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Clause 24

Abolition of contracting-out for salary related schemes etc

Amendment made: 4, page 11, line 42, at end insert—

‘“current member”, in relation to a scheme, means a person who is a member of the scheme at the time that the power is used (and “future member” is to be read accordingly);’.—(Steve Webb.)

Clause 46

Regulations and orders

Amendment made: 12, page 24, line 8, at end insert—

‘(e) regulations under paragraph 2 of Schedule [Work-based schemes: power to restrict charges or impose requirements] or regulations under paragraph 7 of that Schedule that amend a provision of an Act, or

(f) the first regulations under paragraph 3 of that Schedule,’.—(Steve Webb.)

Clause 48


Amendment made: 13, page 24, line 32, leave out ‘This Part comes’ and insert—

‘Section [Preserving indefinite status of certain existing assessed income periods] and this Part come’.—(Steve Webb.)

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Schedule 1

Transitional rate of state pension: calculating the amount

Amendment made: 14, page 28, line 17, leave out from ‘if’ to end of line 21 and insert—

sections 46 and 48A of the Pension Schemes Act 1993 were ignored, and for the purposes of calculating the amounts referred to in section 45(2)(c) and (d) of the Contributions and Benefits Act any earnings paid to or for the benefit of the person in respect of contracted-out employment were treated as if they were not in respect of contracted-out employment.

(i) sections 46 and 48A of the Pension Schemes Act 1993 were ignored, and

(ii) for the purposes of calculating the amounts referred to in section 45(2)(c) and (d) of the Contributions and Benefits Act any earnings paid to or for the benefit of the person in respect of contracted-out employment were treated as if they were not in respect of contracted-out employment.

‘(2) “Contracted-out employment” means employment qualifying a person for a pension provided by a salary related contracted-out scheme, a money purchase contracted-out scheme or an appropriate personal pension scheme (and expressions used in this definition have the same meaning as in the Pension Schemes Act 1993).’.—(Steve Webb.)

Schedule 12

State pension: amendments

Amendments made: 15, page 48, line 27, at end insert—

‘In section 71 (overpayments - general), in subsection (11), before paragraph (a) insert—

“(za) state pension or a lump sum under Part 1 of the Pensions Act 2013;”.’.

Amendment 16, page 53, line 16, at end insert—

‘The State Pension Credit Act 2002 is amended as follows.

In section 7 (fixing of claimant’s retirement provision for assessed income period), in subsection (6)(a), after “benefit under” insert “Part 1 of the Pensions Act 2013 or”.’.

Amendment 17, page 53, line 17, leave out ‘of the State Pension Credit Act 2002’.—(Steve Webb.)

Schedule 14

Power to amend schemes to reflect abolition of contracting-out

Amendments made: 18, page 77, line 40, at end insert—

‘( ) The regulations may make provision about the calculation of those amounts, including provision requiring them to be calculated in accordance with specified methods or assumptions.’.

Amendment 19, page 78, line 28, leave out ‘relevant’.

Amendment 20, page 78, line 35, leave out ‘relevant’.

Amendment 21, page 79, line 8, at end insert ‘and supplementary matters’.

Amendment 22, page 79, line 10, at end insert—

‘Regulations under this Schedule may confer a discretion on a person.’

Amendment 23, page 79, line 10, at end insert—


(1) Regulations may require the trustees or managers of an occupational pension scheme to provide information requested by an employer in connection with the powers given by section 24(2).

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(2) The regulations may provide for section 10 of the Pensions Act 1995 (civil penalties) to apply to a person who fails to comply with a requirement.

(3) In this paragraph “managers”, in relation to a pension scheme (other than a scheme established under a trust), means the persons responsible for the management of the scheme.’.

Amendment 24, page 79, line 16, after the second ‘a’ insert ‘current’.—(Steve Webb.)

Schedule 15

Bereavement support payment: amendments

Amendments made: 25, page 82, line 17, leave out ‘sections 27 and 28’ and insert ‘Part 3’.

Amendment 26, page 83, line 8, leave out ‘section 27 or 28’ and insert ‘Part 3’.

Amendment 27, page 83, line 11, leave out ‘section 27 or 28’ and insert ‘Part 3’.—(Steve Webb.)

New Clause 2

Bereavement support payment: prisoners

‘(1) The Secretary of State may by regulations provide that a person is not to be paid bereavement support payment for any period during which the person is a prisoner.

(2) “Prisoner” means a person (in Great Britain or elsewhere) who is—

(a) imprisoned or detained in legal custody, or

(b) unlawfully at large.

(3) In the case of a person remanded in custody for an offence, regulations under subsection (1) may be made so as to apply only if a sentence of a specified description is later imposed on the person for the offence.’.—(Steve Webb.)

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

Third Reading

Queen’s consent signified.

6.26 pm

Steve Webb: I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

One of the problems on Report is that we get back into the weeds and the detail and lose track of the big picture. I think we can all be proud of producing a Bill that will be seen by history as a lasting and valuable reform to the pensions system, even if I say so myself.

To begin on a note of consensus, I thank the Select Committee on Work and Pensions and its Chair, the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Dame Anne Begg), who is in her place, for its pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Bill, or at least the parts relating to the single-tier pension. We are grateful for that input and made changes in the light of its recommendations, including putting the start date in the Bill and setting the maximum and minimum qualifying period at 10 qualifying years. We have discussed further some of the Committee’s recommendations as we have proceeded. We are grateful for its constructive and swift scrutiny of the Bill.

The reason for the Bill is that we have a state pension system still grounded in the models of the second world war, a system where men went out to work and women depended on men, and a system of mind-numbing complexity that made it impossible for people to plan rationally for their retirement. Each change by successive Governments has been made with the best of intentions, but, grafted on to the previous lot of changes, they left

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people with a system that nobody could hope to understand. That mattered in its own right, but it matters particularly in a world of automatic enrolment if we are to expect another 10 million people to save, in some cases, relatively small amounts for their retirement. They have to be able to do so confident that they will not see their hard-earned savings means-tested away. That is why the single-tier state pension, a single, simple decent state pension set above the level of the basic means test, is such a fundamental reform.

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has been supportive of this principle from day one. I am grateful to him and to my colleagues in the Department for the fact that the coalition has been able to introduce this reform, which is long overdue and will, I believe, stand the test of time. While we have had our differences with the Opposition, I am grateful to them for their support for the principle of the single-tier pension. We all want to see a pension system that is not constantly chopped and changed, but stands the test of time. I believe that the single-tier pension, subject to any further refinements their lordships might wish to make, will indeed stand the test of time and will provide a firm foundation for retirement saving.

The Bill does not only deal with the single-tier pension. Part 2 brings forward the increase in the state pension age to 67 and sets out a process for dealing with these things in a more rational and measured way. We envisage that as life expectancy increases, the majority of that time will be added to working life, but a period will be added also to retirement. It is a measured, balanced and systematic approach that will allow people to plan for their retirement in a way that all too often they cannot.

Part 3 reforms the bereavement support payment, which we have not been able to discuss today, and which is designed to focus support for bereaved families on that point immediately after bereavement and in the year thereafter, when bereaved families have told us they need the most support and cash. That is the purpose of the reform.

Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): Like my hon. Friend, I welcome the Bill, which is an important, historic and long-overdue change in the pension system, but will he acknowledge that charities such as Winston’s Wish, based in my constituency, and the Childhood Bereavement Network have expressed concerns about the bereavement support arrangements in the Bill, particularly for parents who still need that support after one year—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. This is meant to be an intervention, not a speech. It is unfair on the other Members waiting to speak. In fairness, Mr Horwood, you ought to give a little more consideration and make shorter interventions.

Steve Webb: The charity in my hon. Friend’s constituency, Winston’s Wish, was referred to earlier by the hon. Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham), and we take its concerns seriously. I stress that what we have put in place is a structure of reform that will involve us actually spending slightly more over the coming years on support for bereaved families, but there is a debate to be had about how long the support should last. For various reasons, going beyond a year raises difficult issues. For example, a short-term benefit can be disregarded

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for universal credit, whereas a long-term income replacement benefit almost certainly would not be. By delivering the money in this way, therefore, the lump sum is tax free and the short-term payment is not counted against people’s universal credit, whereas a long-term payment would be, meaning that bereaved families might end up getting less support were we to extend the period. So there are trade-offs and reasons why these balances have been struck.

Lady Hermon (North Down) (Ind): The Minister will know that as the Bill is drafted, and moving towards its final phase in the House, the bereavement support payment does not apply to Northern Ireland. Will he clarify whether, were it to be introduced by the Northern Ireland Assembly, it would be paid for centrally?

Steve Webb: I would be happy to provide the hon. Lady with the clarification she seeks, either while I am still at the Dispatch Box or subsequently, if that would be helpful.

Part 4 of the Bill, which occupied the majority of our time in the House, deals with automatic enrolment and one of the many issues not addressed until this coalition Government came to power—the issue of small stranded pension pots. We anticipate that there could be tens of millions of small stranded pension pots, which is not something any of us want. I think that the prospect of the pot-follows-member system, under which people change jobs and the small pension pots go with them and build into what I have called a big, fat pot, is a better model. It will engage people with pension saving and result in people knowing where their pensions are and getting better value for annuities. That will be of great value.

It would be fair to say that a Bill such as this does not just happen, but depends on the work of an army of officials with expertise in both state and private pensions, on parliamentary counsel and on the many stakeholders who have given us advice and encouragement and enabled us to refine the Bill. I put on the record my appreciation to all of them.

Julian Sturdy (York Outer) (Con): Like the Minister, I support the Bill, but I have constituents concerned about the 35-year rule, as they fall a few years short of it. There is genuine concern for them. What reassurances can he give me on this issue?

Steve Webb: My hon. Friend raises an issue that has caused a little confusion, but I can reassure him that although the single-tier pension is based on a 35-year contribution, 35 years buys someone a £144 pension, so each year has been valued at a more generous rate than the 30 years for the £110 basic pension. Under the new system, nobody will lose out from the change because we compare someone’s entitlement under the current system with their entitlement under the new system, and their foundation amount going forward is the higher of those two amounts. If the move to 35 years prejudices any of my hon. Friend’s constituents, they will get the figure they would have got under the current system, and if it benefits them, which it will in many cases, they will get the higher figure. I hope that that offers him the reassurance he seeks but I am happy to respond to him in writing.

