Select Committee on European Union Thirteenth Report

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

  Thank you for your letter of 4 May containing a brief response to the Committee's Report on UK participation in the Schengen Acquis. I note that there is a possibility of reaching agreement on the UK's Application to take part in the Schengen acquis at the May Justice and Home Affairs Council.

  Sub-Committee F (Social Affairs, Education and Home Affairs) has considered the proposed amendments (in the UK Permanent Representative's letter to the Council Presidency) to Article 5(2) of the draft Council Decision specifying which parts of the Schengen acquis are to apply in Gibraltar. Your officials have also provided a revised consolidated draft of the Council Decision. There are three points on which the Committee would welcome further clarification.

  First, the two main areas of the acquis in which Gibraltar will not participate are Schengen provisions on cross-border surveillance and the Schengen Information System (SIS). As regards cross-border surveillance, you state that "these provisions are not designed for application to a border of the sort which exists between Gibraltar and Spain where customs checks are applied". While the Committee understands that there may be political sensitivities about Spanish and Gibraltar police forces carrying out surveillance in each other's territory, the particular rationale you advance seems somewhat odd. The relevant provision on the Schengen Convention (Article 40) concerns persons, not goods.

  Secondly, as regards the Schengen Information System, it seems clear that there would be no terminals giving direct access to SIS data located in Gibraltar, but there remains a question as to the possibility of Gibraltar authorities obtaining information indirectly via the relevant UK authorities. The Committee would welcome clarification of both points.

  Finally, you do not explain the position with regard to the participation of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man in parts of the Schengen acquis. The amendments proposed in the Permanent Representative's letter indicate that an earlier declaration (set out in your letter to the Committee of 31 January 2000) expressing the UK's intention that the Islands should participate as fully as possible is to be omitted. The latest consolidated revised draft Decision contains a slightly different declaration. The Committee would be grateful for an explanation of the significance of the differences.

  In view of the possibility of reaching agreement on the draft Decision at the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 29 May, the Committee has decided to clear the document from scrutiny. I would be grateful if you could also include in your response to the points mentioned above an explanation of the outcome of discussions at the Council meeting.

18 May 2000

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