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House of Commons

Monday 15 July 2013

The House met at half-past Two o’clock


[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions

Home Department

The Secretary of State was asked—

Crime Levels

1. Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con): What recent assessment she has made of the level of crime in (a) Staffordshire and (b) the UK. [164846]

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): Since the election in 2010, police recorded crime in Staffordshire has fallen by 17%. In England and Wales as a whole, recorded crime is down by more than 10% under this Government, and the independent crime survey shows crime at its lowest level since records began in 1981.

Jeremy Lefroy: I welcome that news from the Home Secretary. Deliberately failing to insure vehicles is a crime that increases costs and dangers for law-abiding motorists. As part of its zero tolerance campaign, Staffordshire police force has removed 350 such vehicles from the roads in the past six weeks. What support is my right hon. Friend giving to police forces that make tackling such crime a priority?

Mrs May: I thank my hon. Friend for bringing to the House the excellent work that Staffordshire police force is doing to tackle this particular problem, which is an issue that blights many areas up and down the country. Other forces would do well to look at the example set by Staffordshire police, and recognise the importance of this crime in the eyes of the public and follow its example.

Jenny Chapman (Darlington) (Lab): Oak Tree farm in Staffordshire was the site of an illegal waste operation, and often such operations are a front for organised crime. Will the Secretary of State commit to working with colleagues in the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Department for Communities and Local Government? Investigations are often hampered because no one Government agency takes full responsibility for investigating what I believe are crimes.

Mrs May: The hon. Lady raises an interesting point, and the Home Department is happy to work with other Government Departments where that will genuinely

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help in the fight against crime. As she says, issues sometimes fall between the stalls of different Departments, and I will certainly look into the particular matter she has raised.


2. Gordon Henderson (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Con): What steps her Department is taking to control immigration and ensure that net migration continues to fall. [164847]

The Minister for Immigration (Mr Mark Harper): Net migration is down by more than a third since the election, and immigration has fallen by 100,000, bringing it to its lowest level since 2003. The Government will continue to take steps to ensure we hit our target of getting net migration down to tens of thousands by the general election.

Gordon Henderson: I welcome the consultation into tackling illegal immigration in privately rented accommodation, but does my hon. Friend join me in encouraging hotel and guest house owners to engage in that consultation process so that their views can be fully represented?

Mr Harper: I welcome that, and anyone with an interest in our proposal should respond to the consultation so that we can take their views into account. I reassure those whom my hon. Friend represents that our proposals are aimed at those renting their only or main home, so they should not be a great concern to those running guest houses or hotel accommodation.

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): Immigration control must be firm but also fair. Last Tuesday, the courts ruled that Jimmy Mubenga was unlawfully killed while being escorted to the airport by G4S, and two days later the Justice Secretary said that G4S and Serco had been overcharging his Department over a number of years. Given that those two companies hold contracts worth £180 million with the Home Office, will my hon. Friend initiate an audit into the quality of their immigration work as well as their charging policies, to ensure that his Department has not been overcharged?

Mr Harper: The right hon. Gentleman who chairs the Home Affairs Committee will know following the Lord Chancellor’s statement last week, that across Government the work he has called for is already under way to review all contracts that those companies hold with the Government, to check on how they are being conducted, and specifically on how they are charging the Government. That work is under way and colleagues will report to the House in due course.

Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): The Minister will be aware that education is one of our greatest exports and we benefit hugely from genuine students who come to this country to study. Will he confirm that the Government will not introduce a cap on students who come here to study, and say that he would not support one?

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Mr Harper: I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. The Government have been clear: we have rooted out abuse and removed the ability of hundreds of colleges to bring in international students. However, we welcome genuine students to Britain and to our excellent universities. We made it clear in the mid-term review that there is no cap, and we welcome the brightest and best, wherever they come from in the world, to come and study in the United Kingdom.

Mr Ian Davidson (Glasgow South West) (Lab/Co-op): Will the Minister accept that the net migration figure can be manipulated by making Britain so unattractive that people wish to leave? Surely the figure that should be looked at is the one for gross immigration, and surely that cannot be controlled until we stop the free movement of people from the European Union.

Mr Harper: I make three points to the hon. Gentleman. First, as I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey (Gordon Henderson), the immigration figure—the gross number—is down by 100,000 to its lowest level since 2003. My second point concerns people in the United Kingdom who have no right to be here. I actually want them to leave, which will contribute to reducing net migration. Thirdly, on the in-flow of people from the EU, as he will see from the numbers, the EU is not where the bulk of net migration comes from; the majority of people coming to Britain come from outside the EU.

Mr James Clappison (Hertsmere) (Con): In the light of the recent upwards revision of the migration figures between 1997 and 2010—an additional 500,000 migrants were found, meaning that overall immigration in that period was 4 million and that net migration under the last Government was 3 million, which amounted to three cities the size of Manchester—can my hon. Friend assure me that in the future we will have robust statistics and no return to the open-door policies favoured by the last Government?

Mr Harper: My hon. Friend will know that Migration Watch has written to the Office for National Statistics about that historical period, and I understand that it is engaged in a dialogue about it. I also understand from the ONS that it has revised its methodology so that its current recording of statistics is accurate, but his general point is very sensible: we had a period of uncontrolled immigration under the last Government—a mistake that this Government are not going to make.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): Does the Minister finally recognise that Scotland has its own immigration issues, and can he name just one thing that the Government have done to help us to address our distinct problems and issues?

Mr Harper: One thing is that the number of foreign students going to excellent universities in Scotland is up, as it is across the whole of the United Kingdom. The hon. Gentleman’s desire to have a border between England and Scotland and to turn England into a foreign country is not one welcomed by people either in England or in the rest of the United Kingdom, including in Scotland.

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Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): The coalition agreement said that exit checks would be in place by 2015. Will the Minister guarantee that this commitment will be met and explain how he will deliver on it?

Mr Harper: As my hon. Friend might be aware from conversations elsewhere and questions I have answered, that is a clear coalition commitment, and through the work we have done already, including through the data we collect on our e-Borders programme, we already have quite a bit of coverage of those coming into or out of the UK. It is a much better system, actually, than exists almost anywhere else in the world. Further work needs to be done, and that work is under way, as we progress towards 2015.

Gun Laws

3. Grahame M. Morris (Easington) (Lab): What recent assessment she has made of the effectiveness of UK laws on guns. [164848]

The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice (Damian Green): Firearms control in the UK is among the toughest in the world. This shows clearly that gun crime will not be tolerated by this Government or wider society. We keep firearms laws under review to ensure that they remain appropriate, proportionate and properly implemented. This includes strengthening the guidance to police to reflect recommendations of recent reviews, including the Home Affairs Select Committee report on firearms control.

Grahame M. Morris: I note the Minister’s answer, but will he and the Home Secretary learn the lessons of history, not least the terrible tragedy of the Atherton case in my constituency, and back the Labour amendment to the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill to make it clear in law to licensing officers that those with a history of domestic abuse and violence should not be able to own a gun?

Damian Green: I am happy to reassure the hon. Gentleman that we are learning the lessons of that terrible incident. As he knows, I have spoken to Bobby Turnbull several times about this matter, and I am happy to assure the hon. Gentleman that the strengthened guidance, with particular application to domestic violence, will be introduced within weeks, so that very direct lesson is being quickly learned.

Sir Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con): My right hon. Friend might know that a relatively small number of identifiable guns are used repeatedly in gangland drug dealing and other forms of violence. What steps is his Department taking to ensure that the police have the legal weapons available to them to crack down on these hirers and renters out of such weapons?

Damian Green: My hon. and learned Friend is right that the middlemen who provide the guns are often as guilty as those who fire them, which is why we are increasing the maximum penalty for the manufacture, sale or transfer of these guns. I hope that that will send a clear message that these types of middlemen are indeed as guilty as those who pull the trigger.

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Mr David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab): Bobby Turnbull’s mother, sister and aunt were murdered on 1 January 2012 by somebody who should not have had access to a firearm because of his history of domestic violence. Will the Minister reflect on what he has just said and accept that only legislation, not guidance, on domestic violence and firearms will be sufficient? He has the opportunity this week to support an Opposition amendment to the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill. Will he do so?

Damian Green: As the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, that amendment has already been debated. We want to take practical steps to ensure that all police forces react appropriately to evidence of domestic violence when considering gun licensing. That is why we will strengthen the guidance, and do so quickly.

Tessa Munt (Wells) (LD): Ministers and the Department have been undertaking an investigation into the cost of licensing to the police. Is there any news on the results of the consultation, and are taxpayers continuing to subsidise the cost of screening and licensing for guns?

Damian Green: As the hon. Lady knows, we are still considering the current cost of licensing. I am looking at possible changes to full cost recovery, because we want to make the system more efficient and cheaper, and to deliver a service that provides greater safety to the public.

Antisocial Behaviour

4. Jonathan Ashworth (Leicester South) (Lab): What steps the Government are taking to tackle antisocial behaviour. [164849]

The Minister of State, Home Department (Mr Jeremy Browne): The Government are introducing new powers to tackle antisocial behaviour that will be more flexible, quicker to deploy and more effective at protecting the public. The measures include sanctions to prevent antisocial behaviour, as well as positive requirements to address its underlying causes.

Jonathan Ashworth: I am grateful to the Minister for that answer, but is it not the case that while breaching an ASBO results in a criminal record, breaching the new injunction that the Minister is bringing in will not? Is that not a signal that the Government are not serious about tackling antisocial behaviour?

Mr Browne: No, I do not agree. I agree with the Labour Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), who said:

“I very much welcome the Government’s decision to overhaul the statutory framework for tackling anti-social behaviour.”

While I am at it, I also agree with the chief constable of Thames Valley police who said:

“The fact is, the experience has been that the ASBOs have been quite bureaucratic, in terms of securing them, and maybe not as effective at tackling the problem as we hoped.”

Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con): Figures from the Ministry of Justice show that of all ASBOs issued up to the end of 2011, 57% were breached

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at least once and 42% were breached more than once. What steps will my hon. Friend take to reform antisocial behaviour laws to better clamp down on offenders?

Mr Browne: My hon. Friend is right to draw the attention of the House to the serious failings of the ASBO system. As I said in my initial answer, the replacement measures will be more streamlined, efficient and effective, and will reduce antisocial behaviour across the country.

Mr Pat McFadden (Wolverhampton South East) (Lab): Can the Minister tell the House how placing 12 conditions on the use of CCTV cameras by the police and local authorities will help to fight antisocial behaviour? Why are the Government tilting the balance in favour of the criminal and away from victims of crime and antisocial behaviour?

