Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Fifth Report





COM(02) 95

Commission Communication to the European Parliament and the Council.

Legal base:



Home Office

Basis of consideration:

Minister's letter of 12 June 2002

Previous Committee Report:

HC 152-xxiv (2001-02), paragraph 8 (17 April 2002)

To be discussed in Council:

Date not set

Committee's assessment:

Politically important

Committee's decision:

Cleared, but information on progress requested.




    1. When we last considered this Communication (in April), we raised a number of points with the then Minister of State at the Home Office (Lord Rooker), and left the document uncleared. While we were pleased that the Commission had issued a Communication on this important subject, we were somewhat disappointed with its focus on improved information-sharing, rather than on more radical approaches to accountability.
    2. The Government's view

    3. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office (Mr Bob Ainsworth ) has now responded to our points. He welcomes our agreement that a single Annual Report and the appearance of the Director of Europol before the European Parliament would go some way to meeting the recommendations in the Communication, since these procedures could be implemented without amending the Europol Convention.
    4. The Minister continues:
    5. "The position and role of the Management Board is currently being addressed by Europol, with a view to better addressing strategic and operational issues, and ensuring that the quality of the information submitted to the board is increased and geared towards decision-making needs. We hope that this corporate governance exercise will provide the Board with more time to address the wider issues, and lead to a more responsive organisation capable of addressing changing priorities and providing valuable analytical support to enable the Union to fight organised crime. You asked me to comment on your suggestion that a parliamentary representative be appointed to the Board. It is not one that we favour. The Management Board is composed of representatives of the Member States, who are accountable to their national administrations. We are not convinced that your proposal, which goes beyond what the Commission itself recommends, would fit sensibly with the current arrangements."

    6. We questioned the Government's wariness about the proposal that the Joint Supervisory Body (JSB)[47] should draw up its activity report on an annual basis and forward it to the European Parliament. We asked why these activity reports were not deposited in the UK Parliament. We also restated the importance we place on scrutinising draft agreements between Europol and third states or non-EU related bodies and reminded the Minister of the need to supply us with draft documents, and with the JSB opinion, in enough time for us to scrutinise them thoroughly.
    7. In response, the Minister says:
    8. "With regard to the Joint Supervisory Body (JSB) and the points made on scrutiny, there is a requirement in Article 24 of the Europol Convention for the JSB to draw up activity reports at regular intervals, which would then be forwarded to the Council. We have not deposited a JSB activity report on Europol because we understand from our own Information Commissioner that one has yet to be produced. When this is done we will consider the criteria for the depositing of documents and act accordingly. Where draft agreements between Europol and third states or non EU related bodies are concerned, we will continue to ensure that the draft agreements and the JSB opinions are deposited for scrutiny though the opinions are not always produced at the same time."

    9. The Minister tells us that the Government welcomes the debate on democratic control of Europol, and is considering the Commission's proposals and those in our recent Report. The UK will take part in any discussions once the Commission indicates how it wishes to progress matters.
    10. Conclusion

    11. We thank the Minister for his response. It is encouraging that the Government welcomes the debate, and is prepared to take part in it. We detect some caution, however, both in the Communication and in the Government's position, and hope that the Commission and the UK will be open to proposals that go beyond the exchange of retrospective information.
    12. In this context, we are disappointed that the Minister does not favour our proposal that a parliamentary representative should be added to the Management Board. It is, however, encouraging to learn that the position and role of the Board is currently being addressed, and we hope that its constitution will also be examined.
    13. We are pleased that the Government intends to take account of our recent report, Democracy and accountability in the EU and the role of national parliaments.[48] In paragraph 142 of that report, we indicate our interest in the proposal for a joint committee of national parliamentarians and MEPs concerned with police matters to meet twice a year, and to nominate a smaller body to maintain close contact with Europol.
    14. We welcome the Minister's commitment in relation to ensuring that we are able to scrutinise draft Europol agreements and the JSB opinions in a timely fashion. We ask to be informed of the production of a JSB activity report and to be given the reason for any decision not to deposit it.
    15. We are now prepared to clear the document, but we ask to be kept in touch with any progress on the proposals it contains.


47  The Joint Supervisory Body monitors the activities of Europol in relation to data protection issues. Back

48  HC 152-xxxiii-I (21 June 2002). Back

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