HC Deb 09 April 2001 vol 366 cc694-5
5. Mr. Howard Flight (Arundel and South Downs)

What the Government's policy is on "Corpus Juris".[156024]

The Minister of state, Home Office (Mrs. Barbara Roche)

We believe that the way forward for judicial co-operation in Europe lies not in "Corpus Juris" but in the measures agreed at the Tampere European Council, including, in particular, mutual recognition of judicial decisions and the creation of Eurojust.

Mr. Flight

Will the Minister give an absolute undertaking that the Home Secretary will not seek any common European Union legal system or permit any interference by Europe in our judicial system?

Mrs. Roche

There is absolutely no intention to have a common legal system. As the hon. Gentleman will know, "Corpus Juris" is merely an academic study; it has not been formally proposed or discussed by the Council of the European Union. We have made progress on mutual legal recognition, which the House will know was an initiative proposed by the United Kingdom Government that has been warmly welcomed by other member states.

Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham)

The term "corpus juris" is a bit of Euro-babble which, translated into plain English, means a legal means to crack down on the immense fraud that exists in Europe. I should have thought that the hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs (Mr. Flight), as a director of some 17 companies that take investors' savings, would be concerned to join in the crack-down on fraud. I invite my hon. Friend the Minister not to listen to the anti-European rhetoric of the Opposition, but to work to create systems on the basis of mutual recognition to deal with the serious problem of fraud—the black holes into which too much European money disappears. The Opposition should be determined to crack down on the problem, instead of waving it away.

Mrs. Roche

Of course, the phrase "corpus juris" originally comes from the work done in the reign of the Emperor Justinian. [Interruption.] Before the Opposition get too excited, may I say that my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane) is right—we do need to crack down on fraud in the European Union, which is why we celebrate the creation of Eurojust, and why, following an open competition—[Interruption.] This is a serious point. Following an open competition, Mr. Mike Kennedy, who is currently the chief Crown prosecutor for Sussex, has been selected to represent the United Kingdom on that important institution.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath)

How does the Minister square her initial answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Mr. Flight), that her Government were against "Corpus Juris", with the votes of Labour Members of the European Parliament as recently as 14 March, when they voted to undermine our traditions of habeas corpus, and for a European public prosecutor—a specific part of the "Corpus Juris" proposals—who would have the power to detain suspects without trial for nine months?

Mrs. Roche

As the hon. Gentleman and the Opposition know, we are entirely against "Corpus Juris". We have made the Government's position absolutely clear.