Wave the white flag, and then, two hours later, put up the Union Jack at half mast? Will anyone believe that we have a hope of repatriating powers if we surrender them now? Will anyone think that opting into 35 measures, 49 measures, and a few more secretly, is the beginning of a renegotiation? Will anyone believe the promises made by politicians or the policies on which we stood at the last election—as my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North revealed to us—or the soaring oratory of our Prime Minister, who in 2002, in opposing the European arrest warrant, said:

“If someone came before him who had committed an offence that was not a crime in this country, according to the district judge, the Home Secretary would have to say, ‘I am sorry. You may spend time rotting in a Greek or Spanish jail…But there is nothing I can do about it.’”—[Official Report, 9 December 2002; Vol. 396, c. 109.]

So, in 2002, the Prime Minister was worried that this would lead to people rotting in Spanish or Greek jails. Now he thinks that rotting in Spanish or Greek jails seems to be a good thing. I do not see the logic in that, but I equally do not see how anyone can rely on what politicians say if in opposition they have backbone and in government they are jellyfish. It is an entirely hopeless way of attempting to run the country.

Let me end with a reminder of Sir Robert Peel, a great Prime Minister and a distinguished man, one of the most intellectual figures ever to hold that office —and he was Home Secretary as well. When he did his final papers—they were vivas, not papers—so clever was he, so intelligent was he, that the public went to listen to him answering the questions, and he got a first-class degree in classics and mathematics. In 1846, he split the Conservative party. He got through a measure that the Conservatives loathed on the back of Opposition votes—something that may happen with the European arrest warrant—but he stood boldly at the Dispatch Box and said, yes, he had changed his mind, yes, what he now thought was different from what he thought before, but it was essential for the good of the nation.

Do we have that from this Front Bench? Do we have an avowal of the importance of this surrender to Europe, or do we have mealy-mouthed words about the difficulties of negotiation and the problems with coalition? There is not a bold, forthright, intellectual case for change, but merely the convenience of office, and it not only risks damaging the Government and splitting the Tory party, but it surrenders our sovereignty to a body from which we want to get it back. So I say to Her Majesty’s Government,

“Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood . . . then imitate the action of the tiger.”

It is always a pleasure—nay, an honour—to follow my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg), who speaks with vigour and all the colour that we have come to expect from him. Those of us who have known him since long before 2010 know that he is characteristically forthright on these issues. Whether he is absolutely right on them is another matter, however, and it is to the issue about which he has rightly expressed concern today that I now turn, bearing in mind the time remaining and the need for other speakers to make their contributions.

Yes, the opt-ins do involve some concession of sovereignty. To try to deny that would be wholly wrong. The issue, therefore, is one of competence and the extent to which the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg determines issues that fall to be decided as to the interpretation and operation of the measures, subject to the opt-in. On that, to some degree I share some of the concerns raised by my hon. Friends on the Conservative Benches.

I am an opponent of judicial activism. As a politician who is philosophically of the centre-right, I do not believe that it is for judges to interpret treaties and other documents as living instruments that adapt according to their view of the world at any one time. We see that problem in the Court at Strasbourg and the Court in Luxembourg, but we also see that problem in the courts here in London, here in England, here in Wales, here in Scotland. This is not an issue that is particular to Europe and its institutions. That is a very important point when we remember the nature and scale of the task before us, because, to my mind, this is not a debate between Westminster and Brussels or Luxembourg; this is a debate about whether it is legislators—politicians—who ultimately determine the extent and ambit of our laws, or whether, as increasingly is the case, our laws are interpreted in different ways by judges.

The old certainty of politicians passing and enacting the laws and judges implementing them and making determinations on a case-by-case basis gets more blurred with the passage of the years, and that worries me, as a Conservative, and I know it worries all my fellow Conservatives. I know it worries my right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor. We discussed the matter only yesterday in the Justice Committee, and he made some very wise interventions about his concerns about judicial activism.

Therefore, I thoroughly understand and embrace the concerns that are being expressed by my hon. Friends. What I take issue with them on is this: the full extent to which the European Court of Justice will have jurisdiction over the general run of justice and home affairs in this country. I accept that on the opt-out issues it will have jurisdiction, and there are dangers that, as we have seen with other interpretations—for example, of the free movement directive—there could be judicial creep and an extension beyond the original intentions of those who framed the directives we are talking about. But when it comes to the fundamentals of English and Welsh justice, I see no threat to the long-established traditions, customs, laws and practices that we have in our criminal courts. I see no threat to the principle of trial by jury. I see no threat to the inferences that are to be drawn from the exercise by suspects of their right to silence.