Mr Browne: Britain deploys CCTV far more widely than most comparable countries around the world. I do not think anybody looking at us dispassionately would take the view that we are under-monitored by surveillance cameras. At the same time, and as the Home Secretary said, on her watch—on this Government’s watch—we have seen crime fall to its lowest level since the independent survey began more than 30 years ago. That is a record we should all be pleased with.

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Does the Minister recognise the role that local skate parks can play in giving youngsters something to do, and in combating antisocial behaviour? Will he congratulate all those involved in refurbishing the Ise Lodge skate park in Kettering, a much-used local facility?

Mr Browne: I am happy to join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to the people who have refurbished the skate park in Kettering. He makes an important wider point, which is that the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill puts tough sanctions in place to deal with antisocial behaviour. At the same time, the measures learn from the best experiences of restorative justice and try to correct some of the underlying causes that lead to antisocial behaviour in the first place. We believe that that is an effective combination for dealing with this problem.

Gloria De Piero (Ashfield) (Lab): The families of those who have lost loved ones through dog attacks, chief police officers, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Battersea Dogs Home and hon. Members from both sides of the House support the introduction of dog control notices. Tomorrow, Labour Members on the Committee considering the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill will call for their introduction. Will the Government back us?

Mr Browne: As we have explained—for the benefit of those who do not serve on the Committee and have not heard this argument at length—the provisions in the Bill already deal with exactly the type of problems that the hon. Lady and others envisage would be dealt with by dog control notices. An important change is being made with regard to dogs, which is that owners will now be responsible for the behaviour of their dogs in the private realm, as well as the public. That will, I hope,

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address serious cases—some of which have resulted in people’s deaths—in a way that I know will be welcomed across the country.

Policing Budget

5. Julie Elliott (Sunderland Central) (Lab): What recent assessment she has made of the effects of budget reductions on front-line policing. [164850]

The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice (Damian Green): Forces are rising to the challenge of making savings while maintaining and improving service to the public. Our police reforms are working. Recorded crime is down by more than 10% under this Government, and the most recent recorded crime statistics show that every police force in England and Wales saw a fall in crime in the 12 months to December 2012.

Julie Elliott: The 4.9% cut announced in the spending review is the equivalent of losing some 10,000 new police constables, on top of the 15,000 already lost, including 712 in my region. What additional resources will be made available to support delivery of front-line policing services in the north-east in future?

Damian Green: I am happy to congratulate Northumbria police. It has lost officers, as police forces across the country have, but in the 12 months to December 2012, crime in the hon. Lady’s area fell by 12%. That shows how the effective use of police resources is the way to cut crime, provide a better service to the public and make our streets safer.

Sir Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): In the spirit of joined-up government, when did the policing Minister last discuss with the Ministry of Defence the cuts in the MOD police and their impact on the civilian communities next door?

Damian Green: I have constant meetings with Defence Ministers on a range of subjects. I am happy to reassure my hon. Friend that crime in the Essex police area was down 4% in the 12 months to December 2012, so the success story of crime reduction under this Government applies to his constituents as well.

Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab): Greater Manchester police has 825 fewer officers, including 652 fewer front-line police officers. Since the cuts started, police forces have been dealing with 14% of violent crimes against the person through community resolutions. Does the Minister agree that it is time to ensure that community resolutions are used for low-level crime and not driven just by police cuts?

Damian Green: There is absolutely no evidence that the use of community resolutions is driven by police cuts. Indeed, as the hon. Lady says, Greater Manchester police, like any large urban force, faces a number of difficult problems. As such, it deserves particular congratulations on the fact that in the 12 months to December 2012, crime in Greater Manchester fell by 13%, showing how effectively the force is doing its job of making Manchester safer.

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Child Sexual Exploitation

6. John Howell (Henley) (Con): What steps she is taking to tackle the organised grooming and sexual exploitation of children. [164852]

16. Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire) (Con): What steps she is taking to tackle the organised grooming and sexual exploitation of children. [164863]

The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice (Damian Green): This Government are absolutely committed to tackling child sexual exploitation. That is why I am leading a new national group on sexual violence against children and vulnerable people, which is taking urgent action to protect children, significantly improve support for victims and bring perpetrators to justice.

John Howell: Will the Minister join me in congratulating Thames Valley police force on continuing to bring cases under Operation Bullfinch? Will he also congratulate the girls who gave evidence, often in very difficult circumstances?

Damian Green: I am happy to echo my hon. Friend’s last point. I am pleased that justice has been served, following the long police activity that led to Operation Bullfinch, and that the perpetrators are now behind bars where they belong. There are a lot of lessons to be learnt, and I know that Thames Valley police are playing a significant role in ensuring that the police get better at dealing with this type of horrible crime.

Glyn Davies: Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that the Home Office is working with, and sharing knowledge with, the Welsh Government and the devolved Governments in Scotland and Northern Ireland to identify and eliminate the scourge of grooming and sexual exploitation throughout the UK?

Damian Green: My hon. Friend is right that that kind of work between different police forces is important. The national police working group on child abuse and investigation has representatives from Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish forces, while the Child Exploitation Online Protection Centre works with colleagues across the UK in combating this particularly abhorrent crime.

Ann Coffey (Stockport) (Lab): Children going missing for repeated periods of time is one of the key indicators of sexual exploitation. It is important that data on missing children is considered alongside other data from health, schools and children’s services better to identify children at risk of sexual exploitation and to disrupt sexual grooming at an early stage. Does the Minister agree that, although it is good to see the number of rising prosecutions for child sexual exploitation and the lengthy prison sentences for offenders, prevention is the best outcome for children?

Damian Green: I agree with the hon. Lady, who I know has a long record of constructive activity in this field, that missing children are particularly vulnerable. That is why the new taskforce I am chairing has on it significant representation from the Department for

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Education, so that those who are looking after the children can try to reduce the numbers that go missing in the first place.

Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op): I visited Nigeria last week with the all-party parliamentary group on Nigeria. While we were there we met the federal agency dealing with trafficked children. Nigeria is the source country for the majority of trafficked people into this country. I welcome the Minister’s taskforce, but does it include people who have an understanding of Nigeria? Perhaps he will update us on his relations with that country.

Damian Green: In a previous ministerial job, I, too, visited Nigeria, and the hon. Lady is quite right to raise what is an important issue there. I am happy to assure her that part of the taskforce’s work is specifically to promote greater international co-operation so that in countries such as Nigeria—it is important to have activity going on in such countries as well as in this country—we are establishing and maintaining better links with the authorities.

22. [164869] Steve Baker (Wycombe) (Con): During Operation Ribbon, I saw for myself how individual police officers are ferociously committed to defeating these appalling gangs, but will the Government make sure that the organisations—the police and crime commissioners, the local police forces and, indeed, the National Crime Agency—are properly incentivised to work together?

Damian Green: I agree with my hon. Friend’s point, particularly about the National Crime Agency. As he will know, CEOP becomes part of the National Crime Agency later this week. I hope that one of the various beneficial effects that will flow from that will be a much more co-ordinated and rounded approach to child sexual exploitation.

Student Visitor Visas

7. Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South) (Lab): What estimate she has made of the number of student visitor visas that have been issued in the last year. [164853]

The Minister for Immigration (Mr Mark Harper): In the 12 months to March 2013, 69,542 student visitor and extended student visitor visas were issued—6% more than in the year to March 2012. A recent study conducted by the Home Office showed that student visitors come mainly for short courses or university summer schools and make a valuable contribution to economic growth.

Bridget Phillipson: I am grateful to the Minister for his answer, but he will know that last year the independent chief inspector raised concerns about the risk of abuse in the student visitor visa system. What action is he going to take to address these concerns, strengthen the check and close this loophole?

Mr Harper: There is not a loophole. If the hon. Lady had listened to my answer to her question she would know that I said—and I said the same thing at questions

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last month—that we have conducted a research study that clearly showed that the route is not abused and that there is no sign at all in respect of the nationalities on which we clamped down on tier 4 visas of any increase in student visitor visas. A significant portion of those coming to the country as student visitors are non-visa nationals, half of whom are from the United States of America.

Mr Speaker: The Minister should not be discouraged in any way. In my experience, politicians may have to say things several thousand times before they are heeded. The Minister is getting some good practice.

Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West) (LD): We must of course ensure that our visa system is fit for purpose, but will the Minister acknowledge the importance of non-EU students not only to the national economy but to local economies? There are 33,000 in Yorkshire and the Humber and 5,795 at Leeds university alone, and they make a huge contribution to the local area.

Mr Harper: I do acknowledge that, and, as I made clear in answer to an earlier question, we have no plans to cap the number of students who come to our excellent universities and make a valuable contribution to growth. The best of them will have an opportunity to remain here after their studies if they find graduate-level jobs that pay decent salaries, and they are very welcome to do so.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): I warmly congratulate the Minister on slapping down the swivel-eyed loons in his own party who are calling for a ban on non-EU students, but does he not understand that his own policy is effectively introducing a cap? That is why the Prime Minister had to fly to India to beg people to start coming back to study in this country. When will the Government stop undermining British universities and colleges which are trying to compete around the world for this important market?

Mr Harper: The hon. Gentleman has had his Weetabix this morning!

Our reforms have been successful. The number of students going to our excellent universities is up by 5%, and the universities are doing very well. We have seen strong growth, for example—

Chris Bryant: The total number is down.

Mr Harper: That is because a significant number of people who have come to this country in the past purporting to be students have not actually been students. We have rooted out a large number of bogus colleges that were abusing the immigration system, and I make no apology for our having done so.

Visiting Nationals (Bond Requirement)

8. Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con): What assessment she has made of the potential effects of introducing a bond requirement for visiting nationals from countries deemed to be high-risk. [164854]

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The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): I am planning to launch a small-scale pilot scheme later this year to test the impact of requiring financial bonds, in limited circumstances, from a minority of visitors from selected nationalities who present a high risk of overstaying. The details are still being finalised, and I will make an announcement in due course.

Richard Graham: Any requirement for United Kingdom citizens to post bonds for visiting relatives from countries such as India risks being seen as yet another bureaucratic obstacle to cross-border family visits. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is vital for UK citizens to be reassured about both the goals and the benefits of any such policy in advance of its implementation?

Mrs May: My hon. Friend is right: we need to explain to people why we are proposing a pilot to establish whether we should introduce the system more widely. As I have said, we are still finalising the details, and we are currently looking into the operation of bond schemes in other countries. We want to set a level that gives people an incentive to return home rather than overstaying, but is not disproportionate. We are considering all the possible implications of introducing such a scheme.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): Will the Home Secretary acknowledge that some people feel very resentful about the manner in which she has introduced this scheme? They do not understand the logic. They do not oppose the bond system, but they object to the way in which some countries have been chosen rather than others. Will the Home Secretary make clear what the criteria are, and how the scheme will be expanded?

