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The Every Child a Reader programme, which, as the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, rightly said, is based on the reading recovery scheme, is a sensible investment if it ensures that children who would otherwise be held back learn to read. That is being rolled out. The noble Lord, Lord Dearing, asked at what rate it was being rolled out—it will benefit 5,000 children in 2007-08, increasing to about 30,000 by 2010-11. We want to see it increase, but, I should stress, that is the nationally funded element of Every Child a Reader. There is nothing to stop any primary school using its delegated budget to adopt similar techniques, including small group tuition, and if necessary, one-to-one tuition, for children who are falling behind. Most well run primary schools do precisely that. As in many other areas, we are giving a national lead in respect of best practice, which effective leaders observe in their schools in any event. We are looking to introduce a similar scheme in respect of numeracy—the Every Child Counts scheme.

In respect of vocational education, which the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, was absolutely right to highlight as a priority, we are introducing 17 new diploma lines in four phases between 2008 and 2011. All will be in

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the main vocational areas, such as engineering, IT, health and social care, and construction and the build environment, where we have had historic weaknesses in terms of generating sufficient trained students from our schools.

I echo the importance of the wider curriculum in respect of PE, sport and music. The noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, rightly highlighted the importance of music. Only two weeks ago we announced an investment of more than £330 million to enhance predominantly instrumental tuition in schools. We want every primary school child to have an opportunity to start learning a musical instrument free of charge. We are providing at least £10 million a year for the purchase of musical instruments. We accept that the human voice is free and are keen for there to be a big expansion of singing. Howard Goodall, who does outstanding work in the Sing Up campaign that is taking forward the extension of singing in primary schools, is giving an excellent lead in this area.

My noble friend Lady Massey rightly mentioned the importance of PSHE. She never loses the opportunity to ask me when we will make it statutory. She knows that I attach great importance to PSHE—both the curriculum and the training of teachers in respect of it—and we are significantly extending the training of teachers through the certification programme; but as she knows also, I am not in a position to give the dates she seeks as to when it will be made statutory. Nor, I have to tell her, do we have any early plans to make citizenship compulsory in primary schools, although I pay tribute to the outstanding work being done in extending citizenship education into our primary schools.

Finally, I shall address my fifth priority: fit-for-purpose buildings. During the past 12 years, capital expenditure on school buildings has risen from £700 million to £6.4 billion—probably the fastest rate of increase in a capital programme of this size that we have seen anywhere in the public sector. This is enabling us systematically to rebuild or modernise our school buildings, starting with secondary schools. That will make possible and enhance all the efforts in the other areas that I described including teaching, which is important, vocational education, and the wider Every Child Matters agenda, which is important, but requires fit-for-purpose facilities.

In all of these areas, we are committed to producing good schools. We have made good progress during the past 10 years. I welcome the broad consensus on policy that we have seen in the House this afternoon, and once again I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, and all other speakers who have enabled us to have such a worthwhile debate.

4.44 pm

Baroness Perry of Southwark: My Lords, I have no time other than to thank all noble Lords for a debate based on enthusiasm and expertise, not political point-scoring. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

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Consolidated Fund Bill

Brought from the Commons, endorsed by the Speaker as a money Bill, and read a first time.

Terrorism and Crime (EUC Report)

4.45 pm

Lord Wright of Richmond rose to move, That this House takes note of the report of the European Union Committee, PrĂ1/4m: An Effective Weapon against Terrorism and Crime? (18th Report, Session 2006-07, HL Paper 90).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in speaking to this Motion, I shall also, with your Lordships’ leave, speak to the second Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. The two reports that are the subject of the debate were prepared by Sub-Committee F of the European Union Select Committee in May and June this year while I was still chairman. I am grateful to my successor, the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, for agreeing that I should open this debate. I also thank the noble Lord and other noble Lords on the committee, our clerk Michael Collon and our specialist adviser Annelise Baldaccini. I am delighted to see that my predecessor as chairman of Sub-Committee F, the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, will also be speaking in the debate.

Both reports relate to systems for the exchange of information that is or may be of use to the security services and the police in the prevention of terrorism and serious crime. Both are critical of those systems and more particularly of the manner in which they were set up. Owing to that, and because in this speech I, too, shall be critical, I should like to make one thing clear from the outset: I accept, as did the whole committee, that the exchange of information between the security services and police of different countries can be vital in the fight against terrorism and other serious crime. However, the exchange of information about individuals also carries with it risks. The problem is to strike the balance between public security and individual privacy. In the case of both inquiries, the view of the committee was that the rights of the individual have come off worse.

