Select Committee on European Communities Second Report


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

  Sub-Committee F of the European Union Committee considered the above communication at their meeting on 26 January. The Committee expressed some concern at the inadequacy of the mechanism described in the Communication for the removal of data held in the Schengen Information System on persons who are or have become Union citizens. It is unsatisfactory that the removal of these data should depend on the individuals concerned or Member States becoming aware of their existence.

  We note that the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee has raised the same point, and that in your reply of 13 December 1999 you have assured it that the Government will pursue this matter in the detailed discussions preceding the UK's active participation in the SIS. The House of Lords Committee would wish to draw your attention to Article 105 of the Schengen Convention, which states that the Member States entering data on the SIS "shall be responsible for ensuring that data . . . is accurate, up-to-date and lawful". This would seem to suggest that Member States are required to play a more active role in detecting and erasing inaccurate or unlawful data. The Committee would welcome your views on the meaning and effect of this provision. We would also draw your attention to the conclusions of the Committee's Report on European Union Databases,[12] which was published on 12 January 2000. A copy of this Report is enclosed.

  We trust that the Government will give data protection the importance it deserves in discussion with European partners, and the European Union Committee will continue to examine these issues closely. However, the Committee has decided to clear the scrutiny reserve on the present document.

27 January 2000

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

  Thank you for your letter of 27 January about the comments in this Communication on arrangements for removal of data on the Schengen Information System on people who are or have become EU citizens.

  You asked about the meaning and effect of Article 105 of the Schengen Convention. As the UK is not at present a participant in the SIS, I am unable to comment on how Article 105 is applied by other Member States. But I can confirm that it is our understanding this Article requires Contracting Parties to have in place mechanisms to ensure that data is checked regularly and up-dated or deleted as necessary. This would include removing data on EU citizens, whose inclusion on the system on immigration grounds would be unlawful and contrary to the Schengen Convention itself.

  This Article is clearly one of the provisions built into the Convention with a view to ensuring the protection of individual rights, and compliance with data protection principles. My letter of 13 December to the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee referred to the inclusion of such provisions in the Convention, and drew attention to the role of the Joint Supervisory Authority and the Data Protection Registrar in supervising matters of compliance with data protection requirements.

  I have read with interest the Committee's report on European Union Databases, to which we will respond separately. I note in particular the interesting evidence from Justice about the SIS data protection arrangements. We will bear their comments in mind in assessing the adequacy of the safeguards as we progress to implementation of the system.

21 February 2000

12   23rd Report, Session 1998-99, HL Paper 120. Back

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