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Justice and Home Affairs Council

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Meg Hillier): The Justice and Home Affairs Council is due to be held on 27 and 28 November 2008 in Brussels. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, my noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, Lord Bach, and the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill, intend to attend on behalf of the United Kingdom. As the provisional agenda stands, the following items will be discussed:

The Council will concentrate on interior and justice issues. The first day of the Council will focus on interior items, starting with the Mixed Committee also attended by Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. During the Mixed Committee Switzerland’s accession to Schengen will be discussed. The UK supports Swiss accession into the Schengen area. There will also be a presentation by the presidency on the second generation Schengen information system (SIS II) in order to update member states on progress.

At the Council meeting Gilles de Kerchove, the counter-terrorism co-ordinator, will present his six-monthly report and discussion paper. The UK welcomes the report and de Kerchove’s work, in particular his objectives on radicalisation and recruitment, communications, an EU strategy on data sharing, action on and funding for Pakistan, and efforts to work with Turkey on the PKK.

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The Council will be asked to approve Council conclusions on a cybercrime strategy. These conclusions propose that the EU should work collectively to tackle cybercrime, and set out a number of actions that might be useful in achieving this. The proposals envisage that the EU member states should strengthen partnerships between Government and private sectors, and between law enforcement agencies within the EU.

The Council will be asked to approve the presidency’s report on progress with the EU PNR framework decision and provide a clear mandate for negotiations to continue under the Czech presidency. The UK will support this mandate and believes future negotiations should build on the successful work of the French presidency.

The presidency will ask the Council to endorse draft conclusions aimed at strengthening law enforcement action against drugs trafficking in West Africa. We fully support this initiative and will aim to ensure UK objectives are reflected in the Council conclusions.

On civil protection, the presidency will report on the work on European civil protection to be undertaken during the Czech and Swedish presidencies. Draft Council conclusions on European disaster management training will be discussed, which include proposals for arrangements to link training centres in a network. The UK welcomes such a proposal, which could help to enhance co-operation and the exchange of good practice across all aspects of disaster management. Draft Council conclusions on the strengthening of civil protection capabilities through a system of mutual assistance will also be discussed. These call for voluntary measures to improve co-operation in disaster response, which could enable more rapid and effective mutual assistance to be made available through the civil protection mechanism. The UK also welcomes this.

The presidency will report on the discussions held at the annual Western Balkans ministerial forum in Zagreb on 6 and 7 November. This forum aims to promote dialogue and regional co-operation in justice and home affairs matters, particularly combating organised crime and organised immigration crime. The UK sent two officials as observers.

Regarding migration, the presidency will brief on the outcomes of the second Euro-African conference on migration and development to be held in Paris on 25 November. The draft Council conclusions on the comprehensive approach to migration will be discussed. The UK is pleased that the global approach to migration, initiated by the UK presidency in 2005, remains the basis for the EU’s work on migration with third countries. The UK believes that these conclusions also help ensure that we collectively understand and have put in place measures to tackle the challenges to delivery of improved partnerships with source and transit countries.

The Council will be asked to endorse the final conclusions of the Vichy ministerial conference on integration held on 3 and 4 November. The UK can agree with the document as it stands.

The presidency will update the Council on negotiations on a Council directive that provides for a single application procedure for third-country nationals seeking to reside and work in a member state and for a common set of rights. The UK is not opting in to the proposed directive.

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The presidency is looking to agree the proposal for amending Council directive 2003/109/EC which currently allows third-country nationals the right to long-term residence in a member state after five years of legal and continuous residence and permits them to have the same rights and duties as nationals. The Commission proposal would extend the scope of the directive to refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection, known as humanitarian protection in the UK. The UK has chosen not to opt in to the proposed extension of the directive because, as with the original directive, the UK believes it is not in line with its frontiers protocol and would want to determine the status of third-country nationals via the immigration rules.

The Council will discuss the proposal to amend the regulation on common consular instructions on visas which relates to the issuing of Schengen visas into a single code on visas. It aims to fill gaps in existing legislation and remove redundant provisions. The UK does not issue Schengen visas and therefore is not opted-in to this proposal.

However, we welcome the efforts of Schengen member states to ensure that the Schengen external EU borders are as secure as possible.

The proposal to amend Council Regulation No. 2252/2004 establishing common standards for security features and biometrics in passports and travel documents will also be discussed. Member states wish to exclude children under the age of six years and persons who are physically unable to give fingerprints for travel documents. The amendment also hopes to establish the principle of “one person one passport” as a measure to prevent child trafficking. The UK is not opted-in but intends to keep abreast with any amendments. The UK does not support the exemption of persons under the age of six but would prefer the bar to be set at 11—this would fit with our plans for synchronising the issuing of e-passports and ID cards. Children’s passports would have a five-year validity and all passport holders aged 16 and over will have their fingerprints recorded. The UK introduced the “one person one passport” principle in 1998.

