Lord Boswell, Chairman of the House of Lords EU Committee has written to the Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Home Secretary and Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice on the Fifth Annual Report on the UK Justice and Home Affairs Opt-in and Schengen Opt-out.
In 2009, when the Treaty of Lisbon came into force, the Government undertook to produce annual reports on the operation of the UK opt-in to Justice and Home Affairs measures under Protocol 21 to the Treaties, and the UK opt-out from Schengen measures under Protocol 19. The annual report covering 1 December 2013 to 30 November 2014, the fifth in the series, was published on 4 February 2015, and sent to the Committee under cover of a letter from Karen Bradley MP.
Letter to Theresa MP and Chris Grayling MP
The Committee, in its letter, highlights a concern regarding the delay in the Government giving Parliament formal notification of the decision taken to opt in to a measure, or not to do so, or opt out of a Schengen measure. This requires a Written or Oral Ministerial Statement.
The Committee expresses its right to expect at least a Written Ministerial Statement (WMS) explaining the Government's decision on a measure, and the reasons for it, within days of the expiry of the three months for opting in. However, the Committee notes that the report shows that it is not uncommon for months to elapse before a formal WMS. For example, in the case of three Justice measures on Procedural Safeguards for Children, the Presumption of Innocence and Provisional Legal Aid for suspects and those involved in European Arrest Warrant Proceedings, the proposals were published on 19 December 2013, the three months expired in March 2014, but Parliament was not notified of the decisions until 1 September 2014.
The Committee urges the Government to provide prompt information to Parliament of the Government's opt-in decisions, and the reasons for them.