Before I turn to that question, let me give a summary of the background to each report, starting with PrĂ1/4m. PrĂ1/4m is a small town less than 50 miles from Schengen and it shares with Schengen the distinction of having been virtually unknown until a treaty was signed there. Both treaties were the initiatives of member states that felt that matters at EU level were proceeding too slowly for their liking. However, while at the date of the Schengen agreement in 1985 there was no alternative procedure, by the time Germany began negotiations with some of its neighbours in 2004 to improve cross-border co-operation, the procedure of enhanced co-operation was available under the treaties. It had never been used; it still never has. Instead, negotiations took place with very little publicity and led to the signature of the PrĂ1/4m treaty in May 2005. That treaty provided a mechanism for seven states to exchange among themselves information on DNA profiles, vehicle registrations and what are called dactyloscopic data—

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though I prefer the Anglo-Saxon term, “fingerprints”. The treaty ignored work already being done at EU level. In evidence to the committee, Mr Peter Hustinx, the European data protection supervisor, said that the states party to the PrĂ1/4m treaty had,

He thought it arguable that the treaty breached the law of the European Union.

The German presidency began in January this year. Within a fortnight, the German Interior Minister started his attempt to have the main provisions of the treaty incorporated into EU law and, within six months, he had succeeded. Yet that was achieved only because the proposal was put forward with no consultation, no explanatory memorandum, no impact assessment, no overall evaluation of the operation of the treaty, no estimate of the cost to member states and minimal involvement of the European Parliament and national parliaments. The only involvement of this Parliament was the Select Committee’s report. In such negotiations as there were, the only achievement of this Government of any significance was the removal of the provisions on hot pursuit across national borders.

The decision incorporating the treaty into EU law was adopted at the end of June, but much of the detail was left to an implementing decision. This, too, was brought out in June, again without consultation, explanatory memorandum, impact assessment or cost assessment. The committee considered it in July and raised questions with the Government. Last week, the committee considered it again, but now it is too late for our comments to have any effect, as last month the Justice and Home Affairs Council agreed the decision. This, the Home Office tells us, does not amount to a scrutiny override because only a general approach was agreed, not the final text of the decision. That, I submit, is an unreal distinction to draw. Any agreement, whatever name is given to it, that is reached on a document not cleared from scrutiny amounts to a scrutiny override if the result is that negotiations cannot in practice be reopened. That has for some time been the view of your Lordships’ committee, and that view is now shared by the European Scrutiny Committee in another place. The result is that this country has, in effect, been made party to a multilateral treaty with almost no involvement in its terms, let alone the involvement of Parliament. That is no way to legislate in a democracy.

The second report concerns the agreement between the European Union and the United States on passenger name records, or PNR. PNR consists of detailed personal information about airline passengers that has to be transferred to the country of destination if a passenger is to be allowed to land, or even to overfly, that country. The country that is understandably most anxious to be certain of the precise identity of passengers, and hence requires most detail, is the United States, which regards the exchange of personal information as a vital element of the fight against terrorism and serious crime. The purpose of PNR agreements is to ensure that only essential information is disclosed, that it is used only for the purposes intended and that it is kept for no longer than absolutely necessary.

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The first agreement with the United States was concluded in 2004. It left much to be desired, but was far better than nothing. However, it very shortly became nothing, for it was annulled by the European Court of Justice in May 2006 for technical reasons with which I shall not weary your Lordships. Suffice it to say that the EU had three months to negotiate a new agreement. The Commission negotiators thus started from a position of weakness. The US was not under any pressure of time, but the EU was. The interim agreement that they concluded repeated all the undertakings in the 2004 agreement but was accompanied—and this is a significant point—by a letter from the United States Department of Homeland Security, the DHS, which,

This letter reduced the value of the undertakings until they were scarcely worth the paper that they were written on.