We have had debates on these things. I recall going with my right hon. Friend the Chair of the Justice Committee to Brussels to discuss a directive, which is now coming to the fore, about the inferences to be drawn from the exercise by the accused of the right to silence when arrested. We had a lively discussion in the justice directorate-general about the inappropriateness of that directive in its application to the criminal law of England and Wales. That sort of detailed case-by-case, directive-by-directive discussion will be the surest safeguard against the general creep that my hon. Friends and others fear.

I admire my hon. Friend’s intellectual honesty in admitting that in respect of the European arrest warrant the activities of the European Court of Justice may lead to judicial creep, which may lead to a “wheelbarrow situation” and so on. If such were to occur, who would be accountable?

My hon. Friend asks the fundamental question we should always ask, about not just European legislation, but domestic legislation and the way in which we in this House have legislated in an unsatisfactory and ambiguous way that has opened the door to more and more judicial review, more and more challenge and more and more interpretation by domestic courts in ways that were perhaps not envisaged by the legislators. So I repeat the point and turn it back to him: I do not think this is a particular problem at a European level.

If a wayward British court makes a judgment that is clearly not intended by Parliament but has arisen because of a perfectly legitimate and understandable interpretation of one of our own statutes, we can hold a Minister accountable, we can ask them to bring forward an amendment to the law and we can change the law. If the same happens in respect of European legislation, how do we hold the law accountable?

We have mechanisms within the European structure to do that, via the Council of Ministers, renegotiation, treaty change—

I disagree, and I am more than willing to talk briefly about how we renegotiate these things. Talk about repatriation is unhelpful. If we are going to get actual reform in Europe, we have to look at it across the piece. Addressing the issues of judicial activism and the way in which the ECJ interprets the articles of the European treaties is fundamental to any meaningful renegotiation to deal with the democratic deficit argument that my hon. Friend and others posit.

I am very grateful for my hon. Friend’s generosity in giving way. I have served in this House for more than 20 years and I have seen court judgment after court judgment from the ECJ, or indeed from our own courts—in the Factortame case, famously, even a political agreement reached between the member states about our fisheries was overturned by a decision of the court—where the Minister here says that nothing can be done about it. That has been the case time after time. We are moving these decisions, and their consequences, beyond the democratic accountability of the national Parliament.

But remembering that the competence of the ECJ deals with the application of EU law in the UK, we have to be very careful about the words we use, because very often people misunderstand the full ambit of that Court. Another example would be the way in which case law in Strasbourg is wrongly assumed to be the law of this land—it is not the law of this land and never has been, not even under the much-reviled Human Rights Act. There are little misunderstandings that germinate into a general feeling among the public that we have lost control.

I disagree. It is up to us in this House and elsewhere to show leadership and to explain to people that we have not lost the degree of control that has been suggested. As much as I admire my hon. Friend, I sometimes think that his is a counsel of despair when it comes to the future of Britain in Europe. It is time for us to remind ourselves that we are still a country with huge influence and that we still have a massive part to play in the affairs and future of the European Union. We are one of the biggest economies in Europe, and there are very many strategic interests that make our membership of the EU good not only for us but for other member states.

Before I resume my seat, I will return to the issues at hand. The European arrest warrant is not only in this country’s interest because we can repatriate UK citizens from other member states who are alleged to have committed crimes in this country; it also ensures that EU nationals who are fleeing and evading justice in their own country can be sent back. Those practical realities bring us back from the theoretical debate that we sometimes have here. We are talking about real lives and the tragedies that surround every criminal case about which we have heard this afternoon, which we know is a real issue for those involved. Let us not forget the human element.

I have gone through the list of measures, and it seems that the principle of mutual recognition of criminal offences, for example, will be very important not because of the way in which we operate the courts in England and Wales but because of the way in which other member states recognise UK criminal convictions, which is an important point. If UK citizens go to other member states and commit offences, it is right and in the general interests of combating crime and properly reflecting criminality that their convictions recorded in the UK are properly recognised. Those are practical measures that not only address the need to combat crime but help to increase trade and commerce—all the efficacy arguments that are a natural part of what it is to be a member state of a developing Union that is the biggest market in the world. It is the continent of which we are a part. I think, therefore, that the practical realities reflected in the opt-in measures are a proper reflection of the absolute need for this country to work hand in hand with other member states and to ensure that we can have a criminal justice system that works well for all British citizens, not just here in the UK but in other parts of the EU.

