Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20
WEDNESDAY 5 DECEMBER 2001
20. I am trying to get a better understanding
of the gaps that exist because it is reported in the FCO memorandum
that progress has been made in the last 12 months to close some
Again, Peter Hain in his speech said, "We had to fill the
remaining 21 militarily significant shortfalls." In the general
commentary at large, the point has been made that many of the
requirements for the force will not be met before 2008 or 2010
and indeed many Member countries will have to restructure their
defence budget. What capability shortfalls have been closed in
the last year? What capabilities are still lacking? How does the
action plan propose to fill those gaps?
(Mr Straw) In terms of the shortfalls,
the EU has met 94 of the 144 Helsinki headline goal targets. If
you want me to give you the details of those 94, I will have to
send you a further memorandum.
21. That would be very helpful.
(Mr Straw) The ESDP is a very important means by which
Member States of the European Union will be required to raise
the capability of their forces. This is not so much about spend
but about how those forces are used and organised. In some cases,
it will be about spend but if you look at the spend per head of
European Member States on defence and look at their practical
capabilities, there is no real correlation there. One of the points
that Mr Hoon is making this morning in the speech he is making
about defence is about the need for us to be more flexible, but
we are right at the leading edge of flexibility in Europe and
for other Member States to create much better flexibilities inside
their defence forces to meet the demands of today and tomorrow,
not the demands of yesterday, which is essentially where a lot
of those forces are with very large infantry forces training up
for an invasion of Russia, the Soviet Union, across the north
German plane. Times have changed. Not everybody in the House agrees
that this process of the ESDP will help to strengthen NATO and
take some of the unreasonable load off the United States.
22. In that context, recognising that times
have changed, could you tell us what lessons you believe that
the EU has learned about its capacity to act in a crisis situation
from the role that you played in Macedonia?
(Mr Straw) I can give you a better answer to the question
on goals. In 1999, the EU set itself a target called the Helsinki
headline goal that by 2003 the EU forces should be able to deploy
collectively up to 60,000 troops within 60 days and keep that
number in theatre for at least a year. It is a difficult but attainable
target, but it needs a lot of changes in the way other countries
run their forces. Lessons from Macedonia in terms of defence forces?
The Essential Harvest and the work that followed that had to be
put together on a bilateral/multilateral basis, in a rather ad
hoc way. The ESDP, with the very active support of NATO, would
provide a better focus for all of this, and a better means of
decision making. It also ensures that the burden of providing
these forces did not always fall to two or three countries. It
is flattering that everybody turns to the United Kingdom first
but if we are talking about the defence of Europe it is not a
23. Do you believe that the EU's position on
peace keeping has been affected by the events of 11 September?
Are we now expected to take on a much greater role in our own
back yard as a result?
(Mr Straw) What we will see is the evolution of the
role of forces under the ESDP. The EU's experience in the Balkans
has been a ten year lesson in how not to do things and in how
to do things; the importance of identifying political problems
early and identifying the role that military forces can play in
assisting a political solution; the need above all for coherent,
collective decision taking. If you cast your mind back ten years,
Europe in a general sense of that word bears quite a heavy responsibility
for some of the chaos that has ensued in the Balkans because we
allowed ourselves to be played off by different warring countries
and factions inside the Balkans. You know the story as well as
I do. One of the reasons why the language of Laeken is likely
to be careful is that we do not want to run before we have learned
to walk in terms of the practical sides of the ESDP.
24. In your memorandum to us of 27 November
you say in paragraph 26, "The United Kingdom attaches the
utmost importance to implementation of mutual recognition in both
civil and criminal matters. The Government hopes that Laeken will
approve the abolition of dual criminality ...".
Is it the government's intention to sign the current draft of
the mutual arrest warrant without seeking further amendment to
(Mr Straw) You will know that there is
continuing discussion taking place in the House of Lords debate
this week about matters relating to that issue of dual criminality.
I cannot give you a precise answer because it is a JHA matter.
Are we in favour, in principle, of abolishing dual criminality?