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Julie Hilling: Is the Minister saying that those people who fall short of the 35-year rule will receive their £144 a week pension or that, for life, it will be less than that?

Steve Webb: To be clear, someone with 30 years and no SERPS under the current system gets 30/30ths of £110, a basic pension. Under our system, they get 30/35ths of £144, which is more. The fact they have not got 35 years does not matter. They get a bigger pension. It does depend on how much SERPS someone has, which is why I say that some will get more. But no one will get less because our starting point for the calculation is the better of the two numbers. The move to 35 years for people already in the system cannot give them less pension than they have already built up but does give them the opportunity to build up more.

The opportunity to talk about the Bill is enticing and I could go on at great length, but the key point is that notwithstanding the differences we have had about the detail, this is a Bill of which the House can be proud. It introduces—for the first time, essentially, in 50 years—a single, simple and decent state pension that provides a firm foundation for auto-enrolment. It rationalises the process of raising state pension ages. It reforms the bereavement support system. It gives us a private pension system that is fit for purpose for the world we are moving into and it is with considerable pride that I commend it to the House.


Gregg McClymont: When the Minister first came to the House in January with his statement on the Government’s plans for a flat rate state pension, I suggested that the devil would be in the detail and that there would be winners and losers from such a substantial reform. Inevitably, that has proven to be the case. I think we have to give the Minister credit for taking the Bill through its various stages. It is a complex Bill; certainly some of its consequences and implications are complex.

The Minister has decided—with some justification on his part—that he sees a hard and fast wind-up of the second state pension and the move to a flat rate state pension as the best way to proceed. At the same time, the Minister says that the Bill makes private pensions fit for purpose and gives a firm foundation for auto-enrolment. That would be a fair characterisation of the Minister’s comments at Third Reading.

If we reflect for a moment—usually Third Reading is a time to do that—the Minister deserves credit for taking forward the consensus created by the Turner commission, which, set up by the last Government, had three important aspects in particular: to start dealing with the issue of longevity; to start rebuilding the additional pensions savings pillar that decisions of previous Conservative Governments had damaged significantly; and to get a simpler state pension. That is the context in which the Minister has proceeded with his Bill and taking forward that consensus means that he deserves significant credit.

In any Bill such as this, there will inevitably be kinks and things that need to be sorted out, but there is a lack of balance in the Bill. The Minister has been very clear and put into statute everything that will happen in terms of the state pension. In terms of the other side of

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the equation—private pensions via automatic enrolment for the 10 million people who are currently going through that process—the Minister says he has to do a lot of things, but a lot of them remain to be done. The Minister is giving himself powers in various areas but without specifying what he intends to do with those powers. I suggest that while we can welcome the move to a flat rate state pension, there will be more work for the House to do in terms of keeping the Minister on the right track regarding how the private pension system interacts in a coherent and comprehensive fashion with the flat rate state pension.

The Minister rather generously suggested that Labour Members had a vision for the private pensions market. He went on to say that he did not agree with it, but it turns out that in one respect, he does. He seems to have come round to Labour’s view on the need to take tough action to cap pension charges. As I mentioned earlier today, it was just over a year ago that he said that the Leader of the Opposition was scaremongering when he drew attention to the problems in the pensions market, yet we have heard the Minister using tough language today on the need to sort out the market, and on having a consultation on a price cap. The details of the consultation will be produced tomorrow, and we await them with great interest. We welcome the Minister across to the side of right and justice on the issue of a pensions price cap.

The Bill has thrown up a number of questions on the two essential parts of the pension system—state pension reform and the pillar of additional pension saving—and many of them have been dealt with effectively. However, questions remain about the pensions market side of the equation and about additional pension savings. Let us not forget that the new flat rate state pension will not provide most people with the kind of income they will need and expect in retirement. The burden will therefore be on the new auto-enrolment pensions to deliver the necessary additional income. We believe that the Minister still needs to do a significant amount of work on this, either by using effectively the powers he has given himself or by bringing further proposals to the House.

In taking forward the Bill, the Minister has taken significant steps forward in the state pension sphere. There will be losers, however, and he has not said much about them. He has inevitably focused on the winners in the flat rate state pension reforms. However, we do not oppose the Bill. We believe that the principle of a flat rate state pension is sensible, but if the Minister really wants both parts of the pension system to interact cohesively and effectively, he will need to act fast to reform the dysfunctional private pensions market.

6.42 pm

Julie Hilling: I am grateful for this opportunity to speak briefly in the debate. I want to speak up on behalf of Maureen Davenport and the many other women who have contacted me about what is happening to their pensions. Let me start by quoting Maureen Davenport, a retired head teacher. She says:

“I have worked all my life and paid taxes and other contributions, as required. I also have an occupational pension. I have just turned sixty years of age and I am fully aware of the Pensions Act 1995 which twice deferred the age at which I could access my state pension. What I am currently told is that I am now in the age bracket where I am not able to access the new flat rate higher

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pension as I was born between 5 April 1952 and July 1953. As is said by many in the media, I am one of many women facing a ‘State Pension Double Whammy’: deferred pension and a potential loss of nearly £40 per week for life. It would seem logical and fair to have grouped all women who have a deferred pension into the higher flat rate pension rather than penalise this age group. I feel very strongly that I have, once again, been penalised at a time when I cannot affect my retirement income and have very little voice and opportunity to affect change.”

Maureen is typical of the many women who have contacted me, and they are just a few of the 720,000 women who will be worse off as a result of the Government’s changes to the state pension.

Steve Webb: In the event that the record might suggest that the hon. Lady’s constituent will be worse off, I want to confirm that the only change we have made to her constituent’s pension is to introduce the triple lock, which will give her more generous indexation than she would have had. That is the only change that we have made to that lady’s pension.

Julie Hilling: My understanding is that that is not the only change: my constituent will not be able to access £144 a week because the second state pension has been done away with and she will not be entitled to that money. If I am wrong, perhaps the Minister will tell me that my constituent will receive the equivalent of £144 a week. No, she will not receive that, so she is being penalised by this action, because she will not be able to receive her second state pension. [Interruption.]

I will continue to make progress. Like me, these women are angry and upset because they have done the right things all their lives, yet will be disadvantaged in comparison with a man born on exactly the same day as they were.

This is not the only issue that hurts women. Raising the number of necessary years for national insurance contributions to 35 again disproportionately hits women. We know that women are the ones who normally take time off to look after children and, indeed, to look after ageing parents and ageing parents-in-law. This Government will undo the good work done by the last Labour Government to improve the lot of women’s pensions, with a further 100,000 fewer qualifying for a full pension. This is particularly unfair to those who are close to retirement age, who will not have the opportunity to make up the extra years—unless they work well into their 70s.

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I wrote to the Minister about Maureen and my other constituents. The letter I received back was illuminating and, frankly, complacent. Let me quote some of it:

“It is important to note that we are not proposing simply to increase the pension from £110 per week for today’s pensioners to around £144 week for new pensioners…Future pensioners will simply build up towards a flat rate pension of around £144—there will be no additional State Pension on top of this figure, so the maximum State Pension attainable under the new system will be significantly lower than under the current system. I should also add that in some ways the new system will be less generous for those who retire after April 2016.”

The letter went on to say:

“While women born shortly after your constituent may receive a single-tier pension, they will have to wait several months longer than your constituent before they can start to draw a pension. Furthermore, the average entitlement for women reaching State Pension age shortly after the new system’s introduction is projected to be £131 per week and not the illustrative single-tier full rate of £144 per week. In comparison, women reaching State Pension age shortly before the new system is introduced will receive an average of £125 per week under the current system, made up from a combination of basic and additional State Pension.”

It seems clear to me that women born in that age bracket will be disadvantaged, yet the Government announced their proposed changes with a grand fanfare about how much better off all pensioners would be under the new system. They have failed to tell people, particularly women, that some of them would be worse off. I just wonder why everything this Government do seems to make things worse for women, who are hit by so many things—hit twice as hard, for example, by the Budget and three times as hard by other Government actions.

Martin Horwood: Will the hon. Lady explain why the triple lock made things worse for women?

Julie Hilling: Of course the triple lock affects everybody; it does not just affect women. Some of the changes, however, affect women only. That is my point. It is not that this Government are doing nothing—I applaud the triple lock—but I deplore the fact that whenever the Budget and other measures are taken, it is often women who suffer. Women are worse affected, as they are on this pensions issue.

I finish by asking why the Government are trying to turn the clock back to times when things were worse for women than for men. This Government continue to act in that way, which greatly disappoints me.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

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Eurojust and the European Public Prosecutor’s Office

[Relevant Document: 15th Report from the European Scrutiny Committee, HC 83-xv, Chapters 2 and 3.]

6.49 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (James Brokenshire): I beg to move,

That this House takes note of European Union Documents No. 12566/13, a draft Regulation on the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Co-operation (Eurojust), and No. 12558/13 and Addenda 1 and 2, a draft Regulation on the establishment of a European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO); agrees with the Government that the UK should not opt in to the draft Regulation on the Eurojust at this time and should conduct a thorough review of the final agreed text to inform active consideration of opting into the Eurojust Regulation, post adoption, in consultation with Parliament; and further agrees with the Government that the UK should not participate in the establishment of any European Public Prosecutor’s Office.

On 17 July, the European Commission formally proposed the establishment of a European public prosecutor’s office and reforms to the existing European Union body, Eurojust. This triggered the UK’s opt-in protocol. The Government have been clear that we will not participate in the EPPO. As is clear from the motion, the Government also recommend that we should not opt into the new Eurojust proposal at the start of negotiations, but should conduct a thorough review of the final agreed text to inform active consideration of opting in post-adoption.

As the coalition agreement makes plain, we will put the United Kingdom’s national interest at the heart of every decision that we make on whether to participate in new European Union crime and policing measures. Our law enforcement and prosecution agencies must work closely with their counterparts in other European countries to combat the threat of cross-border crime. That does not mean, however, that we should sign up to new EU legislation that is not in the UK’s national interest.