Mrs May: We have not introduced the scheme yet. I shall make an announcement in due course about what it will cover and how it will operate, but the aim is to concentrate on places that we believe present a significant risk of overstaying. As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham), it is important for the bond—where we do introduce it—to be set at a level that is high enough to constitute a disincentive, but is not disproportionate.

Legal Highs

9. Fiona Bruce (Congleton) (Con): What steps her Department is taking to reduce the use of legal highs. [164855]

The Minister of State, Home Department (Mr Jeremy Browne): New psychoactive substances can present a significant risk to public health, and people should not assume that they are either legal or safe to consume. We are forensically monitoring the emergence of new drugs in the United Kingdom, and have banned many substances that have been proved to be harmful.

Fiona Bruce: I thank the Minister for his reply, and for the recent banning of khat, but what can be done about other legal highs which are being sold to young people in Cheshire? The police tell me that the moment the content of one packet is banned, a very similar substance, or the same one, is resold in a different wrapper.

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Mr Browne: I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the interest that she takes in this important issue in her constituency. It is important for everyone to understand that it is not the name or the packaging of the product that is banned, but the group of chemical compounds that gives the drug its characteristics. Changing the packaging will not change the legal status of the drug, and law enforcement officers in my hon. Friend’s constituency and elsewhere should proceed on that basis.

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): Banning the designer drug mephedrone resulted in a 300% increase in its use. Banning khat is likely to have the same effect. Has the Minister examined the report of the all-party group on drug policy reform that suggested the New Zealand proposal, which is intelligent and practical and is likely to lead to a reduction in use?

Mr Browne: I spent over an hour last week speaking to the New Zealand Health Minister about precisely this subject. It is a very interesting area of policy development and we will study carefully what is happening in New Zealand and the policy there. I should offer a word of caution, however, to the hon. Gentleman, who has a long record of campaigning on the issue. Over recent years, we have seen quite big falls in the use of some of the most serious illegal drugs—heroin and crack cocaine—so the illegal status of those drugs does not appear to have led to the rise in use, as he claims would be the case.

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): Maryon Stewart, the founder of the Angelus Foundation, tragically lost her daughter Hester because of legal highs. She is calling for additional protection for young people through amendments to the Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985, as set out in a new clause tabled by Labour to the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill currently in Committee. Will the Minister confirm that the Government will support the strengthening of legal protection for our young people from legal highs when that is voted on in Committee tomorrow, and if not, why not?

Mr Browne: I am sorry for everybody who is feeling that, in effect, everyone is invited to the Committee, although I suppose everyone is able to attend. It is a reasonable new clause. At present the way we proceed in this country is that there is an Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs—there is a scientific expert body of opinion that informs our drugs policy—but I readily acknowledge that the threat posed to public health by legal highs is a fast-evolving one, and that is why I have been talking to people such as the New Zealand Health Minister about how we can best respond to those threats.

Public Services (Migrant Access)

10. Stephen Phillips (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): What steps the UK Border Agency is taking to deter health tourism to the UK. [164856]

11. George Freeman (Mid Norfolk) (Con): What steps she is taking to tackle abuse of UK public services by illegal immigrants. [164857]

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The Minister for Immigration (Mr Mark Harper): On 3 July I launched a public consultation on proposals to strengthen arrangements for regulating migrant access to the NHS in the forthcoming immigration Bill. We are working across Government to build immigration policy into our benefits, health and housing systems and other services.

Stephen Phillips: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer, and I welcome the consultation that has been announced. Can he confirm that bringing immigration enforcement back into the Home Office will deter all forms of abuse of our immigration system, including health tourism?

Mr Harper: I can give my hon. and learned Friend that assurance. Part of the reason for the Home Secretary’s decision is to have two very clear cultures within what was the UK Border Agency, so we have both high-quality, fast decisions for those applying for leave to enter the UK and stay here and a very good enforcement function with a clear law enforcement culture. That is what we are building and will continue to build.

George Freeman: First, may I congratulate the Home Secretary on the excellent news of Abu Qatada’s deportation? Does she agree that nothing symbolises the broken covenant of citizenship or fuels political disengagement more than the inability of Government to ensure that public services such as welfare are there for citizens who pay for them, rather than illegal immigrants who do not?

Mr Harper: I agree, and that is part of what we are trying to achieve in our proposals on the health consultation, on landlords and on the consultation we published last week on cracking down further on illegal working. We want Britain to be a welcome place for those who come here to contribute, but we want to deter those who do not, and make sure those who are here without any legal status are removed or leave the country.

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab): In introducing measures to protect public services, will the Minister take care not to bring about unintended consequences? One of my constituents, a UK citizen, has been studying in the US and cannot bring his wife into the country from the US because while he was studying she was supporting him. He was therefore not earning the threshold income that is now required to come to the country, despite the fact that he has a contract here with money well above the threshold. Will the Minister look into that issue?

Mr Harper: I clearly do not know all the details of the specific case the hon. Gentleman raises, but if he writes to me about it I will look into it. The general principle of our family migration reforms, however, was to make sure those who wanted to bring family members to Britain were earning above a certain level of income so they supported their family, rather than expecting the taxpayer to do so, and that general principle is a very well founded one.

Sheila Gilmore (Edinburgh East) (Lab): The Minister said that he was already cracking down on businesses

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that were employing illegal immigrants. Why then has the number of businesses that have been fined decreased in the past two years?

Mr Harper: That is a question I answered at the previous oral questions and I was frank with the Member who asked it—I said it is an area where we need to do better. I think the hon. Lady will find when we publish our performance statistics for this financial year—since the creation of our immigration enforcement organisation —that the numbers are going in a much more positive direction.

Mr Speaker: We are short of time but let us have a brief snippet from Christchurch.

Mr Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): Why does my hon. Friend not make it a criminal offence to be an illegal immigrant?

Mr Harper: It is, of course, the case that people in the United Kingdom without leave are breaking our laws, but our primary objective for those here without leave is to remove them from the country. It would be self-defeating to prosecute all of them and lock them up in prison, as we would thus be keeping them here for longer and making sure the taxpayer paid a higher cost.

Modern Day Slavery

12. Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): What steps she is taking to make Britain more hostile to traffickers engaged in modern day slavery; and if she will make a statement. [164858]

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): The Government have a strong record in tackling modern slavery. We work closely with partners in priority source countries to stop people from being exploited, and to disrupt the organised criminals engaged in these appalling crimes. Our effective legislation and strong enforcement, in-country and at the border, will be further strengthened through the establishment of the National Crime Agency later this year.

Fiona Mactaggart: The Government’s human trafficking strategy, published in 2011, pointed out that offenders

“perceive trafficking as a ‘low risk’ crime because of the relatively low risk of being caught”.

Since then, the risk of being caught, successfully prosecuted and convicted has reduced. What is the Home Secretary doing about it?

Mrs May: Of course, we disrupt groups involved in human trafficking not only by prosecuting people specifically in relation to human trafficking— sometimes, we use other prosecutions to do that. I recognise the concern in the House about human trafficking, and the excellent work done by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) in the all-party group on human trafficking has ensured that we keep the issue at the forefront of our consideration. We do make every effort to ensure that we can prosecute people, be it specifically in relation to human trafficking or in other ways that can disrupt groups involved in human trafficking.

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Mr David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): What is the Home Secretary doing to ensure that the hostility towards traffickers is not unfairly transferred to the victims of trafficking and that steps we are taking across government, particularly with the Ministry of Justice, will ensure that those victims of trafficking are not prosecuted?

Mrs May: I thank my hon. Friend for raising an issue of concern. If people have been forced into criminal activity as a result of their trafficking experience, consideration is given to discontinuing the prosecution. However, we often need to make sure that victims make their trafficking situation known, and the Crown Prosecution Service has issued comprehensive guidance on the steps that should be taken to make relevant inquiries.

Communications Data

13. John Robertson (Glasgow North West) (Lab): Whether the Government plan to bring forward legislative proposals on communications data. [164859]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (James Brokenshire): The Government remain committed to ensuring that the police and intelligence agencies have the powers they need to catch paedophiles, terrorists and those involved in organised crime. Her Majesty’s Gracious Speech in May stated that we would

“bring forward proposals to enable the protection of the public and the investigation of crime in cyberspace.”

We will do so in due course, and this may involve legislation.

John Robertson: I thank the Minister for his answer. However, it is well known in political circles that the Home Secretary and the Deputy Prime Minister do not exactly see eye to eye on communications data. Could we therefore have a Bill where we can put forward proposals that we can debate? Could we ensure that we put a communications data Bill before Parliament in the way that we expect, and not have a fight between the two coalition parties?

James Brokenshire: There is understanding across government on the challenges and issues involved in protecting the police’s ability to fight crime and on the fact that a gap is emerging in this whole issue of communications data. It is important that we strike an effective balance between keeping the public safe and protecting civil liberties. That is why we are taking this issue seriously and considering it carefully—I have to say to the hon. Gentleman that the previous Labour Government did not do that. We will make proposals in due course to get this right.

Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con): Most people on both sides of the House, at least in the major parties, recognise the need for communications data to be preserved so that terrorist needles can be found in a communications haystack. Will the Minister confirm that we should be reassured by the fact that the people who preserve the communications haystack for a limited period are not the Government but the suppliers from the communications industry themselves?

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James Brokenshire: My hon. Friend makes an important point. It is clear that, in about 95% of serious organised crime cases, and in virtually every terrorism investigation, the use of communications data has been extremely important. The structure that has been established is that communications providers themselves retain the information, and safeguards are in place for the requests that are made. It is precisely that structure that we are examining carefully to see how it can be strengthened to reflect changes in technology.

Human Trafficking (Compensation)

14. Richard Ottaway (Croydon South) (Con): How much has been received under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 from those convicted of human trafficking in the last three years; how much has been paid out to victims of trafficking in compensation; and if she will make a statement. [164860]

The Minister for Immigration (Mr Mark Harper): The Government are committed to fighting human trafficking, as my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary set out in an earlier answer. Over £2 million has been recovered from traffickers in the past three years. Victims can apply for criminal injuries compensation and the Government pay £3 million a year for support services for victims through our contract with the Salvation Army. The figures on compensation paid to trafficking victims are not collected centrally.

Richard Ottaway: As victims are usually without support of any kind once they have left Government-funded shelters, and the avenues for claiming compensation are extremely limited, would it not make sense to take the funds confiscated from traffickers and put them into a fund for the benefit of victims of abuse?

