During the debate on the EU Bill in committee, David Lidington was kind enough to acknowledge my contribution among a group of MPs who have helped tighten the conditions around the establishment of a European Public Prosecutor:

We have decided to single out the European public prosecutor because that was a clear and explicit commitment in the coalition agreement and the coalition programme. The agreement stated:

    “Britain will not participate in the establishment of any European Public Prosecutor.”

In accordance with that policy, we are putting a referendum lock on a decision by any future British Government to join the European public prosecutor and a further lock on the UK taking part in any expansion of that prosecutor’s powers.

I am grateful to my hon. Friends the Members for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris), for Wycombe (Steve Baker), for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers), for Bury North (Mr Nuttall) and for Crawley (Henry Smith) for noticing a potential gap in the drafting of the Bill. As drafted, clause 6(4)(c) and (d) might not automatically trigger a referendum in the event that the UK chose to participate in the European public prosecutor after it had already been established. That is because the measure under the United Kingdom’s protocol on the area of freedom, security and justice, which would be used to allow us to take part in the European public prosecutor’s office or in an expansion of the office’s powers in those circumstances, does not have to cite the legal base of article 86 of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union.

Government amendments 57 and 58 respond to the concerns identified and expressed by my hon. Friends in their amendment in order to close that potential loophole. We did not intend to leave any doubt about the matter and, being keen to make that correction, I therefore urge the Committee to approve those Government amendments. These would ensure that a referendum would be required in all cases before the United Kingdom could join the European public prosecutor’s office or an extension of its powers, whether the decision was taken before or after the prosecutor had been set up, or before or after the powers had been extended.

Read the rest of the debate here: House of Commons Hansard Debates for 25 Jan 2011 (pt 0001).

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