PM urged to allow separate EU votes

Published: Tuesday 4th November 2014 by The News Editor

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David Cameron would face dozens of potentially difficult votes over EU justice measures including the controversial European arrest warrant (EAW), under demands set out by an influential committee of MPs.

The Prime Minister has promised to hold a vote on re-joining the European arrest warrant scheme before the Rochester and Strood by-election, where his Tory party faces a battle against Ukip.

But the European Scrutiny Committee criticised the Government’s handling of the process, and called for separate votes on all 35 measures that ministers want to opt back into.

Ministers opted-out of a range of European police and criminal justice measures, with the intention of rejoining some of the schemes including the EAW.

The Home Office said MPs would decide on the package as a whole, rather than voting on each individual power.

Mr Cameron faces a backbench revolt over the issue, which needs to be decided before a December 1 deadline.

Supporters of the EAW argue that it has played a vital role in securing the return to the UK of suspects in significant crimes, including 21/7 bomber Hussain Osman, who fled to Italy, or teacher Jeremy Forrest, who was returned from France to face trial over the alleged abduction of a 15-year-old schoolgirl.

However some Tories oppose the measure because of concerns that it is too easy for UK citizens to be extradited on relatively minor charges to countries where they may have no guarantee of a fair trial.

The committee’s chairman, Tory eurosceptic Sir Bill Cash: “When we published our major report on the block opt-out last November, I said that the Government had repeatedly failed in its duty to provide Parliament with timely and relevant information on this critical matter.

“Our Committee, along with colleagues in the Lords and on the Commons Home Affairs and Justice Committees, has made all the running in demanding – on behalf of Parliament as a whole – the information and analysis needed to enable Members to scrutinise the Government’s approach to the 2014 block opt-out decision.”

He added: “As the vote in the House approaches we also take this opportunity to remind the Government that we have said there should be a separate motion tabled for each of the 35 measures the Government proposes to rejoin – Members have the right to a separate vote on each one because of the individual significance of some of the measures and the need for full and rigorous Parliamentary scrutiny.”

The European Scrutiny Committee criticised the lack of official information provided about the impact of the EAW.

It said th e impact assessment spells out the benefits in cases like Osman’s, but does not cover ” the detriment caused to British citizens who have been surrendered to another member state under the EAW and, in some cases, detained for lengthy periods of time in poor prison conditions, without being tried or convicted”.

“Moreover, of the 5,184 individuals arrested in the UK on the basis of an EAW between April 2009 and April 2013, the i mpact assessment provides no information on the number who were sent for trial and convicted.”

The MPs also criticised the assessment’s lack of consideration for an alternative UK-EU treaty which could cover extradition arrangements without some of the problems critics have identified with the EAW.

” The impact assessment only assesses the effect of relying on the 1957 European Convention on Extradition if the UK does not opt back in to the EAW.

“It does not examine the option of a new UK-EU treaty on extradition, which could omit some of the bars to extradition that exist under the 1957 Convention but include much better safeguards for British citizens than the EAW, such as only requiring extradition for truly serious offences, allowing greater or complete scope for extradition to be blocked where the alleged offence is not a crime under UK law, and allowing British courts to conduct an assessment of the likelihood of a fair trial within a reasonable time frame in the requesting EU country without the EU Court of Justice able to override their decisions.”

Published: Tuesday 4th November 2014 by The News Editor

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