Select Committee on European Union Tenth Report


APPENDIX 5: Exchange of correspondence between the Chairman of the EU Select Committee and Caroline Flint, MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Home Office

Letter from Lord Grenfell to Caroline Flint, MP

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on the area of freedom, security and justice: results of the Tampere programme and future guidelines (10249/04 COM(04) 402, 20249/04 ADD 1 SEC(04) 680 & 10249/04 ADD2 SEC (04) 693

This Communication on the follow-up to Tampere has been examined by both Sub-Committee E (Law and Institutions) and Sub-Committee F (Home Affairs) of the Select Committee on the European Union. We were grateful for your detailed explanatory memorandum.

We consider that the Communication is of pivotal significance in the debate over the direction of EU Justice and Home Affairs policy in the next five years. As you know, our Committees have examined many of the issues raised in the Communication in detail in the past, and are currently holding inquiries on aspects of mutual recognition and criminal procedural law, and police co-operation and counter-terrorism activities. This letter outlines the Committee's general view on the Commission's strategic priorities in Justice and Home Affairs.

We note that many of the Commission's proposals build on already established priorities. In many fields, these proposals seem a logical continuation of existing work, prime examples being measures on illegal immigration and returns, mutual recognition in criminal matters and the role of Eurojust (where, as will be apparent from our recent report, we welcome the central role that the Commission envisages for Eurojust). Other priorities touch on matters where, notwithstanding the Commission's efforts, little has been achieved thus far - prime examples are legal migration and the status of third-country nationals legally resident in Member States. The Committee has repeatedly highlighted the importance of these issues for the Union, and we strongly endorse the priorities identified by the Commission.

In other areas the Commission is putting forward proposals that are more radical than what has been proposed so far: a prime example here is the area of civil law, especially fields such as succession and the civil status of individuals, where no proposals have yet been tabled. The Committee has repeatedly expressed its concerns over the necessity and legitimacy of Union action in the field of civil law, especially when it is not related to the functioning of the internal market. We note that you are concerned to ensure the respect of national legal traditions in civil law and would welcome any information on what concrete steps you will take in this context.

We note that you will oppose the inclusion in the programme of the establishment of a European Corps of Border Guards. As you know from our report on a European Border Guard, we share your opposition to the creation of a Corps of Border Guards, but it seems unlikely that the United Kingdom's views will carry much weight on this issue given its exclusion from the European Border Agency (in spite of its wish to participate in it). We would like to take the opportunity to stress again our view that the United Kingdom's piecemeal approach to border controls, immigration and asylum in the EU is inconsistent and detrimental to United Kingdom interests.

The same point applies to visa policy. In this connection we note that the Government advocates the sharing of Visa Information System data with police authorities. This would extend the dissemination of visa data very widely, and we would be grateful for more information about the Government's intentions in this field, the justification for such an extension and any legal obstacles or implications that you foresee.

Given the Government's support for the first stage of the 'asylum package', your opposition to further harmonisation seems a rather abrupt change of direction. We would welcome a clarification of the reasons behind this policy decision.

In the policing area you say that you favour a 'flexible interpretation' of the Europol Convention. What exactly does this mean? Do you support the Commission's view that Europol should assume an operational role? On police co-operation we note that the Commission envisages the reinvigoration and development of the Police Chiefs' Task Force. We would welcome your views on the Task Force and the scope for increasing its effectiveness.

As you will know from our comments on the Commission's Communication on crime prevention, we remain sceptical about the scope for effective crime prevention at EU level. We are not persuaded otherwise by the comments in paragraph 34 of the Explanatory Memorandum, which in our opinion is unrealistic and does not take sufficient account of subsidiarity.

Finally, an element underlying the Commission's Communication are the institutional and legal constraints (such as unanimity in the Council) hampering EU action in JHA. This will change when the draft Constitutional Treaty is adopted, since decision-making in most JHA matters will follow the 'Community method' (majority voting and co-decision). But in view of the fact that the Constitutional Treaty is unlikely to enter into force before the end of 2006 at the earliest, the question arises whether to take into account its provisions (and the new competences it gives the EU in the field) in the Tampere II programme (which will run from 2005 to 2009). We would welcome your views on this issue.

