By Jonathan Isaby
Within the next fortnight the Government has to decide whether to opt in to the European Investigation Order.
The Telegraph covered the issue here last week, citing the concerns of civil liberties groups that signing up to the EIO would mean the authorities in other EU states being able to give orders to the British police.
According to the Telegraph:
"Under the terms of the order, any prosecutor or police officer in all 27 members of the EU could be given the power to issue demands for evidence, regardless of the cost involved. Judges in this country would be powerless to block the requests, even if they related to offences that are considered trivial in this country. Overstretched police resources could then be expended on demands to launch lengthy surveillance operations, take DNA samples or secure documents such as bank statements or phone records."
Yesterday two prominent civil libertarians on the Conservative backbenches raised the matter at Business Questions, with the leader of the House, Sir George Young, unable to explain the Government's intentions at this juncture.
Dominic Raab (Esher and Walton): The European investigation order would allow police and prosecutors throughout Europe to order British police to collect and hand over evidence. Fair Trials International and Justice are concerned that the measure would put great pressure on our hard-pressed police forces. Britain has until 28 July to decide whether to opt in or, like Denmark, to opt out. Will the Leader of the House indicate when the Government’s decision will be made, and will the House have an opportunity to debate the measure in advance?
Sir George Young: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He says that the Government must decide by 28 July what action to take. I will certainly ascertain from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or the Home Office, whichever Department is the appropriate one, what action they propose to take in response to my hon. Friend’s question.
David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden): Will the Leader of the House reconsider his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab)? The European investigation order allows foreign authorities to give instructions to the British police and allows foreign police forces to operate within the United Kingdom. That is a matter for decision by the House of Commons, not simply for notification by a Department of state.
Sir George Young: I understand my right hon. Friend’s concern. I think I said in response to my hon. Friend that I would contact the relevant Department and see what action the Government propose to take or recommend to the House before 28 July, which I understand is the operative date.