Select Committee on European Communities Second Report


Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Barbara Roche MP, Minister of State, Home Office

  At its meeting on 20 October Sub-Committee E (Law and Institutions) considered the Draft Model Agreement on Co-operation with Third States. The Committee decided to hold the document under scrutiny. There are two matters on which the Committee would be grateful for further information.

  As its response to the Committee's Report on the Third Country Rules (29th Report, 1997-98) indicates, the Government shares the Committee's view that the inclusion of human rights clauses as standard in agreements with third parties would be beneficial in terms of sending a political signal, providing an effective safeguard, and ensuring consistency in the European Union's external relations. In her letter of 2 October 1998 Kate Hoey said that the Government would seek to ensure that such clauses were included in each agreement. In its Explanatory Memorandum to Document 1088/98 (Rules governing the transmission of personal data by Europol to Third States and Third Bodies) the Minister said that the United Kingdom has continued to stress that human rights clauses should be standard in all Europol's agreements with Third Parties. In its letter of 11 March 1999 the Committee, having considered Doc 1088/99, expresses regret that the rules contained no obligation to include human rights clauses in agreements with Third States and Bodies.

  The Committee notes that the Draft Model Agreement (Doc 3710-01r1) contains no human rights clause. It would be helpful if you could explain why this is. Is it the case that there is opposition to the idea on the part of other Member States or Europol? Without naming those States and breaching any confidentiality, we would be grateful if you could identify the strength of any opposition to the inclusion of human rights clauses as standard and the reasons being given for excluding such clauses.

  The second matter concerns the data protection implications of the Model Agreement. The Explanatory Memorandum indicates that your Department is consulting with other Government Departments and enforcement agencies in the UK. The Committee would be grateful if you could confirm that the views of the Data Protection Registrar have been sought.

21 October 1999

Letter from Barbara Roche MP, Minister of State, Home Office, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  Thank you for your letter of 21 October regarding the draft model agreement on co-operation between Europol and Third States. You asked about human rights safeguards, and whether the Data Protection Registrar had been consulted.

  As Kate Hoey said in her letter of 2 October 1998, the Government shares the view of the Committee that human rights clauses should be included in each Agreement. Whilst there has been some discussion about the Model Agreement in recent meetings of the Europol Management Board and Europol Working Group, the focus of discussion has been the draft Council Decision, in particular Article 2 of the Decision on the particular countries and organisations with which Europol should begin to negotiate agreements.

  The Third Country Rules are largely silent on human rights matters, but they provide (in Article 4.4 of the rules concerning the receipt of information by Europol from third parties) that information which has clearly been obtained by a third state in obvious violation of human rights shall not be stored in the Europol information system or any Europol analysis file. Wording on these lines has been incorporated into the draft Model Agreement, in Article 6, but it has not yet been discussed substantively in the Management Board or Working Group. The next meeting of the Management Board will be on 16 November, when the United Kingdom intends raising the need to incorporate into the Model Agreement wording on human rights safeguards. We intend referring to a Commission Communication of 23 May 1995 which sets out three elements for human rights clauses in First Pillar Agreements with Third Countries, ie:

    (a)  a clause stating that respect for democratic principles and human rights is an essential element;

    (b)  a reference in the Preamble to universal and/or regional human rights instruments common to both Parties; and

    (c)  a non-execution clause which could trigger a suspension of co-operation.

  We intend suggesting that these elements should be a basis for considering what would be appropriate wording in Europol's agreements with Third Countries.

  I am taking this opportunity to enclose the latest version of the draft Model Agreement (3710-01r3). This will not formally be deposited for scrutiny as it is not materially different from the version you have already seen. In addition, we anticipate a revised version following the meeting on the 16th.

  On data protection, I can confirm that copies of the various versions of the Model Agreement were sent to the Data Protection Registrar. We omitted to say this in the Explanatory Memorandum but will ensure that such consultations are mentioned in the future.

17 November 1999

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Barbara Roche MP, Minister of State, Home Office

  Thank you for your letter of 17 November which was considered by Sub-Committee E (Law and Institutions) at its meeting on 1 December.

  The Committee regrets that you have not been able to give a full reply to the questions raised in my letter of 21 October. It nevertheless decided to clear the document from scrutiny. The Committee will, however, continue to keep the co-operation question of the use of human rights clauses in Europol's agreements under review and would be grateful if you would keep it informed of developments.

2 December 1999

previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2000