Yes, because I think it is an ancient and outmoded concept for
the generality of crimes. There are some issues which are crimes
in some countries which are not in others which could in theory
cause difficulty. In practice, I do not think they will. We have
to decide what we want here. We have an over-elaborate extradition
process which favours criminals and terrorists and not law abiding
people. What I argued for successfully when I was Home Secretary
inside the JHA, with European colleagues, was that we should get
away from any idea of harmonising our legal systems, whether civil
or criminal, and instead go for a mutual recognition of our legal
systems, given that all of us accept the European Convention on
Human Rights, the authority of the European Court of Human Rights,
and many other common principles in practice as well as in theory.
Mutual recognition is the future. This arrest warrant is one approach
to that but for those who are worried about it we have had what
amounts to an equivalent of the European arrest warrant with the
Republic of Ireland for years. It has not caused any difficulty.
25. I am fascinated that a debate in the House
of Lords might make the government change its negotiating position
on this. This will be a first.
(Mr Straw) Far from it. You have to listen to the
arguments. I never took the view when I was Home Secretary that
what I decided at point X was the way, the truth and the light
and there could be no other addition to that. Given the speed
with which you have to make decisions, it is always the case that
there can need to be further reflection. There was not a single
Bill that I had before this House which was not literally improved
by debate here and debate in the other place.
26. When this matter came before the European
Scrutiny Committee, it had to be debated on the floor of the House.
It was referred to a European Standing Committee and it was concerning
the question of dual criminality and extra territoriality. The
first criticism is that in the list of offences for which dual
criminality will not apply some are extremely vaguefor
instance, terrorism or xenophobiadepending not on our definition
but on somebody else's and it seems to me that we are giving up
the safeguards that British citizens have by giving up dual criminality.
If people are extradited to other European countries for things
which would not be offences in Britain, are these very vague definitions
of crimes such as terrorism and xenophobia enough?
(Mr Straw) Terrorism is not a vague definition. Although
the words used to describe terrorism vary between one jurisdiction
and another, everybody knows what we are talking about. It is
the use of violence in pursuit of political, ideological ends.
The definition of terrorism in the Terrorism Act 2000 for which
I was responsible was criticised not for being too narrow but
for being too wide. I think it is improbable that somebody elsewhere
in Europe would be extradited or transferred under this arrest
warrant to another EU Member State for a terrorist offence which
did not amount to an offence within that definition in the United
Kingdom. On xenophobia, we do not have an offence of xenophobia,
but we have offences equivalent to xenophobia. Our criminal law
in terms of race hatred and now religious hatred is regarded by
our European partners as in the vanguard of good practice. We
have had some provisions against race hatred since the sixties.
I strengthened those considerably in the 1998 Crime and Disorder
Act. My colleague David Blunkett is further strengthening those
in legislation currently before the House. Although people could
not be charged here with an offence of xenophobia, their behaviour
or the words they are using, the actions they are committing,
would lead to criminal prosecution and conviction here just as
they would abroad, probably through a similar level of offences.
27. The crucial point is it is not our definition
of terrorism or xenophobia; it is the other countries' definition.
In some European countries, holocaust denial is a criminal offence.
It is not in this country. It may be that another country's definition
of terrorism would include, for instance, photographing military
aeroplanes from outside a military base, which certainly would
not be terrorism in this country. I have given you two examples
for which your constituents or mine might be extradited for something
which is not an offence in the United Kingdom.
(Mr Straw) Let me deal with photographing aeroplanes
at military bases. I am very anxious to see the 12 British detainees
released as soon as possible because, on the evidence which I
have seen, were these people charged with equivalent offences
in the United Kingdom, they would almost certainly have been released
on bail by now. I have pressed that point repeatedly in a series
of conversations I have had with George Papandreou, the Greek
Foreign Minister. That said, there are certainly offences that
it is possible to commit in the United Kingdom which involve observation
of actions taking place in military bases. This is nothing whatever
to do with what the British citizens have been charged with in
Greece but I can think of circumstances where we have been very
concerned about, for example, IRA terrorists taking too close
an interest in what has been going on in military bases. That
action, apparently just taking photographs, could add up to preparations
for terrorism. The way our law works in the United Kingdomthis
is also true in many, but not all, other European countriesis
that there are not that many offences of terrorism itself which
lead to prosecution and conviction of terrorists. The definition
of terrorism is there principally to trigger additional police
powers. The terrorists themselves, once they are arrested and
charged with those police powers, are typically charged with longstanding,
common law offences like murder, conspiracy, committing explosions,
and that would be true in other countries. The terrorist definitions
are needed for the powers of detection and interrogation rather
than generally to enhance the criminal law. I missed your first
28. You have tried to answer it to some extent
but you cannot. We are abolishing habeas corpus; we are
putting the freedom of British citizens in the hands of foreign
courts and foreign laws, taking away all the protections that
they have hitherto had.
