Select Committee on European Communities Report


60.  ELEMENTS OF THE UNION'S STRATEGY AGAINST HIGH-TECH CRIME (11893/1/98)

Letter from Kate Hoey MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  I enclose a copy of the above draft document together with an explanatory note. This was tabled by the Austrian Presidency and is under discussion in the Third Pillar Multi-Disciplinary Group (MDG).

  The Presidency proposes to invite the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 3 December "to take note of the document, to approve its general orientations and to conclude that it contains the essential elements for the further development of the Union's strategy against high-tech crime". It would therefore be helpful to have scrutiny clearance before 3 December if at all possible. (The Presidency did not table the revised text until 28 October 1998 and only received agreement from the MDG to submit the strategy to the Council on 13 November 1998).

16 November 1998

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Kate Hoey MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office

  Thank you for your letter of 16 November enclosing a copy of the Austrian Presidency document, Elements of the Union's strategy against high-tech crime, together with an explanatory note. You ask for clearance of the document before 3 December. I would be grateful for a more detailed explanation of why it was not possible to give Parliament more notice of this document.

  As you will appreciate, the timeframe (of just over two weeks) does not permit a thorough examination of the document. The need for adequate time is important, especially in relation to Third Pillar instruments as in the present context. You will be aware that both Guidelines 3 and 7 raise issues of possible significance in relation to the safeguarding of human rights.

  The Committee is, however, prepared to clear the document from scrutiny on the basis of the information given in your letter and explanatory note. I should be grateful if you would let me know the outcome of the discussion of the proposal in the Justice and Home Affairs Council in December.

19 November 1998

Letter from Kate Hoey MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  Thank you for your letter of 19 November. I am very grateful to the Committee for having been prepared to clear the document from scrutiny in the limited time available. I sympathise with the Committee's dissatisfaction at the short notice given. In reply to your request for a detailed explanation of how this has arisen, I hope that the following is helpful.

  The first draft of the strategy document was tabled by the Presidency on 20 October in the Multi-Disciplinary Group on Organised Crime. The document had been prepared in response to an MDG discussion 11 days earlier in which a number of delegations including the UK suggested that a strategy document to guide future policy work would be helpful.

  The text had been prepared at short notice and there was no indication at that stage that the Presidency would submit it to the 3 December Council for approval. The Presidency did not make that intention clear until 9 November when a revised text was tabled. My letter to you of 16 November with an explanatory note was issued as soon as possible after that date, and in the meantime the UK entered a scrutiny reserve.

  I imagine that other administrations and parliaments will also have encountered difficulty with the short notice. All Member States are to some extent in the hands of the Presidency of the day. It would in principle have been open to us to go into the Council with the intention of maintaining our scrutiny reserve and thus preventing approval, but given the non-binding and, as it seemed to us, reasonably balanced nature of the document, we thought it right to give the Committee an opportunity to consider it quickly.

  Once again, my thanks to the Committee for agreeing to do so. I will inform you of the outcome in due course.

27 November 1998

Letter from Kate Hoey MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  In my letter to you of 27 November, I undertook to inform you of the outcome of the Council's consideration of this document when it met on 3-4 December.

  In the event, the strategy, as attached to my letter of 16 November, was adopted by the Council without discussion, as an A point. It will now be taken forward by the Multi-Disciplinary Group on Organised Crime.

22 December 1998


 
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