The European arrest warrant has been properly criticised on the grounds of proportionality. My hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab) will shortly wax lyrical on the matter with his customary expertise and I look forward to his contribution with interest, but I would say that the introduction of the amendments on proportionality in recent legislation goes a long way towards addressing the concerns that he and others have repeatedly expressed. I have the same sorts of concerns about the disproportionate use of such a serious measure. The decision to extradite or to remove someone from one jurisdiction to another is a serious step to take.

We have to be practical about this issue, and the Government have done everything they can to ensure that, although we have opted out of the general swath of measures—I think that was the right decision—we are, after looking at the evidence on a case-by-case basis, making the proper decision to opt in to the measures that we are debating today. On that basis, I am happy to support my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench.

It is a great pleasure, as always, to follow my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon (Mr Buckland). Although we do not see these issues in exactly the same way, he always provides a huge amount of food for thought, delivered with great style and panache. I apologise to Members on both sides of the House for arriving late to the debate. I gave notice to the Speaker. It was because of the two statements and an engagement that I could not get out of.

I want to start the substance of my comments by welcoming the opportunity for Parliament to scrutinise this issue. Whatever one believes about the substance, we are getting far more scrutiny in this whole area than we ever did under the previous Government. I also want to say that I fully support the Prime Minister’s overarching strategy. In his article in The Sunday Telegraph on 16 March, he made clear his intention to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU, including, as he spelt out explicitly, in the area of crime and policing. I think that he is absolutely right.

It is worth noting that polling commissioned by Open Europe has found that this matter, far from being some ivory tower issue with no resonance or relevance to the public, was the public’s fourth highest priority for renegotiation. It is therefore right not only in principle, but in terms of resonance and relevance to the great British public. Likewise, the Prime Minister showed tremendous moral clarity in fighting not only for Britain, but for an important democratic principle in relation to the next EU Commission President. I feel that we need to do the same now.

I will avoid rehearsing points I have made in previous debates on the topic, which I know Ministers will have heard until they are blue in the face. I will instead confine my remarks to four key points. First, I believe that we must take a long-term view about the supranational direction of EU justice and home affairs policy, taking into account the evolution of policy and law, the ambitions of the Commission and the tidal direction of travel among EU member states. One does not have to buy into Viviane Reding’s dream of an EU-wide Minister of Justice to see that we are taking incremental steps, slowly but surely, like a slow tide, towards a single EU justice system. We can debate the pace, but I challenge anyone in the House to argue that that is not happening in practice.

One need only look at Europol and Eurojust. Currently, colleges of national police and prosecutors collaborate on important cross-border work, such as combating drugs, human trafficking and terrorism. Originally they co-operated on an essentially intergovernmental basis, but national democratic control is slowly but surely being whittled away before our eyes, like salami-slicing. If we look at the detail of the two new regulations on Europol and Eurojust, we see a strengthened role for the Commission, additional duties of co-operation on national Governments and, most importantly, the eroding of national Governments’ ability to decline requests for co-operation or to hand over data.

Eurojust’s revised mandate will provide substantial co-operation with the new EU Public Prosecutor’s Office, which will grow in time, leading to more and more pressure for it to consume functions currently undertaken by Eurojust. That is inevitable. We can see it happening bit by bit. If we were truly drawing a line in the sand, would we not make it clear now that we will not be opting into those new measures?

At the same time, if we opt into the basket of measures, as the Government propose doing, we will hand from the British Supreme Court to the European Court in Luxemburg the last judicial word on the scope of these swelling supranational powers and our corresponding national democratic duties. I, for one, am reluctant to see that happen because of the European Court of Justice’s record of judicial activism. In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon, the difference is that judicial activism in the UK can be overruled by elected and accountable Members in this House. That democratic control is not available in relation to decisions of the ECJ, which are being extended bit by bit.

We saw that in the High Court last year, when Mr Justice Mostyn, hardly a right winger on the judicial benches, made it very clear that, to his great surprise, the ECJ had torn up our opt-out from the EU’s new charter of fundamental rights. We saw it with the ECJ’s attitude towards the extraterritorial application of the EU Tobin tax to Britain—although, those proceedings are still ongoing. And we saw it this year with the ECJ’s frankly ludicrous ruling on internet search engines, conjuring from thin air a “right to be forgotten.” That is important, because we can argue about the rights and wrongs of privacy and transparency, but that was patently judicial activism, and there is very little that we in this House can do about it.