The Committee decided to retain the documents under scrutiny.

I am copying this letter to Jimmy Hood MP, Chairman of the Commons European Scrutiny Committee; and to Dorian Gerhold, Clerk to the Commons Committee; Michael Carpenter, Legal Adviser to the Commons Committee; Les Saunders (Cabinet Office); and Stuart Young, Departmental Scrutiny Co-ordinator.

16 September 2004

Letter from Caroline Flint, MP, to Lord Grenfell

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on the area of freedom, security and justice: results of the Tampere programme and future guidelines (10249/04 COM(04) 402, 20249/04 ADD 1 SEC(04) 680 & 10249/04 ADD2 SEC (04) 693

I am writing in response to your letter of 16 September. I apologise for not responding earlier by my office did not receive your letter until 20 October.

I note that the Committee has concerns about the necessity and legitimacy of Union action in the field of civil law, especially when it is not related to the functioning of the internal market. The Committee will be aware that the same concern underpinned the Government's lobbying to secure changes in the original Convention text of the new Constitutional Treaty. It is a concern that has been heightened by attempts on the part of the Commission in a number of current civil law dossiers to have those dossiers applicable in both cross-border and purely domestic cases. With the active support of a number of other Member States, we have resisted this, arguing that there is no Treaty basis for domestic application.

We are conscious that there may be those who wish to extend the use of the internal market argument to a point where we see it coming into conflict with the principle of respecting the different legal traditions of Member States. Both in relation to the current dossiers under negotiation (European Payment Order, small claims mediation) and areas in which work is being taken forward over a longer term (including in relation to contract law) the Government will ensure that inappropriate inroads are not made into our common law system.

I note your views on the European Corps of Border Guards and the "United Kingdom's piecemeal approach to border controls, immigration and asylum in the EU". The Government does not consider that its policy on these issues is piecemeal. Stronger EU Borders and a better approach to asylum are strongly in the United Kingdom's interest. We opt in to immigration and asylum measures when it is in our interests to co-operate in these issues with our EU partners; immigration and asylum are international issues and they demand international solutions. In practice this means we have tended to opt in to measures on asylum and illegal migration, but do not tend to participate in legal migration measures.

You asked for further information about the Government's intentions for sharing Visa Information System data. As you know from earlier correspondence with the Committee, we advocate an approach that seeks to maximise the use of data stored on EU information systems, and within that we have argued that the EU should do all it can to exchange information widely across law enforcement agencies. Enhancing our collective ability to identify and refuse entry or monitor the movements of individuals who pose a threat to national or public security at the EU's borders is an essential step in strengthening the EU external border and thereby, our ability to prevent a terrorist attach. This was recognised in the European Council Declaration on Combating Terrorism and in a number of recent EU measures, for example, the proposal to transfer data on lost and stolen passports to Interpol.

However, within the context of VIS, we are referring to EU law enforcement agencies in a broad sense, which therefore includes Member States immigration authorities. The Government does not intend, at present, to propose that VIS data be shared more widely with police authorities.

The Government is committed to working with our European partners to achieve an effective, fair and managed system of immigration and asylum. In 1999 we stated that we were interested in developing co-operation with EU partners on asylum. We recognise now, as then, that immigration and asylum are international issues and that they demand international solutions. We will continue to collaborate and co-operate on immigration and asylum issues where it is in the interests of Britain and in the interests of Europe.

