Lyn Brown

Member of Parliament for West Ham


Recent Activity

As part of my role as Shadow Police Minister, I took part in a recent debate on the European Arrest Warrant

I add my congratulations to the hon. Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies) on securing the debate. It is no secret that my concerns about the way the European arrest warrant works probably come from a different starting place from his, but I was very interested in what he had to say. He raised really important issues about the human rights of UK citizens extradited to other countries. Those issues deserve to be debated and taken very seriously. I will address some of the human rights issues in my remarks. I must admit that I have no knowledge of the cases that the hon. Gentleman raised today. I look forward to learning more about them.

Labour’s starting point is that the UK’s membership of the European arrest warrant system is an invaluable and effective tool for the British courts to catch fugitives, both in the interests of our country’s security and to provide justice for those of our constituents who have had the misfortune to be the victims of crime committed by those who can catch an easyJet flight and disappear. I know that the hon. Gentleman who instigated the debate would not forget that this mechanism—this warrant—enabled Hussain Osman to be brought to justice after he fled to Italy following the failed suicide bombing in London in July 2005. The most recent Home Office data show that the UK has used the mechanism of the European arrest warrant to bring some 2,500 individuals from outside the UK to face justice since the system was introduced in 2004.

I believe that the principle of the arrest warrant is right and that we should look to iron out any difficulties that exist. As the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Stuart C. McDonald), who speaks for the Scottish National party, said, we should work from within the system—that is the better way to do it—rather than starting again from the beginning.

However, the most urgent issue for us to discuss right now is whether it is possible for us to maintain membership of this very valuable system when we leave the EU. One of Labour’s key tests for the Brexit deal is whether it protects national security and our capacity to tackle cross-border crime. We know that as recently as a year ago the Prime Minister herself considered it necessary to remain in the European Union to retain membership of the European arrest warrant system, because she said as much. That was one reason why she concluded that

“remaining a member of the European Union means we will be more secure from crime and terrorism.”

The Prime Minister has been facing the challenge of proving herself wrong and ensuring that this country remains as secure as it is today. Perhaps the Minister can update us on the progress that the Prime Minister is making, in terms of ensuring that this country remains as secure as it is today, with the negotiations about our remaining in the European arrest warrant system.

As far as I can see, the Conservative party’s real problem is that even if it were theoretically possible to negotiate continued membership of the European arrest warrant system from outside the EU—I think we all agree that that would be a tall order—that would mean accepting in principle the right of the European Court of Justice to arbitrate in cases of disagreement, and the Conservatives have made it clear that they seek to be outside the purview of the ECJ in all matters. Does the Minister agree with Labour that it is in the interests of our country’s national security to accept the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the event of disagreement over the European arrest warrant? Can he give a specific answer to whether it is possible to have associate membership of the EAW system without being subject to ECJ arbitration? Perhaps he agrees with Mike Kennedy, a former chief operating officer of the Crown Prosecution Service and a former president of Eurojust, who said recently in evidence to the Home Affairs Sub-Committee of the Select Committee on the European Union in the other place:

“Any sort of alternative to the court is going to be quite difficult to negotiate and agree. I just do not know how long that would take, but I suspect it would take longer than is available.”

We know from experience that negotiating third-country access to the European arrest warrant is notoriously difficult. Norway and Iceland spent 15 years attempting that, and both countries are in Schengen and the European Economic Area, but I understand that there are no plans for us to be members of either. Moreover, their surrender agreements are weaker in two ways. First, they require the alleged offences to be the same in both countries, thus losing the flexibility that comes from member states agreeing to respect the decision of one another’s criminal justice systems. Secondly, they allow countries to refuse to surrender their own nationals, making it tricky, for example, if a national of another EU country commits an offence on UK soil and then jumps on the same easyJet flight back home.


In contrast, the strength of the European arrest warrant is not only that it allows suspects to be returned to the UK, even if the crime they are suspected of committing has a different legal basis from the law applying in the country they fled to, but it has strict timescales that are effectively enforced, so that fugitives are returned to face justice speedily. Those two factors make the European arrest warrant far more powerful than any other extradition procedure anywhere in the world.

The major priority for any Government is to protect their citizens. Everyone in this Chamber will recognise that people will not forgive us if we negotiate away the very things that keep them safe if, God forbid, at some time in the future something happens that could have been prevented if we had remained within the European arrest warrant system and the basic constructs of the EU. They have meant that we have been able to share information and to have other partnership arrangements to keep people safe thus far. They will not forgive if we negotiate away their right to life, their freedoms and their security. They will not forgive.

If we leave the European arrest warrant system, the alternative is to fall back on previous extradition treaties, which are far more cumbersome and in some cases have become so out of date that they will require EU countries to change their own laws in respect of the UK, which is an unlikely prospect.

Labour’s question to the Minister is simple. What guarantees can the Government give that the current benefits that we get from the European arrest warrant system will be maintained when we leave? While I am on the subject, can he reassure us that we will also retain access to the many pan-EU data and information-sharing systems and exchange systems, such as for fingerprinting, airline travel, foreign convictions and intelligence data, which our police forces routinely use? I look forward to his reply, given that he has quite a lot of time to entertain us.

