HC Deb 12 May 2003 vol 405 c66W
Simon Hughes

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department for what reason the draft agreements between the European Union and the United States on extradition and mutual legal assistance have been classified as confidential; and if he will withdraw his request for the parliamentary scrutiny committees to consider the documents in camera. [112155]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth

The decision to classify the draft EU-US judicial co-operation Agreements was taken by the General Secretariat of the Council, in line with the criteria set down in the Councils security regulations of 19 March 2001. It is normal practice for negotiations on third country agreements to be held in restricted session and for the accompanying documents to be classified. This is necessary in order to protect the negotiating positions of the parties.

The Agreements were de-classified on 2 May and have now been deposited with the Scrutiny Committees. An accompanying Explanatory Memorandum is being prepared in the normal way. The decision to de-classify the text was not one which could be taken by the UK unilaterally but rather, in accordance with the Councils security regulations, required the agreement of all member states and the US.