(Mr Straw) With great respect, if this had been a
great problem, why have we not heard this in respect of Ireland?
I can think of offences in the Irish criminal law which do not
apply here and vice versa.
29. I think there is a distinction in my mind
between countries for which I would be very happy to see this
happen and other countries where I would not. The problem with
this proposal is that it takes in the whole of the European Union
and, by implication, any future members of the European Union.
If we were happy with a particular country's justice systemFrance,
Germany or the United StatesI have no problem with that
but I do have problems with some of the justice systems of current
EU members. We are seeing it in Greece at the moment. We have
all heard of citizens who have languished in Spanish jails for
years without charge and we are about to take into the European
Union countries which are not well established democracies, which
are not longstanding proponents of the rule of law and the freedom
of their citizens. I wonder if it would not be more sensible for
this Directive to allow each country to categorise people within
the European Union into those whose justice systems we are confident
to put our citizens in the hands of and those we are not.
(Mr Straw) We have to work on the basis that members
of the European Union have judicial systems which meet minimum
standards. That is part of the fundamental principle.
30. You have just said you are very unhappy
with the Greek one.
(Mr Straw) I can be unhappy with the way in which
a particular law is applied without being unhappy with the whole
way in which the judicial system operates. I can tell you, Mr
Maples, that other countries have plenty of unhappiness, if I
may, about our system. For example, France has an entirely legitimate
set of complaints against us for the fact that our extradition
system means at the moment that people who are alleged to have
committed offences of a serious terrorist nature in France haveto
pick up your phraselanguished in British jails for five
years whilst the British court system works out whether or not
these people can be transferred, a ludicrous, risible situation
were it not so serious. There are defects in our system. I hope
that one of the consequences of the close and mutual recognition
of our legal systems is that we use our common experience to point
to areas where there could be improvement. The last point I would
make is this. All European Union Member States as well as others,
particularly all the European Union Member States, are also signatories
to the European Convention of Human Rights and accept the authority
of the Court in Strasbourg, the European Court of Human Rights,
and that is there not only to lay down the minimum standards of
conduct, for example under Article 5 and Article 6, but also to
enforce those minimum standards as it is increasingly doing.
31. Can I go to one further point with you and
that is on areas of extraterritoriality and the consultation paper
on extradition. You invited representation on whether the attempts
of another country to exercise its jurisdiction over things which
occurred outside its own territory should remain extraditable
or not. I do not know what the responses to that were but as far
as I can see in the current proposals there is no exception for
extraterritoriality. In other words, if another European country
wishes to exercise its jurisdiction over something which happens
outside its own countrythe Pinochet case is an obvious
oneit would not be an offence to say that the British courts
would not exercise such extraterritorial jurisdiction so I should
not be extradited for this. If I am right about that, with all
these things I have said, it seems to me that a constituent of
mine or of yours, maybe Mr Pope, could be extradited to somewhere,
let us say Greece, for something which is not an offence in the
United Kingdom and which did not happen in Greece. Am I right
(Mr Straw) I would have to look at the detail but
I would just like to make this point. Most of the extraterritorial
jurisdiction claimed arises either in respect of international
obligations, which we have all signed up to, and the Pinochet
32. Then they could be tried in the United Kingdom
for those offences.