I am sure that the House is clear about our position on the European public prosecutor’s office. As was established during a thorough debate in the House only a week ago, the Commission’s EPPO proposal is fundamentally flawed on many levels, not least in failing to pass the subsidiarity test. I am pleased to say that there has now been a sufficient number of votes in member states’ national Parliaments—including the House of Commons last week and the other place last night—to result in the issue of what is termed a yellow card, which means that the Commission is now required to review its proposal.

Mr Nigel Dodds (Belfast North) (DUP): I welcome what the Minister has just said about the number of votes that will ensure that a review will take place. Will he confirm that, if the Government were minded to proceed with the opt-in—which I am glad they are not—that would require the endorsement of the British people, given the provision that any extra powers going to Brussels requires their endorsement through a referendum?

James Brokenshire: That is absolutely correct. The proposal for the creation of a European public prosecutor was framed specifically in those terms, and it would

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therefore require the endorsement of the public. I think that that is because, owing to the significant impact that it would have on the criminal justice system, the change would be so significant and fundamental—for reasons that I shall explain shortly—that it would require the backing not just not of Parliament but of the public.

The flaws in the EPPO proposal frame the context in which we must also consider the Eurojust proposal. The reforms proposed to Eurojust would involve deep connections with the EPPO, because the legal base for the EPPO requires it to be created “from Eurojust”. The Commission has sought to reflect that by creating operational, management and administrative links between the two bodies. That includes the exchange of data, including personal data; automatic cross-checking of data held on each body’s IT system; and Eurojust’s treating any request for support from the EPPO as if it had been received from a national competent authority.

At a time when we do not know what the EPPO will look like—given that the Commission must now review its proposal following the yellow card—let alone how the relationship between it and Eurojust might ultimately be defined in either text, it would be irresponsible in the extreme for us to risk binding ourselves to the European public prosecutor through our participation in the new Eurojust proposal. That would be a needless risk, given that we can review our place in Eurojust on its adoption.

Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD): Does the Minister not think it particularly unfortunate that when the functions performed by Eurojust are so necessary and so valuable, our ability to co-operate in that mechanism should be impaired by its becoming interlocked with a proposal with which we disagree?

James Brokenshire: That is an important point. As my right hon. Friend will know, the Government believe that the existing structure for Eurojust works well, and provides for effective practical co-operation in dealing with cross-border criminality. I shall develop that point further during my speech.

We also need to consider what the coalition programme says about preserving the integrity of our criminal justice system when deciding whether to opt into a new justice and home affairs proposal. The new Eurojust proposal would create mandatory powers for national members—powers that would allow it to require coercive measures at a national level. This House will already be aware that we have expressed concerns about any such powers being granted to Europol, the EU police agency, and our concerns hold true in this regard too. The proposed text goes further in explicitly requiring that those based in The Hague would be able to insist that national authorities take investigative measures in certain circumstances. That could, for example, include requiring them to issue a search warrant in the UK. That would cut across the division of responsibilities and separation of powers between police and prosecutors in England and Wales and Northern Ireland. It also fails to take into account the role of the independent judiciary in ensuring that certain coercive measures are granted to police in appropriate circumstances. Moreover, the proposals would conflict with the role of the Lord Advocate in Scotland, who has the sole, ultimate responsibility for determining investigative action in Scotland. That would be undermined by the proposed powers.

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These are not matters of mere technicality. They are about fundamental aspects of our systems of law and would require wholesale and unjustified changes in order to be implemented. They would also conflict with the principle that operational decisions are best made as close to the operational level as possible, and would disrupt the operational independence of our law enforcement officials and prosecutors.

Lady Hermon (North Down) (Ind): Has the Republic of Ireland agreed to sign up to Eurojust and the European public prosecutor’s office, in which case can the Minister assure the House that the UK’s reluctance to agree to either of them would have no negative impact on the very good working relationships between the Garda Siochana in the Republic of Ireland and the Police Service of Northern Ireland?

James Brokenshire: The hon. Lady makes an important point. The Republic of Ireland has said it will not be opting into the new Eurojust measure at this point in time because of concerns it has. That underlines that the UK is not in any way isolated on this matter. There are genuine and real concerns about the Eurojust measure, in large measure because of the interconnection with the EPPO. Various Parliaments around the EU do not support this measure, as shown by the yellow card having been issued in relation to the EPPO proposal.

Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): I am grateful to the Minister for being so clear in identifying real problems with both proposals, and I urge him to dig in. We do not want these changes and I am glad he is standing up for us.

James Brokenshire: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for the support he offers for the Government position. We have clearly set out genuine and real issues in relation to both these measures challenging some of the fundamental principles and aspects of our criminal justice system.

We also have concerns about the risks of reducing member states’ influence under the proposal’s revised governance arrangements. For example, the Commission has proposed the creation of an executive board with a very narrow composition, including the Commission itself, that would, among other things,

“prepare the decisions to be adopted by the College”—

the college being the body on which all member state national members of Eurojust sit. Moreover, the Commission has not proposed the creation of a management board along the lines of that which oversees Europol, which we think is better suited to effective governance of such agencies. In short, the proposal’s governance arrangements are unsound.

Fundamentally, we do not consider that the new Eurojust proposal is even needed at this time. The current legislation is still undergoing a peer evaluation which will not complete until next year, and the Commission has not put forward a convincing case as to why the new proposal is needed. There is not even a specific impact assessment from the Commission for its Eurojust proposal.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): The Minister mentioned the Lord Advocate of Scotland. What discussions has the Minister had with the Scottish Government and other devolved Administrations? What did they say to him about the Eurojust proposals?

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James Brokenshire: Consultation has taken place with the Scottish Government and with the devolved Administration in Northern Ireland to keep them apprised of the examination of this measure and to highlight the significant issues at stake. From the outset, this Government have made clear their opposition to a European public prosecutor’s office, for the reasons I have enunciated this evening. I do not think that there is any surprise about the steps that have been taken or, because of the fundamental nature of the objections that I have highlighted, any fundamental objection to the proposals I am setting out and to our seeking the House’s authorisation in the manner we are tonight.

The only rationale for the Eurojust proposal seems to be that in order for an EPPO proposal to be brought forward the Commission had to take into account the treaty requirement for it to be established “from Eurojust”. Our law enforcement agencies and prosecutors already work closely with Eurojust as it currently operates; this House will be aware that we are part of the current agency. They value the support it provides, but they must retain discretion to make decisions at a national level. Indeed, the Government value the current Eurojust arrangements, which support judicial co-operation arrangements, helping to co-ordinate serious cross-border crime investigations and prosecutions. The case of the murders in Annecy in France in early September 2012 demonstrates the value of the current Eurojust arrangements. The UK and French national desks at Eurojust were instrumental in co-ordinating activity that led to a joint investigation team, and in clarifying the legal and procedural options in each country. That is why we are seeking to rejoin those arrangements as part of the 2014 opt-out decision.

We also take seriously our commitment to tackling fraud against the EU’s budget, but we believe that the most effective approach is prevention, not the creation of a new EU prosecutor. The UK has a zero-tolerance approach to all fraud, with robust management controls and payment systems in place that seek to prevent incidences of EU fraud. We have welcomed recently agreed changes to EU payment procedures and the reform of OLAF, the EU’s anti-fraud office, to improve the reporting systems and investigations. Once they are fully in place, they will support existing and future UK investigations and prosecutions.

The Commission’s approach with the proposals under consideration today is, therefore, unnecessary and, as I have set out, the content raises substantial concerns. That leads us to conclude that we should not participate in the new Eurojust proposal at the start of negotiations. We will instead undertake to play an active role in negotiations on both Eurojust and the EPPO, seeking amendments to the Eurojust regulation to meet our needs while engaging in discussions on the EPPO to protect against any attempt to bypass our non-participation through the back door of Eurojust. At the end of negotiations, we will thoroughly review the Eurojust final text and actively consider opting in—in consultation with Parliament—on the basis of that final assessment.

If the final text remained unacceptable and we were not able to participate in it, there would obviously be risks for our longer-term participation in Eurojust. Depending on what was finally agreed, an assessment would need to be made on whether we could remain within the old arrangements, subject to the outcome of

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the separate work on the 2014 decision, or whether the institutions would seek to eject us from Eurojust and we would need to seek alternate co-operation arrangements. Given that we do not expect to have sight of the final text much before the middle of 2015, it is hard to speculate on the final outcome, particularly in the light of the recent developments of the yellow card having been issued in relation to the measure for the EPPO. What I can reiterate is that we will work to get the text into a place where it is able to meet our significant concerns.

Sir Alan Beith: Over the considerable period in which the subject can be discussed, can we not seek allies among our fellow member states from those who recognise that different legal systems with different distributions of powers within them must be recognised by any EU-wide arrangement and that the text should therefore be changed?

James Brokenshire: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his contribution and I know that he was consistent on that point during our debate on subsidiarity last week. That view has been expressed by a large number of national Parliaments across the EU and it is now for the Commission to reflect on that message in the context of subsidiarity and on whether there are more appropriate ways, as we would argue, to deal with the issue of combating fraud in the EU.

As I have already said, Ireland has announced its intention not to exercise its opt-in to the new Eurojust proposal at the start of negotiations and, of course, Denmark cannot participate in post-Lisbon justice and home affairs measures such as this. All member states have a shared interest in ensuring that the final proposals work with all member states’ criminal justice systems, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith) has said, rather than adopting the Commission’s unworkable one-size-fits-all approach.

Let me conclude by making clear our commitment to the current Eurojust arrangements and our intention to negotiate to protect those arrangements, and our view that as the proposal stands it poses too high a risk to our criminal justice systems to opt in at this stage. Today’s motion is in the national interest and I urge the House to support it.

7.6 pm

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): I thank the Minister for his characteristically thorough and detailed explanation of the motion.

Tonight the House is discussing the two issues of European co-operation on justice and home affairs: Eurojust and the European public prosecutor’s office. If anyone is feeling a sense of déjà-vu, that is because the House discussed the EPPO this time last week. Indeed, there was a rare moment of unity when those on both sides of the House agreed with the Government, the previous Government and the European Scrutiny Committee that the creation of the EPPO did not meet the test of subsidiarity and that the UK should therefore opt out. In government, Labour secured an opt-out from the EPPO and in opposition we support the Government in continuing to use that opt-out. We have also heard that the yellow card has now been issued.