We are talking about not just one judge but several judges who are making similar remarks. They are genuinely demonstrating a frustration with the overarching jurisdiction of the European Court. In the past few months, we have seen Lord Mance and several others making similar comments. They are conscious of the difficulties that are arising.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that this is a growing problem, and I think that that is recognised at senior levels of the judiciary. We should listen with as much vim and vigour to what the judges have to say as we do to what the Association of Chief Police Officers says.

On the internet search engine ruling, it is important to say that there is a cultural and values issue at stake. It is not just some legal constitutional issue. A right to be forgotten may suit French privacy laws that gag the publication of the peccadilloes and crimes of the rich and powerful, but it directly cuts against our tradition of media freedom, transparency and free speech.

Having seen the effect of ECJ judicial activism on this area of crime and policing, do we really want to allow the ECJ to determine the powers and responsibilities of British police forces, the British criminal process and even foreign forces, through joint operations, operating on British soil? That is a huge risk for us, and I fear that we risk the Luxembourg Court doing for British policing what the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has done for UK border controls.

One reason why I refuse uncritically to defer to ACPO on these issues is that it is ill-equipped to gauge the long-term threat to operations and ultimately public safety of these developments. These are constitutional developments, so it is not just a question of consulting on the administrative arrangements that we have in place now. If anyone in favour of opting back into these measures had listened to this debate, they would have thought that ACPO had been wholeheartedly in favour of opting into more measures than we are doing. If we look at the evidence it gave to the House of Lords Constitution Committee, we see that it recommended opting into only 13 measures, which is substantially fewer than the number that we are planning to opt into.

The second issue that I wish to address is the European arrest warrant. Many Members will have their own constituency horror stories, and I am afraid that I am no different. In fact, my constituency seems to attract problematic cases. The one that sticks in my mind and, frankly, in my throat is the case of Colin Dines, a former judge of impeccable character who was falsely accused of involvement in a major mafia-related Italian telecoms fraud. The story would be almost amusing if it were not so tragic. Without any evidence presented or any opportunity for him to explain his innocence to the Italian authorities, which he was confident that he could do, he was the subject of a European arrest warrant, which was nodded through by our courts, as they must be. He faced the prospect of incarceration or, at best, house arrest for months on end until his trial. Tragically, the only thing that temporarily saved him from being carted off was that he had a stroke from the stress of it, which meant that he was temporarily deemed not fit to travel. The case remains hanging over him like the sword of Damocles, which is totally unacceptable. It is also unacceptable for me as a law maker in this House to see the fate of citizens across this country.

That case is not an isolated injustice. If Members want to grasp the scale of the justice gap under the EU law and the European arrest warrant, they should listen again to our senior judiciary, such as our top extradition judge who gave evidence to the independent inquiry into extradition carried out by Sir Scott Baker. Lord Justice Thomas said that the European arrest warrant system is “a huge problem”—his words. He did not say that it was a small problem, or that there were isolated incidences, but that it was a huge problem that had become “unworkable”.

I pay tribute to the Home Secretary, who has looked very carefully at what can be done within the EU framework decision. Additional safeguards were introduced by the Government in the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 and they are positive steps in the right direction, and the Government deserve great credit for looking at the matter so carefully. In my opinion, the safeguards do not go far enough. That is also the opinion of Fair Trials International. In particular, the bar on extraditing suspects when the case is not trial-ready could be made tighter. I fear that the new leave to appeal requirement undercuts all the safeguards introduced. Above all, it is a shame that we were not allowed any time on the Floor of the House to debate those clauses, important and positive as they were, because they were introduced late in Committee.

I understand from Ministers that there is no appetite in Brussels to revise the EU framework decision itself, a point that I make to my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon. That is a sad reality that we have to accept. The question is what we do next. I believe the preferable option would be to opt out of the European arrest warrant and renegotiate a bilateral extradition treaty with a limited number of extra safeguards—the few modest additions that we need to make it safe for our citizens. We would still have fast-track extradition, but we would stop the justice system in effect selling our citizens out, which is what it does at present.

I shall address that point squarely in a moment. I need to move on fairly swiftly.

