European Scrutiny Committee

News Release, PN No. 1, 2006-07

Committee Office, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Media Enquiries: Alex Paterson 020 7219 1589

EMBARGOED COPY. NOT FOR RELEASE UNTIL 00:01 ON 17 NOVEMBER 2006

UK SOVEREIGN ISSUES TO FALL UNDER EUROPEAN COMMISSION PROPOSAL:
EUROPEAN SCRUTINY REPORT CALLS FOR DEBATE

The European Scrutiny Committee is calling for an urgent debate in the House to discuss a European Commission proposal of constitutional importance affecting the national sovereignty of the United Kingdom. The Committee today releases its report, "The implementation of The Hague Programme on Justice and Home Affairs".

The European Commission wishes to make use of an article of the EU Treaty, known as "the Passerelle" to change the way the European Union passes legislation on police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters. The proposal would make legislation in this area subject to qualified majority voting (QMV) and co-decision within the European Parliament. At present, all EU Member States have a veto, under the unanimity rule, and can block legislation that affects such fundamental sovereign issues as the presumption of innocence and the definition of what conduct constitutes a crime.

Home Office Minister, Joan Ryan MP was repeatedly pressed by the European Scrutiny Committee for a clear statement on this proposal when she gave oral evidence on 18 October. The Committee's analysis of her answers, and the conclusions it draws from them, are contained in the report.

Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, Michael Connarty MP, says, "If the Passerelle was used then we would see the present certainty about our ability to protect Britain's interests in important justice matters replaced with uncertainty. And it appears to us that the proposal does not offer the UK significant gains. The Committee is calling for a debate so that MP's can have a clear understanding of the Government's position and to ensure the government hears the views of the House". /ENDS

The report will be issued at 0001 on 17 November 2006. Embargoed copies will be made available from 1100 on 16 November.

Note for Editors

The European Scrutiny Committee reports to the House on the legal and political importance of each EU document and recommends EU documents for debate. Such debates take place either in a European Standing Committee or on the Floor of the House. The Committee normally reports weekly on a range of documents when the House is sitting.

The Committee has 16 Members, as follows: Michael Connarty MP (Chairman), Labour, Richard Bacon MP, Conservative, David Borrow MP, Labour, William Cash MP, Conservative, Katy Clark MP, Labour, Wayne David MP, Labour, Jim Dobbin MP, Labour/Co-op, Michael Gove MP, Conservative, Nia Griffith MP, Labour, David Hamilton MP, Labour, David Heathcoat-Amory MP, Conservative, Jimmy Hood MP, Labour , Lindsay Hoyle MP, Labour, Angus Robertson MP, SNP, Anthony Steen MP, Conservative, Richard Younger Ross MP, Lib Dem

The text of all Committee publications, including Press Notices and Reports, can be found on the Committee's website:
http://www.parliament.uk/escom

FURTHER INFORMATION:
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FM