Select Committee on European Communities Seventeenth Report


Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Kate Hoey MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office

  At its meeting on 14 April Sub-Committee E (Law and Institutions) considered the draft Joint Action with regard to combating international crime with fuller cover of the routes used.

  The Committee noted that the Government is concerned that police operation of the kind proposed by the Joint Action may not be a good use of resources and that it has asked to see the results of previous Schengen pilot exercises. The Committee would be interested to learn the Government's reactions when it has considered these results.

  There are two further matters on which the Committee would be grateful for clarification. The first concerns the implications of the Government's recent announcement that it intends to participate in certain aspects of Schengen. To what extent does that announcement affect the present proposal and the Government's response to it?

  Secondly, the proposed Joint Actions contemplates the "participation" of Europol in the operations in question (Article 1) and in the later evaluation exercise (Article 3). To what extent would this involve Europol and its staff being active in police operations in a way or ways that it has not been so far? What role is it envisaged that Europol would play under Article 1 of the Joint Action?

  The Committee looks forward to receiving the information requested above. In the meantime the draft Joint Action is retained under scrutiny.

19 April 1999

Letter from Kate Hoey MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  Thank you for your letter of 19 April following the meeting of Sub Committee E (Law and Institutions) on this draft joint action.

  I should first explain that this draft joint action has been superseded by a draft Council Resolution, the latest version of which is 7260/99 (ENFOPOL 24/99). This was deposited on 6 May, and an Explanatory Memorandum has been submitted.

  In order to support its proposals the German Presidency have now provided details, in 6520/99 ENFOPOL 17 (attached), of the various Schengen pilot operations on which this proposal is built. However, having studied these, we have not changed our view on the effectiveness of saturation policing of the kind proposed. For example, one of the operations described in the paper dealt with vehicle smuggling, and ran from April to early June 1997. Approximately 13,700 officers were involved, 140,000 vehicles were checked, and 86 stolen vehicles were recovered, with follow-up operations recovering a further 24. I am sure you will agree that this does not seem to be a reasonable return for the deployment of considerable resources.

  Document 7260/99 ENFOPOL 24, however, is a considerable improvement on the original version. The focus on saturation policing has gone and the draft resolution now recognises the need to "deploy forces and equipment appropriate to the situation."

  The proposal and the Government's response to it will not be affected by the recent announcement on UK participation in Schengen. The German proposal is designed to include all Member States, whether they are Schengen States or not. The UK's application to participate in the police and judicial co-operation provisions of Schengen is a separate issue.

  On the question of the role of Europol, this was discussed at some length during the Working Group meetings, and the draft Resolution has now changed to take account of the comments made. Document 7260/99 ENFOPOL 24 no longer refers to the participation of Europol in these operations, or in the follow-up evaluation, but merely refers to the support of the Europol. There is therefore no longer any question of Europol actively participating in either the exercises or the evaluation, but they would be able to offer some valuable expert knowledge.

17 May 1999

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