Mr Harper: I thank my hon. Friend for his question. I would say a couple of things. First, the Government think that the priority should be making it easier for victims to secure compensation from confiscated assets, and we are working with the Ministry of Justice and the Crown Prosecution Service to achieve that. Secondly, victims of trafficking who leave Government-funded support through our contract are helped appropriately, either to return to their home country to a safe environment where they will not be retrafficked or, if they claim asylum through the asylum system or if their immigration status allows, to remain in the United Kingdom.

Mr Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry North West) (Lab): Is not the point what was put to the Minister by the hon. Member for Croydon South (Richard Ottaway)? An amount is collected, and we have no indication or record as to how much of that is paid to victims. Until we know that we do not know how efficient the system is, and the Minister needs to know.

Mr Harper: The point I made is that information on awards made by judges in compensation orders and so on is not collected by the Government. However, we spend £3 million on our Salvation Army contract, which supports victims of trafficking to give them a period of reflection after they have been saved from traffickers. That is a valuable process that we continue to support.

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Topical Questions

T1. [164870] Mr Dominic Raab (Esher and Walton) (Con): If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): Last Friday, we witnessed an attempted act of terror designed to divide our community. The motivations behind the explosion outside a mosque in Tipton as people gathered for Friday afternoon prayers are not yet known, but the intention was clear, and the potential for injury and loss of life was obvious. West Midlands police are investigating the incident, and are treating it as an act of terrorism. I do not wish to say anything further that may prejudice their investigation, but as I have made clear previously, this country will not be divided by terrorism. We stand united as a Government, as a Parliament, and as a nation in our opposition to these cowardly acts.

Mr Raab: According to the 2011 data, Nigeria, Vietnam and Romania are the three biggest countries of origin for human trafficking into Britain. What actions has the UK taken with law enforcement authorities in those countries to tackle the problem at source?

Mrs May: My hon. Friend raises an interesting matter, and our response to this atrocious crime constantly evolves as the threats change. That includes understanding where the organised crime groups are operating and where vulnerable people are being exploited. UK law enforcement agencies are working closely with their counterparts in priority source countries, through joint investigation teams, supporting prosecutions in other jurisdictions, and providing training to judges, and I am happy to tell him that in each of the countries that he has specifically mentioned there has been cross-border work with law enforcement agencies and others.

Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab): May I join the Home Secretary in condemning the attack near the mosque in Tipton? It is vital that we do not let extremists divide us with their brutal and appalling acts.

Does the Home Secretary believe that it is acceptable that in many police force areas people who ring 999 in a serious emergency now have to wait over 10% longer for the police to arrive?

Mrs May: What I am pleased to see is the way in which police forces up and down the country are maintaining their response capabilities and enhancing neighbourhood police teams and their ability to respond in a variety of ways to events that take place. It is clear that the proportion of police officers in front-line roles is increasing.

Yvette Cooper: Except that it clearly is not. More than 7,000 police officers have gone from first response, which includes 999, neighbourhood police and traffic cops. Now we are seeing evidence of increasing delays in 2012 compared to the previous year—a 10% increase in West Mercia, an 18% increase in Wiltshire, and in Devon and Cornwall a 25% increase in waits for the police to arrive. What does the Home Secretary have to

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say to victims, whether of knife crime, domestic violence or burglary, who have to wait longer as a result of her decisions? She promised that the front line would not be hit. Will she now withdraw that promise and accept that the front line is being hit and the police service is being hollowed out as a result?

Mrs May: The right hon. Lady is very well aware that Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary has made it clear that the front line in policing is being protected. I note that no Member on the Opposition Benches, be it the shadow Home Secretary or any other hon. Member, welcomes the 10% fall in crime that we have seen since the general election.

T2. [164871] Simon Hart (Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire) (Con): Will the Home Secretary update the House on the role of police and crime commissioners in her proposals for the handling of police complaints?

The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice (Damian Green): I am aware that many PCCs have innovative ideas on how to handle low-level complaints, in particular, against the police, and I see this as a positive way for them to engage with their local community. I am giving careful consideration to the role that PCCs can play in the new arrangements because I think they could play a valuable role in improving the area of police complaints.

T3. [164872] Sarah Champion (Rotherham) (Lab): Multi-agency safeguarding hubs—MASHs—are acknowledged as a key approach to tackling child sexual exploitation. Can the Minister please state how many MASHs have been established across the country? Will an evaluation be done on their effectiveness?

Damian Green: MASHs are being established literally by the week so I cannot give the hon. Lady an exact figure, but I completely agree that the early successes in some areas of the multi-agency safeguarding hubs suggest that that is an extremely important way of improving our response to child sexual exploitation. I will be visiting one over the next few days and intend to see for myself exactly how they can be most effective.

T5. [164874] James Morris (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) (Con): Too many teenagers in Britain are still the victim of knife crime, which can destroy individual lives and leave families in grief. What steps is the Home Secretary taking across Government to improve education about the folly of teenagers carrying knives?

The Minister of State, Home Department (Mr Jeremy Browne): My hon. Friend is right to draw the attention of the House to this particularly dangerous form of criminal activity and its occasional prevalence among young people in particular. We are working with police forces across the country and we have put in place a programme of action specifically aimed at gang violence to try to reduce the incidence of knife crime. I am pleased that violent crime as a whole is falling across the country.

T4. [164873] Hugh Bayley (York Central) (Lab): Last year, community resolutions were used in more than 33,000 cases of violent crime nationally. In north Yorkshire, they were used for more than 500 violent

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offences, and more than 250 cases of serious violence involving injury. They were never used for such cases when Labour was in power. Is it any wonder that the public think the Government are going soft on violent crime?

Damian Green: There is not the slightest shred of evidence for that final, rather wild assertion by the hon. Gentleman, but I will happily agree with him that the use of a community resolution should be for those crimes where it is appropriate. If it is being used inappropriately, we will certainly look very hard at that, but his remarks about violent crime are well out of order.

T8. [164878] Andrea Leadsom (South Northamptonshire) (Con): I am delighted with my right hon. Friend’s decision to use the block opt-out for police and criminal justice measures, but bearing in mind her intention to opt back into the European arrest warrant, will she reassure the House that she will take steps to ensure that British people can be extradited only if there is enough evidence to charge them?

Mrs May: My hon. Friend raises an important point that I know has been a concern to many hon. Members. The amendments that I have tabled to the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, which, as we heard earlier, is in Committee, will address this very point by saying that judges should discharge somebody if a European arrest warrant is issued at a point where the requesting country has not already decided to charge and try that individual.

T6. [164876] Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab): What changes will the Home Office make to the family migration rules in the light of the recent High Court finding that the income threshold is onerous and unjustified?

The Minister for Immigration (Mr Mark Harper): That is not quite what the judgment said. We are considering the judgment very carefully. The judge made it quite clear that the Home Office was perfectly entitled to have an income threshold that applied nationally. The judge said that in certain circumstances he had some concerns. Applications where that is the only issue on which the case would have been rejected are being held and we will make an announcement in due course.

Mr John Leech (Manchester, Withington) (LD): Does the Minister accept that, unless safeguards are put in place for landlords taking reasonable steps to verify immigration status, there is a real danger of discrimination against foreign nationals from landlords choosing to avoid the risk by simply not renting properties to them?

Mr Harper: The hon. Gentleman raises a good question, which we thought about carefully. To reassure him, first, landlords will have to check the documents of everyone to whom they want to rent property—there are similar checks with employers—so they will have to confirm that someone is a British citizen or has leave to be in the country. Secondly, they are bound by the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 not to discriminate against somebody on the grounds of their race or nationality.

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T9. [164879] Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op): What consideration are Ministers giving to additional resourcing for South Wales police in relation to the pressures on Cardiff as a capital city and the apparent discrepancy of upwards of £1 million with other capital cities across the UK?

Damian Green: I have heard these representations from various representative areas in Cardiff before, and as the hon. Gentleman will know, successive Governments have not thought that a particular grant should be made. I hope that he will join me in congratulating his police force in south Wales on the 5% fall in crime in the 12 months to December 2012.

Richard Fuller (Bedford) (Con): May I commend again the Home Secretary’s announcement of a consultation on stop-and-search? Will she advise the House what steps she is taking to increase participation in that consultation, and whether she has drawn any early thoughts from the review by HMIC into stop-and-search as provided by police authorities throughout the country?

Mrs May: I am indeed taking steps to encourage as many communities as possible to respond to the consultation on stop-and-search, and will be writing to a number of faith groups around the country in particular to encourage them to respond to that consultation. The figures that we saw in the HMIC report on stop and search show why it is so important that we hold this consultation. This is a valuable tool for the police, but it must be used properly.

Anas Sarwar (Glasgow Central) (Lab): If a US citizen had been held in Britain without charge, it would quite rightly not be accepted or tolerated. Shaker Aamer is the last British citizen at Guantanamo Bay. He has been there for 11 years without charge and has faced more than four months on hunger strike. All of us supported the Home Secretary’s determination to deport Abu Qatada from the UK. Will she demonstrate that same determination and energy to make sure that we see the release of Shaker Aamer so that he can return to his family in Britain?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (James Brokenshire): The UK is committed to using its best endeavours to secure Mr Aamer’s release and return to the UK. The hon. Gentleman may be aware that the Prime Minister spoke to President Obama at the G8 in June and has followed that up with a subsequent letter. We have long held that indefinite detention without review or fair trial is unacceptable, and we welcome President Obama’s continuing commitment to closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.

Mr Robert Buckland (South Swindon) (Con): Victims of serious crime will be reassured that the Government are minded to opt back into the European arrest warrant. Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is much support across the EU for adopting the sort of proportionality tests that the Government are minded to introduce in amendments to legislation?

Mrs May: My hon. Friend is right; a number of other member states have expressed concern about proportionality, and indeed some already operate, in

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various forms, a proportionality test. I think that the Government’s decision to table amendments in order to introduce a proportionality test in the UK will ensure that we do not see the European arrest warrant being used for the minor and trivial crimes that have led to much concern about its operation.

Mr Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich West) (Lab/Co-op): I welcome the Home Secretary’s earlier remarks about the appalling explosion outside a mosque in my constituency. Notwithstanding the calm and measured response from all faiths in the local community, there is a fear that it was part of a systematic process of attacking mosques in this country. What extra steps is she taking to ensure that such attacks are prevented in other places?

