Select Committee on European Scrutiny Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Letter from the Minister of State at the Home Office (Mrs Barbara Roche) to the Leader of the House of Commons (Margaret Beckett MP) Dated 6 June 2001


  I am writing to inform you of our decision to give agreement to a number of proposals and texts at the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 28-29 May 2001 before Parliamentary Scrutiny had been completed, and to explain the reasons for this decision.


  The Council adopted the "A" items on the attached list (894401 PTS A27), with the exception of points 16, 28, 29, 30 and 34. Parliamentary Scrutiny had not been completed on the following points:

    —  Point 3 — Adoption of the Council Directive on mutual recognitions of decisions on the expulsion of third-country nationals (not yet cleared by House of Commons or House of Lords.)

    —  Point 9 — Final report on the first evaluation exercise — mutual legal assistance in criminal matters. (Cleared by the House of Lords but not yet considered by House of Commons.)

    —  Point 11 — Draft Council resolution on exchange of DNA analysis results. (Cleared by the House of Lords but not by House of Commons.)

    —  Point 13 — Draft Europol Budget for 2002. (Cleared by the House of Commons but not yet considered by the House of Lords.)

    —  Point 15 — Draft Council Recommendations on 24-hour contacts for international high-tech and computer-related crime. (Not yet considered by House of Lords or House of Commons.)

    —  Point 22 — Multinational table of authorised C.SIS installation expenditure — situation at 31 December 2000. (Not yet considered by House of Lords or House of Commons.)

  We considered that some of these points were uncontentious (9, 13, 15 and 22), had been deposited as a matter of discretion, and that in the interests of the efficient conduct of Council business we should not delay their adoption. In relation to point 11, the same considerations of the efficient conduct of Council business applied, and there were important public interest arguments for proceeding (differences in DNA comparators and the delays these cause were an issue in the Caroline Dickinson case).

  I recognise that the directive on mutual recognition of decisions on the expulsion of third-country nationals is a more significant instrument, and that the Scrutiny Committee have taken a close interest in it. Particularly following the deaths at Dover, the United Kingdom strongly supported the Council's determination to address the issues of illegal immigration and human trafficking, and we welcomed the package of measures table[d] by the former French Presidency on the mutual recognition of expulsion decision, facilitation of illegal entry and residence, and carrier penalties. Successive European Councils have called for results in this area. We therefore considered it important that this measure should finally be adopted. There was also an important legal consideration which we took into account. Under the terms of Article 3 of the protocol on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland, if we opt in to the adoption and application of a State preventing adoption, it is open to the other Member States to proceed without us. We did not want to risk the possibility that the other Member States would discuss proceeding without us.


  The following "A" points were scheduled for adoption, and we signalled our intention to override our Parliamentary Scrutiny Reserve, but they are now subject to a short delay and are expected to be adopted in the course of June:

    —  Point 16 — Draft Council Resolution on law enforcement operational needs with respect to public telecommunications networks and services.

    —  Point 28 — Agreement between Interpol and Europol.

    —  Point 29 — Agreement between Norway and Europol.

    —  Point 30 — Agreement between Iceland and Europol.

  In relation to the Europol agreements, the UK has pushed hard for faster progress on Europol agreements with third countries to enable Europol to operate more effectively. The Presidency had arranged for the agreements with Iceland and Norway to be signed on 30 May, as soon as the Council had given the necessary authorisation to the Europol director, and was pressing hard for agreement at the Council to meet this deadline. Under Interpol's internal rules, the Europol/Interpol agreement needs to be ready during June, three months before September's annual General Assembly meeting of Interpol. If the Council misses this deadline, the agreement will be delayed until autumn 2002. We were therefore prepared to give our agreement to these measures. In the event, another Member State entered a Parliamentary Scrutiny Reservation on the day of the Council, which it indicated would be lifted by 15 June. We understand that the Presidency will be seeking formal adoption of these Europol points at the Culture Council on 21 June, and we have not therefore re-entered our Parliamentary Scrutiny Reserve.

  Point 16, the Council resolution on law enforcement operational needs, was removed from the agenda because not all of the necessary procedural steps had been taken. The Presidency plans to seek adoption at another Council during June. If this happens, we will give our agreement in the interests of the efficient conduct of Council business.


  The United Kingdom maintained its Parliamentary Scrutiny Reserve on the following "B" points at the Council, but made it clear that it would lift the reserve when the points came up for formal adoption:

    —  Directive defining the facilitation of unauthorised entry, movement and residence

    —  Council framework decision on the strengthening of the penal framework to prevent the facilitation of unauthorised entry and residence.

    —  Council Directive supplementing the provisions of Article 26 of the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement of 14 June 1985 (formerly titled "carrier penalties").

  These texts will be revised by lawyer-linguists before formal adoption, which may well take place during the course of June. The arguments set out above in relation to the directive on mutual recognition of expulsion decisions apply equally to these other former French Presidency measures to combat illegal immigration.

I am writing in similar terms to the Leader of the House of Lords and copies of this letter go to the Chief Whip, Dorian Gerhold, Keith Vaz, Minister of State FCO, Les Saunders (Cabinet Office) and Penny Hart (Home Office Departmental scrutiny co-ordinator).

6 June 2001

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