However, the 2006 agreement was, as I have said, only an interim agreement. It expired in July this year. The EU thus had until then to negotiate an agreement with provisions that meant what they said. We suggested in our report what those provisions might be: limits on the data elements transferred to the US; limits on the uses to which they could be put; and limits on the time for which the data could be kept. All these matters, we argued, should be limited to what was essential to the fight against terrorism and should all be subject to effective safeguards. We called on the Government to use their considerable influence with the United States to help to achieve this aim.

We hoped for an agreement that, even if it was not ideal, would at least mean what it said. We said that, in our view, the worst possible conclusion would be an agreement that again was accompanied by a letter allowing the United States to disregard its provisions almost at will. Yet this is precisely what emerged in July from the negotiations: an agreement that, taken alone, should and would have been a triumph for the Commission negotiators, accompanied by a letter from the DHS, agreed by the Commission negotiators, allowing the United States to interpret its provisions as broadly as it liked. The vital provisions are in the letter, not the agreement. It is the letter and not the agreement that lists the PNR data to be transferred, a list that appears to be shorter than the one in the previous agreement but in fact contains only two data elements fewer. It is the letter that states that the data will be retained for seven years instead of three and a half years as previously. It is the letter that explains that the United States will use the data strictly for the listed purposes,

United States law, that is, which the United States is, of course, free to change.

The security of the public is the security of the individual members of the public. The competing interests are their public interests and their private interests. In opening, I said that in the case of the PrĂ1/4m decision and the PNR agreement the view of the committee is that the private rights of the individual have lost out. That is not just our view. In

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the case of PrĂ1/4m, the chief defect was to have yet another EU instrument with its own tailor-made data protection provisions that, in the absence of an overarching data protection framework decision covering all Third Pillar matters, were plainly inadequate. But at least an attempt was made to protect the privacy of individuals. No such thing can be said of the PNR agreement.

Our views were and are shared by the equivalent committee of the European Parliament, by the European data protection supervisor and his deputy, who gave us written and oral evidence, and by the working party of national data protection supervisors, which, of course, includes among its members this country’s Information Commissioner, Mr Richard Thomas. He is now conducting one of the inquiries into the case of the missing disks, an episode that serves to remind us of the consequences that can follow if sensitive data are handled with insufficient safeguards.

The consequences are not only financial. Mistakes over PNR can and do lead to individuals being wrongly banned from flying. Our report describes the fate of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen born in Syria, who, on the basis of wrong information, was sent by the United States authorities in chains to Syria where he was kept for over a year in appalling conditions, beaten and tortured. The Canadian Government have awarded him compensation of 10.5 million Canadian dollars. The United States authorities still keep him on their no-fly list.

Both reports contain strong criticism of the way in which these issues have been handled, but I hope that the Minister can assure the House that the lessons of both reports have been learnt. I have, however, a number of questions to put to the Government. In the case of PrĂ1/4m, why did they allow themselves to be browbeaten into accepting a proposal with no sort of cost-benefit analysis? Why did they accept the proposal before an adequate data protection framework had been agreed? Why have they quite unnecessarily agreed an implementing decision that is still subject to scrutiny? In the case of PNR, the questions are still more serious. To what extent, if at all, did they make use of our special relationship with the United States to attempt to influence the negotiations? Why are they content to be party to an agreement that, like the bilateral extradition treaty, is so biased in favour of the United States? What steps are they taking to protect the interests of those British subjects who inevitably will suffer from the misuse of their personal information? I commend both reports to the House and I beg to move.

Moved, That this House takes note of the report of the European Union Committee, PrĂ1/4m: An Effective Weapon against Terrorism and Crime? (18th Report, Session 2006-07, HL Paper 90).—(Lord Wright of Richmond.)

4.59 pm

Baroness Ludford: My Lords, I am delighted to be able to take part in this important debate this afternoon. It is more important than is apparent from the time slot it has been allocated. That is to pay no disrespect to the authors of the report. I have the highest regard

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for Sub-Committee F, and, if I may say on a personal basis, for its former chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, who often visits us in Brussels in the civil liberties committee. Like him, I have no hesitation in stressing the need for data exchange, both within the European Union and across the Atlantic. We need to overcome bureaucratic obstacles, eliminate turf wars and jealousies and make our legal systems and the safeguards interactive. We need to have effective arrangements to ensure that suspected terrorists and major criminals are apprehended. Therefore, I do not wish anything I say from now on to give grounds to a charge of being soft on terrorism.