In the meantime, between the renegotiation and the opt-outs, we could temporarily continue the EAW arrangements for, say, a year to allow the conclusion of the negotiation. In the worst-case scenario, if partner states in Brussels refused, we would have to fall back on the Council of Europe conventions that predated the European arrest warrant. It has rather breathlessly been suggested that without the EAW, we would risk letting people such as Jeremy Forrest or terrorists such as Osman Hussein go scot-free. That is irresponsible nonsense, and it must be addressed head on. Ideally, we would negotiate a bespoke extradition treaty, as I have suggested. We want something between the old cumbersome conventions and the current automaticity, but even under the Council of Europe treaties the main temporary effect would be to delay extradition proceedings from weeks to months. That would not mean any fugitive or suspect going free or any increased risk to the British public.

I have asked a range of parliamentary questions and written to Ministers on this, and I am grateful for the replies that I have received. The evidence is clear. There certainly are gaps under the Council of Europe conventions. They do not apply to some tax offences, but that is not the same as dangerous criminals threatening public safety. Even then, fewer than 0.4% of prosecutions for tax offences last year were facilitated by a European arrest warrant. The second gap is that Council of Europe conventions would require us to respect the statute of limitations on crimes in other EU jurisdictions. Again, that is hardly the kind of loophole that would stop the hot pursuit of dangerous fugitives. The third gap relates to EU countries that limit extradition of their own nationals, except under an EAW. That would affect extradition requests to Latvia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Belgium and Germany.

It is a very odd argument that we must accept the injustice of the European arrest warrant for British nationals because a few other countries have stronger safeguards protecting their citizens in their normal extradition arrangements. In any case, it will have become clear to the House that none of these temporary gaps under the Council of Europe conventions would apply to people such as Jeremy Forrest and Osman Hussein. It is irresponsible scaremongering to suggest that they would. Opting out of the European arrest warrant, on the Government’s own evidence to me, might for a relatively short period delay EU extradition proceedings while we conclude a better arrangement, but the risk of dangerous fugitives going free is negligible. Public safety is a perfectly respectable, reasonable and legitimate argument to weigh against the threat to individual liberty. We do it in the House all the time. Administrative convenience is not.

The third issue I wish to address is that the Government are considering opting into Prüm measures on data sharing, which would cover fingerprints, DNA, car registration details and so on. There are serious reservations about the impact of this on British citizens, and serious risks. The UK DNA database is far bigger than any other EU database, and innocent British citizens are far more likely to find their samples caught up in a foreign criminal investigation. EU authorities are more likely to assume that the availability of UK DNA samples is a strong indicator of previous criminal behaviour. We know that the EU standard for matching DNA samples is 40% less accurate than the UK standard, which accentuates the risks. Taken together, the Prüm data sharing, the European investigation order and the European arrest warrant make up a rather dangerous cocktail for an unprecedented number of future miscarriages of justice. The House should have no illusions about that.

My final point is about the alternative to opt-ins. The EU has legal personality in the JHA field, so, to answer the point made by the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith), if we were to refrain from opting back into any of these measures we could negotiate with one party and not 27. So that we understand that it is a practical right and not a theoretical one, let me explain that the EU has already done that with 24 other non-EU countries in JHA, so there is no reason in principle or practice why Britain cannot do the same. I ask Ministers whether that question has been raised in Brussels and what precisely the objections were. If the Government do not feel that that is feasible, has a marker at least been laid down in Brussels about future British renegotiation, making it clear that we will want to return to the whole area of JHA in the round, given what has been said?

I suggest that at the very least the Government, or perhaps even the Prime Minister, should make the context behind the decisions clear by letter to the new Presidents of the Commission and of the Council. If not, I fear that this, our best opportunity to demonstrate that we can deliver renegotiation in Europe, runs the risk of being perceived both at home and across the EU as a signal that when push comes to shove our deeds do not match our words.

This has been a good debate. By the time we finish, it will have lasted for more than four hours. We have had some excellent speeches, and even some from hon. Members who are not lawyers or Chairs of Select Committees. All 12 speeches have done the important job of holding the Executive to account. They have all been passionate, demonstrating huge expertise on and experience of the issue.

Let me begin, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson) did, by saying that I support most of what the Home Secretary said. Both she and my right hon. Friend made the point that it is no longer the case, if it ever truly was, that tackling crime and keeping the public safe can be achieved solely within our own borders. Crime and the criminals who perpetrate it do not abide by the borders of nation states. Both Front-Bench speakers gave examples of organised crime, terrorism, cybercrime, big drugs cases and serious sexual offences that crossed borders. The world is increasingly interconnected by the movements of people and the movement of trade, and that is all made even more complex as technology moves ahead at a fast pace. We need to ensure that the systems we have in place to prevent crime from taking place and catching those who commit it keep up with that fast pace.

