Page last updated at 12:05 GMT, Thursday, 4 February 2010

Urgent question

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Ministers have been accused of treating Parliament with "contempt" by fast-tracking European measures to track alleged terrorist finances.

On 4 February 2010, Labour MP and chairman of the Commons European Scrutiny Committee Michael Connarty said MPs were being denied the time promised to examine opting in to EU-wide measures under the Lisbon Treaty.

Treasury Exchequer Secretary Sarah McCarthy-Fry was forced to answer an urgent question on the issue in the Commons and told MPs the agreement had "significant" national security benefits.

She said it was an "exceptional case" where the usual period of eight weeks for MPs to scrutinise the measures would not apply.

MEPs will vote next week on whether to allow the US to continue accessing data gathered by Swift, a firm which helps co-ordinate money transfers, in order to track suspected terrorist accounts.

If the European Parliament approves the measure, it will be fast-tracked by ministers, without giving national legislatures time to examine the details.

Ms McCarthy-Fry was jeered by MPs as she insisted that the government remained committed to proper scrutiny.

Shadow Treasury minister Mark Hoban complained that Parliament was being "ignored".

"This is a serious breach of an important undertaking by the government," he told MPs.

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