50. DRAFT JOINT ACTION ON THE IMPROVED
EXCHANGE OF INFORMATION TO COMBAT COUNTERFEIT TRAVEL DOCUMENTS
Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of
the Committee, to Kate Hoey MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary
of State, Home Office
Sub-Committee E (Law and Institutions) considered
the draft Joint Action at is meeting on 14 April. There are three
matters on which the Committee would welcome further information.
In your Explanatory Memorandum you describe
the proposal as "an unnecessarily cumbersome instrument for
what is an operational matter". You said that you were seeking
clarification of the reasons why the measure is being proposed
as a Joint Action. What clarification has been given? Have they
caused the Government to change its mind as regards the proposal?
Secondly, Article 1 of the proposal contemplates
the setting up of "a reporting unit for detecting counterfeit
travel documents". Your Explanatory Memorandum offers no
explanation of what this would involve, what the unit would do
which is not presently being done but needs to be done, where
it would be situated, how it would be resourced and what its relationship
would be to existing national authorities.
Finally, Article 3(3) provides that personal
data must be communicated "in accordance with national law
and international conventions". The Committee would find
it helpful if you would define the nature and extent of the protection
afforded to the individual concerned in the circumstances envisaged
by Article 3 (the covering Note suggests that he or she is likely
to be "rapidly repatriated" and that the information
is required for future criminal proceedings). To what international
conventions is Article 3 referring and what protection would the
individual have under United Kingdom laws?
The Committee decided to retain the document
under scrutiny and looks forward to receiving the information
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. I will
take the points you make in the order you raise them.
We initially considered the proposed legal format
of this measure to be inappropriate to its aims. This issue was
raised at a recent meeting of the False Documents Working Party
when the Presidency explained that the proposal was put forward
in the form of a Joint Action as it was complementary to the FADO
computerised image archiving system which was also set up by means
of a Joint Action. By ensuring that the proposal becomes a formal
part of the acquis, new EU Member States will be required to follow
its provisions. The UK has accepted this argument.
On the question of setting up a "reporting
unit", following recent discussions, the Presidency agreed
to amend the wording to "reporting system" to make it
clearer that it was not proposed to establish new structures.
The exchange of information would take place between EU Member
States' existing central contact points (in the UK, this is the
Immigration Service National Forgery Section) and thus involve
no additional resources.
The general exchange of information between
Member States will not involve personal data. Where it is necessary
to pass personal data between individual Member States in the
course of an enquiry, national data protection legislation (in
the UK this is currently the Data Protection Act 1984) will provide
protection. In addition, EC Directive 95/46/EC protects individuals
against the misuse of personal data; this Directive will be implemented
in the UK when the Data Protection Act 1998 comes into force in
the near future.
The Presidency now intends to bring this proposal
before the Justice and Home Affairs Council for political agreement
on 27-28 May. I do hope you will be able to clear it from scrutiny
6 May 1999