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Given the degree of unity in the House and as we debated it at length last week, I do not intend to dwell on the subject of the EPPO. I note what the Minister said about the links between the EPPO and Eurojust, but I think that we should particularly consider Eurojust.

To recap, Eurojust was established in 2002 and in 2001 the EU Commission conceived its role as

“facilitating cooperation between Member States and contributing to proper coordination of prosecutions in the area of serious, and organised, crime.”

Its concern is so-called “annex 1” crimes such as drug trafficking, human trafficking, terrorism and financial crimes. Those are serious crimes that constantly evolve and adapt. Increasingly, they cross borders and require co-operation between different jurisdictions. The importance of Eurojust to the UK is underlined by the fact that there have been 1,459 requests from EU member states for co-operation with Britain through Eurojust since 2003, with 190 requests made in 2012 alone. It is therefore a little disconcerting to see the Government playing the hokey cokey—we are in at the moment, but now we are opting out although, in principle, we might be back in again in the future.

The primary functions of Eurojust have been and will continue to be the facilitation of co-operation between member states. Eurojust is required to respond to any request from a member state and to facilitate co-operation. That role means that Eurojust must inform member states of investigations and prosecutions that are occurring in a different member state but affect the member state; assist the competent authorities of the member states in the co-ordination of investigations and prosecutions; provide assistance to improve co-operation between member states; co-operate and consult with the European judicial network in criminal matters; and provide operational, technical and financial support to member states’ cross-border operations and investigations, including joint investigation teams.

The key thing to remember is that Eurojust seeks to support member states in conducting investigations, unlike the EPPO, which seeks to undertake the prosecutions itself. The distinction is vital and the aim of the British Government should be to continue that element of Eurojust.

Mr Dominic Raab (Esher and Walton) (Con): The hon. Lady talked about the hokey cokey of the Government’s position. Can she be clear whether the Opposition advocate that the UK opt in now, based on the draft regulation as it stands, with all the supra-national transfers of power entailed in it?

Diana Johnson: I shall come later in my remarks to what I think the Government should have been doing leading up to this point—making sure that the aspects that they were concerned about were discussed. I shall put a series of questions to the Minister about how many conversations and dialogues took place with the EU to try to get the regulation in a form that was more acceptable to the Government.

As Eurojust is based on co-operation, it places obligations on members to co-operate with joint investigations, and these obligations are set to increase. I shall come back to that. If the Government are serious about tackling human trafficking, terrorism or financial crime, for example, they need to be serious about working with

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European partners, but I am concerned that the Government seem to be sitting on the sidelines. Their current position appears to be that they would like the UK to stay in Eurojust as it is now, but they are content to let everyone else get on with a new Eurojust, which they are not part of, but which they hope they might get back into in the future. What we should do is work with our European partners to get a Eurojust system that works for us.

Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood) (Con): I find it difficult to take the hon. Lady’s point in respect of what the Government are doing. Is she implying that we should opt in now, without knowing what will be in the regulation, in order to seek to influence it?

Diana Johnson: I shall come on to some of the issues that the Government should have been considering in the lead-up to the motion today, but we will not oppose the motion. However, we have questions about how we got to this point and whether there could have been a proper negotiation with Eurojust that we might have supported. We have never supported the EPPO. That was very clear in the debate that we had last week.

Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry) (Con): Has the hon. Lady ever tried to have a conversation on these issues with Commissioner Reding? It is very much like talking to a brick wall which, if it is moving at all, is moving away from one’s own position. If she had ever had such a conversation, she would understand the difficulty that the Government might have on occasion.

Diana Johnson: Clearly, I am not in government, so I am not in a position to have such conversations, but it is important that the Opposition raise questions about what the Government have been talking to their EU partners about and whether they have been able to form any of the alliances that other hon. Members have mentioned to get the best possible way forward.

Mr Redwood: Do the hon. Lady and her party agree that we do not want more transfers of power over our criminal justice system to the EU and that we wish to protect our common law traditions?

Diana Johnson: As I just said, we are interested in trying to deal with crimes such as human trafficking, financial fraud and the serious organised crimes that go across borders, which are not about what is happening in the UK but are Europe-wide and global. We should make sure that we have procedures in place to ensure co-operation where it is useful.

The three main aims of the reforms are, as we understand it, to increase democratic accountability to member states’ legislatures; to increase efficiency through more streamlined management structures; and to improve EU member states’ effectiveness in the increasingly globalised fight against organised crime. All are laudable aims with which I am sure we all agree. Equally laudable is the aim of increasing our effectiveness in tackling cross-border crime. The Government’s current objections can be divided into those that need working through, which we recognise, and those that, I suggest, appear to be spurious.

The major change, and the one that we recognise poses the biggest challenge, is the appointment of the national member. Under the proposed reform, member

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states will second a national member—a prosecutor, judge or police officer—to work full time at Eurojust. Member states will grant national members the power to fulfil the task conferred on them by the Eurojust regulation. That means national members, once appointed, will bear responsibility for ensuring that their member states co-operate with Eurojust, including through legal assistance, information exchanges, liaising with international bodies and assisting in joint investigation teams. National members, working with other competent authorities from member states, will also:

“a) order investigative measures;

b) authorise and coordinate controlled deliveries in the Member State in accordance with national legislation.”

The Opposition accept that the appointment of national members represents a big step up for the role of Eurojust. We fully recognise that it is not acceptable for the national member to be in a position of oversight over the UK criminal justice system. I reiterate that we do not support any move to cede prosecuting powers to the EU, either to the EPPO or through some mechanism of Eurojust. However, we would like to see the Government attempt to reconcile those proposals with the current set-up in our criminal justice system.

The Government appear concerned that, as currently formulated, the proposals could allow Eurojust to order investigations, or even prosecutions, that duplicate efforts already under way in the UK. Prosecutions in the UK of course require the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions, while investigation of most of the crimes listed in annex 1 are the responsibility of the newly formed National Crime Agency. Perhaps the Minister will explain what work is being done to look at the possibility of drawing the national member from one of those bodies and work on the basis of a memorandum of understanding to ensure that the UK retains sovereignty over our systems while improving cross-border co-operation. As has been mentioned, special arrangements will need to be put in place for Scotland.

Lady Hermon: Unfortunately, special arrangements will also have to be considered for Northern Ireland, because the National Crime Agency’s jurisdiction cannot be extended in full to Northern Ireland as a result of opposition from two parties, Sinn Fein and the Social Democratic and Labour party. It is most unfortunate indeed.

Diana Johnson: The hon. Lady is right that the National Crime Agency does not cover Northern Ireland. I am grateful to her for reminding me.

The Commission envisages a special relationship between the EPPO and Eurojust, as I mentioned at the beginning and as the Minister set out. Of course we need to ensure that countries that are not involved in the EPPO—it is clear that the UK will not be, and others have already declared that they will be opting out—can still enjoy the co-operation of Eurojust without being drawn into the EPPO, which we all agree is a bad idea.

The Opposition have less sympathy for some of the other concerns that the Minister put forward, particularly his concern about the European convention on human rights. It might be helpful if he explained that a little more. Our major concern remains that the Government seem prepared to allow the rest of Europe to go along with these matters without us being at the table.

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Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con): With respect, the hon. Lady has still not answered the question that my hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Strood (Mark Reckless) asked: does she advocate opting in now, and therefore being locked in?

Diana Johnson: I think that I made it very clear to the hon. Gentleman that we will not be opposing the motion this evening, but we have questions on what the Government have been doing up to now to ensure that this is not the only avenue open to them, and whether we might have been able to get some agreement before we ended up where we are today. Our major concern remains that the Government seem to have been prepared to allow the rest of Europe to go along without us, and instead of working for reforms that protect the rights of the UK they are allowing the rest of the European Union to set up an agreement that works for it and then saying, “We’ll make a decision later.”

I have a few questions I would like the Minister to respond to, either in his winding-up speech or in writing. What work is being done to look at how a national member could be appointed for the UK? Is there any mileage in that proposal? Will the Minister confirm the timetable? According to the European Scrutiny Committee, the deadline is 21 November, but the Minister has suggested, both in written evidence to the Committee and in the House, that the Government will wait until at least 2014, possibly later. Does the deadline of 21 November still stand?

Will the Minister clearly confirm the Government’s position on the current Eurojust arrangements? It is a little disconcerting that the motion does not contain a commitment to maintain the current arrangements and agreements, even though the Home Secretary indicated to the Home Affairs Committee that that is the Government’s desired outcome. Is that correct?

James Brokenshire: I am happy to clarify that the existing Eurojust measure was on the list of 35 measures that we would seek to opt back into following the exercise of our block opt-out. Obviously, they are being analysed by the relevant Select Committees, so we will await their determination before taking further action.

Diana Johnson: I am grateful to the Minister for that clarification.

When did the Government actually get around to raising concerns about the structure of Eurojust and the EPPO at EU level? Those concerns are set out in a memorandum dated 7 August 2013, but surely the Government’s efforts to secure a better outcome began before that. The Government had various chances to discuss Eurojust’s future with the Commission, so did they raise those concerns?

For example, a strategic seminar entitled, “Eurojust and the Lisbon treaty: Toward more effective action”, was held in Bruges in September 2010. Did the Government raise then any of the concerns that they are raising now? There was another opportunity to discuss Eurojust’s future at an event marking its 10th anniversary at the European Council in February 2012. A Eurojust and Academy of European Law conference called “Ten years of Eurojust: Operational Achievements and Future Challenges” was held at The Hague in November 2012. Were the concerns raised then?

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On 18 October 2012, the Commission consulted member state experts and others about a possible reform of Eurojust. According to the Commission:

“The meeting generally supported improving Eurojust’s governance structure and efficiency.”

What did the UK representatives say at that meeting? The Commission then instigated a consultation on the strengthening of Eurojust. What issues did the Government raise?

What improvements to Eurojust have the Government been pushing for? We all support more effective co-operation on cross-border action against serious crime and it would be helpful to know what work the UK Government have been doing to lead that agenda at European level. It would be good to see the UK setting the agenda, as was the case under the previous Government, rather than watching what happens and complaining when it does not reflect the specific interests of the UK.