The European Commission will present the initial findings of the fact-finding mission to Syria and Jordan to investigate the Iraqi refugee situation.

The Council will discuss issues relating to the application of the directive on free movement. The UK will call for a common approach to addressing false marriages, illegal immigration and expulsion of those who abuse free movement rights. This will build on the discussion on the European Court of Justice Metock judgment held at the JHA Council of 25 September, and will feed into preparation of the Commission’s review of the implementation of the directive on free movement, due to be published by the end of the year.

The presidency will seek a general approach to the proposed decision amending the existing arrangements for the European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters. This proposal has been considerably modified in line with UK objectives and we can now support it.

They will also ask the Council to agree to conclusions concerning the common frame of reference in contract law. The Government are broadly in favour of the Council conclusions.

The Council will be asked to agree a plan of action covering co-operation in the field of e-justice. We can support this initiative.

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Agreement will also be sought for the setting up of a network for legislative co-operation among the Ministries of Justice of the member states. This modest, non-legislative measure is designed to facilitate contacts among Ministries of Justice and promote exchange of information about initiatives in the different member states. The Government can support it.

The presidency will seek a general approach towards the proposed framework decision setting up a European supervision order, allowing, in effect, for the mutual recognition of bail conditions. This will allow for a person who is resident in one member state, but the subject of criminal proceedings in another, to have their bail conditions monitored in their member state of residence. No such system exists at present, with the effect some individuals are released pre-trial without supervision. The Government have been concerned to ensure that the proposal struck the right balance between public protection and the liberty of the individual, and provided the executing state with sufficient options to act in the public interest in the event of breach of bail conditions or the commission of further offences. The Government welcome the improvements to the text that have been achieved in the course of negotiations and, subject to any further changes to the text before the Council, expects to be in a position to agree to the proposal.

The Council will be asked to agree the draft conclusions on child alerts, which invite member states to introduce and develop national mechanisms for alerting the general public in the event of a presumed abduction of a child whose safety is seriously compromised. The UK is happy to agree the draft conclusions.

There is a substantial list of “A” points—issues on which agreement in principle has been reached already but are before the Council for formal adoption without discussion. These will include:

Identity Cards

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Meg Hillier): The House will wish to know that the Government are publishing tomorrow, Friday 21 November 2008, a consultation paper on draft secondary legislation to be proposed under the Identity Cards Act 2006, including a draft code of practice on civil penalties. Copies of the document, “Identity Cards Act Secondary Legislation—a consultation”, will be placed in the Vote Office and the Libraries of both Houses tomorrow.


EDS (Lost Data)

The Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Mr. Jack Straw): This statement is to update the House on the loss of sensitive data on a hard drive by Electronic Data Systems (EDS), which became known to Ministers on 6 September 2008. I have now received the results of
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the internal investigation into this matter, which was undertaken by a National Offender Management Service (NOMS) director with no prior involvement in the incident.

The investigation has confirmed that initial reports over-stated the volume of data involved. The hard drive contained 256 items of sensitive personal information that could potentially, if in the public domain, cause damage to that individual, namely: bank details; address details; and National Insurance numbers coupled with dates of birth. There remains no indication that this information has entered the public domain.

The investigation found that the data had been downloaded to the hard drive so it could be transferred to another site as part of a disaster recovery exercise carried out in July 2007. While no problems arose regarding the implementation of the exercise itself, the disk was not wiped before it was to be removed from the site and thereafter EDS failed to take adequate measures to track or record the location of the hard drive when it was transferred to another site. Although strictly the hard drive was not at that time being removed for other uses, it ought to have been treated as such and EDS’ company policy at that time requiring a disk to be purged prior to release for any other purpose, ought to have been followed.

This did not comply with data protection principles, and also meant that the investigation could not identify precisely when or where the hard drive went missing. The possibility of theft has resulted in this matter being referred to the West Mercia Police. EDS is taking appropriate action, which will include disciplinary action if necessary, concerning the staff involved.

The inadequacy of EDS’ tracking systems meant that the data was not missed until 2 July 2008. On 3 July, EDS notified NOMS verbally of the data loss, the possible scope of which was made apparent in a written interim report to the NOMS IT security team on 4 July, There is no evidence of any other communication between EDS and NOMS on this issue until 6 September when the matter was raised by the press, although EDS were preparing a final report to submit to NOMS.

The NOMS IT security team did not take sufficient action following receipt of the interim report, with the result that senior officials and ministers were not aware of the loss until 6 September, when comprehensive and appropriate action was taken to identify and contact any staff involved and to investigate further the circumstances of the loss. NOMS is taking appropriate action, including disciplinary action, concerning the staff involved.

