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Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab):
I welcome the motion and I understand why member states have little enthusiasm for the proposed use of article 42 passarelle in this instance. It is much more important to have continued and improved practical co-operation between EU member states. Rather than wrangling over qualified majority voting on the immensely complex and sensitive subject of justice and home
affairs, which is integral to national sovereignty, it would be better to secure the fullest possible co-operation on the ground.
Although the UK is not in the Schengen area, it is clearly in our interests to collaborate closely with those member states that are, and I am pleased to note that the Government support the plan to register entries to and exits from the Schengen area. We must also heed the concerns of front-line states, especially those on the Mediterranean, which report enormous pressure from hopeful migrants from outside the EU. That is an issue on which we need full co-operation from all member states to ensure that we tackle illegal immigration from outside the EU and have workable systems for managing legal migration. In particular, as we talk about commemorating the abolition of slavery, we must work together to tackle the present-day problem of human trafficking.
We need to improve co-operation in one specific area. Following a dreadful incident close to my constituency, in which a Polish migrant worker, who had already served a sentence for rape in Poland, raped again, I discovered from the local police that there is no systematic EU-wide system for registering sex offenders. When I raised the issue with ministerial colleagues in the Home Office, they were very sympathetic and told me that it is being considered by EU member states. May I therefore ask my hon. Friend the Minister what progress has been made in developing an effective, EU-wide sex offender register? It is practical co-operation like that that is needed. It is only by having effective systems to keep appropriate tabs on the very few individuals who pose a threat to public safety that we can build up positive attitudes
David T.C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): Rather than having an EU-wide registration system, it would be far simpler to keep such people in prison and not release them early, which is what happens all too often and allows them to commit further horrific acts.
Nia Griffith: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, but I cannot comment on the Polish judicial system and the length of sentence imposed on that occasion. The important point is that in order to ensure that we maintain a positive attitude to the overwhelming majority of hard-working migrants who are law-abiding citizens, we need proper measures in place for the small element who are of a criminal nature.
Mr. Davidson: Does my hon. Friend agree that, as well as a system of identifying such people, we also need to be able to refuse them entry? Moreover, if we find that they are here, should we not be able to expel them? Should not this country retain such powers?
Nia Griffith: My hon. Friend makes an interesting point, but we would have to be very careful when it came to defining those powers and the particular crimes involved. Names can appear on various lists for different reasons.
People can now move freely within the EU, and settle and work in any member state. Many British people
take advantage of that exciting opportunity, so it is crucial that there is the fullest possible collaboration between member states to deal with the small but significant criminal element that seeks to profit from that freedom. That is why I welcome the motions emphasis on practical co-operation to deal with transnational challenges such as terrorism and crime.
Mr. Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab): On the whole, I welcome the Hague programme. It offers a practical approach to many problems facing Britain and Europe today. I also welcome the action plan adopted by the Council of Europe in June 2005.
The European Scrutiny Committee has studied four communications from the European Commission, one of which was the annual report on the Hague programme. It said that progress had been satisfactory, except with regard to the measures proposed under article 6 of the EU treaty. The main reason for that was the alleged lack of unanimity among Council members, which the European Commission believes makes the case for change to qualified majority voting and the adoption of the passerelle clause under article 42.
As we have heard, the Government believe that the debate about the passerelle clause has come to an end, but my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Michael Connarty) was right to point out that the Commission does not agree. Only the other day, Commissioner Frattini declared in a debate in Helsinki that the Commission believes that the debate is very much still going on. The Commission has not modified its position one iota: it still believes very firmly that the Council should adopt the passerelle clause.
We must be clear about where Parliament stands on this matter. Although I believe that we should adopt the positive elements of the Hague programme, it is important that we reaffirm our opposition to the adoption of the passerelle clause. I have four concerns about this matter that I should like to set out for the House.