At the Tampere European Council in October 1999, Member States agreed to look towards the creation of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). We endorsed the need for the first phase of the CEAS to concentrate on establishing common minimum standards, which can help protect genuine refugees while safeguarding asylum systems from abuse. When the Asylum Procedures Directive is formally adopted, the legislation to put in place the first phase of the "Tampere Agenda" will be complete at the EU level. This is a substantial package of legislation. It is important next to implement it in each Member State and to evaluate its effects properly. The draft Hague Programme for Justice and Home Affairs co-operation recognises that second phase legal instruments will only come forward following a thorough evaluation of the current (first phase) instruments. The Procedures Directive will not be in force until 2007 at the earliest, so we will not be in a position quickly to make an informed assessment of the impact of the measures we have agreed, and to judge what further measures might be appropriate.

In the meantime, we believe that the focus of our work at the EU level should be on practical co-operation between Member States. Practical co-operation both within the EU and with third countries can help us to improve protection in regions of origin, and to persuade third countries to re-document and accept the return of their citizens where they are found not to be in need of international protection. We feel that this is where the immediate benefit of EU co-operation can be gained. Our policy has not changed; we are simply continuing to take a pragmatic approach to EU co-operation to ensure that it can deliver real benefits.

The Government supports a 'flexible interpretation' of the Europol Convention in the sense that where Europol can assist Member States through guidance, informal support and examples of best practice Europol should be encouraged to do so, even where it is not explicitly stated in the Convention. The United Kingdom does not support the view that Europol should assume any coercive powers. Europol should provide value-added analysis of existing criminal intelligence to Member States, becoming more focused on supporting and co-ordinating targeted operations by Member States or groups of Member States that ensure tangible results in the disruption and prevention of Organised Crime. Methods to increase the effectiveness of the Police Chief's Task Force (PCTF) are currently under discussion; on the basis of whether the PCTF's main tasks are agreed to be operational or more policy focused the PCTF may either be brought closer to Europol or to Council Structures or to both. Whatever the exact outcome the PCTF should be given a firmer legal basis and will be better placed to contribute to intelligence led operations by Member States.

I note that your Committee remains sceptical about the scope for effective action in crime prevention at EU level. We agree that the vast majority of activities to prevent crime are carried out at a local or national level, and that crime prevention is primarily the responsibility of individual Member States. However, there is substantial value to be gained in sharing experience and evidence-based good practice at EU level solely to support Member States' efforts, focusing on a few key priorities from which Member States would most benefit. It is also the government's view that some activities, such as work on the designing-out of crime or improving the comparability of statistics, can only be strengthened by an EU-wide approach. In terms of the United Kingdom we should be ready to exploit and influence any opportunities that would make the task of policing our streets easier or our own efforts more effective. This includes using the EU and other Member States when it is in our interests to do so. Furthermore, it is clear that specific proposals will emerge on the actions specified in the Communication. We will carefully scrutinise each of these as they appear to ensure that whatever is proposed properly falls within a third pillar legal base and satisfies the subsidiarity principle.

Where there are competencies within the existing Treaties, the Government sees no difficulty in bringing forward measures envisaged under the Constitutional Treaty. As the Hague programme runs until after expected ratification of the Constitutional Treaty, we do not oppose the programme making reference to competencies under this Treaty. However, The Hague Work Programme should not pre-empt the Constitutional Treaty by proposing contentious measures that can only be brought forward under that Treaty.

The Hague Work Programme will be agreed by Heads of State at the European Council on 5 November. I am confident that it will reflect the strenuous efforts the Government has made to ensure it accommodates United Kingdom priorities.

I am copying this letter to Jimmy Hood MP, Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, to Dorian Gerhold, Clerk to the European Scrutiny Committee, to Michael Carpenter, Legal Adviser to the European Scrutiny Committee, to Les Saunders (Cabinet Office), and to Stuart Young, Departmental Scrutiny Co-ordinator.

4 November 2004

Letter from Lord Grenfell to Caroline Flint, MP

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on the area of freedom, security and justice: results of the Tampere Programme and future guidelines (docs 10249/04 COM (2004) 402, 10249/04 ADD 1 SEC (2004) 680 and 10249/04 ADD 2 SEC (2004) 693 ) The Hague Programme—'Strengthening Freedom, Security and Justice in the EU'

Thank you for your letter of 4 November about this Communication, which Sub-Committee F (Home Affairs) of the European Union Select Committee considered at a meeting on 1 December.

