Select Committee on European Union Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 475 - 479)


Rt Hon Tony McNulty MP and Mr Peter Storr

  Q475  Chairman: Minister, welcome. It is good of your to come. You will be aware that the committee has been conducting an inquiry on Europol for the last few weeks. We are grateful to you and to Mr Storr, who came to talk to us earlier, which was extremely helpful. You realise that this is on the record. If, after the meeting, you would want to add anything on reflection to what you have said to us, we would welcome that most warmly. I wonder if at the beginning on a somewhat sour note I could ask you when you go back to your department if you might say to Mr Byrne that this committee is less than happy that we received a reply from him on 7 July to a letter which Lord Grenfell wrote him on 26 July last year. This really has got to improve. If you could maybe in ministerial meetings discuss this with the Secretary of State and the ministerial team, if you do what I think most ministers certainly in my time did, it would be most helpful if you would say that we really cannot wait nearly a year for a reply to letters. It just will not do. I suggest we do not pursue it now. I just wanted to make the point.

  Mr McNulty: May I say in passing that I will take that back in the strongest terms, not least because myself and Meg Hillier have tried to make huge advances in the relationships between both Lord Grenfell's committee and the equivalent in the Commons in terms of all our dealings: the paperwork, what is reserved and what is not reserved. It is to my dismay that I recognise that Liam and his team have been so dilatory. I will take that back to him in the strongest terms.

  Q476  Chairman: Thank you. Minister, talking about European Union police cooperation, to what extent have Member States provided a coordinating framework for the operational aspects of various bodies like Europol, Eurojust and the European Police College, which are set up under Title VI of the Treaty on police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters?

  Mr McNulty: You will know in the informal sense they are all set up under the framework of the five-year work programme for Justice and Home Affairs under the oversight I think of an Article 36 committee, but we try formally and informally to encourage as much coordination between Eurojust, Europol and the Police College, because we think that is in the interests of Member States and indeed of the institutions themselves. You will know we are at this kind of crossroads in the wake of the Irish referendum in terms of what may or may not prevail in terms of new architecture post the Lisbon Treaty. It is not for me to speculate as to what form or otherwise that may take after the October Council.

  Q477  Chairman: When one looks at the Europol decision, which discusses a truce, Europol's relations with Eurojust on the level of a partnership, could you tell us whether the Council did consider aligning the legal frameworks of the two agencies in order to create a more effective intelligence-led policing model?

  Mr McNulty: I think, to be fair, they are not the same legal frameworks, as you know. We think that the current legal framework for each reflects their distinct role. I visited both in The Hague and I do know and appreciate that co-location helps enormously in terms of the two working together in partnership. I think the Council conclusion's agreed last month aimed at improving cooperation between the two organisations to get them in the place where they can agree a cooperation agreement before the end of 2008. So I do not think I would dwell on the distinct nature of their respective legal frameworks. I think there are other ways in which we can get them working together and working together far more effectively.

  Q478  Chairman: Is it too late for them to be co-located in the same building?

  Mr McNulty: They are already, as I understand it. They certainly were when I went to visit them.

  Q479  Chairman: This is not what we were told.

  Mr McNulty: They are in different buildings, yes, but very close together.

  Chairman: There was a great deal of criticism. The buildings are close together and when we were there we were told that it would be far better if there be one building in which they both were. I think it was an internal decision within The Netherlands that this did not happen. I just wonder whether you think it is possible to go back on that because this committee—and I am giving what I think is the view of the committee—feels that it would be far better if they had been in one building.

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