In the context of the Hannigan review and subsequent Cabinet Office guidelines, NOMS and EDS were both actively improving data protection processes before this matter arose. Since 6 September, EDS and NOMS have agreed an additional set of measures to be undertaken, at EDS’ cost, to both reimburse NOMS for its additional expenses arising from the incident and to further develop the security of NOMS’ information assets. These include an exercise to identify all uncontrolled copies of NOMS’ sensitive data and have such copies destroyed in a secure manner, as well as reviewing and strengthening the policies and process controls which govern the transfer of NOMS data. In addition, the number of transfers using removable media will be reduced, and encryption will be introduced on removable media. A further detailed
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review will also be undertaken to identify and prioritise any additional security measures to be enhanced. Finally, EDS has committed to the design, development and delivery of appropriate classroom and computer-based training packages for both EDS and NOMS staff. An annual, independent audit of EDS’ compliance with security standards will be introduced with a requirement for EDS to rectify any areas of non-compliance.

Cabinet Office

Omand Review

The Minister for the Cabinet Office (Mr. Liam Byrne): On 11 June my predecessor told the House, Official Report, column 485 of two lost Joint Intelligence Committee assessments and announced that the Cabinet Secretary had asked Sir David Omand to carry out a full investigation of the circumstances of the case. He undertook to keep the House informed of Sir David’s conclusions.

Sir David Omand’s review was carried out in the summer. His report could not be finalised pending the outcome of the internal disciplinary process and the police investigations. With the conviction of the individual responsible under s.8(1) of the Official Secrets Act on 28 October, those processes are now complete. I am grateful to Sir David for the care he has taken in carrying out the review.

Sir David was also asked to look at the procedures in place for the handling and protection of intelligence material, and for staff training, induction and security awareness.

Sir David concluded that the documents were mislaid because of the direct actions of the officer and that even if all the current security procedures had been followed to the letter the inadvertent removal of the documents, though less likely to have occurred, could still have happened. He judged that the loss was not a preventable accident given the mistakes made by the individual. He has also observed that no security system that is both affordable and allows for the efficient conduct of business will provide proof against all forms of human error; and that the key determinant of good security has always been and remains staff with high morale and sense of purpose. Sir David said he had no reservations in that regard about the staff of the Joint Intelligence Organisation, who are highly security aware.

Sir David has recommended a number of additional and affordable measures covering security education, practical procedures and emergency arrangements that would reduce some of the more likely human failings. He has also made suggestions about strengthening governance of the future development of security policy. An example of the sort of measures recommended that can be made public without damaging security is the introduction of spot checks. All the recommendations have been accepted: many have already been implemented but some depend on changes to accommodation in hand and will be implemented when those changes have been made.

The Intelligence and Security Committee have been fully briefed on Sir David’s investigation and recommendations and the action that the Government are taking.

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As my predecessor said in his statement on 11 June:


Road safety

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Jim Fitzpatrick): The Department has today published a consultation paper on improving compliance with road safety laws. It puts forward proposals across a range of road safety topics, and follows up a number of key commitments from the 2007 review of our road safety strategy “Tomorrow’s roads: safer for everyone”. We will take a more wide ranging approach to road safety when we consult on our post-2010 strategy next year.

Whilst we are progressing towards our target of reducing the number of road casualties by 2010, there are still too many people being needlessly killed or seriously injured on the roads. We are focusing our efforts on bringing this number down still further, and compliance is key to achieving this.

On speeding, we propose a higher six-point fixed penalty for extreme speeders, but not to graduate fixed penalty fines.

On drink driving, we invite general views on reducing the drink drive limit and describe what we are doing to obtain better evidence on this issue. We also propose wider use of targeted road blocks to catch and deter drink-drivers, and to address procedural loopholes which currently hinder drink drive enforcement.

On drug driving, current evidential requirements make it very difficult for the police to enforce. We want to explore creating a new offence of driving with an illicit substance in the body for drugs that are known to be impairing.

On careless driving, there is a burden involved in taking cases to court, which is unnecessary in the majority of cases, where drivers plead guilty, and which impedes enforcement in cases where no collision has occurred. We propose to make careless driving a fixed penalty offence.

On seatbelts, we set out our plans for improving wearing rates, in particular through the new THINK! Campaign launched on 3 November.

Finally, on remedial training and testing we propose wide-ranging reform to achieve more consistent standards, better-targeted measures and to ensure that training and assessment go hand in hand.

Some of the issues are complex. We want to be sure that new initiatives are soundly based on solid evidence, and that we can take account of all the implications. This is an important consultation and we hope this document will encourage as many people and organisations as possible to respond with their suggestions and comments.

The consultation closes on 27 February 2009.

Copies of the consultation document have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and are also available in the Vote Office and Printed Paper Office.

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