The problem is that both the PrĂ1/4m decision and the PNR agreement have run far ahead of data protection safeguards and outwith proper democratic controls. That matters particularly because we are on what I will refer to as a merry-go-round, which is spinning faster and faster in terms of data sharing and the creation of databases. I believe that there is a sort of Ministers’ and officials’ playground in which they are using and abusing the inadequate framework for EU law enforcement efforts.

There is a democracy deficit of both PrĂ1/4m and PNR. MEPs’ views could simply be ignored as we had no co-decision on either, and if you have mere consultation, believe me, it gives you no leverage whatever. On PNR, national Parliaments will be given a take-it or leave-it choice, simply being asked to ratify a concluded agreement. PrĂ1/4m is a particular scandal. It was negotiated as a simple international treaty, ratified by the Bundestag after a mere half an hour’s debate and then pushed through the Council machinery in Brussels as a German member state initiative to emerge as an EU decision. That is not the way to run a whelk stall.

The Government tell us in response to the committee’s proper call to require the Commission to produce an evaluation report for the Council, the European Parliament and national Parliaments, that the Commission will submit a report after four years, but that it will be to the Council only and more detailed provisions will be set out in an implementing decision, which will not be subject to the views of anyone but the member states. That is not democratic.

There will be periodic reviews of the PNR agreement by the parties. For the European Union that will be the EU justice commissioner Franco Frattini. The Government say that “modalities”—that is a Franglais word—“will be mutually agreed”. They claim that the information “should be disclosed”. I do not think it is good enough to rely on future modalities or some sort of promise that information should be disclosed. My actual experience for the evaluation of the 2004 agreement was that the review report was six months late and MEPs were only allowed restricted access. We were only allowed to go in a room and read the report, not have copies, and it had been redacted—that is, censored—so we never saw the full report.

There is also a data protection deficit to both these instruments. When and if we get a data protection framework decision, it will be weak and hardly worth the paper it is written on. The promise was that we would have a high-quality data protection framework,

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on top of which specific measures appropriate to each instrument could be added.

The Government’s response to the committee’s call that Peter Hustinx, the European Data Protection Supervisor, should be regularly consulted in the case of member state initiatives such as PrĂ1/4m, was that they saw no tangible benefits in such a requirement. Is the real reason that they do not like what he says? Two weeks ago he came to the civil liberties committee of the European Parliament and described the compromise on which there is now political agreement—so it is too late to change anything—as far from satisfactory, a minimum common denominator and unfortunate. He said that the text is neither consistent, effective nor adequate. His main objection is that the scope is limited to the exchange of data—in other words, the data protection safeguards will not cover the collection of data or the processing of data.

PrĂ1/4m is about setting up databases and collecting data. PNR is largely about collection and processing. So to restrict EU data protection rules only to the exchanges of data leaves a big loophole. Peter Hustinx draws attention to other weaknesses, such as purpose limitation and acceptable use; indeed he says it is weaker than the 1981 Council of Europe Convention. So, in over a quarter of a century, the EU has been unable to move further than the Council of Europe. He said that because it had to be agreed unanimously a minority of member states had watered it down because of the veto and the proposal would have looked a lot better under qualified majority voting. He drew attention to the fact that it does not regulate data protection as regards third party agreements already in place, which of course includes the PNR agreement with the US as well as other things, such as the SWIFT agreement on financial data. A cynic would wonder whether the three-year delay in getting the data protection framework decision—we have not quite got it—had some ulterior motive to it. In the mean time you get all these agreements through—PrĂ1/4m, SWIFT, PNR—and then say, “Oh heavens, we cannot apply it retrospectively”.

I referred to what I call a merry-go-round which is, frankly, becoming out of control. Governments, Ministers and national officials are giving themselves arrogant licence to do what they like and then try to pull the wool over our eyes. If I sound rather harsh and strong, believe me, I am feeling rather fed up about all of this. We are told that measures are justified for anti-terrorism purposes. Then they get extended, as in the example of the PNR and, as the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, said, to any judicial proceedings or as otherwise required by law. That is potentially huge.

The longer retention period under the 2007 PNR agreement will be retrospective to the 2004 and 2006 agreements. That was three and a half; the new one would be seven; after seven, in the so-called dormant period it will only need a senior official from the Department of Homeland Security to authorise the data to be processed again.

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