It's not a particularly new subject, having been covered on numerous occasions by EURef (a few examples: here, here and here plus many more by the Boss) and a couple of times on this blog (here and here) but better late than never or so one keeps saying about eurosceptic organizations and supposedly eurosceptic politicians. As it happens, the subject came up in the House of Lords in which there are a few (just a few) genuine opponents of Britain's membership of the EU.
Yesterday Lord Vinson (who had, on Tuesday, also chaired the somewhat ill-fated meeting of Better Off Out) asked
Her Majesty's Government to what extent the European Arrest Warrant and European Investigation Order conform with the principle of habeas corpus.Readers will be glad to know that HMG, represented here by the egregious friend of Douglas Hurd and Slobodan Milosevic, Baroness Neville-Jones (here and here) is not worried in the slightest. Well, maybe in the slightest. But only just.
The UK's transposition of the European arrest warrant complies fully with the concept of habeas corpus. UK implementation of the European investigation order will also be fully compliant. However, I understand that the noble Lord's principal concern is the separate issue of European arrest warrants being issued for trivial offences. The Government share this concern and are talking to other EU countries, bilaterally and through the European Union, to stop this happening.There followed a discussion that the noble Minister might not have appreciated as she was attacked on all sides and was shown up to be somewhat ignorant of all matters, including the exact title of certain EU legislative documents. What do they have advisers for?
HMG seems to put a lot of faith in Sir Scott Baker and his panel of wise individuals who will be looking at the operation of the European Arrest Warrant (and it is perfectly clear from her shifty responses that habeas corpus does not protect anyone who has been detained wrongly under the EAW) to suggest changes and improvements. Exactly how is HMG going to change and improve European legislation that has already been transposed into British legislation.
Lord Tebbit's interesting suggestion has caught some amused attention:
My Lords, could my noble friend not take some advantage of the provision of European arrest warrants? We also have the problem of control orders. Perhaps she could get some friendly European country to take those who are currently subject to control orders and bang them up in a jail somewhere, without the need ever to bring them to trial. That would seem to be a most convenient solution.Baroness Neville-Jones was not amused. Nor was she impressed by the perfectly sensible question put to her by Lord Stoddart of Swindon:
My Lords, I am sure that the noble Baroness will agree that one of the prime duties of government is to protect the interests of the citizen, particularly when abroad. She will be aware that members of the British public have been extradited to other countries without the production of any prima facie evidence at all. Moreover, they often go to countries that do not have the same respect for law and individual interests as we do in this country. The Government were warned about this when the Bill was discussed in Grand Committee. It is a serious matter and I hope that the Government will understand the level of concern about it throughout the country.She replied:
My Lords, the point that the noble Lord makes about the Government having been warned at the time of the passage of the legislation is perhaps to be directed at the other Benches. We are concerned about the operation of the European arrest warrant, which is precisely why we believe that it needs to be looked into. I would add one point about the European supervision directive-I may not have the title quite right. There is a framework agreement on an arrangement that will come into operation whereby individuals who have been summoned for jurisdiction can nevertheless return to their country of origin during the period of bail and, if sentence is passed on them, can also serve that sentence there. Extra remedies are coming into operation to protect people's rights.In other words, we know it is a mess and a destruction of the English (and Scottish) legal system but do not worry: we shall look into it and .... errrm .... well, that's it really.