(Mr Straw) They could be if the evidence was here,
but in the Pinochet case the evidence had been collected in Spain
but also involved in some cases allegations against General Pinochet
which involved Spanish citizens, albeit in Chile. In any event
it was they who held the main investigation. Our courts after
all looked at the Pinochet extradition issue with very great care
and then on a number of occasions, famously, decided it was perfectly
proper for that extraterritoriality to take place. As I say, they
mainly arise in respect of crimes like genocide and torture and
so on, to which all civilised countries have signed up, or sometimes
where the country concerned has jurisdiction over its own citizens
committing offences elsewhere. Sometimes countries, for example
in Europe, have a saving on their extradition arrangements with
third countries by which they will not extradite their own nationals
to that third country but will try them instead. I will happily
follow this up with the Home Secretary.
33. And write to Mr Maples.
(Mr Straw) Well, I will ask them to write to Mr Maples.
34. Could I just ask some questions on enlargement,
Foreign Secretary. I will put them as quickly as I can. First
of all, are you happy with the pace of institutional reform to
accommodate enlargement? Do you have any concerns about the financial
burdens of enlargement? Will the United Kingdom be prepared to
see a first wave of EU entrants which excluded any of the original
ten candidate countries? I am thinking in relation of enlargement
more in terms of Poland. Finally, from me, does our commitment
to the accession of Cyprus still remain the same?
(Mr Straw) Right. Pace, given the complexity of the
process I think it is proceeding at a reasonable pace. We have
been instrumental in ensuring there is some pace kept in the process.
As you know the United Kingdom has been in the lead there since
this Government took office in 1997. At Gothenburg in June, the
European Council there, we managed to set clear targets for admission
on the first wave. Financial burden is a matter which has to continue
to be discussed. Obviously the possibility of the size of the
financial burden will lie behind some rather detailed decisions.
For example, on how far the CAP direct payments are phased in
to a number of applicant states. We welcome the Commission's conclusion
in its recent strategy paper that enlargement until 2006 can be
financed within the agreed financial perspective ceilings, thank
you, Mr Darroch. There is a question beyond that as well. We need
to be careful about that. Would I be happy to see any of the first
35. What are your views?
(Mr Straw) We want to see as many countries in the
first wave as qualified and we are giving them every encouragement.
That is what would make us most happy. We are very anxious to
see Poland along with the other applicant states in the first
wave and we regard that as important. In the end it is a matter
for Poland whether it can close the chapters rather than a matter
for us. We want to see them there. I went to Warsaw about a month
ago and met Prime Minister Miller and my colleague, the Foreign
Minister, there. You will know, also, that Prime Minister Miller
came here for an official visit about two weeks ago. We have continued
to engage with Poland. On Cyprus, yes, our undertaking to Cyprus
36. Would we countenance delay for a country
like Poland? Would we accept a delay?
(Mr Straw) It is not a question of countenancing delay,
some countries which are applicants would not be in the first
wave in any event. Romania does not want to be in the first wave
and obviously Turkey, which is not yet within the screening process,
will not want to be. If you are saying to me could we close chapters
off on which the detail has not been settled in order to get the
country into the first wave, no. Could we give every encouragement
to countries to ensure they properly meet the criteria of each
37. Foreign Secretary, before we move on to
Afghanistan and the wider questions of terrorism, one simple question,
if I may. We know that the Convention on the Future of Europe
will include one representative from this House of Commons. Now
our Committee has discussed this and we have come unanimously
to the view that individual should come from this Committee. Do
you not think that is a good idea?
(Mr Straw) May I say it is two representatives from
38. One from the House of Lords
(Mr Straw) No, no, not necessarily. There has been
no undertaking on that, and no piece of paper I have seen which
(Mr Darroch) No.
39. There are two from Parliament as a whole?
(Mr Straw) Yes.
40. The proposition of this Committee is that
one should come from this Committee which seems rather a good
idea, do you not think?
(Mr Straw) I am struck by the high quality of the
Committee, the forensic nature of its questions, knowledge of
foreign affairs and European affairs, so I hope very much that
a member of that two member delegation could come from this Committee.
Can I give a guarantee about that, the answer is no but I take
Chairman: Thank you, Foreign Secretary.
1 See Evidence, p Ev 6. Back
See Evidence, pp Ev 17-Ev 20. Back
See Evidence, p Ev 7. Back