Select Committee on European Communities Eleventh Report



Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee to Joyce Quin MP, Minister of State, Home Office

  At its meeting on Thursday 19 June, Sub-Committee F considered the above document and your Explanatory Note dated 20 May.

  During the course of its deliberations on this proposal, the Sub-Committee asked if the Home Office could provide information on the extent of illegal immigration into the European Union and could indicate to what extent organised criminal networks are involved in this area. I would be grateful for any information you could provide in this regard.

  The Sub-Committee noted that at paragraphs 4 and 10 of your Explanatory Note you question whether the Treaty on European Union provides a sufficient legal base for the establishment of a Third Pillar committee which would entail the direct involvement of representatives of non-EU States as constituent members and whether the establishment of a clearing house could overstep the bounds of the structured dialogue established under the Association Agreements with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. I would be grateful if you would furnish further information on these matters. It would be helpful if you could more clearly indicate the grounds upon which the Government questions the legal base for this proposal.

  The Sub-Committee supports your view that further arrangements for the exchange of information on immigration should not be undertaken until the Council has had an opportunity to consider the results of the review of the working methods of the existing clearing house, CIREFI. I would be grateful if you would keep the Sub-Committee informed of the results of the current review of the working methods of CIREFI.

  On a more general point, the Sub-Committee expressed concern at the delay in depositing this document in Parliament. The cover sheet attached to the document is dated 12 February 1997 and indicates that the paper was due to be discussed at the CIREFI meeting held on 5 March 1997. The Sub-Committee questioned why the document was not deposited in Parliament until 22 May. You may be aware that delay in the deposit of documents - often the result of delay arising within the EU institutions - has been a continuing source of difficulty for the Committee. While I appreciate that the greater part of the delay was during a period for which you have no ministerial responsibility, it would be helpful to know whether you are able to tell the Committee about the reasons for it.

  The Sub-Committee has decided to retain this matter under scrutiny pending your response to the matters raised above.

2 July 1997

Letter from Joyce Quin MP, Minister of State, Home Office, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  Thank you for your letter of 2 July concerning Sub-Committee F's consideration of this document.

  2. Sub-Committee F have asked whether the Home Office can provide information on the extent of illegal immigration into the European Union and the extent to which this is facilitated by organised criminal networks. It is, of course, in the nature of illegal immigration that information as to its extent cannot be complete. We can report only on illegal immigration which has been uncovered. One of the principal elements of CIREFI's remit has been to attempt to systematise the information available to Member States in order to provide a broader picture of the nature of the problem. This is very much an ongoing process. Individual Member States face particular difficulties in providing national statistics for certain categories of immigration crime and, moreover, CIREFI has not to date established a settled working method for the substantive analysis of such information as is available. To that end an ad hoc of national experts on statistics is taking forward work, under the aegis of CIREFI, on how information may better be collected and processed. Nevertheless I enclose for the Committee's information two documents which give some idea of the information available - a review by the IGC Secretariat of data collected by CIREFI up to mid-1995 and a copy of the statistics collected by CIREFI in the second half of 1996 [not printed].

  3. You have asked for further advice on the view that there would not appear to be suitable legal basis for the arrangements envisaged in this proposal. The proposal is explicit in proposing a joint clearing house which would be established by a measure under Article K 3TEU (the text, in fact, suggests a joint action under Article K3 (2)(b) TEU). However Article K3(1) provides that:

   -   In the areas referred to in Article K1, Member States shall inform and consult one another within the Council with a view to coordinating their action."

  Article K2(2)(b) provides that joint actions may be adopted insofar as the objectives would better be so served than by Member States acting individually". The Government's view is that these provisions place certain limitations on the action which can be taken under Title VI. Member States are, of course, free to establish, multi-laterally, structures for cooperation with third countries but such cooperation could not be said to take place within the Council as provided for under Title VI. This view also coincides with the opinion given by the Commission Services on the possibility of third countries participating in CIREFI, as opposed to having ad hoc bilateral relations with it.

  4. Finally I have noted your concern at the delay in depositing this document. In fact, the Home Office appears never to have received the initial proposal (5344/97) which is of course the text we would normally expect to deposit. The revised document was received in the Home Office on 3 March. The Department initially delayed preparation of an Explanatory Note while the proposal was considered at sub-group level; the General Election subsequently delayed deposit of a formal Explanatory Note. While I strongly regret the delay in making this text available to the Committees, I should say that, following an initial discussion in CIREFI, there has been little progress on this proposal and the essential theme of the proposal, the exchange of information with third countries, has been examined at more length in the context of the Dutch Presidency's proposal for the exchange of information in the field of asylum and immigration (Document 7341/2/97 deposited with the Committees on 20 May 1997). We will keep you informed of developments on these and related proposals.

24 July 1997

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