I have only a short time in which to speak, but I will give way later if I can.

We owe it to the victims of crime to do what we can to prevent further victims and to bring to justice those who have inflicted harm and misery on others. Part of that involves working closely with our European partners across the European Union to establish working relationships that allow each member state to tackle crime and the community as a whole to cut crime.

As I said, we have heard 12 speeches. The Chairs of the three Select Committees—the European Scrutiny Committee, the Select Committee on Home Affairs and the Select Committee on Justice—all reported extensively on the Government’s proposals and their concerns about the process, as well as some of their concerns about the substance of the measures. There has been criticism of the fact that the past two debates have been general debates without a vote. In particular, we have discussed whether Parliament will be given a vote on the Government’s decisions, how many votes there will be, when they will take place and the format in which they will take place, as well as whether each of the measures will be debated and voted on.

Let me be clear that the Opposition will consider all the measures on the basis of what helps the fight against crime. We will not allow anti-European Union feelings to cloud our view of what works. What is needed is a considered response on the issues raised by Back Benchers on the important role that European institutions can and do play in fighting crime.

The first speech was from the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), who reminded us of his “mild interest” in matters European over the past three decades. Towards the end of his speech, he read out a list of questions that he asked the Justice Secretary to answer. We also look forward to hearing the answers.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) admitted to being a usual suspect. He asked—I am looking forward to the answer—whether there will be a separate vote on the European arrest warrant, about which his Select Committee has raised serious concerns. The right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith) explained that this process has taught him how difficult it is to get blood out of a stone. He said that notwithstanding his concerns about the process, he supports the measures that assist in fighting crime.

My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Michael Connarty) reminded us that the European arrest warrant is not perfect and gave an example of one of his constituents who is suffering as a consequence. He explained how it had helped to bring back to this country one of those alleged to have been involved in the 21 July bombings who was subsequently charged and convicted and is currently behind bars.

The hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Sir Richard Shepherd) reminded us of his experience of seven Parliaments and expressed concern about the European arrest warrant. The right hon. Member for Banbury (Sir Tony Baldry) told us how thrilled he was to be sharing his birthday with his brother knights and the rest of us; the sad thing is that he was not joking. He also told us about the evidence from ACPO and its concerns about the European arrest warrant.

The hon. Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin) is also Chair of a Select Committee. I am sorry that I missed his performance in the choir last night with German colleagues. He reminded us—this is a really important point—that, unlike Lisbon, the opt-ins are permanent and therefore a transfer of power. He reminded us of what the Justice Secretary, when shadow Home Secretary, told us about his views on the European arrest warrant, and of what the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary said about it, and asked whether they would now be eating their words.

The hon. Member for Aldershot (Sir Gerald Howarth) reminded us, and his party, of what political message it would send if we opted into all 35 measures. The hon. Member for Bury North (Mr Nuttall) expressed his concern about the European single market morphing into a European superstate. He was particularly concerned, like many other colleagues, about the European arrest warrant, and reminded us, as have many others, of what the Prime Minister said about it previously.

I must confess—I hope my Whips are not listening—that I always enjoy the speeches by the hon. Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg). His 13 minutes were magnificent. I admit that I did not agree with most of what he said, but his speech was a tour de force in terms of quality. He was confident, as only he could be, that the trappings of office would not mean that the Justice Secretary no longer espoused all the views he held on the European arrest warrant only five years ago. We will wait to see what he says in five or six minutes’ time.

The hon. Gentleman reminded us that we are opting into not 35 measures, but 49, and referred to the other 14. He also wondered whether people who are considering voting Conservative would have confidence in a Prime Minister and a party who went into the election promising to repatriate rights from 2015 onwards if they were giving up rights in the preceding 10 months. His message to the Prime Minister, if I understood him correctly, is that there is a danger of having a backbone in opposition but being a jellyfish in government.

The hon. Member for South Swindon (Mr Buckland) expressed concern, as have many others, about judicial activism and too much intervention. He also pointed out that the fundamentals of British courts and justice are not necessarily threatened by the ECJ having jurisprudence.

The last speech was made by the hon. Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab), who has huge expertise in this area. He made four key points. He warned about a single European justice system and said that sooner or later we may end up with that destination if concerns are not expressed now. Again, he highlighted concerns about the European arrest warrant, and referred to individual cases.

