Home Affairs Committee Press Notice

Session 2005-06 / PN No. 52

INQUIRY INTO JUSTICE AND HOME

AFFAIRS ISSUES AT EUROPEAN UNION LEVEL

On 25 July 2006 the Home Affairs Committee announced that it would conduct an inquiry into current issues relating to justice and home affairs (JHA) at European Union level. The Committee has received a range of written evidence on this subject, and an informal briefing from government officials. It decided on 31 October that its inquiry should focus on the following specific matters:

1. The current state of progress in developing practical co-operation between member states in the JHA field, and future options in this area.

  • What benefits have accrued so far from practical co-operation between law enforcement and judicial authorities? What are the lessons of practical co-operation for European policy and legislation, and how effective is Eurojust in spreading best practice?

  • In which areas does the UK government want to advance more practical co-operation measures? What benefits does the government see from practical co-operation over legislative solutions?

  • What should be the role of Europol, Interpol and Eurojust in facilitating practical co-operation?

2. The current state of progress in mutual recognition, including the development of minimum standards, across the EU, and whether further steps in this direction are desirable.

  • In which areas is mutual recognition currently employed (for example recognition of judicial judgements in other member states)?

  • How has the principle, including minimum standards and protocols, worked in these areas? Is it an effective approach, including in terms of cost?

  • What are the limitations of mutual recognition as a cornerstone of co-operation, for example in cases such as the European Arrest Warrant where there are controversies over dual criminality? What have been the successes, and how might these be built on?

  • What is the UK government’s position on mutual recognition as opposed to practical co-operation?

3. The current state of progress in and appetite for harmonising criminal justice systems across the EU, and whether further steps in this direction are desirable.

  • How do proposals for harmonisation of criminal law across member states substantially differ from mutual recognition?

  • What are the implications for the UK in harmonising criminal law and systems?

  • Would particular areas benefit from harmonisation on issues such as migration, serious crime cases and terrorism, rather than practical co-operation or mutual recognition?

4. The process of decision-making on JHA issues at EU level: in particular, the extent to which current difficulties in reaching agreement derive from ‘third pillar’ voting procedure and might be remedied by implementation of the passerelle clauses in previous treaties.

  • What implications might use of the passerelle have for the UK’s legal and judicial systems? What alternative action might improve decision-making? How can transparency and accountability at European level best be extended?

5. How significant is the recent trend towards internal agreements between groups of member states outside the framework of the EU, for instance the Schengen countries, or the Prum convention? To what extent is this due to unanimity or difficulties in decision making? What are the implications for the UK and for EU fragmentation?

6. What are the current developments in the area of common border controls and visa arrangements? What implications does the proposed new policy on illegal migration have for the UK and our role in the EU? Will the proposed changes to the short-stay visa arrangements in relation to the eastern neighbours of the EU open up new channels for illegal migration further westward in the EU? What are the implications of enlargement for JHA issues, including the impact of labour migration and confidence in new member states’ justice systems?

Details of evidence sessions will be announced in due course.

The Committee is seeking written submissions of no more than 2,500 words from interested parties, before it takes oral evidence on this inquiry. Submissions need not deal with all of the points listed above. Organisations and individuals interested in making written submissions are invited to do so by Friday 10 November 2006. The Committee will welcome further submissions from organisations and individuals who responded to the original call for evidence on 25 July.

FURTHER INFORMATION:

Evidence submitted should:
-if possible, be provided as electronic versions in MS Word or Rich Text format
-include full postal address and contact details
-begin with a short page summary
-have numbered paragraphs
-avoid the use of colour or expensive-to-print material

Material already published elsewhere should not form the basis of a submission, but may be referred to within a proposed memorandum, in which case a hard copy of the published work should be included. Submissions should be sent to the Clerk of the Committee via [email protected] or, by post , to Home Affairs Committee, 7 Millbank, London, SW1P 3JA. Further guidance on the submission of evidence can be found in the www.parliament.uk/commons/selcom/witguide.htm

The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to publish the written evidence it receives, either by printing the evidence or by making it publicly available through the Parliamentary Record Office. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure; the Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.

It would be helpful, for Data Protection purposes, if individuals wishing to submit written evidence send their contact details in a covering letter. You should be aware that there may be circumstances in which the House of Commons will be required to communicate information to third parties on request, in order to comply with its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

NOTE FOR EDITORS: The Committee was nominated on 13 July 2005. Its terms of reference are to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Home Office and its associated public bodies; and the administration and expenditure of the Attorney General’s Office, the Treasury Solicitor’s Department, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Serious Fraud Office (but excluding individual cases and appointments and advice given within government by Law Officers). The Members are:

Rt Hon John Denham (Chairman) (Lab) (Southampton Itchen)
Mr Richard Benyon (Con) (Newbury)
Mr Jeremy Browne (Lib Dem) (Taunton)
Ms Karen Buck (Lab) (Regent’s Park and Kensington North)
Mr James Clappison (Con) (Hertsmere)
Mrs Ann Cryer (Lab) (Keighley)
Mrs Janet Dean (Lab) (Burton)
Margaret Moran (Lab) (Luton South)
Gwyn Prosser (Lab) (Dover)
Bob Russell (Lib Dem) (Colchester)
Martin Salter (Lab) (Reading West)
Mr Richard Spring (Con) (West Suffolk)
Mr Gary Streeter (Con) (South West Devon)
Mr David Winnick (Lab) (Walsall North)

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