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Mr. Beith: The former Home Secretary prompts me to say that he did not fully review my earlier point, because he confined his remarks to circumstances in which wrongful arrest had occurred. Other things might take place, and I gave the example of a person suffering adverse publicity because of information leaked by an officer which turned out to be false, or which should not have been leaked in any case, whether true or false,

19 Jan 1998 : Column 749

because inquiries were still in progress. That action might have been taken by an officer of Europol and not of the police force involved. One can imagine other cases, involving not a simple case of wrongful arrest, but some other form of culpability directed at Europol officers.

We raise these matters not because we expect Europol officers to behave in that way, but because there must be an ultimate safeguard. That safeguard has been stripped away by the breadth of immunity given to Europol--a scale of immunity not given to British police forces, or to other organisations which assist British police forces such as the Security Service, the National Criminal Intelligence Service, or the National Crime Squad, all of which operate in a role that is in some way similar.

We remain extremely concerned, and I hope that, even if we have not persuaded them to take immediate action, today's debate will send the Government hastening back to interdepartmental consultation on this issue. There is a serious gap and, from his demeanour and the concern he has shown, I believe that the Minister is aware of that gap.

Mr. Streeter: This has been a valuable debate. I thank the Minister for making it clear that the Government have no plans whatsoever to support any concept of a European police force. For reasons given, we cannot support the Liberal Democrats' new clause, but I must tell the Minister that I am not entirely satisfied by his response to the debate. When he writes to me, as he says he will, I hope that he will set out in some detail the answers to some of the questions that I have asked. It is not so much that we want to know what will happen in five years' time; we want to know the limits of the scope of activity in the next five years. We also want to know more about the legal immunity.

I should have thought that, on hearing some of the concerns around the House today, the Minister would ask the Leader of the House of Commons, his right hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) to organise a longer debate on the subject in Government time between now and Easter, so that we can discuss some of the details. It is important that our citizens should be reassured. We want more detail about how the process will work in practice. I am disappointed that the Minister should introduce the measure without having fully thought through its legal implications and ramifications, and seemingly without adequate briefing.

Given all the circumstances, it is not our intention to press the new clause to a Division tonight, but I hope that the Minister has listened carefully and will note that we are not entirely satisfied; we require more information and an opportunity to debate the subject fully in due course. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New clause 43

Police operations in co-operation with Europol


' .--The relevant police authorities in the United Kingdom and their officers shall have full criminal and civil legal liability for any police operations affecting United Kingdom citizens they undertake in co-operation with Europol, notwithstanding any immunities granted to Europol staff.'.--[Mr. Menzies Campbell.]
Brought up, and read the First time.

19 Jan 1998 : Column 750

Motion made, and Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:--

The Committee divided: Ayes 38, Noes 324.

Division No. 132
[7.40 pm


AYES


Baker, Norman
Ballard, Mrs Jackie
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Brake, Tom
Brand, Dr Peter
Breed, Colin
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Burnett, John
Burstow, Paul
Cable, Dr Vincent
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)
Chidgey, David
Cotter, Brian
Cunningham, Ms Roseanna
(Perth)
Dafis, Cynog
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Fearn, Ronnie
Foster, Don (Bath)
Harris, Dr Evan
Harvey, Nick
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Keetch, Paul
Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)
Llwyd, Elfyn
Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Oaten, Mark
Rendel, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Sanders, Adrian
Stunell, Andrew
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Tyler, Paul
Willis, Phil

Tellers for the Ayes:


Mr. Steve Webb and
Mr. Richard Allan.


NOES


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Ms Hilary
Ashton, Joe
Atkins, Charlotte
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Bermingham, Gerald
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Butler, Mrs Christine
Byers, Stephen
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Canavan, Dennis
Cann, Jamie
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Cawsey, Ian
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Chisholm, Malcolm
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cooper, Yvette
Corbett, Robin
Corston, Ms Jean
Cousins, Jim
Cox, Tom
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cummings, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)
Dean, Mrs Janet
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Foulkes, George
Fyfe, Maria
Galloway, George
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godman, Norman A
Godsiff, Roger
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Grant, Bernie
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Gunnell, John
Hain, Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hanson, David
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Healey, John
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Home Robertson, John
Hoon, Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, Ms Tessa
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kelly, Ms Ruth
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Linton, Martin
Livingstone, Ken
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAllion, John
McAvoy, Thomas
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Maxton, John
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Meale, Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, Alun
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Milburn, Alan
Miller, Andrew
Moffatt, Laura
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Eddie
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Organ, Mrs Diana
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N)
Robertson, Rt Hon George
(Hamilton S)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Rogers, Allan
Rooker, Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Ms Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Shipley, Ms Debra
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
(Dewsbury)
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Vaz, Keith
Vis, Dr Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
White, Brian
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Wilson, Brian
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wise, Audrey
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:


Mr. Clive Betts and
Mr. John McFall.

Question accordingly negatived.

19 Jan 1998 : Column 752

New clause 44

Exchange of information between Court of Auditors and other bodies


' .--In accordance with Article 2, paragraph 43c (cmd. 3780, page 38) of the Treaty of Amsterdam, the Secretary of State shall establish a standing mechanism for the exchange of information between the Court of Auditors and, respectively, the National Audit Office and the Northern Ireland Audit Office, and, in respect of funds administered by local government, the Audit Commission and the Commission for Local Authority Accounts in Scotland.'.--[Mr. David Heath.]
Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. David Heath: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time. This is an important new clause. I hope that I shall speak briefly enough to enable the Minister to accept it without question in the short time available to us before 8 o'clock. Very simply, there is a pressing need to beef up co-operation between the European and the national auditors. As we know, 80 per cent. of European

19 Jan 1998 : Column 753

expenditure is administered by national Governments; that is where the bulk of fraud, maladministration and other irregularities are found. The Court of Auditors is doing a very good job. It seems to me that it is showing up some of the inadequacies in the present system. In its most recent report, for the third year running the Court of Auditors was unable to give formal approval to the spending accounts. Fraud costs the European Union about £3 billion a year--an amount equal to about 5.4 per cent. of its entire budget. Between 1988 and 1996, VAT fraud alone cost the EU about £750 million. I believe that the audit systems that are in place in this country are extremely good. I used to be a member of the Audit Commission and I obviously had some interest in the way in which that body worked. If we can link the very good audit systems that we have in this country with that available to the Court of Auditors through Europe, we shall provide a very good example of a seamless system of audit, which will substantially reduce fraud. We can then be much more open in our selling of that process to other member states, in the hope that they will accede to similar arrangements and that we can substantially reduce the fraud bill and redirect the money saved back to member states or into European programmes that need support. Obviously, a standing link would be the most efficacious way to achieve that. If the Government are serious about cracking down on fraud--as I believe they are--they should take the opportunity to accede to the suggestion in the new clause and to provide that standing link, as an example to other member states. I ask the Minister to support the new clause.


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