Finally, on the justice and home affairs opt-out in general, the Government have found time tonight, as they did last week, for a debate on the Floor of the House, which is to be welcomed. On both occasions, the Government have raised the issue of the opt-out, which is widely supported with regard to the EPPO, but other, more controversial areas of it also warrant proper discussion. As the Minister has said, we are waiting for various Select Committees to publish reports. Will he reiterate the Government’s assurances that time will be made available for a full debate on those reports on the Floor of the House?

7.24 pm

Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD): I agree with the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) on one point and disagree with her on another. I agree that there should be a debate on the Floor of the House when the three Select Committees publish their reports. They will provide important guidance to the Government in their negotiations. Where I disagree with her is that it is not sufficient for her to say, “Even if it were true, I would not have started from here.” The question still has to be asked whether the Labour party would, if it had had the opportunity, have opted in to the Eurojust proposal or not. She conspicuously failed to answer that question, except in a way that suggested that she had been given a narrow mandate by somebody in authority in the Labour party.

I start from the proposition that Eurojust is essential and that the European public prosecutor most certainly is not. For the one to get in the way of the other is harmful. Anyone who looked at the documentation for this debate and the excellent work of the European Scrutiny Committee would readily concede that there are many complexities to this matter. However, at its heart, there is a simple issue, which is that whereas cross-border crime requires an effective apparatus that takes advantage of our being in the European Union—we want to maintain those arrangements and it would be greatly contrary to Britain’s interests not to be part of them—the creation of the European public prosecutor is neither necessary nor, in the opinion of many of us, even desirable. That it should stand in the way of British participation and the participation of other countries in Eurojust is seriously harmful.

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There are two ways in which the situation that we are confronted with creates difficulties for any British Government, of whatever party political composition. The first is that the proposals on the European public prosecutor and on Eurojust are interlocking. The draft directive on Eurojust incorporates the European public prosecutor so extensively that it makes the position of a state that wants one and not the other very difficult.

The second is that the mandatory powers that are given to national members of Eurojust fly in the face of arrangements in the United Kingdom. Of course, the arrangements throughout the United Kingdom are not uniform. The arrangements in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are quite different from those in Scotland. In Scotland, the Lord Advocate and the procurator fiscal can direct investigations. There is a clear separation between investigation and prosecution in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Those differences need to be respected. If we can respect those differences in the United Kingdom, surely the European Union can respect the fact that the same objectives can be achieved by different legal systems.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): Does the right hon. Gentleman share the concern of many in this House, including the Minister, over the data that are collected by the Commission, which show that the conviction rate in the UK is 23%, when in reality it is about 75%? The data that the Commission collects centrally go against what we are trying to do.

Sir Alan Beith: There are many dangers in playing with those statistics. Not least, the objective of a 100% conviction rate seems to undervalue the ability of the court to determine that evidence is not sufficient to support conviction and punishment. We expect our courts to throw out cases that do not have a sound evidential basis. The whole statistical exercise is potentially dangerous and misleading.

I speak for the Liberal Democrats, rather than for the Justice Committee, because, oddly enough, this is a home affairs power rather than a justice power, and there is no doubt that we want to be in Eurojust. We do not want Eurojust to be complicated by the wholly different proposal for a European public prosecutor, and we do not want Britain’s participation to be impaired in any way.

The motion is carefully worded. It asserts that

“the UK should not opt in to the draft Regulation on the Eurojust at this time and should conduct a thorough review of the final agreed text to inform active consideration of opting into the Eurojust Regulation, post adoption”.

That wording is most ingeniously crafted. What I want it to mean is that we will make substantial efforts to ensure that we get a Eurojust regulation that meets our needs and those of a number of other member states that share our concerns and that can be allies in putting this matter right, so that there can be no doubt about our future co-operation in these arrangements, which greatly assist us in dealing with cross-border crime and catching up with fleeing criminals who dodge around the nations of Europe. That is of immense importance to us. I look forward to the Government’s active involvement in trying to get the Eurojust proposal right so that we can opt in to it in due course.

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7.29 pm

Mr Dominic Raab (Esher and Walton) (Con): This motion must be considered in the context of the EU’s wider ambitions for a single policy on justice and home affairs. As mentioned earlier, the EU Justice Commissioner and vice-president, Viviane Reding, has a huge stake in this matter, and in a far-reaching speech last month she spoke about the considerable momentum towards developing a pan-European criminal code and institutions, replete with a European justice Minister—I dare say Ms Reding has a candidate in mind—and with detailed monitoring and sanctioning powers at Commission level. Those include new powers to uphold EU fundamental rights—a sort of triplication of the human rights legal framework, bearing in mind Strasbourg’s role in the Human Rights Act 1998 and UK jurisdiction, and an expanded role for the European Court of Justice. That is the clear ambition within the Commission and the broader EU. With that in mind, this is also a critical juncture for Britain. We remain poised to exercise our crime and policing opt-out under the Lisbon treaty. It is therefore the right moment—an important crossroads, perhaps—to think strategically about Britain’s criminal justice co-operation in the EU.

On the specifics of the motion, I fully support the Government’s intention not to be part of the European public prosecutor’s office. That initiative is obviously—transparently—a preliminary stepping stone towards a much more far-reaching EU prosecutor, and it must be nipped in the bud. Although it is limited, at least on the surface, to countering fraud against the EU, under current terms the EPPO would take powers away from Eurojust. It would have the power to compel UK police to hand over evidence, and to order UK prosecutors to take action. Through its relationship with Eurojust, it could place wider burdens of co-operation on member states. The scope of those obligations will, of course, be decided by the Commission, and ultimately by the European Court. As the Minister has said, we must stay out of such a measure. I welcome the Government’s decision and the Minister’s clarity of purpose and position.

We ought to emphasise the positive and we should preserve and retain our national criminal justice system. That system is steeped in a very different tradition from the civil, continental tradition, and in a different set of values. As hon. Members have already said, it is also steeped in a different functional division of law enforcement powers that enshrines a uniquely British conception of justice—one that is firm but fair.

The Eurojust regulation is a more finely balanced question. I worked in The Hague and with Eurojust, which has done important work in recent years serving as a college of co-operating national prosecutors. Personally, as the Minister has said, I would prefer it to have continued down that route and in its current form, but the new regulation gives the Commission a seat on a new executive board and places a duty on Eurojust to forge a special relationship with the EPPO. It also imposes additional stronger duties of information sharing on member states, including the UK if it signs up.

The EU Select Committee has highlighted the new powers given to representatives at Eurojust to bypass national authorities in order to process requests for sharing information or evidence, and I pay tribute to its excellent work. Again, all that would be interpreted and enforced by the Commission and the European Court,

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while increasing our contribution to the EU budget. I note that the Minister and the Government share those concerns and do not intend to opt in at this time. However, they leave open the prospect of “active consideration” of the case for opting in when the final text is agreed.

The Opposition position on this matter is totally hopeless. They recognise the defects in the regulation and accept the motion that the Government have put before the House. They know the Government are actively resisting the supranational elements and creeping supranational character that some seek to impose on Eurojust, yet they criticise the Government for not being in the negotiation now. Such negotiation would, of course, mean that we were irreversibly tied in to the new regime if it cannot be changed. That is utterly untenable and the kind of thing one hears only from the Opposition.

If hon. Members want to be churlish, they might question why the Government are rightly critical of the proposals, yet rather more enthusiastic about them for the future. I am not sure why that is, but I will limit myself to seeking confirmation from the Minister that the House will have an opportunity to debate and vote in advance of any later decision.

James Brokenshire: I am happy to assure my hon. Friend that, if there were a subsequent recommendation to opt back in on the final approved text, I would envisage the process we are going through tonight being replicated. I can confirm to him that we are keeping the option open to opt back in at that later stage precisely for the operational reasons to which he alludes—the benefits of Eurojust as it is currently constructed.

Mr Raab: I thank the Minister for setting out the Government’s position with admirable clarity.

Given that we are discussing the substance of Eurojust and its evolution, I want to take this opportunity to ask more broadly what strategic thinking has been done on our wider future justice and home affairs relationship. What consultations has the UK had with the Commission and other member states on renegotiating Britain’s wider relationship with the EU in that critical area? It is right to assess each regulation or measure case by case, on its individual merits and substance, in a sober and pragmatic way—the Minister has done that cogently this evening—but, at the same time, we need to look to the bigger picture and the longer-term horizon.

I worry that we will drift into a disjointed, albeit bespoke, relationship with Eurojust and the wider JHA framework almost by default, annoying our European partners without satisfying our national interest, risking the worst of all worlds. Would it not be better to grasp the nettle and spell out proactively, on the front foot, what strategic JHA relationship we want, and why that will serve the EU’s interest as well as the British national interest? In my view, that means a British commitment to be a good operational partner, with all the resources, know-how and expertise we bring to the game, but without sacrificing democratic control over such a sensitive area of national policy. It means saying to our European friends that our co-operation within Eurojust will improve

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operationally as trust and confidence develop, but that we cannot accept any further transfers of authority or control to the supranational level.

Mark Reckless: When my hon. Friend was a witness in the Home Affairs Committee, he recommended that, in respect of Europol, we might want to adopt the Frontex model. Does he believe that that could be an appropriate model for Eurojust?

Mr Raab: My hon. Friend is, as ever, spot on. Each area is fundamentally functionally different, but Frontex shows that countries do not have to be formal members that have signed up in a formal way to be active operational partners. We have heard that from the head of Frontex. It is at least a starting point for evolving our relationship with Eurojust and Europol. If, as I suspect, others within the Commission and member states want to go down the federalising route, that option should be clearly discussed now. We should be on the front foot, and not ashamed or beguiled from talking about it.

We need to make it clear that we cannot accept any further transfers of authority, or the salami-slicing of national democratic authority—that is what we are seeing in the attempts to upgrade Eurojust and Europol. Will there ever be a better moment to have that candid but constructive conversation with our EU partners? I doubt it. Government Members have a commitment to renegotiate our relationship with the EU and to put the renegotiated deal to the British people in a referendum. We know that the British people care. According to a ComRes poll for Open Europe last year, repatriating UK control over crime and policing ranks fourth on the public’s list of priorities for renegotiation. That is very high compared with the other priorities surveyed. We also know that there is significant scepticism among the wider public at large on whether any politicians keep their promises on Europe.

