Select Committee on European Communities Tenth Report

Letter from Ms Joyce Quin MP, Minister of State at the Home Office to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Select Committee on the European Communities

  Thank you for your letter of 4 December asking for my reactions on three issues raised by Justice in the context of the draft Eurodac Convention.

  The first point Ms Colvin raised was that of the role to be played by the European Court of Justice. She noted that no agreement has yet been reached during the negotiations as to whether or not the Court should have jurisdiction to hear disputes between Member States and to give preliminary rulings. This remains the case and our position is set out in more detail in paragraphs 13 and 14 of the attached, updated, explanatory note, which I enclose with a copy of the latest draft of the Convention.[41]

  The second point which Ms Colvin raised was whether the preamble to the Convention should mention the EC Data Protection Directive rather than the 1981 Council of Europe Convention. As Eurodac is being negotiated under the existing Third Pillar (Title VI of the Treaty on European Union) a reference to the EC Data Protection Directive would not in fact be appropriate as the Directive explicitly does not apply to the processing of personal data "in the course of an activity which falls outside the scope of Community law, such as those provided for by Titles V and VI of the TEU".

  I should emphasise, however, that the personal data included on the system will be very limited in nature. It will be limited to fingerprints, the person's sex, details of the place and date of application, a reference number and dates relating to the taking and transmitting of fingerprint data. It will not include the person's name, address, nationality or other identifying information.

  Finally Ms Colvin refers to Article 6 of an earlier draft of the Convention and the provision it made in respect of the deletion of data on those recognised as refugees. I should explain that there is agreement among Member States that data of this type should only be retained if those recognised as refugees in one Member State do nevertheless go on to claim asylum in another Member State. At present it is known that some refugees do behave in this way. The scale of such behaviour cannot, however, be established under existing arrangements where those concerned are able to conceal their identity. The draft Convention therefore proposes that when individuals are recognised as refugees the data on them should initially be retained. However the sole purpose of retaining the data would be to establish whether there is a statistical justification for retention in the longer term. During that period no information would be passed back to Member States in respect of those recognised as refugees. We take the view that this is a sensible way forward which is consistent with data protection principles.

  I hope this is helpful.

26 January 1998

41   A later draft of the Convention is printed in Appendix 3. Back

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