Select Committee on European Communities Twelfth Report


Letter from the Hon Phillip Oppenheim, MP, Exchequer Secretary, HM Treasury, to Lord Hoffmann, Chairman of Sub-Committee E

  You wrote to me on 26 November[4] to explain that your Sub-Committee had cleared this Joint Action from scrutiny but also to raise a query about a provision in one Article of the Joint Action relating to "checking of newly recruited staff by the Signatory".

  The principal requirement of the Joint Action will be for Member States to set up programmes establishing memoranda of understanding between customs authorities on the one hand and trade and transport representative bodies and operators on the other hand, for the purpose of combating drug trafficking.

  The Joint Action sets out guidelines for such programmes including a non exhaustive list of what the memoranda may contain. There is no requirement that a trade or transport representative body or operator should enter into a memorandum.

  The United Kingdom has had in place such a programme since 1990 under the heading "Anti Drugs Alliance". The Joint Action will not require any change to existing practice as established in the existing UK programme.

  Provisions laid out under the UK's Anti Drugs Alliance programme are voluntary, flexible and non binding. They do often contain provisions which are designed to help the business partner to improve its security procedures and may, with the business partner's consent, be extended to cover the checking of new personnel. Such checking is carried out by the business partner, not by Customs, under the terms of UK legislation and there are no requirements in any of the UK provisions that the results of such checks are to be reported to Customs.

  Neither the existing United Kingdom programme nor the Joint Action affects existing UK legislation in so far as that imposes constraints on the checks which an employer may make or cause to be made in respect of newly recruited staff and in so far as it affords protection to a newly recruited member of staff who is subject to such checking.

  I hope that your Sub-Committee will find this explanation helpful.

19 December 1996

4  Printed in Correspondence with Ministers, 5th Report, Session 1996-97, p. 22. Back

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