The Labour party is responsible for that haemorrhaging of trust. The Government have a genuine chance to rebuild public trust. That ought to start with the decisions we are taking now and over the next six months on crime and policing, underscored by a two-pronged strategic approach to our future JHA relationship with the EU—one that pledges the full operational co-operation of a strategic ally but defends the return of full democratic control, which the British people want and expect.

7.39 pm

Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry) (Con): It is a pleasure to speak in this debate and to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab). His arguments were well put and I completely agree with them. I will try not to copy him too much, but he nailed the point that this measure is completely tied to the European public prosecutor’s office. It is a building block of it, and a morphing of what Eurojust was originally set up to do, taking it much further than any of us in this House would like.

In last week’s debate, we did not get to the issue of what exactly the European public prosecutor’s office is, probably because the Minister asked us not to stray into that territory. According to the European Union, the European public prosecutor’s office will be a

“prosecution office of the European Union with exclusive competence for investigating, prosecuting and bringing to judgment crimes against the EU budget.”

Those last few words are the most important.

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For the best part of two decades, the European Commission’s budget has not received a positive statement of assurance from the European Court of Auditors. A lot of money is wasted in maladministration, but a large sum also disappears through fraud, which has caused consternation in some circles for some time. People have, in the past, blown the whistle on areas where money has been filtered away illegally. The problem goes back to before 1999. Those of us who were involved in European affairs back then will remember that the Jacques Santer Commission fell in 1999 because of a scandal involving a failure to chase down fraud, and the ignoring of whistleblowers and internal fraud. When the Commission fell, there was marked panic in European circles and a committee of independent experts was set up. That reported in March 1999 and again in September 1999 after the European elections of that year.

Before 1999, there was an anti-fraud organisation in the European Commission called UCLAF, which after 1999 morphed into a similar anti-fraud organisation called OLAF. Its job was to chase down fraud, both internal and external, and to protect the financial interests of communities in and across the European Union. It was a simple transfer of powers from UCLAF to OLAF—alas, several members of staff also made the transfer—but OLAF did not really succeed in doing its job of chasing fraud for some time. Indeed, it tended to chase whistleblowers before it actually chased fraudsters who chose to defraud the European Union.

All the time, the fraud figures for the European Union kept climbing. Some say it was as high as €500 million, although some would say it was even more. The question for this debate is why the big leap from having an anti-fraud office, which already has the powers to do the job within the context of the existing treaties, to something that would take a huge amount of powers away from member states. Why the huge powergrab?

Alongside the proposal for a European public prosecutor’s office, the Commission has also published a communication on its ideas for OLAF in the future. It plans to table legislative proposals to alter the OLAF regulation in due course. As it happens, the Council and the European Parliament have only just agreed a revision to the 1999 OLAF regulation, which has been more than 10 years in the making. A key aim of that is to strengthen OLAF, the anti-fraud office of the European Union, and its investigative capabilities, and also to provide greater safeguards for those being investigated. The Commission’s proposals for the European public prosecutor’s office, however, would entail OLAF losing the powers to conduct investigations into fraud against the EU budget and being limited to investigations on other irregularities involving EU funds and misconduct or crimes committed by EU personnel that do not have a financial impact. It is gutting powers, which the European public prosecutor would use, from an existing body, because it wants an EPPO with more powers. It is the precursor to this area of criminal justice that my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton talked about. The European Scrutiny Committee, of which I am a member, noted the proposal to amend OLAF regulation and concluded:

“We are disappointed to see that so soon after reform of OLAF’s regulatory framework has been agreed, the Commission, without waiting to see the impact of that reform, is suggesting further legislation including the creation of an EPPO. The Commission

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refers to this pre-emptive approach to policy-making and legislative reform somewhat euphemistically as ‘step-by-step’ when it seems more like leaps and bounds.”

This is a case of leaps and bounds. We would have to change a number of things that we hold dear in our common law system. We have no arrest without evidence. The European public prosecutor will operate under a system of corpus juris, so that one can be arrested without evidence. We do not hold suspects for more than a fixed and limited time unless charges are presented in open court. Under corpus juris, a person can be held indefinitely. In our system, we believe we have the right to face one’s accuser and see evidence. Under corpus juris, the accuser may be anonymous and no right for the accused to see the evidence exists. We like to be tried by lay magistrates in most cases, have the right to trial of a jury of one’s peers and have an adversarial model. That is not the case under corpus juris, where a person is tried by professional judges, there is no right to trial by jury and there is an inquisitorial model. We like an open court. It is a closed court under corpus juris. We like the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

Sir Alan Beith: The phrase corpus juris is rather misleading—all it means is “body of law”. The hon. Gentleman is right to point out that our system is different and provides safeguards in a different way, but it would be foolish if we were to look at the rest of Europe and say that they do not have any rights because their system of enshrining them is different from ours.

Chris Heaton-Harris: I fully accept that fact. I am just trying to outline what this big change would mean when, according to the European Commission’s figures, it is just—it is a big sum—meant to protect €500 million-worth of fraud against the EU budget. Is this a proportionate change that we would like to see? I would argue that it is not.

Various people have come forward with individual cases regarding the difference between how the system operates now and how it would operate under a European public prosecutor. In one case, OLAF transferred information to the German and Bulgarian authorities relating to German and Bulgarian nationals who allegedly worked to defraud an EU agricultural and rural development fund scheme. Whereas the German proceedings led to a conviction, the proceedings in Bulgaria ended in acquittal—the current system led to different results in a cross-border case. The argument for a European public prosecutor is that it would have made a difference by ensuring consistency of investigation and prosecution in those countries, changing the nature of prosecution within a member state.

Another example relates to cigarette smuggling from the Czech Republic into Germany. The German criminal court used telephone tapping records obtained by the Czech police as evidence to convict the suspect. Although that evidence was obtained lawfully according to Czech law, the defence lawyer argued that without a court order authorising the telephone tapping, the evidence was inadmissible in the German court. It comes to a certain point when one wonders whether a supranational body such as the European public prosecutor could ask for the phone tapping of a British national on a matter that might not be deemed worthy of phone tapping in the UK.

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This is a big step forward and we should note that it is all about a power grab from the European Commission, or a power grab from Viviane Reding, the European Commissioner for Justice. We should be very wary of where she goes from here. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) asked what discussions could be had, but having discussions with Viviane Reding can be very difficult, because she is completely focused on delivering an area of criminal justice for the EU. It is a ridiculous idea that cannot work, but were it to work, it would mean a complete change in how we do law in this country, and one that most of us in this place would fight to the death.

7.50 pm

Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friends the Members for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris) and for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab), with whom I am in almost entire agreement.

As a brief aside, if the House will indulge me, I think one can take back the divergence between our legal system and that of the continent to the Fourth Lateran Council and Innocent III’s view that it was wrong for priests to stand and bless trial by combat. From that, our different systems developed.

On the substance of the documents in front of us, the key is that the Lisbon treaty provided that a European public prosecutor’s office should be developed from Eurojust, which article 86(1) stated could go ahead by enhanced co-operation. In coming forward with these proposals, therefore, the Commission is starting from a very good treaty base, from its point of view. Fortunately, however, we have an equally good treaty base for rejecting it—our ability to opt in or not. I raise the flag of concern about what this whole process is about, and I urge the Government, regardless of the negotiations, not to opt in at the end of them, because it is all about creating a single form of justice within the EU, as my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry said.

The degree of competence being created for Eurojust is extremely wide and is set out in annex 1 of the documents before us, which lists the forms of serious crime that Eurojust is competent to deal with in accordance with article 3(1). I will read the list out, as that has not yet been done, because it is important to understand how all-encompassing the list is: organised crime; terrorism; drug trafficking; money laundering; corruption; crime against the financial interests of the union; murder, grievous bodily injury, kidnapping, illegal restraint and hostage taking; sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of women and children, child pornography and solicitation of children for sexual purposes; racism and xenophobia; organised robbery; motor vehicle crime; swindling and fraud; racketeering and extortion; counterfeiting and product piracy; forgery of administrative documents and trafficking therein; forgery of money and means of payment; computer crime; insider dealing and financial market manipulation; illegal immigrant smuggling; trafficking in human beings; illicit trade in human organs and tissue; illicit trafficking in hormonal substances and other growth promoters; illicit trafficking in cultural goods, including antiquities and works of art; illicit trafficking in arms, ammunition and explosives; illicit

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trafficking in endangered animal species; illicit trafficking in endangered plant species and varieties; environmental crime; ship-source pollution; crime connected with nuclear and radioactive substances; and genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. While some of those are undoubtedly extremely serious and have cross-border connotations, others are essentially national crimes that are most unlikely to have any international connotations. Tiresome though it might be, if one’s car radio is stolen, it is hard to see how that motor crime would have a particular effect on the good people of Luxembourg.

The list goes on, because the proposed regulation coming from the EU allows Eurojust to cover related criminal offences, so it has the ability to go further than this already extensive list. I would argue that the Eurojust proposal contains a very wide set of competences and that Eurojust has significant power of its own. It can exercise its tasks at the request of the competent authorities of member states or, crucially, on its own initiative; it does not require a member state to intervene to set the wheels in motion that would lead to investigations taking place.

The Commission sets out in its document that competent national authorities shall respond without undue delay to Eurojust’s requests and opinions made under article 4, which sets out the basis on which they may make such requests. What is being proposed will give Eurojust a very wide set of competences and an ability to demand responses. I am well aware that the Government’s concern over the directive is that there may be orders coming from member states to direct investigations in the UK and that they believe that that would be unsatisfactory. Eurojust itself does not get that direct power, but it is not very far from it, because national authorities have to respond without undue delay. Although they can cite operational reasons of an unspecified kind as to why they will not provide co-operation, that will be justiciable by the Court of Justice of the European Union. That seems to me to be a very major extension of the competence of the European Union into the criminal justice field.

On the composition of Eurojust—I may have misunderstood this—it is surprising that it is not composed according to the ordinary rules of qualified majority voting, but by simple majority of the members of the college. The members of the college will be one representative of each member state, each of whom will have, according to article 10, a single vote. It would mean that the UK, if we were to opt in to this set of proposals, could be outvoted without even having the benefit of the extra weighting to our vote. The college is set up to maximise the power of the centre against the countries. The proposals give enormously wide control to Eurojust even if the Government’s queries on direct orders from other members and the relationship with the European public prosecutor’s office are answered. That is a fundamental step in reversing—you will be horrified to hear, Madam Deputy Speaker— the differences that developed in 1215 with the Fourth Lateran Council.