I said that I would respond to some of the human rights issues raised by the hon. Member for Monmouth, who spoke passionately of the concerns about treatment of UK citizens who are passed over to other jurisdictions under the European arrest warrant, and the possibility that the system might be used to extradite political opponents. If we believe that an individual’s human rights are being threatened during the process, that is absolutely a matter for concern, but it is fair to say that it is a concern for the European authorities as well.

I mention that because the hon. Gentleman spoke about the conditions in which people are being held. In a speech outlining her priorities on 25 April last year, the European Commissioner for Justice, Vera Jourová, stated that her priority was to improve pre-trial detention safeguards, because

“poor detention conditions can indeed lead to refusal of extradition under the European arrest warrant, as the European Court of Justice has recently made clear.”

It is therefore possible for prison conditions in the destination country to be taken into account when a European arrest warrant is executed. I am delighted that the European Court of Justice has played a useful role in clarifying that point.

If prison conditions in other countries are unacceptable, of course they should be improved, but I differ from the hon. Member for Monmouth, in that I see the European ​Union structures as a good mechanism by which to achieve some sought-for improvements. There have already been some attempts to do so—for example through the European supervision orders, which are designed to reassure courts that they can release foreign nationals on bail without fear that they will abscond—but further action absolutely needs to be taken, not least because article 7 of the European treaty contains a commitment to protect human rights. My concern is that our position outside the European Union will undoubtedly weaken our opportunities to keep pushing for such improvements.

In conclusion, we must ensure that UK citizens accused of committing crimes in other EU countries are treated decently, and we should use whatever influence we have to achieve that result, but the priority today is for the Government to provide greater reassurance about how they will ensure that our security is not compromised by the decision to leave the European Union, because our constituents will not forgive us if they do not. I look forward thoroughly to the Minister’s response.

European Arrest Warrant

As part of my role as Shadow Police Minister, I took part in a recent debate on the European Arrest Warrant

During the Easter Adjournment debate I spoke on a number of topics surrounding NHS care, including hysteroscopy and cancer care:


I would like to use this debate to highlight three areas where I feel our national health service might do a bit better. The first, regular attendees of this debate will not be surprised to learn, is about the medical procedure of hysteroscopy.​

To refresh our memories, a hysteroscopy is when a small device, often including a camera, is inserted manually through the cervix into the womb, usually to cut a sample from the tissue or lining which can be used to help to diagnose cancers and fertility issues. It is usually performed without any anaesthetic. I am told by medical professionals that it rarely causes discomfort. However, as we have heard before in this House, it can also be horrifically painful.

This is the fourth time I have raised the issue and when I last spoke I asked for a letter from the Minister to address the issue. I must thank those on the Government Benches for ensuring that such a response was forthcoming. Unfortunately, the response from the Department of Health was, if I can put it gently, bland in the extreme and did not really move the issue forward. I have written again, this time to the Secretary of State for Health. I have asked him or one of his Commons team to meet me and discuss this issue in person. The Secretary of State is not a bad man, so I hope that with the encouragement of the Minister on the Treasury Bench I might be successful.

Since raising this issue in December, I have been contacted by even more women. Given how short the debate is, I will mention only one story. This is from a woman in Leicester, who said:

“The prior information leaflet suggested there would be minimal was so excruciatingly painful that I began to cry out, my body went into shock and I started to sweat profusely. I came over disorientated and dizzy, I felt heavily nauseous and I began to pass out. I have never experienced agonising pain like it in all my life...when arriving home, I spent a long time crying, curled up in a ball doubled over with pain...the use of no local anaesthesia in this procedure seriously requires investigation.”

I know I have genuine support on both sides of the Chamber, so I am hopeful that his Secretary of State will come up with a solution that will enable us to move forward.

A colleague of ours in this place had to undergo this procedure and she was mindful of my words. She attended a central London hospital and, with no little trepidation, asked about anaesthesia. The doctor looked at her with disbelief and said, “They use anaesthesia as a matter of course, because to do anything else would be barbaric.” All we are asking for is that all women get the same care and attention whichever hospital they go to and whichever part of the country they live in.

My second issue is the speed of cancer diagnosis. West Ham has a relatively low incidence of cancer, but patients from my constituency are, unusually, likely to die within a year of being diagnosed. The essential research done by Cancer Research UK makes the primary reason for this clear: too many of my constituents die because successful diagnosis takes too long. To be honest, they also do not get to the doctors early enough to seek diagnosis. Less than half of cancers in the Newham clinical commissioning group area are diagnosed early, significantly fewer than the national average. This problem was highlighted this Wednesday by the “Today” programme on Radio 4. Currently, many patients across the country go through a drawn-out, stressful and expensive process of diagnosis. They may be referred to an oncologist for testing too late, and there is clearly a role for better and more consistently observed guidelines to prevent that.

