HC Deb 30 November 1995 vol 267 cc1321-2
6. Mr. Rathbone

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to support the functioning of Europol; and if he will make a statement. [1357]

Mr. Howard

We already provide substantial support to the existing Europol drugs unit. We shall build on that commitment when Europol comes into operation. We expect Europol to make a very valuable contribution to the fight against international organised crime, particularly drug trafficking, in the European Union and more widely.

Mr. Rathbone

Although the House will welcome the Home Secretary's commitment to Europol, on which the British Government have given the lead right from its inception, I believe that there is general disappointment at the Government's inability to sign the convention supporting Europol. Can the Home Secretary inform the House that that difficulty will be overcome speedily?

Mr. Howard

I am happy to tell my hon. Friend that the convention was in fact signed in July following the agreement on it reached at the Cannes summit. We intend to ratify it shortly, and I hope that other countries will as well.

Mr. Henderson

As such matters must be dealt with at an intergovernmental level, does the Secretary of State accept that the House should be consulted more systematically on proposals, tentative agreements and agreements? Does he agree that there is a need for inter-country police co-operation to fight racist extremists in Europe? If he does agree, does he intend to conclude an agreement on these matters, and, if so, when?

Mr. Howard

On the hon. Gentleman's first point, the Europol convention was the subject of an explanatory note sent to Committees on 22 February 1994; supplementary notes were submitted on 17 November 1994 and 31 May this year; and the final text was deposited on 28 July.

On the hon. Gentleman's second point, I agree that there ought to be intergovernmental co-operation on racism and xenophobia. That is a very different matter, however, from a legally binding document that would require us to consider changing the laws of the United Kingdom in a way which does not meet our circumstances. That was something that I was not prepared to go along with in Brussels last week. If the hon Gentleman thinks that he would go along with that and that the United Kingdom should have signed up, perhaps he would be clear and say so.

Mr. Fabricant

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree with me that racism must be fought wherever it happens, whether on mainland Europe, in the United Kingdom or, indeed, in Leicester? Will he join me in condemning the Opposition spokesman, who was reported on "Dispatches" last night, for his outrageous, disgraceful racist comments?

Mr. Howard

We look forward to an explanation from the hon. Gentleman at the earliest possible moment.