We are grateful for your detailed response to my letter of 16 September and for the helpful clarification of a number of points that we raised. I will not comment further at this stage since Sub-Committee E and Sub-Committee F are planning to undertake a short joint inquiry into the Hague Programme early in the New Year, as we were not given the opportunity to scrutinise it in advance of its adoption by the European Council. We will be inviting you to assist this inquiry by giving oral evidence to the Sub-Committees.

There is one additional point that we are likely to wish to pursue in that context—the extent to which the Government's desire that the EU should exchange information widely across law enforcement agencies extends to third countries and agencies outside the European Union, including Interpol.

We have cleared the Commission's Communication from scrutiny.

I am copying this letter to Jimmy Hood MP, Chairman of the Commons European Scrutiny Committee; and to Dorian Gerhold, Clerk to the Commons Committee; Michael Carpenter, Legal Adviser to the Commons Committee; Les Saunders (Cabinet Office); and to Stuart Young, Departmental Scrutiny Co-ordinator.

2 December 2004

Letter from Caroline Flint, MP to Lord Grenfell

The Hague Programme on strengthening freedom, security and justice in the European Union

I attach a copy of The Hague Programme on Strengthening Freedom, Security and Justice in the European Union that was endorsed by Heads of State, including the Prime Minister, at the European Council on 5 November. The Government welcomes this programme, which lays down a sound basis for progress in the Justice and Home Affairs area over the next 5 years. The Government's views on the priorities for this work programme were set out in my Explanatory Memorandum o 28 June 2004 on the Commission's Communication on the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice: Assessment of the Tampere programme and future orientations (10249/04 JAI 204 COM (04) 402) and in the debate on the Floor of the House of Commons on 14 October 2004.

The Government's objectives are well served by The Hague Programme. Its tone an content are consistent with the views I expressed in the Explanatory Memorandum of 28 June and the 14 October Commons debate on the subject. Especially welcome is the emphasis on a practical approach and a focus on adding real value to Member States' efforts. For example, through partnership with third countries, progress on returns and readmissions, and improvements in intelligence-led policing. We also welcome the emphasis on evaluation and implementation which will help ensure delivery of EU level initiatives bringing tangible benefits to United Kingdom citizens. In the areas that the Government considered of key importance, set out below, we are satisfied with the substance of the programme. We will seek to ensure that United Kingdom interests are equally well reflected when the European Commission sets out its Action Plan next year to put the programme into practice.

The Government is content with the sections of The Hague Programme relating to immigration and asylum. In this area, we believe that relations with third countries are particularly important and that we need to improve co-operation with source and transit countries, including developing partnerships with countries or origin. Areas of special importance for the United Kingdom include the protection of refugees, progress on returns and readmissions, and closer working with the EU's new neighbours. The Government also welcomes the incorporation of biometrics into travel documents, and minimum security standards for EU ID cards, as set out in the programme. Such developments are vital in tackling identity fraud, combating illegal immigration and serious crime and terrorism.

We welcome the importance given to practical and collaborative co-operation on asylum. As we near completion of the common minimum standards legislative package, the United Kingdom believes and the text makes clear, that any further legislative action at the EU level should be based on an evaluation of the current instruments. This principle of decision-making based on evaluation is repeated in relation to the suggestion of a European Office to co-ordinate co-operation on asylum processing. We are also pleased that the Programme acknowledges the need to look into the difficulties behind issues such as joint processing before considering whether to take them any further. Given the timetable for adoption, implementation and evaluation of the first phase asylum measures, we consider the dates attached to the second phase (2007 for evaluation, 2010 for adoption) to be premature. However, we recognised that many Member States wanted target dates to aim for and, in this context, we accepted their inclusion. We retain the ability to choose whether to opt in to future measures and will continue to do so when it is in our national interest.

