Select Committee on European Communities First Report


  17 June 1997

  By the Select Committee appointed to consider Community proposals, whether in draft or otherwise, to obtain all necessary information about them, and to make reports on those which, in the opinion of the Committee, raise important questions of policy or principle, and on other questions to which the Committee considers that the special attention of the House should be drawn.


          (P) 11143/96 The Confidentiality Regulations of Europol

  1.    In April 1995 the Select Committee reported to the House on the Draft Convention to establish EUROPOL[1]. The Report welcomed the establishment of a European Police Office (EUROPOL). An effective Europol - providing a framework for national police forces to exchange information and offering analysis of that information - would bring important benefits to the public. But the Report drew attention to the potential dangers to individuals and said that Europol must be accountable for its policies and actions. In particular the Report called for rigorous protection of personal data and supported the creation of national supervisory bodies and a joint supervisory body to monitor the exchange of personal data and protect individual rights.

  2.    The Convention was concluded in July 1995 but does not come into force until ratified by all Member States. The United Kingdom was the first to ratify, on 10 December last year. The Dublin European Council called for all Member States to ratify the Convention by the end of 1997. The Convention, moreover, requires the adoption of a number of instruments before Europol can take up its activities. A working group on Europol is currently engaged in the making of detailed rules and regulations under the Convention, among which are the Confidentiality Regulations.

  3.    The Confidentiality Regulations provide for the establishment within Europol of a Security Committee (and appointment of officers with responsibility for various aspects of security matters), the setting of security levels, the preparation of a Security Manual, and the security clearance of staff and others. A copy of the draft Regulations (and of a draft Protocol on privileges and immunities) was furnished to the Select Committee by the Home Secretary and was sifted to Sub-Committee E (Law and Institutions) for scrutiny. In order the assist the work of the Sub-Committee views on the proposal were sought from the Data Protection Registrar and from Justice (both of whom had assisted the Sub-Committee in its earlier enquiry into the Convention). They identified a number of potential difficulties. The Home Office, in a letter of 2 June from the Minister of State, helpfully updated the Sub-Committee as to the current position and status of the proposal, including what had transpired at the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 26-27 May, and took the opportunity to respond to points made in the submissions of the Registrar and Justice.

  4.    At its meeting on 11 June Sub-Committee E considered the draft Regulations, with the assistance of the two submissions and the Minister's letter. The Sub-Committee cleared the document from scrutiny, recognising the importance of the need to have adequate safeguards over Europol's holding and processing of personal data and for Europol, at the same time, to be able to play an effective role in combatting international crime. Having regard to the concerns expressed by the Select Committee in its earlier Report the Sub-Committee noted in particular the Government's statement that it was "determined to ensure that the rights and interests of individuals are fully taken into account and protected in all aspects of Europol's work". The purpose of this Report is to make available to the House the evidence given by the Data Protection Registrar and Justice, together with the Minister's letter of 2 June.


  5.    The Committee draws attention to the importance of the issues raised by the draft Confidentiality Regulations and makes this Report to the House for information.

1   EUROPOL, 10th Report, Session 1994-95, HL Paper 51-1. Back

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Prepared 4 July 1997