Mrs May: The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. Indeed, over the weekend, I discussed the incident in Tipton and the incident that took place in Walsall a few weeks ago with Chief Constable Chris Sims of West Midlands police. I know that he is ensuring that there are further patrols and a further police presence to try to give the local community support and confidence. The Government are looking at all forms of extremism, and we regularly look at whether there is more we can do to ensure that we stop extremism in whatever form it takes.

Jane Ellison (Battersea) (Con): Last week I spoke at an excellent conference on female genital mutilation organised by Wandsworth council’s violence against women and girls unit. I took along handfuls of the UK statement against FGM, sometimes known as the health passport. It was warmly welcomed, and indeed gathered up enthusiastically, by community workers attending the conference. I urge the Home Office to do everything possible to get this excellent document into the right hands over the coming days and weeks.

Mrs May: My hon. Friend makes an important point. She has campaigned long and hard on this issue, and very effectively, for which she deserves our support and thanks. It is right that the statement, the so-called FGM passport, is being welcomed by those who see it. I urge all Members of the House, if they represent communities that they feel would benefit from seeing the statement and distributing it, to get in touch with the Home Office, using the number on the website, so that we can ensure that they have copies to distribute to their communities.

Mr Bob Ainsworth (Coventry North East) (Lab): What assessment has the Home Secretary made of the police’s capacity to investigate business crime associated with football? There is growing concern about money laundering, fraud and tax evasion. I am particularly concerned, of course, with what has gone on recently at Coventry City football club.

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Mrs May: I am not aware of the specific issue the right hon. Gentleman raises in relation to a particular football club, but the whole question of financial crime, which I believe we have not given sufficient attention to across the board in this country, will be given a much clearer focus after the creation of the economic crime command in the National Crime Agency. The command will be able to look at various sorts of financial crime. He mentioned money laundering, which is an area on which we are already putting an extra focus, because of the support it gives to organised crime groups.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: Order. Extreme brevity will allow us to accommodate two more questions.

Mr David Ruffley (Bury St Edmunds) (Con): Thank you, Mr Speaker. The Home Secretary is listening to those of us who are worried that some British citizens are being extradited under the European arrest warrant on flimsy grounds. Will she indicate when she will bring forward amendments to the Extradition Act 2003 to deliver greater protections for British citizens?

Mrs May: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. We are introducing those amendments to the Extradition Act and others through the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, and I understand from the Minister of State, my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Taunton Deane (Mr Browne), that they will be considered in Committee tomorrow. It is important to ensure that we can add extra safeguards for British citizens who are being extradited under the European arrest warrant.

Paul Goggins (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab): I am sure that the Home Secretary will agree that dealing with historical sexual abuse requires effective support for victims and witnesses. A constituent of mine has recently been identified as a potential witness in a serious case going back many years, which has caused him great distress, and it does not help that the investigating police force is located some 200 miles away from where he now lives. Will she look at what effective liaison and support could be provided by the local police in such cases?

Damian Green: The right hon. Gentleman makes a perfectly valid point. I hope that he will welcome the measures that we have already taken to protect witnesses, particularly in these types of cases—for instance, we are piloting video evidence so that they can give evidence before the court case and not in courtroom surroundings. We are looking at the possibility of stopping multiple cross-examination in court, particularly of vulnerable witnesses. I shall certainly keep the right hon. Gentleman’s specific point in mind.

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Point of Order

3.35 pm

Sir Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): On a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr Speaker: The day would not be complete without it.

Sir Bob Russell: Mr Speaker, I understand that either tomorrow or later this week the Secretary of State for Health will be giving a statement about 14 hospital trusts, including one in my constituency. However, given what appeared in two of the Sunday newspapers yesterday, there has been massive briefing, which could have come only from the Department. I think that a gross abuse of the House. Could a Health Minister be brought here today to explain why all that information was released to the press before it has come to the House?

Mr Speaker: My immediate response to the hon. Gentleman is twofold. First, there is no plan, intention or requirement for a Minister to come here today. The hon. Gentleman will have patiently to wait until tomorrow, at which point he might have an opportunity both to air his concerns about the substance of the matters under discussion and, if necessary, to repeat the point of a procedural character that he has made this afternoon.

Secondly, I am not familiar with the particular press reports to which the hon. Gentleman has just referred, although I did hear some sedentary hums of assent to the complaint that he was making. It would be only when I was familiar with the detailed facts of the situation that it would be fair for me to comment. Sometimes, reports that appear are of a speculative character and owe their genesis to determined reporters trying to get ahead of events and not necessarily to a deliberate briefing. On the other hand, we all know that deliberate briefing and outrageous leaking take place from time to time. The hon. Gentleman knows that I deprecate them in the strongest terms.

Meanwhile, the hon. Gentleman has given advertisement to the House of his intended presence for these matters to be considered tomorrow. He might catch my eye on that occasion.

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2014 JHA Opt-out Decision

Mr Speaker: I inform the House that I have selected amendments (c) and (b) in the names of the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith). It might help the House if I explain that I shall invite the movers of those amendments to move them, formally or otherwise—formally, I expect—at the conclusion of debate. The selected amendments may therefore be addressed in the course of the debate.

3.37 pm

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): I beg to move,

That this House believes that the UK should opt out of all EU police and criminal justice measures adopted before December 2009 and seek to rejoin measures where it is in the national interest to do so and invites the European Scrutiny Committee, the Home Affairs Select Committee and the Justice Select Committee to submit relevant reports before the end of October, before the Government opens formal discussions with the Commission, Council and other Member States on the set of measures in Command Paper 8671, prior to the Government’s formal application to rejoin measures in accordance with Article10(5) of Protocol 36 to the TFEU.

For 40 years, ever since the United Kingdom entered what was then just a Common Market, power flowed in one direction—from this country and this place, which ought to be sovereign but in practice is often not, to the institutions of the European Union. Since the referendum in 1975, not once was the consent of the British people sought or given for a series of treaties that gave more and more power to Europe.

The Government’s decision, which I announced in a statement last week, to opt out of around 130 European justice and home affairs measures, before seeking to opt back into those measures that we believe work in the national interest, will be the first time in the history of our membership of the European Union that we have taken such a set of powers back from Brussels. Let us be clear that, however complicated the issues we are about to debate—I will soon come to those issues—we are first and foremost talking about bringing powers back home. That is something—

Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset) (Con): Will the Home Secretary give way?

Mrs May: Will my hon. Friend allow me to finish my sentence? He is quick off the mark, as he always is on these matters.

That is something that should be celebrated by anybody who cares about national sovereignty, democracy and the role of this place in making the laws of our country.

Jacob Rees-Mogg: I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way to me so early on. Is it not unfortunately the case that 43 of the measures are, in effect, defunct anyway, that the ones we opt back into come under the European Court of Justice, and that that is a much bigger give-away of power than the relatively minor removal of powers that is happening under the opt-out?

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Mrs May: I am sure that I do not need to remind my hon. Friend, given his attention to detail in these matters, that were we not voting and deciding to opt out of the number of measures we are proposing to opt out of, we would find ourselves subject to all these measures, all of which would be subject to the European Court of Justice.

Let me be clear: this should not be a one-off event before usual service resumes. This Government have made sure that never again will a Prime Minister sign away sovereignty in a European treaty without a referendum. We in the Conservative party have made clear our intent to negotiate a new relationship with the European Union which will then be put to the British people in an in/out referendum. Of course, it is too early to be specific about the changes we will seek in that negotiation, but I am clear that the decision to opt out of these justice and home affairs measures in 2014 does not leave us with the ideal settlement—far from it. Significant problems still need to be addressed, such as the interpretation and enforcement of free movement rules, the creative way in which measures agreed by nation states are subsequently interpreted, and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab) rose

Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mrs May: I give way first to the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee.

Keith Vaz: I am most grateful to the Home Secretary. May I thank her for engaging in a fruitful discussion about the motion with me and the Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee? The Chairman of the Liaison Committee was abroad, so he could not be part of those discussions. Will the Home Secretary confirm that she really needs a vote of the House today in order to start her negotiations? Would it not be far better to have the scrutiny of the Select Committees, for which she allows until 31 October in her motion, and then have a vote that gives her the mandate she seeks?

Mrs May: The point is that this is a two-stage process. It has been made clear to us by the European Commission that it will not start the discussions about certain aspects of our proposals—for example, looking at transitional arrangements—until it is clear that the UK intends to opt out. That is why it is necessary for the Government to exercise the opt-out. In a little while, I will explain the commitments that were made to Parliament, which we are indeed abiding by today, but there will be a second opportunity for Parliament to vote on the number and content of any measures that we seek to opt into. The Government have given their current indication of what we think those measures should be. As our motion says, we look forward to the scrutiny by the European Scrutiny Committee and the two other Select Committees, which will inform our judgment before we enter formal negotiations.

Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood) (Con): Will the Home Secretary confirm that if the House votes tonight for her motion she will immediately notify the European Commission that this country has decided to use the block opt-out?

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Mrs May: I can confirm to my hon. Friend that the mandate we are seeking tonight will indeed lead to the UK exercising its opt-out.

Mr Ian Davidson (Glasgow South West) (Lab/Co-op) rose

Mr Jenkin rose

Mrs May: I said that I would give way to my hon. Friend.

Mr Jenkin: I thank my right hon. Friend, who is being very generous. I welcome her words about the importance of this House maintaining control over these matters, but we lose control over them in perpetuity if we opt back into any of the measures. That therefore represents a permanent transfer of sovereignty that the current situation does not represent. Do I take it from her comments on the renegotiation that what the coalition agrees to opt back into would not be subject to renegotiation by a future Conservative Government? It would seem rather incredible to believe that a British Prime Minister could opt into something in one Parliament and then in the next Parliament go back and say, “No, we want to opt out again after all.”

Mrs May: The whole point about the renegotiation that we as the Conservative party have announced we will be undertaking is that we achieve a new settlement in terms of the relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union. We have our views on the future of the European Union as well. Those views have been very ably expressed by the Prime Minister in speeches that he has made. As part of that renegotiation, it would be odd indeed, and colleagues would question it, if the Conservative party, as part of its commitment, said, “We will renegotiate, but not these bits.” We will renegotiate the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union. I should add, in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Strood (Mark Reckless), who asked about the opt-out, that the House of Lords will also debate this matter on Monday.

Mr Jenkin: My right hon. Friend seems to be saying that we will opt out of the European arrest warrant and then we might opt back into it and then we might opt out of it again. Is that what she is saying?

Mrs May: My hon. Friend may find it rather strange that we have to opt out and then try to opt back in, but that is precisely because of the system that was negotiated by the previous Labour Government. It is not possible for us to opt out of every measure apart from, for example, the European arrest warrant; as I will explain, we have to opt out of everything and then choose to opt into some measures.

Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): The Home Secretary is being extremely generous in giving way. Those of us who are keen to see some of the opt-ins are very concerned about the time gap between the opt-out and the opt-in. Will she assure us that it will be as brief as possible, particularly so that, for example, Rob Wainwright, the director of Europol, does not accidentally lose his job because we are out for a few minutes?

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Mrs May: My hon. Friend raises a very important and valid point. It is our intention––and we expect to be able––to work with the European Commission in order to ensure that the transition period for any measures that we want to opt back into is as smooth and as short as possible. It is clear that the Commission will not start properly to look at those transition arrangements until we are clear that we are going to opt out and then try to opt back in.

Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): An opt-out from all the measures would be very popular on the Conservative side in this House and outside. That is what we want to do, because we do not trust Europe to boss us around and take our democracy from us. Why not vote for the opt-out today and then vote on any possible opt-back-ins after the consultation and consideration at a later day?

Mrs May: That is exactly what the motion is intended to do.

Mr William Cash (Stone) (Con) rose

Mrs May: I give way to the Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee.

Mr Cash: I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way. Her response to the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) seemed to suggest that the speed with which he advocates the sorting out of the opt-ins might truncate the amount of scrutiny that is needed. I thought, as a result of the amendment tabled by me and other Select Committee Chairmen to the original motion, we had established that progress had been made on that point. Will my right hon. Friend make the situation clear?

Mrs May: I am happy to make it clear and sorry if my remarks to my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge led my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr Cash) to interpret my response in that way, because that was certainly not my intention. I will specify more clearly the process as I see it in due course.

Naomi Long (Belfast East) (Alliance): Will the Home Secretary give way?

Mrs May: I have been extremely generous to Members. I may be prepared to take some interventions later in my speech, but I want to make some progress.

Before I took a number of interventions, I mentioned the European Court of Justice. I also want to refer to the European Court of Human Rights, which contradicts laws passed by our Parliament, overrules judgments made by our courts, and interprets the articles of the original convention on human rights in an expansionist way. That is totally unacceptable. I therefore believe that we also have to consider very carefully this country’s relationship with Strasbourg as well as our relationship with Brussels. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Justice Secretary is working on that particular issue.

Before I turn to the policy detail of the 2014 decision, I want to address the role of Parliament in making it. I know hon. Members have had some concerns about this, and I hope I can provide some reassurance, including

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to my hon. Friend the Member for Stone, the Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, about the process we will undertake.

Under the terms of the Lisbon treaty, which the previous Government signed in 2007, the United Kingdom has until 31 May 2014 to decide whether to opt out of about 130 justice and home affairs measures covered by the treaty. If we do, the opt-out will come into effect on 1 December 2014. As I have indicated in response to earlier interventions, it is not possible to opt out of individual measures. The opt-out must be exercised en masse, after which we may seek to rejoin any measures in which we would like to participate. This would be subject to negotiation with the European Commission and other member states. As I confirmed in my statement last week, the Government intend to exercise the opt-out. We then plan to seek to rejoin a limited set of measures that underpin practical co-operation in the fight against crime.

The Government have always said that we will give Parliament time to scrutinise that decision properly. In his statement in January 2011—

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): Will the Home Secretary give way?

Mrs May: I have not explained the point yet, so I suggest that the hon. Gentleman waits to hear what I am going to say.

In his statement in January 2011, the Minister for Europe, my right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr Lidington) said:

“Parliament should have the right to give its view on a decision of such importance. The Government therefore commit to a vote in both Houses of Parliament before they make a formal decision on whether they wish to opt out.”—[Official Report, 20 January 2011; Vol. 521, c. 51WS.]

Today’s vote is the fulfilment of that commitment. It is, as the wording of the motion makes clear, the vote on whether the Government should exercise the right to opt out. The decision about which measures the UK should seek to rejoin is separate, so there will be a second, separate vote on that matter. We have published that set of measures, along with explanatory memorandums, in Command Paper 8671, last week.

Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab) rose

Pete Wishart rose

Mrs May: I give way to the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Wayne David).

Wayne David: The Home Secretary quoted the Minister for Europe’s statement of January 2011, but she did not mention that he went on to say:

“The Government will conduct further consultations on the arrangements for this vote, in particular with the European Scrutiny Committees, and the Commons and Lords Home Affairs and Justice Select Committees”.—[Official Report, 20 January 2011; Vol. 521, c. 51WS.]

Will she tell us whether those discussions took place, as promised two years ago?

Mrs May: We are going to ensure, as the motion suggests, that the Scrutiny Committee and the two Select Committees have the opportunity properly to

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scrutinise the set of measures, and there will be two votes in the House. We have always been clear that Parliament and its Committees should have adequate time to scrutinise the set of measures. That work does not need to be done before today’s vote, because today’s vote is about the decision to exercise the opt-out.

Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD) rose

Pete Wishart rose

Mrs May: I give way to the Chairman of the Select Committee.

Sir Alan Beith: I am grateful to the right hon. Lady. I can confirm that I was consulted about the voting arrangements, but that was only last week and it took place by telephone because I was out of the country. That consultation took place only a week ago. What happened to the commitment that, by February this year, the Committees would be given explanatory memorandums on which to base their work on the opt-ins?

Mrs May: I have already said to the right hon. Gentleman and to others who have raised the issue of the explanatory memorandums that I am sorry that it was not possible to produce them at an earlier date. We have looked at the time available for scrutiny by the Select Committees and the Scrutiny Committee, and for the second vote on the potential measures that we might choose to opt back into. The explanatory memorandums were made available last week, and they are available to the Committees in their consideration of any measures that the Government should opt into or seek to rejoin. That information has now been made available and I hope that it will be able to inform the Committees’ considerations.

Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on asking us to vote on this opt-out today, but I am a little confused about the question of opting back in. We on this side do not like block votes, so will we be able to vote on each individual measure when we decide whether to opt back into them?

Mrs May: The decision on the form that that vote will take has not yet been made, but I am well aware of the views of some Members on that matter.

I said in my statement last week:

“Following our discussions in Europe, another vote will be held on the final list of measures that the UK will formally apply to rejoin.”—[Official Report, 9 July 2013; Vol. 566, c. 177.]

But, to make this commitment absolutely crystal clear, and to reassure hon. Members who were worried about the role of the Committees in scrutinising the Government’s plans to rejoin the selected measures, we have listened to the points that were raised—I was grateful to the Chairmen of the European Scrutiny Committee and the Home Affairs Select Committee for the conversations that I had with them; the Chairman of the Justice Committee was indeed abroad—and we have tabled a new motion for today’s debate. That new motion explicitly invites the European Scrutiny Committee and the Home Affairs and Justice Committees to submit reports before the end of October, in advance of the Government opening

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formal discussions with the European Commission and other member states. I therefore hope the new motion will receive wide support from hon. Members across the House.

Mr Davidson: I am grateful to the Home Secretary for giving way to a Scottish Member. To clarify, if reports are being produced for the Committees, will those Committees be asked to produce individual responses? If they produce individual responses, does it not make sense to have individual votes on particular items, rather than simply taking them in a lump?

Mrs May: It is not for me to suggest to the Scrutiny Committee or the Select Committees how they may wish to report on this matter; it will be entirely up to the membership of those Committees what reports they choose to bring to the House.

Stephen Phillips (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): My right hon. Friend has set out the timetable, but under the relevant paragraph of the protocol there is no opt-in to those measures that the United Kingdom wants to opt into until 2 December 2014. Indeed, there is no indication that the Commission has to negotiate before that date because of the way the article is framed. Has the Commission indicated that it will negotiate with the UK Government on those measures we wish to opt back into?

Mrs May: The Commission is clear that any work that would be undertaken would take place before that date, but it wants to be clear that the UK Government have decided to opt out. Without that it is not possible to have proper discussions on proposals to opt back in.

A vote today on the decision to exercise the opt-out will show other European nations that the Government have the support of Parliament in exercising the opt-out, it will give the Government a strong hand in our negotiations with the EU, and it will show that we are serious about bringing powers back home. It will allow us to start informal discussions with the Commission and other member states, but no formal negotiations will begin until the Committees have done their work. The House will, of course, vote again on the final list of measures that we will formally apply to opt back into.

Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab) rose

Pete Wishart rose

Mrs May: I apologise to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe), but I will give way to the hon. Gentleman from the SNP.

Pete Wishart: I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for finally giving way to a Member from a minority party—the hon. Member for Belfast East (Naomi Long) is waiting too. The Home Secretary has said on several occasions that she is speaking on behalf of the whole United Kingdom when it comes to these measures, but she will know that there is great unhappiness in the Scottish Government, Police Scotland, and the whole legal profession about this opt-out. Why was there so little consultation with the Scottish Government, why did they know nothing about this until last week, and why is she indulging in such UKIP-ery?

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Mrs May: It is not the case that the Scottish Government knew nothing about this until last week. The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (James Brokenshire), visited Scotland in January and met the Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, and ACPO Scotland. He also visited Northern Ireland and met the Justice Minister, David Ford, to discuss these issues in relation to Northern Ireland.

Naomi Long: Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Mrs May: I will. The hon. Lady has waited patiently.

Naomi Long: Will the Home Secretary confirm, as she failed to do last week when I questioned her on this matter, that the Justice Minister in Northern Ireland is not reassured by what he has heard in discussions with the Home Office about the operation of the European arrest warrant?

Mrs May: As I believe I said last week during my statement in response to a similar question from the hon. Lady, I am aware that concern has been expressed about the European arrest warrant because of the importance—I intend to refer to this a little later—of the operation of that arrest warrant between the United Kingdom, and particularly between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. A lot of concern expressed previously was when it was thought that the Government would not propose to try to opt back into the European arrest warrant. Of course we must have further discussions with relevant Ministers in Northern Ireland on this matter.

I turn now to the substance of the debate. The Government will exercise the opt-out, but as I announced last week and have said today, we propose to seek to opt back into 35 measures where we believe it is in the national interest to participate. My right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Justice, the Minister for Government Policy and the Minister for Europe and I have listened to the views of the law enforcement agencies, have considered the civil liberties of British subjects and have been mindful of how the European institutions, particularly the Court of Justice, operate, and to borrow a phrase coined by my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab), who has particular knowledge of and expertise in these matters, we have pursued a policy of seeking “co-operation not control”—for example, it is not for Europe to impose minimum standards on our police and criminal justice system. There are therefore more than 20 minimum standards measures that we will not seek to rejoin.

