Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twenty-Seventh Report



5. EUROPEAN NETWORK FOR THE PROTECTION OF PUBLIC FIGURES

 

(a)

(23275)

6460/02

(b)

(23366)

6460/1/02

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

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

 

Legal base:

Articles 29, 30(1) and 34(2)(c) EU; consultation; unanimity

   

Document originated:

 

Forwarded to the Council:

 

Deposited in Parliament:

(a) 5 March 2002

(b) 9 April 2002

Department:

Home Office

Basis of consideration:

(a) and (b) Minister's letter of 24 April 2002

(b) EM of 15 April 2002

Previous Committee Report:

(a)HC 152-xxiii (2001-02), paragraph 8 (10 April 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

  5.1  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) earlier in April, we decided not to clear it but to ask the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office (Mr Bob Ainsworth) for clarification on two points in his Explanatory Memorandum.

  5.2  The Minister has now deposited a later version of the proposal (document (b)), together with an Explanatory Memorandum. He has also written in response to the points we raised, and brought us up to date with developments on the proposal.

Document (b) and the Government's view

  5.3  The Minister tells us that the most significant change in document (b) is the rewording of Article 4 (b). In document (a), 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 new wording gives competence to "advise on the appropriate number..." In his last Explanatory Memorandum, the Minister said that the Government would seek a change of this kind.

  5.4  The Minister tells us that the other changes are largely presentational and do not alter the meaning of the proposal, or the Government's position.

The Minister's letter

  5.5  In his letter, the Minister addresses our points. We asked him to confirm that the Network would have no power to initiate legislation. He gives that confirmation, adding:

      "Any proposals arising from the Network's business would have to be agreed at Council of Ministers' level, before being implemented. We do not envisage that any amendments to existing legislation will be necessary as a result of the Network."

  5.6  We also asked him to confirm that there was no question of a change to our domestic legislation in respect of armed officials. Again, the Minister provides this confirmation. He continues:

      "It has been and will continue to be the Government's position that it is for the host country to have responsibility for the protection of public figures, including the provision of armed officials for personal protection."

He tells us that further changes have been made to the text which now reflects the Government's position, as stated above. In addition, the definition of "public figure" is now such that members of a Royal Family are included — another point on which the Government was seeking amendment.

 

  5.7  The Minister reports that there now appears to be a broader definition of the types of information to be exchanged within the Network than in the documents we have scrutinised. He says:

      "Discussions will continue on this point to clarify the issues relating to information sharing, with specific reference to ensuring that national security and the safety of public figures will not be compromised in this area. Should any further, significant alterations arise in future Council documents, we will deposit these for the Committee to scrutinise."

Conclusion

  5.8  We thank the Minister for keeping us informed of progress on this proposal. We also thank him for confirming that there is no question of a change to our domestic legislation in respect of armed officials. It is encouraging that the revised text reflects the Government's position.

  5.9  It is less satisfactory, however, that the Minister's attempt to confirm that the Network will have no power to initiate legislation merely repeats his earlier statement that any proposals by the Network will have to be agreed at the Council of Ministers. We ask him to confirm that any proposals arising from the Network's business could only be discussed by the Council on the basis of an initiative from the Commission or from a Member State.

  5.10  We are concerned about the vagueness of the new "broader definition" of information to be exchanged within the Network. We understand that an amended text which provides more detail is likely to be forthcoming. We shall therefore keep document (b) under scrutiny until we receive that text, and until we have the Minister's further clarification on the point we raise above. However, we now clear the superseded document (a).

 


 
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