Six of the 35 measures relate to justice, my area of responsibility, and the Chair of the Justice Committee touched on most of them: the data protection secretariat, the data protection framework decision, the application of the principle of mutual recognition to financial penalties, prisoner transfers, the European supervision order, and trials in absentia.

For the sake of brevity, I will touch on only one of those issues, namely prisoner transfers. From his time as a Minister in the previous Government, my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn knows full well the importance of transferring foreign prisoners to their home countries to serve out their custodial sentences. He negotiated many of the agreements that are still in place. However, since 2010, only four further agreements have been negotiated by the current Government, compared with the 50 negotiated by my right hon. Friend and other colleagues in the previous Government. One in eight of those behind bars in England and Wales is a foreign national, and the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee reminded us that the cost to the British taxpayer is £300 million a year. That is why it is so important that we get this right.

The Home Secretary was right to refer to the case of the Latvian prisoner who was sent back to Latvia last month, but the numbers transferred are still pitifully low. When the Justice Secretary responds, will he tell us what progress he has made in persuading other countries to take their own prisoners back from the UK? I appreciate that Poland has a derogation, but the other countries do not.

I will not refer to the measures we are not going to opt into, except to ask whether the Government are considering having impact assessments on them. That question has been asked by Members of the other place. I appreciate that we now have impact assessments on those measures that we are going to opt into, but will there be impact assessments on those that we are not going to opt into?

Lots of colleagues have made interventions and 12 Members from both sides of the House have made speeches. They have asked many questions and I, like them, am looking forward to hearing some answers from the Justice Secretary.

This has been an important debate and I have listened very carefully to the strong opinions expressed. We have heard some passionate speeches and views. My hon. Friends the Members for Aldridge-Brownhills (Sir Richard Shepherd), for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin), for Bury North (Mr Nuttall) and for Aldershot (Sir Gerald Howarth) set out very strongly the views they hold and their concerns about these matters. We heard some contradictory views from my right hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Sir Tony Baldry)—I wish him a happy birthday—and my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon (Mr Buckland), who made an important point about unlimited jurisprudence and the way in which international treaties can take us into new areas beyond the intention of those who created them. That point was also made by my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab) on that very important issue.

It is always important to remember how we reached the position we are in. My hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr Redwood) reminded us that, prior to the Lisbon treaty, these matters were all outside the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. They used to be intergovernmental matters. Of course, it was the previous Labour Government who took the decision to put us in the position we are in now. They sold us down this river in a way that should never have happened and left us in the legal position we are in today. It is really important that we as Conservatives always remember the previous Labour Government’s contribution. They accepted a treaty that was supposed to be subject to a referendum, but it never took place, and we in this House were asked to accept a package that I do not believe the British people wanted, although they were not given the opportunity to decide whether to accept it or not.

That treaty allowed the UK to decide whether to opt out of all the pre-Lisbon justice and home affairs measures, and then to seek to rejoin any that it believed were in the national interest. That process, which we went through last year, had to be carried out en bloc, which meant that it was clunky and could not involve negotiating and debating on a measure-by-measure basis, as with new measures. But that is what the treaty provides for.

Last year, after extensive discussions within the Government, we agreed that we would exercise that opt-out and seek to rejoin a list of 35 measures. We also agreed that as a Government we wanted to participate in measures that contributed to the fight against international crime, but did not wish to be part of those that sought to create a European justice system. As the House knows, I strongly disagree with the previous Commissioner and others in Brussels who want the creation of such a system.

It is particularly important for us in this country to maintain the distinctiveness of our justice system, not just because of the core role it has played in our society for 800 years but, to be frank, because of the important competitive advantage it gives our legal services sector around the world. That point was well made by my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton. We are not going to be, and we should not seek to become, part of a Europeanised justice system. I do not believe in such a development, and I certainly do not want this country to be part of it.

The 35 measures we are discussing are mostly to do with international policing and the fight against international organised crime. As the Chair of the Justice Committee, the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith), pointed out, the changes made to the list have not altered the balance we discussed earlier this year. The measures are on the list because the Home Office, with its officials and those who work with them, has clearly advised the Government that they are essential to our work in fighting international crime in particular and are therefore in the national interest. That advice has formed a fundamental part of the Government’s strategy.

I understand very well where my right hon. Friend is coming from and I think I know where he would like to go, but may I put it to him that when he speaks about not wanting to Europeanise our justice system the truth is that by acquiescing in rejoining the measures—the 35 up to 49 measures—we are submitting ourselves to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, which means doing exactly that? It will Europeanise our position irrevocably, unless in due course we repeal the legislation in this House unilaterally.

