Select Committee on European Union Thirteenth Report

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

  Thank you for your letter of 18 May. I was very grateful for your Committee's clearance of the proposed amendments to the draft Council Decision on the UK application. As you may know, the Decision was adopted as an A point at the JHA Council meeting on 29 May. I enclose a copy of the Decision as adopted.

  You asked for clarification on three points of detail. First, you commented on the statement that the Schengen provisions on cross-border surveillance were not designed for application to a border of the sort which exists between Gibraltar and Spain where customs checks are applied. As you rightly point out, the relevant provision of the Schengen Convention (Article 40) concerns persons, not goods. However, the existence of a frontier where goods are systematically checked, such as the one between Gibraltar and Spain, means that there is ample opportunity for arrangements to be made between the respective police forces for transfer of responsibility for surveillance at the border-crossing points. The provisions of Article 40 are more appropriate between the UK and other Schengen states because the absence of customs controls between Member States, combined with our "light touch" immigration control for EC nationals, creates a corresponding need for effective cross-border surveillance beyond the physical frontier. The absence of cross-border surveillance arrangements between Spain and Gibraltar does not however suggest a lack of co-operation between the two police services. Indeed, the Home Secretary and his Spanish counterpart, Senor Mayor Oreja, signed police co-operation arrangements between the Gibraltar and Spanish police, based on Article 39 of the Schengen Implementing Convention, in the margins of last month's JHA Council.

  Secondly, you asked for clarification as to the possibility of the Gibraltar authorities obtaining information from the Schengen Information System (SIS). I can confirm that the Council Decision does not allow for direct access to the SIS data by Gibraltar. However, as part of the Schengen implementation process we will consider how Gibraltar might benefit from SIS information.

  The third point you raised concerned the drafting changes in the declaration expressing the UK's intentions regarding the participation in Schengen of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. The wording of the original draft declaration (which I sent you in my letter of 31 January) caused some difficulties in negotiations. As you say, the UK then proposed, in the Permanent Representative's letter of 19 April, that the declaration be omitted. We thought that it was not strictly necessary and that an oral statement would suffice. However, this proposal led to difficulties for other Member States, who wished the Decision to be accompanied by a formal undertaking that whatever might be finally agreed as regards the participation of the Islands should be coherent with the arrangements agreed for the UK. Throughout these textual changes the UK's policy intention has remained unchanged: that is, to ensure that the Islands participate as fully as possible in the Schengen provisions, within the terms of the UK's application and the Islands' constitutional position. We are still discussing with the Islands the extent of their participation. I will keep you in touch with developments.

13 June 2000

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