Nick Hawkins, Camberley MP and shadow Home Office Minister, speaking in the House of Commons, said the Conservatives were worried that the European arrest warrant was a real threat to freedom for all British people.
Speaking on various amendments proposed for the Extradition Bill, which is now in the House of Lords, he said the Tories' amendment No 18 "expresses our concern that the Bill threatens the freedom of all UK citizens" and that concerns "are widely shared across the political spectrum" by organisations on both the left and the right. "Once again, I urge the Government to think about exactly what they are doing."
He said it would be embarrassing for Labour to backtrack, "having already signed up to the framework decision" and he went on: "We do not have much faith in bureaucratic European administrative systems of justice…the Government was wrong to sign up to the framework decision before these matters were debated in Parliament."
He mentioned the case of the British plane-spotters who were thrown into a Greek jail and said that Government ministers could also be in danger of arrest for things they said and did, particularly when some European Union offences are not illegal under UK law. "Some, such as xenophobia* and computer-related crime, are vague and undefined." He also said the Bill should not be retrospective.
"The prospect is that UK citizens could be arrested here, at the request of a foreign authority, and shipped off abroad. They would not have the right to ask a UK court to test the matter. That is especially important in connection with undefined and vague categories such as xenophobia and catch-all categories such as computer-related crime. "New clause nine would introduce the safeguard that the matter would have to be brought back to the Secretary of State, and that Parliament would receive an annual report. That would mean that there would be clear parliamentary scrutiny.
"I stress that it would be even better if all cases could be looked at by a UK court before a British citizen is extradited for something that is not a crime in UK law."Government ministers themselves could be vulnerable over things like the war in Iraq or those who had been in office during the bombing of Kosovo.
**Xenophobia, a new crime under European law, is defined as ‘morbid dislike of foreigners' in the Concise Oxford Dictionary.
**Alan Franklin comments: I hope readers realise that this seemingly dry story about legal hassles actually strikes at the very heart of British free speech. It could shortly become impossible to criticise the EU without being prosecuted and columns like mine could result in a knock on the door from the new continent-wide police force that is above the law. Anyone not yet worried should be. Hitler's men were all "united Europe" enthusiasts, remember.