Likewise, we should not pretend that all these measures facilitate cross-border co-operation; they do not. Where they do not—as with the measure on counterfeiting, for example—we will not seek to opt back in. Furthermore, the last Government signed us up to the Prum decisions on the identification of DNA, fingerprint and vehicle registration documents, but then did nothing to implement them. Rejoining now would leave the UK open to a fine that would run into millions of pounds, so we will not rejoin those measures. Lastly, I want to make it absolutely clear that we will do nothing that leads to the establishment of a European public prosecutor or anything akin to a European police force.

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Mr James Clappison (Hertsmere) (Con): I welcome the points that my right hon. Friend has just made. Will she bear it in mind that this is part of the EU’s overall ambition to establish an area of freedom, security and justice in which the European institutions, not this House, take the decisions, and European Courts, not our courts, take the legal decisions?

Mrs May: My hon. Friend is right to be concerned about the indications of some of the intentions about the future of Europe. We have made it clear—it is in our coalition agreement—that we will not support anything that, for example, establishes a European public prosecutor, which we do not believe is the right way to go. Furthermore, on the new Europol regulation, which I will mention later and on which we will have a further debate tonight led by the security Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (James Brokenshire), we do not wish, as I said, to do anything that leads to anything akin to a European police force.

We have concluded, however, that some of the measures in the opt-out decision help us to tackle crime and keep our country safe, and we should therefore seek to opt back into them. We believe that there are 35 such measures, as I indicated last week. I will deal first with the most controversial of the measures we plan to opt back into: the European arrest warrant. It is a controversial measure because, although we clearly need strong extradition arrangements in place to see justice done, when extradition arrangements are wrong, they can have a detrimental effect on our civil liberties. Hon Members, especially my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes), will remember that last year I stopped the extradition of Gary McKinnon and then secured changes to the operation of our extradition arrangements with the United States.

I believe that the operation of the European arrest warrant is in similar need of change, which is why I propose new safeguards to increase the protection offered to those wanted for extradition through the European arrest warrant. First, as I indicated earlier, the Government have tabled amendments to the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, which is currently in Committee in this House, to ensure that an arrest warrant can be refused for minor crimes. Secondly, we will work with other member states to enforce their fines and ensure that, where possible, an investigation order is used instead of an arrest warrant, meaning that police forces and prosecutors would share evidence and information without requiring the extradition of a suspect at the investigative stage.

Thirdly, I will amend extradition legislation to ensure that people in the UK can only be extradited under the European arrest warrant when the requesting member state has already made a decision to charge and a decision to try, unless that person’s presence is required in that jurisdiction for those decisions to be made. Fourthly, I will amend our law to make it clear that in cases where part of the alleged conduct took place in the UK and where that conduct is not criminal here, the judge must refuse extradition for that conduct. Fifthly, I want to ensure that people who consent to extradition do not lose their right not to be prosecuted for other offences.

Sixthly, we propose that the prisoner transfer framework decision should be used to its fullest extent so that British subjects extradited and convicted can be returned

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to serve their sentence here. Seventhly, where a British subject has been convicted and sentenced abroad—for example, in their absence—and is the subject of an arrest warrant, we will ask, with their permission, for the warrant to be withdrawn and will use the prisoner transfer arrangements instead. Eighthly, I plan either to allow the temporary transfer of a consenting person so that they can be interviewed by the issuing state’s authorities or to allow them to do this through means such as video-conferencing in the UK. Where the suspect is innocent, this should lead to the extradition request being withdrawn.

Those are all changes that can be made in our own law, and which could have been made at any time by the Labour party.

Sir Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend and I apologise for not being here at the outset. The safeguards she mentions, which we intend to enshrine in English law, are welcome. However, the European arrest warrant will become subject to the European Court of Justice. What assurances can she give the House that the safeguards will not be challengeable by the European Court of Justice, and therefore annulled?

Mrs May: My hon. Friend is right that if we opt back into the European arrest warrant it will be subject to the European Court of Justice. However, I suggest he look at other EU countries that already have similar measures, certainly in terms of proportionality, and operate them without any question of whether it is right for them to be so operated. I believe it is possible for us to put these measures into our law and do so in a way that provides extra safeguards for British citizens. Many of the changes reflect the policies of other member states, which means we can have confidence in their durability. Co-operation across borders in the fight against crime is vital, but it must not come at the expense of the civil liberties of British subjects. I believe that the Government’s programme of reform will get the balance right.

Nick Herbert (Arundel and South Downs) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mrs May: I will make just a little more progress and then give way to my right hon. Friend.

It is important to remember that we need robust extradition arrangements in place. Since 2009 alone, the arrest warrant has been used to extradite from the United Kingdom 57 suspects for child sex offences, 86 for rape and 105 for murder. In the same period, 63 suspected child sex offenders, 27 suspected rapists and 44 suspected murderers were extradited back to Britain to face charges. A number of those suspects would probably never have been extradited back to Britain without the arrest warrant.

Nick Herbert: Hon. Members are understandably concerned about the constitutional implications of the changes, but I support my right hon. Friend’s stance. Is it not important to reflect on the implications of not participating in the European arrest warrant? Having separate arrangements with all 28 countries of the EU would tie the hands of our own law enforcement agencies and make it harder for them to bring potentially serious

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criminals to justice, increasing cost and delay. Should we not focus on the benefits of some multinational co-operation, as well as some of the risks?

Mrs May: My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. He refers to delay, and there are very good examples of the EAW enabling speedier extradition. Hussain Osman, one of the failed 21/7 bombers from 2005, was extradited back to this country from Italy in less than eight weeks. As I indicated earlier in response to an intervention, the authorities in Northern Ireland tell us that the arrest warrant, together with other measures, plays an important role in underpinning their work with the Republic of Ireland in tackling the constant threat of terrorism. My right hon. Friend is absolutely right that those who say we should not be taking these measures and should not participate in the arrest warrant—I recognise and respect that some hon. Members are against our participation in the arrest warrant—need to say what they would do to secure the return to Britain of terrorist suspects who deserve to face justice, or to prevent foreign criminals evading justice by hiding in Britain. As long as we have adequate safeguards to protect the civil liberties of British subjects, we need robust extradition arrangements with other European countries, and that is what the arrest warrant gives us.

Mr Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend assist me by explaining Norway and Switzerland’s position on the current arrangements? Why is this help not necessary for Iceland, but necessary for Ireland?

Mrs May: Of course some countries negotiate arrangements with other countries—indeed, we have individual arrangements with countries outside the EU —but if we had to negotiate separate bilateral agreements with all 27 other member states, why does my hon. Friend think that they would work any better than the arrest warrant? Would that suddenly improve the level of justice in certain countries or speed up the system? On the contrary; I think it would be likely to slow it down. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) said, all sorts of problems with speed and cost could ensue, and we would risk being unable to bring foreign nationals back here to the United Kingdom.

Wayne David rose

Mrs May: I have been very indulgent, but I will give way one last time to the hon. Gentleman.

Wayne David: The Home Secretary has outlined the changes to the European arrest warrant that she would like to make unilaterally, but what changes would she like to make at a European level?

Mrs May: I have been discussing with other member states the operation of the European arrest warrant and the possibility of some changes being made to it. Some member states are looking at the way they operate the European arrest warrant and may change some of their legislation to make it better for us in terms of proportionality. We are talking to other member states that might also be taking powers to introduce proportionality in a way that reduces the number of trivial crimes for which European arrest warrants are issued into the United Kingdom.

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Steve Baker (Wycombe) (Con): A few moments ago my right hon. Friend talked about a number of serious offenders whom she said might not have been extradited were it not for the arrest warrant. As that seems to be part of her positive case for opting into the arrest warrant, can she be clear what the difference is—for those of us who are perhaps not experts in this area—between the arrest warrant and other extradition arrangements?

Mrs May: Following the introduction of the European arrest warrant, there is a clear difference between the extradition arrangements in Europe now and those that previously existed, which came under the banner of the Council of Europe. One of the key issues is the level of delay that occurs; the European arrest warrant can be exercised much more quickly. I cited the case of the failed 21/7 bomber who was extradited from Italy in eight weeks. Before the introduction of the European arrest warrant, that could have taken a considerable period of time—many months and potentially years. The ability to extradite more quickly is one of the advantages of the European arrest warrant.

Sir Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills) (Con): The difficulty has always been the concept of the mutual recognition of different legal systems. The assumption is that we are working on the same premises, but we are not doing that across Europe. All the evidence given to the Joint Committee on Human Rights—whose opinion I hope my right hon. Friend will ask for as well—was about the victims of the system as it works now. Why can we have mutual recognition of legal systems that many people across Europe do not think are equivalent to ours in terms of standards of justice and court procedure?

Mrs May: My hon. Friend raises an important point. It is exactly that issue in a number of areas—for example, pre-trial detention—that right hon. and hon. Members have raised as a key concern about the operation of the European arrest warrant. There are member states that have been extraditing individuals before they have properly investigated the case and before they have the evidence to charge and try them. That has often led to British citizens waiting for many months in jails abroad while the investigation took place. It is why one of the changes I wish to make to the operation of the European arrest warrant here in the UK would enable judges to discharge the extradition request if the requesting country had not taken a decision to charge and a decision to try the individual.

Mr David Blunkett (Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough) (Lab) rose

Mrs May: I give way to the former Home Secretary.

Mr Blunkett: I am grateful to the Home Secretary, who has been generous in taking a considerable number of interventions. I would like to reinforce her point about the time it took before the European arrest warrant. I think even the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Sir Richard Shepherd) would accept that the French jurisdiction was a reasonable place to which to extradite people, but will the Home Secretary confirm that before the European arrest warrant, we had one case that took

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nine years? With the frustrations in that case—and not only those of Ministers—and the damage it did not only to the relationship with France but to the course of justice, it was common sense to try to get a better system operating across Europe.

Mrs May: The right hon. Gentleman has put the point very well, and I am sure the whole House has listened to the example he provided. It is exactly such examples that make me think it right for us to ensure that we have a system that is better to operate. As he says, this is not only about relationships between Governments, but about the course of justice. That is why we want to ensure the more suitable, proper and swifter extradition arrangements that the EAW provides.

I said that our proposed list of measures for opting in was chosen because the measures would improve the practical fight against crime and the co-operation to achieve it. We of course await the views of the Scrutiny Committee and the Select Committees, but, for example, we want our law enforcement agencies to be able to establish joint investigation teams with colleagues in other European countries; we plan to rejoin the European supervision order, which allows British subjects to be bailed back to the UK rather than spend months and months abroad awaiting trial; and the second-generation Schengen information system—a new way of sharing law enforcement alerts throughout Europe—has the capacity to bring significant savings to our criminal justice system, as well as make it easier to identify foreign criminals. Again, this is just a question of practical co-operation, so the Government plan to join the database. I hope the House will see from the list of measures that the vast majority of what the Government propose to opt back into is uncontroversial, and based on the very sensible principle of “co-operation not control”.

