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Leaving the EU: Prosecution of Criminals

Volume 631: debated on Thursday 16 November 2017

2. What steps the Government are taking to ensure that leaving the EU does not limit the UK’s ability to prosecute criminals. (901866)

The Prime Minister has made it clear that the United Kingdom is committed to maintaining both the UK’s and Europe’s security now and after our withdrawal from the EU. We believe that the UK and the EU should work together to design new, dynamic arrangements as part of our future partnership, that would allow us to continue and to strengthen our close collaboration on security, law enforcement and criminal justice.

Next year, London will host the Commonwealth summit, which is a real chance to build on what the Minister has just said—that commitment across different countries to build up capacity to prosecute criminals. Can the Attorney General assure the House that every effort will be made to build the widest possible coalition to tackle crime, which knows no borders?

Yes, I can give the hon. Gentleman that reassurance, and he is absolutely right that such offences are best dealt with transnationally, because they are committed transnationally. He will recognise that outside the European Union we have a number of different relationships with many other countries to enable us to do law enforcement more effectively and of course bring prosecutions more effectively too.

The Justice Committee, in its report in the previous Parliament on the legal implications of Brexit, referred to a number of practical measures that need to be taken to maintain criminal justice co-operation. Can the Attorney General help us on what progress has been made on those, and in particular what steps are being taken to ensure that we have continuing data regulation alignment after we leave?

Yes. My hon. Friend is right that data is crucial to this, and he will recognise that two things need to be done simultaneously. We need to aspire to the closest possible co-operation in law enforcement and security with our European friends after our departure from the EU. We also, of course, need to prepare for what I think is the unlikely possibility that we will not have an ongoing relationship, and there may be a need to fall back on other things. But as I say, I think that is an unlikely possibility, and I think it is very important that we have the closest possible co-operation, which of course is in the interests not just of the UK but of the EU.

It is vital that we maintain the advantages of our current prosecution toolbox when we leave the EU.

May I press the Attorney General on the allegations that exist of widespread international money laundering against the President of South Africa and the Gupta family, which is stripping money from South Africa and leaving that country as a captured state? Can the Attorney General assure me that our exit from the European Union will not hamper any investigation into those matters?

As I said to the hon. Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham), we should all recognise that crimes like money laundering do not stop at national borders and therefore they cannot be combated solely by one nation state, and they are not being. Our co-operation with other countries will continue, and I hope be enhanced, because I believe this kind of transnational offending is likely to increase, not decrease. The hon. Member for Torfaen (Nick Thomas-Symonds) would not expect me to comment on ongoing investigations in specific cases, but I can assure him that when it comes to money laundering, as with other types of offending, that transnational co-operation will continue.

I am grateful for that answer. Of course, I would not expect specific points on a specific case, but is the Attorney General aware that there are now further allegations against the Gupta family about a financial kickback from China South Rail that originates from the South African state enterprise Transnet? Can he assure me that if necessary the National Crime Agency, the Serious Fraud Office and the Financial Conduct Authority will undertake appropriate investigation of this matter?

Yes. As the hon. Gentleman will readily recognise, one of the challenges in cases like this is to determine the appropriate jurisdiction, because many other law enforcement agencies in many other countries may well have an interest, but we do try and do that, and we are generally successful in reaching what I think are sensible settlements on who does what. He can rest assured that under this Government, offending of the type he has described will be properly pursued, wherever it takes place and whoever is responsible.