The Prime Minister set out some of the areas for renegotiation in his article earlier this spring. I hope and believe that a majority Conservative Government will be able to take forward such a renegotiation after the next general election, and the whole area of justice and home affairs needs to be part of that renegotiation process.

After we secured Commons approval for the opt-out—I was very pleased that the opt-out was exercised last year—we left time for the Select Committees to consider the proposed list before we embarked on negotiations with the Commission and other member states. I am acutely aware that the Select Committees said that Parliament was not involved early enough in the process, and we are now seeking to rectify that. The negotiations with the Commission reached a conclusion last month, though some matters are still outstanding in the Council and we are still to get final confirmation about the overall package. Once we reach that point, we can address the question about the process to be followed this autumn.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stone asked whether there will be another debate. Yes, of course there will. It would be inconceivable to have a vote without a debate. It is worth saying that the Home Secretary and I brought forward publication of the Command Paper because we both believed that it was necessary to give Parliament a further opportunity to engage with the issue. I regret the fact that some information appeared before we could bring it to Parliament. However, that it makes it all the more necessary to ensure that Parliament has access to such information now, and that is why the Command Paper was produced and this debate is taking place. We want to give hon. Members and the Select Committees sufficient time to consider that work before we get to the last lap of this process.

At this point, it is appropriate for the House to recognise the very hard work done on this issue by the Home Secretary. These were difficult negotiations, and success was by no means guaranteed. Her efforts in particular have been vital in getting us to where we are, and I am sure the House is grateful to her.

As I have said, we still have to complete some areas of discussion in the Council, so I cannot say that we have finally resolved all the issues in Brussels. However, this is still the opportune and appropriate moment for Parliament to look at where we have got to. We listened very carefully to the concerns expressed earlier this year by the three Select Committee Chairs, and I hope that they feel we have done the right thing by starting the dialogue with Parliament now, even though we have yet to complete the process fully.

As the House will know, the list of measures relating to my Department forms only a small part of what we are debating, but I want to touch on one measure that does not appear in the list. The House will recall that I have previously set out why we chose not to rejoin the probation measure. I explained that, to our knowledge, the measure has not yet been used, and that there are serious questions about how it might work. I do not believe that it is in our national interest to join the measure at this time and leave the European Court of Justice as the potential arbiter of such questions.

The Commission and other member states, by contrast, were keen for us to rejoin the measure because they see it as part of a package that accompanies the prisoner transfer agreement. Despite that, we have said that we will not join at this time.

Our concerns centre on the implications of the measure for our courts, prisons and probation system. What would happen, for example, if someone who had already been transferred breached their licence conditions? Unlike many other member states, the UK does not specify penalties for breaches of community orders or probation. The measure would allow member states to return to us the person we had extradited, but we could not do the same to them. That would place significant potential burdens on our courts and probation system.

Of course, all of us are very happy to see foreign national offenders returned to their home countries. I have no principled objection to sending prisoners back to serve their probation or community sentence in their home country. However, the measure appears to have potential problems that may materialise once it is in operation.

We have indicated to the Commission, as I said in our last debate on this matter, that we will take another look at the measure when there is enough evidence of it working and of its impacts to see whether there would be benefits to the UK in taking part. To support that decision, we will publish for Parliament an assessment of the potential impacts. Clearly, we will not agree to join this or any further JHA measure unless it is in our national interest to do so.

It is important to stress again that this debate has been designed to give the House an update on where we have got to and an opportunity to launch more detailed scrutiny of the process that we have gone through. It has been designed to address the concerns that were raised the last time we debated these issues in the House, which was back in April. We still have work to do in the European Council, in Brussels and in both Houses of Parliament. We will come back to this House when that work is complete. Of course, the two Departments will work closely with the relevant Select Committees to answer questions and discuss the issues in the weeks ahead.

I hope and believe that the House will accept that we have done the right thing in starting this conversation today, in setting out where we have got to in the negotiations and in setting out a process that will allow the kind of scrutiny that we were challenged over earlier in the year. I hope that the three Select Committees feel that we are taking things in the right direction. We have a bit of work left to do. This has been a valuable debate. These are serious issues and the House will have to reach a conclusion about our direction on them before too long. I hope that this debate will be the start of a valuable dialogue that helps Members on both sides of the House.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House has considered the UK’s Justice and Home Affairs opt-outs.