Examination of Witnesses (Questions 155-159)|
Mr David Smith and Mr Jonathan Bamford
25 OCTOBER 2006
You are both very welcome. I think I am right in saying that we
welcome both of you back, do we not? You have both appeared before
this Committee before?
Mr Smith: Yes.
Mr Bamford: Yes.
Q156 Chairman: Thank you very much
for coming. We will perhaps start by asking you if you have any
comments on the previous session. Is there anything touching on
your responsibilities that you think we ought to know about? Perhaps
most particularly on the last question, which was whether the
adoption of the SIS II Decision or the Framework Decision entailed
any amendments to the UK's national data protection law. From
your point of view, what is the answer to that?
Mr Smith: Thank you, My Lord Chairman. If you
do not mind, may I also say a word or two of introduction?
Q157 Chairman: Please do.
Mr Smith: I have been here before, as you know,
and it is a pleasure to come back again. My colleague Jonathan
Bamford takes charge of these areas for us. I am now Deputy Commissioner
and essentially have responsibility for all our data protection
functions in the Information Commissioner's Office. Mr Thomas,
the Commissioner, does send his apologies for not being able to
attend today in person. As I say, we welcome the opportunity to
come here. We really do appreciate the interest this Committee
shows in Third Pillar data protection issues. It is an important
area for us, but is often one on which little light is cast. We
have a particular interest in Europol, which is what we have spoken
to you about before. I do not want to blow my own trumpet, but
you may be interested to know that I was elected last week as
Chairman of the Europol Joint Supervisory Body. It is not a personal
thing, but I think that it is a mark of the UK's interest and
engagement with those issues.
Q158 Chairman: Congratulations personally
Mr Smith: Thank you, My Lord Chairman. Having
said that, it is perhaps more a word of apology to you that our
involvement with SIS, and particularly SIS II, is less than that
with some of the other areas. We are only observers on the Joint
Supervisory Authority at the moment; we have no practical experience
because SIS is not operational in the UK. In coming to you today,
therefore, we are more than happy to come and give evidence but,
if we are a little hesitant on some points and say that we need
to go back, think about it and get back to you, please bear with
Q159 Chairman: I understand that.
May I just ask this? Does your observer status in fact limit the
extent to which you can intervene and influence the negotiations?
Mr Smith: No, it does not. We are able to speak
in the meetings. We do not simply sit and listen; but I think
that we are a little reluctant to, if you like, keep putting up
our hand and to keep getting involved when we are not there as
full members and certainly, on the odd occasion that issues come
to a vote, we do not have a vote on those issues. You asked about
the changes in the Data Protection Act required by SIS II and
by the Framework Decision. I am not sure that the SIS II alone
would require changes in the Data Protection Act. My assumption
is that there will be some implementing legislation which would
translate the provisions into UK law. We come back to this question
which you were asking about. Which prevails? The general data
protection or the specific legislation? And I will happily deal
with that. I think that the implementation of the Framework Decision
would require some changes to the UK Data Protection Act. It is
very unclear to us at the moment how that Framework Decision will
emerge. We are pleased by the interest you have shown in that
in the discussions and we are happy to answer some questions on
it, because I think that we do have real concerns, from the limited
feedback we get, as to where the negotiations which have been
referred to are actually leading.