We welcome the importance attached to border security in this programme and the recognition that the 'control and surveillance of external borders fall within the sphere of national border authorities.' We support the establishment of the European Borders Agency and the support being offered to Member States in vulnerable positions, including the establishment of teams of national experts to provide technical and operational assistance to Member States. The United Kingdom is not alone in its opposition to a European Border Guard, and the establishment of one could only be considered by the EU after an evaluation of the teams of national experts and a further feasibility study. Co-operation with our EU counterparts on border management issues is essential, but there are ways that we can work together without needing a corps of border guards. The new EU Border Agency is one such example, as are the proposed study into a community fund for border management and teams of national experts—both of which were included in The Hague programme.

The Programme calls upon the Council to adopt a decision, no later than 1 April 2005, to extend Qualified Majority Voting and co-decision to all immigration measures, with the exception of legal migration. A proposal for a Council Decision is due to be adopted on 21 December. The Government's position is set out in its Explanatory Memoranda of 15 November on document 14497/04, and of 25  November on documents 15130/04 and 15130/04 COR 1 (en). We opted-in to the decision, which will have no effect on the United Kingdom's Title IV protocol negotiated at Amsterdam. The United Kingdom will continue to be able to opt in to measures that are in the United Kingdom's interest. We are keen to see such measures adopted without the delays experienced under unanimous voting in a Council of 25 Member States.

The Hague Programme takes as the basis for the exchange of information the principle of availability. The Government strongly supports the aims of sharing relevant information between Member States and reducing unnecessary barriers to data exchange. It is also important to ensure that release of information is properly controlled and adequate safeguards are in place to protect sensitive information sources and techniques being put at risk. That is why the Government is pleased that The Hague Programme adopted language that made clear that sensitive information sources and intelligence methods should be protected from unqualified disclosure, particularly where the security services are concerned. The Government also welcomes the focus on better practical co-operation between law enforcement bodies within the EU and the development of an intelligence-led approach to policing. This should encourage better sharing and analysis of criminal intelligence and a more strategic and accountable use of it.

The Government endorses The Hague Programme's support for the EU's counter-terrorism programme, including the continued implementation of the comprehensive agenda set out in the 2004 Declaration on Combating Terrorism. We welcome the recognition of the need to address the underlying factors that contribute to the radicalisation that supports terrorist activities. Although national security must remain the clear responsibility of Member States, collective security can only be achieved through cooperation between Member States, supported by the EU.

The Government strongly supports the continued emphasis on mutual recognition in The Hague Programme. It ensures that Member States' judiciaries can co-operate effectively whilst still respecting their distinct and diverse legal systems. The Hague Programme also highlights the development of confidence building and mutual trust in the EU, which the Government can support on the condition that it is based on the diversity of Member States' legal systems. We support the evaluation of the implementation of EU justice policies in order to ensure these bring improvements in EU judicial co-operation. Linked to this, the emphasis in the programme on providing Eurojust with the necessary powers to effectively aid judicial co-operation is also welcome. Although some Member States pushed for the inclusion of a reference to the establishment of a European Public Prosecutor (EPP), this was resisted by the majority of Member States and does not feature in the programme. The Government remains unconvinced of the need for an EPP and is satisfied at its exclusion from the programme.

The Government can also support the call for further work on procedural rights in criminal proceedings, taking into account Member States' legal traditions, as highlighted in the programme. We would hope to be in a position to finalise work on both the Framework Decision on the European Evidence Warrant and the Framework Decision on certain procedural rights in criminal proceedings by the end of the United Kingdom Presidency in 2005.

The Government welcomes the importance the Council attaches to the further development of judicial co-operation in civil matters and the completion of the programme of mutual recognition. This programme supports the ability of European citizens to live, work, study, buy and sell and do business across European borders with the same security and ease of access to justice as at home. The programme invites the Commission to submit proposals on maintenance, succession, matrimonial property regimes and divorce, indicating that instruments in these areas should be completed by 2011. These are areas requiring special care, in which member states have particular sensitivities; discussion on any proposals brought forward will have regard to the need to respect individual member states' traditions, and the assurance that such instruments will not be based on harmonised concepts of "family", "marriage" or other is welcome.