7.56 pm

James Brokenshire: We have had a full and lively debate, characterised in customary fashion by the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg). He, like others, set out a number of the significant concerns that are held not only by the Government, but by Members across

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the House about the Commission’s proposals for a European public prosecutor’s office and the construction of Eurojust.

This country derives real benefits from its participation in the current Eurojust, which is about practical co-operation; from collaboration; and from the number of cases that have been assisted by the establishment of joint investigation teams. But that does not mean that we should now opt in to a new measure that is clearly so fundamentally flawed because of the intrinsic link to the European public prosecutor’s office. Some of these significant issues have been highlighted in the impact they would have on our criminal justice system.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) was critical of the system of the block opt-out and of having to opt out and then opt in before dealing with new EU measures such as those we are debating this evening. This was precisely the structure that her Government negotiated. If she is unhappy with this system, she needs to look to herself and to her hon. Friends who were party to the construction of the mechanism.

The hon. Lady highlighted and questioned the date of 21 November. I can say very simply that that is the latest date on which the UK would be able to exercise its opt in. It is three months from the publication of the last language version of the relevant regulation, which is the time period referred to. She also highlighted some concerns about fundamental rights. I draw her attention to the explanatory memorandum, which was signed by the Minister for Immigration on 7 August and sets out the fundamental rights analysis. That will explain to her the issues she highlighted.

Questions have been raised about the national member. Indeed, the hon. Lady asked whether we should negotiate a better position for the national member, and whether the Government would express their concern in respect of Eurojust and the European public prosecutor’s office. She mentioned the 10th anniversary of Eurojust. I was there and made those very points at that time. Indeed, one of the first things that I said at the first Justice and Home Affairs Council I attended following the election of this Government was that we would not participate in the European public prosecutor’s office. I can therefore assure her that we have consistently made our views plain on the lack of a need for a European public prosecutor’s office. We believe that there are more practical ways of dealing with these issues.

The right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith) talked about the separation of powers. That is intrinsic to the question. My hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab) made a point

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about how supranational organisations cut across the fundamental building blocks in our criminal justice system. That is why it is right that, if the House approves the motion tonight, we will not be opting in to the measures.

We note that the various Committees will be publishing their reports on the block opt-out, and we look forward to receiving them. The Government have committed to holding a further debate in the House on the final proposals for opting back in, in respect of the 2014 block opt-out. Further work is taking place on the balance of competences, and it will continue. My hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton talked about where competence should lie, and that question is informed by the ongoing work. We are taking evidence to inform the broader debate, but that should be seen as distinct from the exercise of the Government’s treaty right in respect of the 2014 decision.

My hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris) mentioned the position of OLAF, the European fraud office. It is unfortunate that we have only recently seen proposals on the practical use of that office, but we believe that certain practical steps should be pursued as a result of their recent publication. My hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset mentioned issues of competence, and the need for us to look carefully at any final agreed text that emerges in relation to Eurojust.

Given the yellow card that has been issued in relation to the European public prosecutor’s office, and the strong message that has been sent by a number of member states’ Parliaments in respect of this proposal, the Commission will need to reflect on this matter very carefully. It will also need to think about the Eurojust proposal, because of the interrelationship between the two. We will keep the House and the Select Committees updated as this matter progresses, but I very much hope that, in the light of the clear message from hon. Members tonight, the House will support the motion.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House takes note of European Union Documents No. 12566/13, a draft Regulation on the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Co-operation (Eurojust), and No. 12558/13 and Addenda 1 and 2, a draft Regulation on the establishment of a European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO); agrees with the Government that the UK should not opt in to the draft Regulation on the Eurojust at this time and should conduct a thorough review of the final agreed text to inform active consideration of opting into the Eurojust Regulation, post adoption, in consultation with Parliament; and further agrees with the Government that the UK should not participate in the establishment of any European Public Prosecutor’s Office.

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Citizenship (Armed Forces) Bill (Ways and Means)

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Citizenship (Armed Forces) Bill, it is expedient to authorise:

(1) the charging of fees in connection with applications for naturalisation as a British citizen made by members or former members of the armed forces; and

(2) the payment of sums into the Consolidated Fund.—(Mr Harper.)

8.3 pm

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): This is a straightforward proposal. Along with the residence requirements for naturalisation comes the process of charging fees. It is only right that everyone in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland should have to pay those fees, and members of Her Majesty’s armed forces or the diplomatic service overseas should also have to pay them. This measure concludes the price issue, and forms the last piece of the Citizenship (Armed Forces) Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Business without Debate

delegated legisation

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),


That the draft Armed Forces and Reserve Forces (Compensation Scheme) (Consequential Provisions: Primary Legislation) (Northern Ireland) Order 2013, which was laid before this House on 27 June, be approved.—(Mr Gyimah.)

Question agreed to.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),


That the draft Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Designation of the UK Green Investment Bank) Order 2013, which was laid before this House on 17 July, be approved.—(Mr Gyimah.)

Madam Deputy Speaker’s opinion as to the decision of the Question being challenged, the Division was deferred until Wednesday 30 October (Standing Order No. 41A).

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Capital Gains Tax

That the draft Unauthorised Unit Trusts (Tax) Regulations 2013, which were laid before this House on 12 September, be approved.—(Mr Gyimah.)

Question agreed to.

business of the house


That, at the sitting on Thursday 7 November, notwithstanding sub-paragraph (2)(c) of Standing Order No. 14, the business determined by the Backbench Business Committee may continue until three o’clock, and shall then lapse if not previously concluded.—(Mr Gyimah.)

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Crystal Palace Park

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Mr Gyimah.)

8.5 pm

Jim Dowd (Lewisham West and Penge) (Lab): I am most grateful for this opportunity, particularly today. Lewisham is only part of my constituency these days, but I know from my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham East (Heidi Alexander) that the Secretary of State for Health has been found by the Court of Appeal to have acted entirely improperly and illegally in seeking to close Lewisham hospital. I add that in passing; it is obviously not the main substance of my remarks this evening, and I do not expect the Minister to respond, but I doubt whether we have heard the last of that.

This debate is about “the Crystal Palace”. One of the business papers mentioned “Crystal Palace”, and I was stopped by a constituent in Sainsbury’s in Sydenham who told me, “I see you have a debate on Crystal Palace next week; they are in terrible trouble, and I reckon they are going to get relegated.” This debate is not about Crystal Palace football club, although I am a long-time supporter and one-time season ticket holder. Neither is this debate about the original Crystal Palace club, which was one of the founder members of the Football Association, which celebrated its 150th anniversary just last Saturday. It is the oldest and original football association in the world. It was then an amateur club, which went out of business in 1861; it was based in what we now know as Crystal Palace.

This debate is about “the Crystal Palace”, and perhaps I should have started the “the” with a capital letter in my request for this debate. As everybody knows from a long way back, this is one of the prime sites and locations for sporting excellence—not just in London, but in this country. The first FA cup finals were held at Crystal Palace and the national sports stadium was built there. It got its name from the relocation of the original building at Hyde park in the Great Exhibition of 1851. The building that was placed on the Sydenham hill side of what was then called Penge common was larger than the original that Joseph Paxton—later Sir Joseph Paxton—designed for Hyde park. The pictures make that clear. The construction in Hyde park was rather mundane; it looked almost like an out-of-town shopping centre compared with the magnificent structure built on the Sydenham hill side of Penge common.

Sydenham hill is the highest point in Greater London, although when it was built and opened in 1854 by Queen Victoria, there was no such thing as Greater London. The fact that it is the highest point in the whole area explains why, when it burned down on 30 November 1936, the fire was alleged to have been seen—depending on which account one reads and from where one was looking—from either five, six, seven or eight counties.

It is undeniable that the relocation of the Crystal Palace to that part of south-east London was instrumental in the development of the whole area, including Forest Hill, Sydenham, Penge and Norwood South, Upper and West, most of which are in my constituency. However, not only did the Crystal Palace arrive, but two separate railway stations arrived with it to accommodate the number of visitors who were expected. I shall return to that point later if I have time, in order to illustrate the concerns of today’s population.

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I suppose that the ultimate success of the presence of the Crystal Palace in that part of south-east London is represented by the fact that the area is now known as Crystal Palace. One of my constituents once remarked to me on how convenient it was that they had managed to move the Crystal Palace to a place called Crystal Palace. I had to explain that it was actually the other way round.

The Crystal Palace moved to the area in 1854, and since the fire in 1936 it has undergone a number of changes of identity. The motor-racing circuit was very well used and highly thought of until the High Court ruled that, even back then, it was too much for local people. The motor racing died out in the early 1960s, although, as one who grew up in the area, I remember it clearly. Most famously, there was the Concert Bowl. During my dissolute youth, I attempted to go there to see Pink Floyd, but I could not get a ticket. I had to stay outside in Crystal Palace Park road and listen to the concert there. On the strength of that experience, I went out and bought a copy of “Atom Heart Mother”—but that is rather by the by.

We then fast-forward to the days when the Greater London council had the stewardship of the park and the site. Not much happened then. I suppose that the most instrumental event of recent years took place in 1986, when the GLC was abolished and the site was handed to Bromley council. At the time, I was a member of the council of the London borough of Lewisham. Crystal Palace is often exemplified as an area of Greater London that has few parallels, in that five boroughs have boundaries there within a space of 200 yards: Lewisham, Southwark, Lambeth, Croydon and Bromley, which is where the Crystal Palace park is now.

As everyone will know, the abolition of the GLC was seen as a highly political issue by those on both sides of the argument. We suggested, along with our colleagues in Southwark, Lambeth and Croydon, that the park should be transferred to a trust encompassing all five boroughs. It is not just a local park; it has a much greater resonance and a much greater significance than that. However, our proposal was resisted, and the park was handed lock, stock and barrel to Bromley council.

In 1989, Bromley came up with a scheme for the building of a hotel, a restaurant, shops and a pub. That culminated in the passing by the House of Commons of the Bromley London Borough Council (Crystal Palace) Act 1990, which limits development on the site. It consists extensively of metropolitan open land, so development on it without specific legal approval would be extremely difficult, and that it why the current proposals present problems for a number of people.

