I set out the text of my speech in the Commons on Monday over the UK, democracy and criminal justice:
Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Today’s debate should be about the very future of the United Kingdom’s democracy. I and many of my right hon. and hon. Friends believe that one of the great duties of a state is to settle on a fair and strong criminal law and to ensure that the crime-fighting resources are put in to maintain that law. We also believe that, in an increasingly global world of criminal activity, those functions can be properly discharged by the Home Secretary in Cabinet and by the police forces of our country only if we have proper co-operation and collaboration arrangements with other countries abroad. We need those co-operation arrangements, not just with other European countries in the European Union or the few countries in Europe not in the European Union, but with every country around the world. I am pleased to say that thanks to successive Governments and Home Secretaries we do have in place a set of pretty good arrangements with the major countries, and we have demonstrated our ability to negotiate successful arrangements for extradition and mutual crime fighting with those countries that are not in the European Union and to find ways of doing that with countries in the European Union.
Let me make it clear at the outset that those of us who do not wish to opt back in to European criminal justice measures are no more soft on crime than anyone else in the House. We believe that there can be an alternative way of ensuring proper co-operation and collaboration with France, Germany and the other leading European Union countries, just as we have those successful co-operation arrangements with countries that are outside the European Union.
Our objection to any of these measures, including the European arrest warrant, is not necessarily about the measure itself, and certainly not its purpose, but about the way in which the institutional structure is developed to back up the measure. We are trying to protect our democracy, this Parliament and future Home Secretaries from the event that the European Court of Justice, once we have opted into any of these measures, can use that opt-in as a device for making good criminal law in Brussels and in the Court that this House and the British people might fundamentally disagree with.
Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): The right hon. Gentleman talks about alternatives to some of these measures. Is he aware of the formal evidence given by the police, who said that alternatives to the European arrest warrant “would result in fewer extraditions, longer delays, higher costs, more offenders evading justice and increased risk to public safety”?
Does he accept that that is the police’s advice?
Mr Redwood: Of course we can find police and others who take the hon. Gentleman’s view, but I think that it is putting very different weights in the balance. He is giving us an immediate topical problem of view, and I am giving him something fundamental about a national democratic state and the future good government of our country. When I weigh those in the balance, there is no issue for me; of course we must protect our national democracy and then work away at any imperfections there might be in the cross-border arrangements because we have put democracy first.
Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): If the right hon. Gentleman is challenging the fundamental idea of an international arrest warrant operating among the 28 member states, is my maths correct that he would have to replace it with 784 bilateral extradition treaties, and that is just on one of these justice and home affairs measures?
Mr Redwood: My maths tells me that there are far fewer countries in the European Union than in the rest of the world, and we manage to have pretty good arrangements with the rest of the world. I have every confidence in the ability of the current and future Home Secretaries to restore our bilateral arrangements with the other 27 members of the European Union just as surely as we have bilateral arrangements with most of the other 200 countries in the world. The hon. Gentleman will remember that there was a time before this country was in the European Union, and certainly before we were in this current set of criminal justice arrangements, when we had perfectly good working relationships. I am sure that he and I would have liked them to be improved—one can always improve and make progress—but he should not be so defeatist about the ability of our Ministers and civil servants to defend Britain’s interests and come up with a good answer.
Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): The right hon. Gentleman suggests that it would be perfectly fine to abandon the European arrest warrant and rely on bilateral arrangements because we have such wonderful arrangements with so many other countries in the world. The Russian Federation, for instance, is covered by the previous version of the EAW, the European convention on extradition, but we have not managed to get Mr Lugovoy back, have we?
Mr Redwood: To find a country where there is a problem does not disprove my case. My case is that if there is good will—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) seems about to allege that all members of the European Union cannot be trusted and that we can do a deal only with the Commission. I have more faith in France and Germany than he does. I think that it would be in France’s and Germany’s interests, should Britain opt out of the European arrest warrant, to put in place really good arrangements, because they will want them to operate for them in Britain just as surely as Britain needs the arrangements to operate in France and Germany. As someone who does not like centralised European government arrangements, I find that I am often warm-hearted towards, and supportive of, the French and Germans and believe that we can make very good arrangements with them because it is in our mutual interests to do so. It is the rapid pro-Europeans who so dislike our French and German partners that they say that it all has to be bound up in central European government because we cannot trust France and Germany to come to a sensible arrangement with us over these important matters.
What is it about our country that these people do not like? What is it about our national democracy that they wish to tear down? A previous Government negotiated in good faith the third pillar arrangements for criminal justice. The idea of the third pillar was that, yes, we wanted enhanced co-operation and collaboration with our nearest neighbours, and of course I accept that there are more likely to be issues with France, Belgium and Holland, because they are very close, than with countries in Asia, so there is a reason for enhanced collaboration. We worked out a system in which we could have better procedures, enhanced collaboration and more co-operation, based on the mutual agreement of the states involved, not based on an independent united states of Europe Government, which is emerging as a result of this and other exercises but not from an independent court where there is no democratic accountability to the British people.
In recent months, we have had case after case from the European Court of Human Rights that this country and the British people have deeply disliked. There is very little we can do about that. If we give further enhanced powers to the European Court of Justice, we will have another series of such decisions from the European Court of Justice that we do not like. All major political parties will have to go to the electorate, shrug their shoulders and say, “We can do nothing about it. We still expect our salaries and to sit in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, but don’t expect us to revise this. We no longer run the criminal law and can no longer change the law in the way you want or expect. That is now settled in Brussels. Even your MEPs probably won’t be able to sort it out because the European Court of Justice is supreme above all elected officials and can provide the motor for making decisions on these crucial matters.”
The case before us today is very simple. Those who vote for opt-ins vote for European centralised justice and for the uncertainty of the European Court of Justice, which will in due course make decisions that the British people and their elected representatives cannot tolerate. Those who vote for opt-ins vote because they do not like this country’s democracy and they vote themselves out of a job.
Those of us who vote for the opt-out, and nothing but the opt-out, vote for the reverse. We vote for the House to take the responsibility. We vote to trust successive Home Secretaries. We vote to trust the judgment of the British people to judge their Governments and Home Secretaries, elect those who do a good job and throw out of office those who do a bad job. That is a true democratic system.
I do not want to live in a country where criminal justice has been transferred to independent experts abroad whom we cannot sack or influence. I do not want to go to my electors and say, “As a result of the vote we have had tonight and what happened subsequently, another major power of this country’s democracy has been seceded to the European Union in perpetuity in such a way that we can never get it back.”
It is a simple issue. I urge the House to vote for the opt-outs and against the opt-ins.