The Government is pleased to see an explicit reference to the mainstreaming of Justice and Home Affairs issues into the EU's external relations, especially where action at EU level can complement the actions of Member States. The JHA priorities abroad through co-operation with third countries is one of the keys to achieving domestic improvements.

I am writing in similar terms to Jimmy Hood, MP, Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, and copying this letter to Dorian Gerhold, Clerk to the European Scrutiny Committee, to Les Saunders (Cabinet Office), and to Stuart Young, Departmental Scrutiny Co-ordinator.

21 December 2004

Letter from Lord Wright of Richmond to Caroline Flint, MP

Inquiry into the Hague Programme

As you know, Sub-Committee F (Home Affairs) of the Select Committee on the European Union is undertaking a short inquiry jointly with Sub-Committee E (Law and Institutions) into the Hague Programme, which was approved by the European Council on 5 November. I can now send you a copy of our call for evidence.

  I understand that you have kindly agreed to give evidence to a joint meeting of the two sub-committees on Wednesday 26 January at 4.45 p.m. and we look forward to that. It would be very helpful to have in advance of your oral evidence a note setting out the Government's views on the Programme. As the Programme was not deposited, no explanatory memorandum was submitted and we have not had the opportunity to scrutinise it in the normal way, although we did scrutinise the Commission's earlier Communication on the subject.

13 December 2004

Letter from Caroline Flint, MP, to Lord Wright of Richmond

Inquiry into The Hague Programme

Thank you for your letter of 13 December enclosing a copy of the call for evidence for your inquiry on The Hague Programme. I believe that your letter crossed with my letter to Lord Grenfell of 21 December, which set out the Government's views on The Hague Programme in which I covered many of the issues you raised in your call for evidence. This letter therefore concentrates on those areas that have not already been addressed. I hope you find it acceptable to accept both letters as the Government's written evidence for this inquiry.

2.  The Government does not believe that The Hague Programme itself was depositable for Parliament Scrutiny, as it was an internal Council working document and was only formally published in the conclusions of the November European Council, although I appreciate that it was posted on the Council's Internet Website. However, I am happy to help your Committee with its inquiry and look forward to appearing before the joint meeting of Sub-Committees E and F on 26 January.

3.  The Government remains content with the general direction of the Programme and will seek to ensure that the Action Plan implementing The Hague Programme will follow this framework. The United Kingdom Presidency in the second half of 2005 will finalise the Action Plan if necessary and begin implementing it.

4.  The Government welcomes the continuing debate on immigration for employment purposes and recognises that most Member States face similar challenges and opportunities in this area. We value the work to date to identify a broad EU based framework for migration, within which individual Member States can pursue their own national plans for migration, and we support continued work in this field. We believe the Commission has a valuable role to play in formulating the scope for action through encouraging debate and we agree that there are benefits to be gained from the exchange of ideas, knowledge and experience in this field. We shall be examining the Commission's Green Paper on managing economic migration carefully and constructively. The United Kingdom has taken a positive approach to opening its labour markets to new Member States since enlargement of the EU. Transitional arrangements for nationals of 8 of the Accession States (Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia) which have been in place since 1 May are working well. Unlike most other EU countries, by opening up our labour market, we are ensuring that Accession nationals who were already in the United Kingdom, possibly illegally, can legitimise their status and move into the formal economy, paying tax and national insurance rather than working in the sub-economy. Nearly all applicants to the Worker Registration Scheme are in full time employment and doing jobs in sectors where there are key skills shortages and recruitment difficulties (hospitality and catering; administration, business and management, agriculture; health; construction).

