PN210207F

Embargo: 00:01 Wednesday 21 February 2007

Contact: Owen Williams 020 7219 8659

LORDS EU COMMITTEE CRITICISE HOME OFFICE FOR LACK OF TRANSPARENCY

The House of Lords European Union Committee have today criticised the Home Office and John Reid for failing adequately to publicise the conclusions reached at the most recent meeting of the G6 Interior Ministers.

The criticisms in their report After Heiligendamm: doors ajar at Stratford-upon-Avon focus on the Home Office's failure to make a statement to Parliament about the meeting or to publish the full conclusions, as well as John Reid's reluctance to give oral evidence to the Committee.

The report follows their earlier report Behind closed doors, published last year, which was strongly critical of the previous Home Secretary and the G6 for their failure to publish the conclusions of their meeting in Heiligendamm. Following the publication of that initial report the Committee were assured that the Home Office would publish the full conclusions of the next G6 meeting. This meeting, chaired by John Reid, was held at Stratford-upon-Avon on 25 and 26 October 2006.

The Committee have again expressed disappointment at the way in which the Home Office handled the Stratford-upon-Avon meeting. Important matters were discussed and conclusions reached on European approaches to terrorism, cross-border crime and immigration. The Committee believe that Parliament and the public have a right to be informed. It is unacceptable that not even a written statement was made to Parliament. Home Office publicity consisted of an incomplete version of the conclusions on its website.

The Committee also criticise John Reid for failing to give oral evidence following the Stratford-upon-Avon meeting. Dr Reid had written to the Committee in June to state that he would be happy to appear before the Committee after the next G6 meeting. Other ministers repeated this undertaking on his behalf, yet it proved impossible to secure a date for him to appear before the Committee. They believe it was unwise of him to give, and for his ministers to repeat, an undertaking to give oral evidence if he was unable to fulfil that undertaking within a reasonable time.

Commenting, Lord Wright of Richmond, Chairman of the Committee, said:

"Decisions reached by G6 interior ministers at their regular meetings will clearly have a significant influence on policies that are then pursued across the EU. This is why it is vitally important that the G6 interior ministers are completely open about any conclusions they reach. Parliament and the public have a right to know about decisions on matters such as counter-terrorism, serious crime and immigration

"We are not satisfied that the Home Office have been as transparent as they could have been. We were very disappointed that the meeting at Stratford-upon-Avon was not followed swiftly by a Ministerial statement to Parliament, particularly in view of our earlier criticism following the G6 meeting at Heiligendamm. Simply publishing the conclusions online is not good enough, especially when these are published incomplete.

"We are also disappointed that the Home Secretary was not able to appear before the Committee to answer questions on this. His failure to do so does not inspire confidence that the Home Office are serious in their undertaking to be more open on the discussions within the G6."

Notes to Editors

1. The report is published by The Stationery Office, After Heiligendamm: Doors Ajar at Stratford-upon-Avon, House of Lords European Union Committee, 5th report of 2006/7, HL Paper 32.

2. The full report will be available shortly after publication at: http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/lords_s_comm_f.cfm

3. The members of the Committee who conducted the inquiry are:

Lord Wright of Richmond (Chair)

Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury

Earl of Caithness

Baroness D'Souza

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock

Lord Harrison

Baroness Henig

Lord Jopling

Earl of Listowel

Lord Marlesford

Lord Teverson

For copies of the report or to request an interview with Lord Wright of Richmond the Committee Chairman, please contact Owen Williams on 020 7219 8659.

[ENDS]