Page last updated at 16:38 GMT, Wednesday, 25 January 2012

MPs debate EU criminal policy

On 25 January 2012, MPs debated a motion to "take note" of a European Union document on criminal policy.

The document - Towards an EU Criminal Policy - was published by the European Commission in September 2011. It sets out strategies for using criminal law to enforce EU policies and rules.

Opening the debate, Justice Minister Crispin Blunt said EU criminal law should centre on combating the most serious of cross-border crimes.

The European Commission should only propose union-wide legislation that was "necessary and proportionate", Mr Blunt said.

Keith Vaz, who chairs the Home Affairs Committee, argued there was a need to "co-operate better" with European partners in some areas, such as human trafficking and terrorism.

Shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter said Labour supported co-ordinated action to tackle organised crime, terrorism, protection of children and border security.

Mr Slaughter said cross-border crime was an area in which there was "little controversy on the principle".

His comments were seized upon by the Tory chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, Bill Cash, who said the shadow justice minister's comments were a "breathtaking example of complacency".

Mr Cash argued that Britain was "effectively opening the door to very considerable, indeed radical proposals" for the expansion of European criminal law.

Liberal Democrat Sir Alan Beith, chair of the Justice Committee, agreed. He told MPs he could not recall meeting anyone from any justice committee in any member state who wanted to work towards a "single harmonised" pan-European criminal law.

Dominic Raab, Conservative MP for Esther and Walton, warned the document had "all the hallmarks of a massive, substantial power-grab from Brussels" that had "very serious implications" for Britain.

But Justice Minister Crispin Blunt played down the significance of the motion, telling MPs the government would consider any EU criminal law proposals on a "case-by-case" basis.

Members went on to approve the motion without a vote.

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