5.  The United Kingdom welcomes and has already gone some way to achieving the principles outlined in the November JHA Council Conclusions on the establishment of common basic principles for integration policy in the EU. The Government has already embarked on a wide community cohesion agenda. There are valuable initiatives in place at local level and the aim now is to identify and build on those initiatives to develop a great sense of "belonging" and shared values. Classes in citizenship and English are currently being piloted in selected areas by using existing provisions and building on pioneering projects already in place. The approach needs to be practical and flexible to meet the needs of the individual and the community that they are joining. For prospective new citizens, the United Kingdom has already introduced a requirement that they should meet a particular standard of English. Later in the year secondary legislation will be introduced requiring applicants to show that they know something of life in the United Kingdom, and we are exploring innovative ways of testing this. The United Kingdom will carry forward the strategies on integration started during the Netherlands Presidency.

6.  The United Kingdom fully supports the aims and objectives of the European Border Agency, which will become operational in May 2005. It will more effectively co-ordinate Member States' joint action at the EU external border. The Government recognises the importance of working with its European partners. We seek to participate in joint operations and other activities wherever possible and participated in a significant number of operations led by the EU Border Management centres. Other Member States acknowledge and are keen to learn from United Kingdom expertise in may areas, for example new detection technology and document forgery detection. Despite this the United Kingdom has been excluded from the Border Agency Regulation. This is a point of legal principle which needs to be clarified; and as you know we will make an application the ECJ against our exclusion. We have noted your request to be regularly updated on progress of the challenge and will write to you at key stages of the procedure. The Government welcomes the call for the Council to examine how to maximise the effectiveness and interoperability of EU information systems in tackling illegal immigration and improving border controls. We also welcome efforts to increase the security of EU travel and residence documents by incorporating biometric identifiers and fully support the Hague Programme's call for the development of minimum standards for national identity cards.

7.  The Hague Programme takes as the basis for the exchange of information the principle of availability, which means an obligation on Member States to make available to other Member States information pertinent to investigations or proceedings in another Member State. We strongly support the aims of sharing relevant information between Member States and reducing unnecessary barriers to data exchange. It is also important to ensure that release of information is properly controlled and adequate safeguards are in place to protect sensitive information sources and techniques being put at risk. Therefore, we are pleased that The Hague Programme adopted language that made clear that sensitive information sources and intelligence methods should be protected from unqualified disclosure.

8.  The Hague Programme recognises that crime prevention is an indispensable part of the work to create an area of freedom, security and justice across the EU. While crime prevention is primarily the responsibility of individual Member States, there is substantial value to be gained in sharing experience and evidence-based good practice at EU level solely to support Member States' efforts, using a more strategic, structure EU-wide approach, providing that the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality are respected.

9.  The Programme also recognises the need for measures to be taken to ensure that the necessary resources are in place for effective delivery of these objectives, such as the strengthening of the EUCPN. We firmly agree that providing suitable organisational arrangements is crucial.

10.  The Government believes that Europol should provide value-adding analysis of existing criminal intelligence, and support targeted operations by Member States that ensure tangible results against organised crime. We particularly welcome the agreement that Europol should produce forward looking threat assessments from 1 January 2006 onwards. This complements and supports United Kingdom thinking that Europol should be central to a more effective use of criminal intelligence and the process of intelligence-led policing than it has been in the past. The Hague Programme does not require Europol to, and it should not, develop operational powers or be responsible for terrorist threat assessments.

11.  External relations was covered in the Government's letter of 21 December but we also look forward to the Commission's forthcoming proposals for pilot EU Regional Protection Programmes, as envisaged in their recent Communication (4 June 2004) on 'durable solutions'.

I am copying this to Lord Grenfell, Chairman of the European Union Committee, to Lord Scott of Foscote, Chairman, Sub-Committee E, European Union Committee, to Jimmy Hood, MP, Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, to Simon Burton, Clerk to the European Union Committee, to Tony Rawsthorne, Clerk to Sub-Committee F, to Sarah Price, Clerk to Sub-Committee E, European Union Committee, to Les Saunders (Cabinet Office), and to Stuart Young, Departmental Scrutiny Co-ordinator.

21 January 2005


 
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