I want to reiterate the Government’s position on Europol. As I mentioned earlier, the House will debate its future later tonight. The Government believe that Europol does excellent work under its British director, Rob Wainwright, which is why we propose to rejoin Europol in its existing form as part of the 2014 decision. There is a separate decision to be taken about Europol, and tonight’s debate will not be about the organisation in its current form but in its proposed future form. As things stand, the Commission proposes to change Europol’s governance and powers, potentially allowing it to direct national police forces and requiring us to share sensitive intelligence crucial to our national security. I believe that would be entirely unacceptable. These powers are unnecessary and would undermine our way of policing—and Europol has not even asked for them. The motive of the Commission appears to be nothing more than state-building. That is why we will not opt into the new Europol regulation and will never do so until those concerns have been put beyond doubt.

Some of my hon. Friends have been keen for me to address the question of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. I have mentioned it already, but let me look at the issue once again. Between 1995 and the end of November 2009, 136 measures in the field of police and criminal justice were adopted in Brussels under the so-called third pillar. This meant that they were not the usual EU Acts and were not subject to either Commission enforcement powers or the full jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. As a result, we could not be told by others that we had not implemented things properly

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and we could not be fined millions of pounds as a result. There were no European Court rulings that bound us, and we had a veto in negotiations.

When the last Government signed the Lisbon treaty, they changed the constitutional basis of the European Union, giving more powers over police and criminal justice matters to European institutions, and removing our veto in police and criminal justice. Now, at the end of a five-year transitional period on 1 December 2014, these pre-Lisbon measures become subject to Commission enforcement powers and the full jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

In fact, the whole justice and home affairs structure since Lisbon takes too much control away from elected national Governments. The Commission or the Council propose a measure, and the UK has the right to decide not to opt in, but if we decide that the measure is in the national interest and we do opt in, we are subject not only to qualified majority voting in the Council but to co-legislation rules in which the European Parliament is considered to be an equal to the Council of Ministers. Elected national Governments are sidelined—and that is before we even consider the role of the European Court of Justice in interpreting the measure once it becomes binding.

Mark Reckless: Is the Home Secretary aware of the European Union Act 2011 in the context of what is required for a referendum? Section 4(1)(i) refers to

“the conferring on an EU institution or body of power to impose a requirement or obligation on the United Kingdom”;

while (j) refers to

“the conferring on an EU institution or body of new or extended power to impose sanctions on the United Kingdom”.

Surely an opt-in to the various 35 measures will do that and should trigger a referendum.

Mrs May: Let me give my hon. Friend the answer that I gave when the matter was last raised with me. I do not believe that opting back into these measures would trigger a referendum under the powers that the Government have. However, I think Members should welcome the Government’s statement that no future United Kingdom Government will sign a treaty unless a suitable vote is held among the British people.

The issues involving justice and home affairs to which I referred earlier are being considered in the Government’s “balance of competences” review. Undoubtedly the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice will need to be considered when, after the election, a future Conservative Government renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the European Union; but the choice that is before us now is binary. We are a coalition Government with no mandate to seek a renegotiation of our relationship with Europe. We must make a choice about whether, having exercised our right to opt out of these measures, we should seek to opt back into any of them—knowing that we would be subject to the junction of the European Court of Justice—if we think that they are in the national interest.

I acknowledge the risks involved in being subject to the European Court, but when it comes to the arrest warrant, I am also aware of the very significant risks of having no framework within which we can extradite criminals to and from Britain. Let me repeat that

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anyone who says that ECJ jurisdiction is too high a price must say how they would cope without that extradition framework.

It would be remiss of me to participate in the debate without highlighting the absurdity of the position of Labour Members. They have attacked our decision to exercise the opt-out, but it was the last Government who negotiated the opt-out in the first place. Their amendment demands that we opt into various specific measures, but the former Home Secretary the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Alan Johnson) admits that the reason for our having to opt out of all these measures en masse is the failure of Labour’s negotiating strategy.

Labour Members now admit that the arrest warrant is in need of reform, but they did not do a thing to change its operation when they were in office. They question our negotiating strategy, but it was they who did not just sign us up to the Lisbon treaty but wanted to sign the constitutional treaty that went before it. They imply that somehow the Government are not tough on crime, but our police reforms are working, and crime is falling. They have no policies, no ideas, and nothing to say. They are completely and utterly irrelevant.

Let me end as I began, by reminding the House what this debate is about. It is about the fact that, for the first time in 40 years, a British Government are bringing powers back from Brussels. Of course we should not stop there, and, like many members of my party, I am impatient for more. That is one reason why it is so important for us to have a Conservative majority Government at the next election. Even as a coalition, however, this Government have delivered the first ever cut in a European budget, have vetoed a European treaty, and have put into law a clear guarantee that no more powers will pass to Europe without a referendum of the British people; and now we are bringing powers back home.

A vote in favour of the Government’s motion will send a clear signal to the Commission and the other member states that Britain is serious about bringing powers back home, and it will strengthen our negotiating position in Brussels. The House will have an opportunity in future to vote on the final list of measures that we will seek to rejoin, but a vote in favour of the motion today is a vote in favour of exercising the opt-out. I therefore call on Members on both sides of the House to support the motion, and to vote with the Government.

4.23 pm

Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab): There is a serious debate to be had about European crime and justice, about how we should tackle cross-border crime, and about where we should work with Europe and where we should operate alone. On many issues we will agree with the Government, and on some we will not. There is clearly disagreement within the Government, and within the Conservative party.

These issues are extremely important, and Parliament needs to hold a serious debate before being asked to reach a conclusion, but that is not what is happening today. Instead, the House of Commons is being asked to endorse the Home Secretary’s plan for an opt-out, and her negotiating strategy in relation to opting back in, less than a week after she set out her plan. She has

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had three years in which to think about the opt-out, and she gave the House three working days before calling for this vote.

The Select Committees have repeatedly asked the Home Secretary for the lists of measures, and have not been given them. She produced them only on Tuesday. When we called a debate on the European arrest warrant some weeks ago, she said:

“This is an important decision, and not one that we should rush into lightly”.—[Official Report, 12 June 2013; Vol. 564, c. 421.]

So why is she rushing the House today? Why was this debate arranged by an emergency business statement? Ten days ago the Leader of the House said the business for today would be the Defence Reform Bill. What changed in less than a week? What made this an emergency that could not have been planned many weeks, if not many months, ahead?

Members have had no chance to seek the views of law enforcement experts on the list the Home Secretary has set out, no chance to seek the views of European and constitutional experts on the implications, no chance to find out whether transitional arrangements will be needed and what risks might be attached to them, and no chance to explore the financial penalty to Britain of pulling out. There has also been no chance for those who have concerns about the European arrest warrant to assess the impact of her reforms, and also no chance for those who support the European arrest warrant, as we do, to make sure that it will not be put at risk by those transitional arrangements or by opposition from the Commission in the negotiations.

And why do we need a vote today to endorse the Home Secretary’s plan? She does not need it to start negotiations. In fact she told the House of Commons in October that negotiations had already started. She does not need it to start the formal process with the Commission either. In fact her own motion—the second and latest motion, which she tabled in even more of a rush than the first one when it became clear that she was facing difficulties and opposition—says the Select Committees shall report

“before the end of October, before the Government opens formal discussions with the Commission, Council and other Member States”.

If she is not going to start formal negotiations until October, why on earth is there such a rush to endorse her strategy today?

The Home Secretary has not told us what status the Select Committee reports will have, or whether she might change her list once they have reported. She has said that there might be another vote in October once the Select Committees have reported, in which case why are we having this initial vote now? This looks like a bounce—an attempt to bounce Parliament; an attempt to get a rushed endorsement of her strategy without Parliament having a proper chance to consider what is going on. If she was serious about the parliamentary scrutiny to which she belatedly made reference in her second motion, she would agree that this vote on the Government’s strategy should be delayed and maximum scope should be given to the Select Committees to look both at opt-out and opt-in.

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Wayne David: My right hon. Friend has suggested that there may be an attempt to bounce the House into making this decision, but does she think there is a possibility that the Conservative party Government want to have as little debate as possible on this issue because of divisions within the Conservatives’ own ranks?

Yvette Cooper: My hon. Friend is right that that is what it looks like. Why else would there have been such late notice that we were going to have this debate at all today? We have had plenty of discussions over many months about the European arrest warrant and the opt-in, opt-out process. Everybody has known that this was coming, so why was this the subject for an emergency business statement? We have had very few emergency business statements in this Parliament, yet this somehow qualified for one. That raises questions as to whether this was about political party management rather than having proper respect for the House.

Pete Wishart: Can we clarify the Labour position? Would Labour opt out of the EU policing and human affairs chapters if these conditions were met? Would the Labour party opt out of these measures?

Yvette Cooper: I am going to come on to the substance because our view is that we should not be opting out without proper guarantees and assurances in place about the key measures we think it is vital to be opted into.

Let me turn to the substance of the plan. Clearly, without time for scrutiny it is hard for the House to take a view on the mix of measures and the overall plan. I welcome the Home Secretary’s proposal to opt back into some of the measures, and I am glad she has ignored the Eurosceptic voices and has chosen to support the European arrest warrant. She is right about the seriousness of the cases in which it has been applied, and to support the arrest of Arunas Cervinskas, returned from Britain to Ireland after his attempted rape and serious assault of an 18-year-old girl, and the arrest only a few days ago of Mark Lilley, who was found hidden in a luxury Spanish villa after 13 years on the run for drug smuggling and dealing. He will soon be back in the UK to face his long prison sentence. Then there is the example that the Home Secretary used last week and again today of Hussain Osman, who was extradited back to the UK, after attempting to blow up a tube train, in less than two months. She is right to say that we cannot go back to the days when it took 10 years to extradite a terror suspect to France or when it took 11 years to get Ronnie Knight back from the costa del crime.

I am glad, too, that the Home Secretary has ignored the Eurosceptic voices and decided to support joint investigation teams; she has decided to support Operation Golf, in which 126 suspects from a Romanian crime gang were arrested for benefit fraud, money laundering and child neglect, and more than 270 trafficking victims were saved. We cannot go back to the days when foreign crime gangs were untouchable, allowed to damage our society or cause serious harm to victims. So I am glad that she has decided to ignore the Eurosceptic Back Benchers—to ignore the Fresh Start group—and instead to agree with the arguments made by Labour Members, by the police and by the Liberal Democrats.