Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twenty-Third Report


EUROPEAN NETWORK FOR THE PROTECTION OF PUBLIC FIGURES


(a)
(23174)
5361/02


(b)
(23275)
6460/02
— 


Initiative of the Kingdom of Spain setting up a European network for the
protection of public figures.



European network for the protection of public figures - text resulting from the
proceedings of the Working Party on Police Co-operation (5 and 6 February
2002).


Legal base:Articles 29, 30(1) and 34(2)(c) EU; consultation; unanimity
Deposited in Parliament: (a) 11 February 2002
(b) 5 March 2002
Department:Home Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 27 March 2002
Previous Committee Report: (a) HC 152-xx (2001-02), paragraph 11 (6 March 2002)
To be discussed in Council: June 2002
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:(a) Cleared
(b) Not cleared; further information requested.


Background

  8.1  This is a new Presidency proposal for a Council Decision to address the threat of assassination and attacks on dignitaries visiting Member States by setting up a network of contact points within national police departments. When we considered document (a) in March, we decided not to clear it until we knew whether the Government had succeeded in removing or clarifying Article 3 (d), which would give the network a remit in relation to approximating rules and regulations in the Member States, and in ensuring that visiting dignitaries would not be accompanied by armed officials from their own country.

  8.2  The Parliamentary Under- Secretary of State at the Home Office (Mr Bob Ainsworth) has now deposited a later version of the proposal (document (b)), together with an Explanatory Memorandum which responds to the issues we raised, as well as addressing the new document.

The new document and the Government's view

  8.3  Two changes have been made to parts of the text about which we had concerns. Firstly, the Network's objective as stated in the original Article 3 (d) of "approximating the existing rules and regulations in each Member State" has been replaced by one of "studying the existing rules and regulations in each Member State with the aim of developing a set of common good practices". The Minister tells us that the Government will confirm in negotiations that any proposals by the Network will be agreed at the Council of Ministers before formal adoption.

  8.4  Secondly, the original Article 4 (c), which gave the Network competence to "outline the conditions for provision of service by officials with responsibility for the protection of a public figure of one Member State when they are in or enter another Member State" is omitted from the new version. The Minister states:

    "The Government will wish to maintain the current arrangements whereby in the UK visiting dignitaries are provided armed officials of the host country in preference to their own whenever such measures are deemed necessary. The primary consideration is that individuals are provided the appropriate level of protection according to their individual threat."

  8.5  The Minister tells us that the Government will seek to replace the word "determine" with the word "recommend" in Article 4 (b). In the current text, this Article gives the Network competence to "determine the minimum number of armed officials according to the public figure involved and the resources to be deployed". The Minister continues:

    "It is not entirely clear whether 'the minimum number of armed officials' relates to the physical needs of the individual protected, or to the operational and security requirements of the protecting officials; we will seek to clarify the text. The minimum number of bodyguards necessary for an individual will be dependent on the person in question and the circumstances in which they are placed. The primary consideration will continue to be for the safety of the individual."

  8.6  The Minister also tells us that the Government will seek assurances about the nature of the information to be exchanged within the Network, and about compliance with the Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data (28 January 1981).

  8.7  Commenting generally on the draft measure, the Minister says:

    "The Government supports the aim underpinning the proposals to protect individuals from attack. The Network would be a mechanism for sharing best practice and raising standards EU-wide. The UK has an excellent record of protecting public figures which it is willing to share."

Conclusion

  8.8  We note that the Minister expresses more enthusiasm for the proposal than in his previous Explanatory Memorandum.

  8.9  Although we are pleased to see that the Network is no longer given a remit in relation to approximating rules and regulations in the Member States, we find the Minister's statement that any proposals by the Network will be agreed at the Council of Ministers somewhat confusing. We ask him to confirm that the Network will have no power to initiate legislation.

  8.10  Similarly, we find the Minister's comments with regard to visiting dignitaries being accompanied by armed officials from their own country somewhat opaque. We ask him to confirm that there is no question of a change to our domestic legislation in this area.

  8.11  We clear document (a) as it has now been superseded, but will keep document (b) under scrutiny until we have the Minister's assurance on the two points above.




 
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