First, opting in to the passerelle clause would have constitutional significance. We must be mindful that the clause could mean that it would not be possible for Britain to have bilateral extradition agreements with third countries. In other words, it might not be possible for us to have an agreement with a third country to extradite terrorists. Given that that is one of the main concerns for most British people, we need to be very careful about adopting such a provision.
Secondly, it is important to stress that there is no provision for rescinding an opt-in. If we decide to opt in to the passerelle process, we are in there for goodonce in, always in. A linked problem is the extension into new areas of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. In addition, more powers are implied for the European Commission, as it would be up to the Commission to bring infraction proceedings, and there would also be new measures for the European Parliament.
Thirdly, the passerelle would put the UK in a weaker negotiating position, because other member states would not take our position seriously unless we had
decided to opt in. If we are serious about influencing the European agenda on justice and home affairs, it will be far better for us to oppose the adoption of the passerelle clause.
My fourth and final point is that if the passerelle clause is adopted, it will undoubtedly introduce a high degree of uncertainty in respect of the future of Europe and the treaties. A linked worry is that because the constitutional treaty has not been agreedindeed, it was emphatically rejected by two electorates in the EUmeasures will be brought in through the back door. The issues that the passerelle clause will open up need to be debated, but fully and frankly as part of treaty negotiations; we should not simply slip into adopting measures by the back door. I am worried about that uncertainty and pre-emption.
This debate is timely. The Council of Ministers is meeting on 4 and 5 December and as Commissioner Frattini made clear, the Commission is still arguing four-square for the measure, although it recognises that some member states, especially the UK, have strong reservations. Nevertheless, the Commission has not given up hope of agreement on a matter that it considers crucial. It is, therefore, important that we, as a national Parliament, send a clear message to the Government. There can be no question of equivocation and no suggestion of capitulation or compromisewe must stand four-square in our opposition. That is what we want and I hope that our position will be maintained by the Government.
We take the Select Committee report seriously and are pleased to work with the Committee on these matters. The process is helpful and we value it. The Government are broadly supportive of the principles of the Hague programme as it stands; it was a good outcome for the UK when it was negotiated, and it remains so. In general, the format is right for the organisation of justice and home affairs work over the next few years. However, commitment to a programme as a whole does not mean that we must agree with the detail of all the proposals.
I understand Members concerns about the passerelle. I made it clear to the Committee that the Governments concerns featured prominently in negotiations on the justice and home affairs aspects of the draft constitutional treaty. I pointed out that
the UK identified a number of substantive concerns, including the potential impact on national security, the extension of external competencies and the need for safeguards such as the emergency brake.
I take on board Members concerns about whether the position of the Commission has changed. However, there can be no move to the passerelle, and no move of measures from pillar 3 to pillar 1, without a unanimous vote at the Justice and Home Affairs Council. It is not relevant to talk of the back door. It has always been
possible to move things from one pillar to another through a unanimous vote. It is not illegitimate that that issue should be raised, but that does not mean that that is what is going to happen. The emphasis on practical co-operation is right. That is where we want to be and that is where we want to direct our effort and see results. I urge hon. Members to support the motion.
That this House takes note of European Union Documents Nos. 11222/06, Commission Communication: Implementing the Hague Programme: the way forward, and 11228/06 and Addenda 1-2, Commission Report on the implementation of the Hague Programme for 2005; and takes note that the discussions at the Tampere Justice and Home Affairs Informal Council showed that there was little support amongst Member States for the proposed use of the Article 42 passerelle; and furthermore supports the Governments position that this is not the right time to focus on institutional change, and that the European Unions priority for Justice and Home Affairs should instead be on developing practical co-operation to combat the transitional challenges of terrorism, organised crime and migration.
That, pursuant to section 4(4) of the House of Commons Members Fund Act 1948 and section 1(4) of the House of Commons Members Fund Act 1957, in the year commencing 1st October 2006 there be appropriated for the purposes of section 4 of the House of Commons Members Fund Act 1948:
(1) the whole of the sums deducted or set aside in that year under section 1(3) of the House of Commons Members Fund Act 1939 from the salaries of Members of the House of Commons; and
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