The House of Lords Home Affairs EU Sub-Committee has today published a report encouraging the Government to exercise its right to opt-in to the EU’s draft Directive on the Proceeds of Crime.
The UK opt-in allows the Government to choose whether the UK will be bound by EU measures in the field of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA). Since the Treaty of Lisbon has come into force, the opt-in applies to an increasing number of measures.
The Committee has scrutinised the draft Directive, which restates and amplifies the provisions of EU law that set out the minimum measures Member States should adopt for freezing and confiscating the proceeds of crime; measures that are of great importance in the fight against serious organised crime. The UK already implements EU legislation on this topic, and has national law which is, in many respects, stronger than the minimum required by EU law.
The Committee acknowledges that the draft Directive is far from perfect. In particular, it does not deal with the mutual recognition and enforcement of orders made by other Member States, and there are legal difficulties which are referred to in the report.
Nevertheless, the Committee recommend that the Government should opt-in to this draft Directive. This will allow the UK to take part in negotiations and seek to improve the Directive. The Committee believes that not opting-in to the Directive would send the message that the Government does not appreciate the importance of confiscating the proceeds of crime.
The Government has to exercise the UK opt-in before 15 June 2012 and have already confirmed an undertaking given by the previous Government that reports of this type will be debated in the House of Lords well in advance of that deadline. The Committee recommends that this report should be debated early in the new session, to allow the House to give its collective view on whether it supports the Committee in its recommendation to opt-in.
The report, United Kingdom opt-in to the draft directive on proceeds of crime, is available on the Committee’s webpage.