In 1995, Bromley council established a working group to revitalise the sports centre. In the late 1990s there was a bid for funds from the single regeneration budget, principally involving a leisure facility, a multiplex cinema. The bid collapsed. The Government called the plan in, and then let it go. As some Members may recall, in 1999 Swampy and his pals climbed trees and went underground in an attempt to prevent the clearing of the site for the development, which was eventually dropped in 2000. The multiplex proposal was scrapped.

The London Development Agency then launched a formal consultation, and appointed master planners for the park and its environs. The master plan was submitted and went through various processes until 2008, when it

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was approved by Bromley council. It was called in by the then Secretary of State, and there was an inquiry which was eventually resolved in favour of the plan. Although it was challenged in the High Court in 2011, the challenge was dismissed in 2012 and all appeals were dismissed in April this year. In July this year, leaks or releases—we can call them what we like, but these things never happen accidentally—were made about a scheme involving the Mayor of London, the London borough of Bromley and the ZhongRong Group. I am sure not many people in Lewisham West and Penge or this House have heard of the group. It has come forward with proposals to rebuild—or replicate, perhaps—the original Crystal Palace and to restore the gardens to the original standard that Sir Joseph Paxton had in mind when he finished the relocation back in 1854. That is an exciting proposal but it runs up against the Bromley London Borough Council (Crystal Palace) Act 1990, which as things stand forbids any such development.

Mr Ni Zhaoxing—I have never met him, but he seems a perfectly reasonable chap; I will refer to him as Mr Ni—has an extravagant and vaulting ambition probably worthy of Sir Joseph Paxton himself and all the others who were involved, such as Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who designed the water towers at the original Crystal Palace at Sydenham hill. Mr Ni’s ambition may well reflect the ambitious, extravagant and visionary image of people at the height of British Victorian industrial power.

I went to the launch of the scheme earlier this month, and the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, was there, playing his normal shy and retiring role, and saying he would be happy to help if he possibly could, but he must not be dragged too much into it. That is strange, because other boroughs in our part of south-east London actually wanted Crystal Palace park to remain the responsibility of what became the Greater London authority. That was resisted by the Government before 1997, but now we have the Mayor of London involving himself along with the London borough of Bromley.

I should add a brief word about the leader of the London borough of Bromley, Councillor Stephen Carr. He kindly invited me to the recent briefings—not the ones back in the summer—including the press launch on Thursday 3 October. An advisory board has been set up to steer the project forward, although these are very early days. The board will include Councillor Stephen Carr, Hank Dittmar, who is a special adviser to the Prince of Wales—I presume on environmental matters—Sir Tim Smit, deputy director of Eden Regeneration and co-founder of the Eden Project, which has a huge national reputation, and Sir John Sorrell CBE, chairman of the London design festival and UK Trade & Investment business ambassador. All are clearly worthy people, but what is missing from the group and the consultation is anybody local to Crystal Palace and the surrounding area. The $64,000 question—perhaps now the $1 million question—is this: is this good or is this bad? People need to know what is in the best interests of the area and the park, because this may be the one and only opportunity to take a major decision for the future.

Let me quote from the Bromley borough council executive meeting of 16 October. It is safe to do so as this quote is from the public part of the proceedings; I have the confidential part as well, but I will not be quoting from that. It states:

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“Ever since the 1936 fire, the future of this park has been unclear, however the need for significant investment in this regionally important park has always been recognised.”

It continued:

“It has always been unclear, even with the proposed ‘housing’ funds”—

from the master plan, which, as I say, was approved—

“where this investment would come from. In the absence of a commercial scheme and significant private sector funding it is widely thought that the approved Master Plan is unlikely ever to be implemented in full.”

The report continues:

“The park would remain in the freehold ownership of the London Borough of Bromley, and would remain an open and free public space for all.”

So far, so good. It goes on to say:

“At the heart of this proposal is the aspiration for the local community to have a strong role in running, managing and maintaining Crystal Palace.”

We would all say amen to that. However, we then get to the fact that Arup Associates, which has been hired by ZhongRong to oversee this project—I have no doubt that Arup Associates’ credentials are impeccable and that the firm is well used to large-scale civil engineering projects—estimates that it will be possible to draw an additional 2 million visitors to the palace and park per annum. That is 6,000 visitors a day, if they are spread out evenly. As we all know, that is not likely to happen; on some days there may be only 2,000, whereas on others there may be 10,000 or 12,000.

Crystal Palace and that part of south-east London are already congested and overcrowded, and the public transport links are full to the gunnels. The roads have no more space to accommodate anybody. Even though the plan includes a 3,000-space underground car park to get people out of the park, which is fine, how on earth are we going to move that number of people in and out of the area at any given time?

The restored park would be a public space for all to enjoy, and approximately 100 new jobs would be created there—that must be a good thing. It would increase the number of visitors, the footfall in the town centres and the expenditure there—that is another good thing. Some 1,000 jobs would be associated with the construction, and a further 1,000 associated with the operation of the palace and the other activities to which ZhongRong is keen to ensure local people have access.

The picture is very mixed. I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, but it is entirely reasonable to check whether it has four legs and some teeth. Given all the impact that this huge change is likely to bring to our area, how do we assess whether it is in people’s best interests? When the original Crystal Palace turned up on Sydenham hill, it brought two new railway stations and railway connections with it. The high-level station has now gone, following the demise of the original Crystal Palace, and we are left with just Crystal Palace station. It has strong links to London Bridge, Victoria, East Croydon and all points south, and in recent years the East London line has been put in, adding capacity. But things have changed; one of the first things Mayor Johnson did on being elected in 2008, or whenever it was, was to cancel the Tramlink extension to Crystal Palace from Beckenham. We are now being told that

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everything possible will be done to improve transport links. This scheme cannot work without considerable transport improvements and considerable investment in transport in the area.

I am just sketching out the ground, as these are early days. People who are for the scheme have contacted me, as have those who are against. Some people are against things that they do not even know will come into existence. The timetable for the development is as follows: by spring next year the design competition should have concluded; by autumn next year, those involved should be in a position to submit a planning application to the London borough of Bromley; if that is on track, they should have approval by autumn 2015; work should start on site in spring 2016; and we should have completion in 2018—I am available for the opening if they get that far.

I am delighted to see the Minister in his place. I want to ask three key questions of the Government and I hope he can answer them. In view of the likely scale of this development—I know that the design competition is still to be decided—how can the London borough of Bromley decide on a planning application which will clearly be in breach of the 1990 Act? Surely the Act would need to be amended, abolished or repealed before the council would be able to consider such an application. It could not possibly give planning approval to something that clearly breaks the law. Will the Government underwrite a full consultation with all local groups, citizens and neighbouring local authorities to ensure that all voices are heard so that we can make the most informed decision about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? This is a major departure from any previous planning guidelines or outlines and from the master plan for the park, so can the Minister assure me that if it were to move through all its stages and be approved by the London borough of Bromley, the Government would call it in for further inquiry and deliberation?

8.25 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Nick Boles): I congratulate the hon. Member for Lewisham West and Penge (Jim Dowd) for securing this debate on an issue of such dramatic importance for his constituents. In the short time left for my speech I want to make sure that I answer his questions, but I must first say that he is right that the Crystal Palace was one of those few iconic buildings. Even those of us who were not alive while it stood know what it looked like and think that it would be rather marvellous if this city had such a thing again.

It is, of course, tremendously exciting that somebody in the world thinks it is possible, sensible and affordable to rebuild some version of the building, although obviously in modern form. Nevertheless, as the hon. Gentleman points out, the proposal is at a very early stage and raises a huge number of complex issues for the developer and, critically, for the community in which Crystal Palace sits.

The first point to make is the one on which the hon. Gentleman concluded, about the need for consultation. All planning applications are better off if there is intense consultation at the earliest stage possible. A planning application on the scale that this is likely to be can succeed only if there has been consultation at every stage from the start, binding in not only local elected

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officials but as many local people as possible in public meetings, through exhibitions and through every form of consultation. I know that that is well understood by the Mayor’s office and by the London borough of Bromley, but the hon. Gentleman is quite right to emphasise the need for consultation. The Government will be very clear that such a proposal will have little chance of getting anywhere without consultation from the start.

Secondly, the hon. Gentleman made a point about the effect on transport infrastructure. Government policy is very clear that developments of any kind must be sustainable and one of the ways in which this scheme must be sustainable is by ensuring that the transport infrastructure is able to support the level of activity and movement generated. A development on this scale will have a dramatic effect on the transport infrastructure and although of course the transport infrastructure in that part of London is enviably good compared with that in some other urban areas in the country, it nevertheless cannot cope with an unlimited amount of additional demand. That will be an incredibly important part of any planning application and of the consultation to which we have just referred.

Finally, the hon. Gentleman asked how a planning application and the process of granting permission could be reconciled with the legislative obstacles he has identified. We have made it very clear to the Mayor of London and the London borough of Bromley that we are happy to work with them to try to resolve those legislative issues through whatever means necessary, although we hope that what they require of this House will be minimal. We remain ready to do that. It is sometimes possible to give planning permission subject

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to conditions, but I agree that it is unusual and perhaps unprecedented to give planning permission when one of the conditions is a change in the law. I would imagine that he is probably right that any necessary changes to legislation would need to be made in parallel with consideration of the planning application. As he points out, however, these are early days. We have not even seen an outline planning application, so we do not necessarily need to know right now how we will jump that hurdle if we get that far.

The hon. Gentleman is right that this is a tremendously exciting project for his constituents, for London and for the country. It is right that the London borough of Bromley and the Mayor have decided to embrace it and to bring in very high-quality firms and individuals as advisers. It is incredibly important that this is not an elite project and that it is carried out by, for and with the support of the hon. Gentleman’s constituents and all those who live close to that dramatic landmark. We can all see the potential, but we can also see some risks if there is any sense in which the project is visited upon a community by others who think it is a grand idea but will not have to live or work next to it.

The hon. Gentleman is quite right to stand up for his constituents and to continue to do so. I know that my Department will be happy to work with him in ensuring that that consultation takes place, that the transport infrastructure is adequate and that the planning process fully takes into account the opinions of his constituents.

Question put and agreed to.

8.30 pm

House adjourned.