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Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I have two questions for the Minister. First, there have been speculations in the febrile Eurosceptic press that the new European police forceEuropolwill have immunity for its actions. I have not been able to find that in the treaty, annexes, declarations or whatever, but I may not have been sufficiently studious. I wonder whether the Minister could set our minds at rest on this point.
Secondly, in view of my earlier remarks about the consistent gradual progress towards the EU mega-state that many of us are convinced lies at the end of this process of treaty-making, does the Minister agree that the framework decision to which my noble friend Lord Waddington referred, and which has been so roundly condemned by many people in this country, is the first step on the way to corpus juris? Corpus juris, as Latin scholars among noble Lords will be aware, was the name given to the body of law by which the Romans controlled their empire. Therefore, the ambition and arrogance of our friends in Brussels when they name the whole process of judicial co-operation "Europol", "Eurojust" and all the other confusing ways in which they express it appears to have in mind a body of law which controls the new federal European state.
As to the arrest warrant itself, I understand that there is a framework decision, some of whichperhaps the noble Baroness will correct me if I am wronghas already been agreed one way or another in COREPER or in events surrounding the Laeken conference. As I understand it, the elements of the framework decision on the arrest warrant which have been agreed are that a United Kingdom citizen can be extradited from this country to stand trial without habeas corpus or a jury in any of the other European countries purely on the say-so of the issuing magistrate in that other country. I also understand that the crime of xenophobia, to which my noble friend Lord Waddington referred, and, indeed, the crime of trafficking in rare plants, and several other crimes which are not defined in British law, such as swindling and so on, will be defined purely by the issuing magistrate. A British court will have no say over whether it is satisfied that a crime has been committed, and the Home Secretary will lose his discretion as to whether a British citizen should be extradited.
As I understand itagain, perhaps the noble Baroness will correct me, although I know that it is not quite her field; I fear that it may be more a Home Office matterthe Government have said that they are bringing forward the arrest warrant as part of primary legislation in an extradition Bill. But I fear that that is not being wholly honest with the British people if the elements to which I referred in the framework decision have already been agreed. I accept
Therefore, the Written Question which I asked this week, and to which I received an Answer that I do not understand, is: what is left for the national parliaments to decide on the arrest warrant? The elements that I have laid before your Lordships are, I believe, now set in stone, or at least the cement is drying very quickly. What do we have left to decide? Can we, for example, decide that we cannot be arrested for a crime abroad which is not a crime in this country? Can we be extradited for one crime and tried for another? Or can we be tried for a crime which we committed in this country but which is not a crime in this country? If the noble Baroness is able to give them, those would be helpful answers because it would show your Lordships and the world at large just how far down the road towards corpus juris we have already travelled, whether we like it or not.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, there is a good deal of concern in relation to these provisions and what many people term the "creeping corporatism" of the EU. Many offences have already been removed from the ability to be tried by jury. But the Government have not yet finished. They say that they will not accept the view of this House, expressed, I believe, on at least one occasion, that we do not want to see any further whittling away of trial by jury. However, the Government say that they are not prepared to accept that and that they will bring forward further measures to reduce the ability of people who are accused to be tried by their peers.
Many of us are concerned that that is all part of the idea of European judicial and, indeed, policy co-operation. I should like the noble Baroness to say whether trial by jury and the further whittling away of the ability of people to be tried by jury is part of what the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, described as "progress towards corpus juris".
The noble Lord, Lord Waddington, mentioned a number of matters which concern him. He is concerned that when the Nice treaty goes into operation we may move towards a situation where matters which we have almost laughed at in this country will be considered to be criminal offences; for example, xenophobia. Damn it, not so very long ago very few people in Britain knew what xenophobia meant. Now we find that we may be arrested under the European arrest warrant, to which reference has been made, because of the crime of xenophobia. God knows what it will mean, but there it appears among the huge list in the framework document, which I have obtained from the Printed Paper Office.
I have to say that when I read that document I was amazed at the scope of the arrest warrant. I believed that it would be confined to certain issues such as trafficking in human beings, drug trafficking or illicit trafficking in weapons, munitions and explosives. But that is not so. Corruption is one of the offences
I believe that we are completely right to be concerned about the extension of jurisdiction within this treaty. Although I realise that inter-governmental co-operation is still required, there is a creeping attempt to bring the whole matter within the treaty. Once it is within the treaty, it will grow and grow like Topsy until we sacrifice our own tried and tested system of law and adopt a system which, in the view of many, including myself, is totally unsatisfactory, undermines the freedom of the individual and does not guarantee a fair and free trial.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, it was the Tampere European Council in October 1999 that agreed to set up Eurojust. As the Nice Declaration makes clear, the intention was to improve co-operation between national prosecutors, aiding criminal investigations into serious organised crime. It does not, as one noble Lord suggested during our exchanges, try to establish a supranational euro police force. It is about inter-governmental co-operation for the good of all our citizens. Therefore, expressed very simply, Eurojust is a structure intended to facilitate co-operation between governments.
The noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, then asked what is the purpose of Article 31(e). Organised crime long ago stopped respecting national boundaries. We strongly support Eurojust and the benefits it will bring in tackling organised crime more effectively. In quoting Article 31(e) the noble Lord answered his own question. It is about progressively adopting measures establishing minimum rules relating to the constituent elements of criminal acts and penalties in the fields of organised crime, terrorism and illicit drug trafficking. It is about those very crimes which are all too often, if not international in nature, international in the way that they are conceived and carried out. Sadly, that is one of the horrible truths that we face at the beginning of the 21st century.
Eurojust will not mean, as I have seen reportedclearly, the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, has seen it reported, although I point out it was the noble Lord who spoke of the "febrile press" on this occasioninterference by the EU in national
Investigations will be conducted by national authorities. The role of Eurojust will be to aid cross-border investigations by the co-operation of national authorities. It is a body designed to crack down on international organised crime, in the specific way pointed out to the House by the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, to help put an end, if that is possible, to the terrible misery caused by traffickers in drugs and human beings, and also to bring money launderers to book.
The noble Lord, Lord Howell, mentioned the European arrest warrant. Naturally, there are connections in all our minds with that. Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord that this is not about the European arrest warrant. It is about co-operation. As we have said, the arrest warrant will be the subject of Home Office legislation. The Government are committed to enacting the common arrest warrant legislation this year. I should like to be more specific to the noble Lord, but I cannot. I can give him an assurance that it will be this year, but I cannot state the exact date.
Much of what your Lordships are concerned aboutcertainly the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, and, to a certain extent, the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannochis whether this prejudices the consideration of that legislation. In that respect, I hope that I can help both noble Lords and, indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart. It does not prejudice the position of the Home Secretary in what he puts forward in that legislation and will not prejudice the views of both Houses of Parliament in considering what that legislation should cover. These are sensible measures about international co-operation. They do not set up police forces or international prosecutions. They are there to help national authorities pursue the kind of crime which, unfortunately, is so much a characteristic of the 21st century.
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