Even when patients are referred, however, they often face a series of appointments with specialists, waiting for test results between those appointments. Many symptoms of cancer are ambiguous, especially at the essential early stages. A shift in policy towards rapid testing for multiple cancer types could be expected to improve early detection rates, giving more patients a new lease of life, saving patients and healthcare staff a great deal of stress and time, and, indeed, saving the NHS money through the adoption of a more efficient process.

I have personal reasons for raising this issue today. Had such early detection been available a few years ago, my mum might still be with me today instead of leaving us far too soon, and completely unexpectedly, on a Mothering Sunday morning. I give notice that I shall be seeking a longer debate in the House, but, in the meantime, I should be grateful if the Deputy Leader of the House would ask the Department of Health to write to inform me of its current plans to move towards faster and more joined-up cancer diagnosis.

I also have some concerns about plans for a weakening of the link between the recommendations of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and the availability of recommended treatments to patients. Access to treatments can already be delayed by 90 days, but under the new rules, approved treatments with a high overall cost—regardless of the cost per treatment—could be delayed by health commissioning authorities in England for at least three years, 13 times longer than is currently allowed. Colleagues in all parts of the House have argued in recent months that the right balance between affordability and equal access to effective treatments for those who need them has not yet been found. I echo that view, and I would appreciate any reassurance that the Government can offer that they are committed to re-examining these issues soon.

I, too, will be remembering Keith Palmer over the break, and I will be thinking of everyone and hoping that they are all safe. I say to all Members, and to all the members of staff who look after us so well: have a great Easter break.

Easter Adjournment Debate

During the Easter Adjournment debate I spoke on a number of topics surrounding NHS care, including hysteroscopy and cancer care:

In my role as Shadow Minister for Policing I spoke in a recent debate on fire and policing in Greater Manchester:

The Minister will be delighted to know that I will not repeat at length my arguments against the course that the Government have taken on police and fire mergers. I will, however, begin by saying that the core of our objection last year concerned local demand and local consent. We thought then—and still think today—that it is wrong to force a merger of police and fire authorities on an area that does not want one.

Thankfully, that does not apply to these draft orders, which have received the consent of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and are part of a wider devolution deal. That deal should enable the Manchester city region to adapt, to the extent that any level of government can, to the extremely difficult combination of reduced service funding and increased service demand that they will face over coming years. We welcome the devolution settlement as a way to bring powers together at a level where they can be used effectively and their use can be held accountable effectively.

There is a long history of local authorities working together across Greater Manchester, with or without a permanent statutory framework, which bodes well for ​such reforms. That history of co-operation in major cities is one that the Conservative party has not generally had much respect for, so I am delighted by the apparent change of heart. We still have serious concerns about the fragmentation and incoherence of this Government’s attempts at devolution within England thus far, but that need not prevent us from endorsing reforms if they go in the right direction.

I hope that none of us assumes that the devolution process has gone far enough to put in place genuine devolution to Manchester. Our local areas need more control over revenue raised locally, so that such deals will not simply transfer responsibility for cuts made by central Government. Governments should never pass the buck without passing the bucks. Local government needs a system for national funding that is fair, transparent and based on real need—not sweetheart deals with Ministers at meetings in cars outside Downing Street. That is particularly important for areas such as fire and rescue and policing, where community safety is paramount.

More generally, the current model of piecemeal reform is inadequate. Restructuring should not be imposed from the top down and cannot be based only on local authorities going cap in hand to Ministers either. We need to make devolution the default if we are to open up public services to the experience and creativity of local areas and truly demonstrate our trust in the people who are most affected by changes in policy.

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority consent documents noted that the draft orders

“will need to be in place by February 2017 at the latest to allow sufficient time for Mayoral candidates to be fully aware of the powers of the elected Mayor and to prepare a manifesto.”

Clearly, that has not happened, since it is now the middle of March and some of the legislation determining the new Mayor’s powers is still not fully confirmed. Does the Minister have an explanation?

More broadly, this is the first case—apart from the now well-established arrangements in Greater London—where full accountability and power relating to policing will be assigned to the elected Mayor of a city region. The fact that responsibility for fire and rescue services will be mixed in at the same time makes it doubly significant, because the Mayor of London does not have direct responsibility for fire and rescue. There is now an urgent case to be made that the new Mayor of Greater Manchester will have a truly unprecedented degree of authority across those two public services. It will be an important test case for future structural reform.

It is important to note that the offices of Mayor of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and of police and crime commissioner for the area have already been combined to some extent for almost two years now, because Tony Lloyd, Labour’s elected PCC, was appointed as interim Mayor on 29 May 2015. He has served in both capacities admirably and has set an ​excellent standard, which I am sure my right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) will live up to, starting on 8 May.

To sum up, we support the draft orders. They will help to cement the devolution settlement for Greater Manchester, which has received the agreement of local authorities and residents in and around that great city. I hope that members of all parties will join me in wishing the new Mayor well in helping the city region to deal with the undoubted challenges of the future.

On Police and Fire in Greater Manchester

In my role as Shadow Minister for Policing I spoke in a recent debate on fire and policing in Greater Manchester:

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