Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1
WEDNESDAY 18 NOVEMBER 1998
and MR R PENROSE
1. May I say welcome or, as in most cases,
welcome back. I am sorry we are such a dreadful interruption to
the normal tenure of your work. You are no doubt very busy. As
you know, Sub-Committee F and Sub-Committee E have both been looking
at some aspects of the First and Third Pillars. In our previous
inquiries and in the ministerial response to our work on the incorporation
of Schengen a number of questions have come up about precisely
what the costs and benefits are of staying out and opting in and
it seemed to us that we therefore ought to look at that from a
British perspective. We will attempt to be as neutral as we can,
investigate where the benefits are and where the costs are. Would
you like to start by saying anything yourselves?
(Mr Warne) My Lord Chairman, thank you. My name
is John Warne and I am Director of the Organised and International
Crime Directorate in the Home Office. Mr John Abbott, who is known
to you, is Director General of the National Criminal Intelligence
Service. Mr Roy Penrose is Director General of the National Crime
Squad. In addition to my Directorate responsibilities I am now
the K4 co-ordinator for European Union business in the Home Office.
I add fairly quickly that that role was performed by my predecessor
as Head of the Immigration and Nationality Department. I am not
the Head of the Immigration and Nationality Department and I know
you are seeing colleagues from that Department at a later stage.
I say that merely to underscore the fact that I think we can be
of most value to your CommitteeI hope we can anywayon
the law enforcement and judicial co-operation aspects of your
inquiry. We are very glad to help in any way that we can.
2. Thank you. As you know, the main thrust
of this current inquiry is on the border control dimension. There
is a great deal of reference in the Treaty of Amsterdam, which
we have done our best to wade through, including protocols, to
the difference between internal borders and external borders.
The borders between the United Kingdom and other countries are
for some purposes now internal borders but for other purposes
remain external borders. Is that correct?
(Mr Warne) I think that is correct, my Lord Chairman.
The 13 Schengen countries within the European Union will operate
their common external border and the UK and Ireland have an opt-out
under the Protocol agreed at Amsterdam whereby we can maintain
our own frontier controls for immigration purposes. So there are
two systems operating within the European Union. Within Schengen
there would be freedom of movement across the internal borders
of those countries.
3. Does this mean from a British perspective
outwards that we attempt to exercise the same controls on arrivals
in this country from France as we do, say, from the United States
or from India, or do we in effect discriminate?
(Mr Warne) We treat them with a very light touch.
We check them only to ensure that they are indeed citezens of
the European Union and also to identify any third country nationals
who may not benefit from being a citizen of the European Union.
4. Can you explain to us what you see as
the main obstacle to British participation in Schengen?
(Mr Warne) I think, my Lord Chairman, that the
main obstacle is that participation would carry with it the implication
and indeed the acknowledgment that we would operate an external
system of control and have no checks between the United Kingdom
and other countries of the European Union, so it would be contrary
to the agreement arrived at at Amsterdam.
5. May I ask why we wish to have this control
over the other Schengen countries? What are the particular advantages?
(Mr Warne) My Lord, I do not think it is a matter
of control over the other countries, it is a matter of being able
to maintain our own frontiers control to our own standards to
ensure that people who are admitted here can be properly admitted.
Otherwise we would be placing total reliance on immigration controls
operated by other countries and we would have to accept admissions
from those countries as of right.
6. Are we going to have to change the way
in which we organise our immigration points and will there be
in future a channel for people coming from Schengen countries
or will it be a channel for people with passports issued by Schengen
countries? If I understand your last answer correctly, you wish
to have a channel for people coming from Schengen countries.
(Mr Warne) I think it does not require specifically
a channel, my Lord, it requires only the option of demonstrating
that you are a holder of a passport of a Member State of the European
Union and therefore can be admitted to this country.
7. Will that not lead to practical difficulties?
Say you have a queue of people, some of whom are from outside
Europe altogether, some of them are Schengen people. What happens
when they come to the immigration desk and the African person
who has come from a Schengen country may have to be interrogated
and thus holds up the line? That will irritate enormously the
people who think that because they are coming from a Schengen
country we should treat them as members of the EU rather than
mix them up with immigrants from all over the world.
(Mr Warne) I think our experience of handling,
for example, Customs procedures within the Union are such that
one can effectively select special channel arrangements for those
E U citizens travelling within the European Union. I myself am
a frequent traveller to Brussels and they have a very simple EU/non-EU
division and they have a quick look to see whether we are citizens
of the European Union or not. I think it is possible to do the
8. I understood from an earlier answer that
you do not want to do that.
(Mr Warne) No, that was not the intention of my
earlier answer. I am sorry if I was not clear. I was saying only
that we needed a light touch control to establish that the individual
is indeed a member of the European Union, but we want to be able
to exercise controls on third country nationals who may originate
from within the European Union.
Lord Pilkington of Oxenford
9. You imply a suspicion of other EU frontier
control. Possibly your colleagues may want to answer this. Is
this the external frontiers of the European Union, that is the
East German frontier, the Italian frontier, the Greek frontier?
That is the first question, do you feel that there is not adequate
supervision there? Secondly, if there is not adequate supervision
there are you worried that other countries just allow people to
drift across the continent and they will all end up with us? In
other words, is your defensive attitude to this, which I am not
putting any moral emphasis on, due to the fact that you feel there
is a laxity of control in at least parts of the European Union
to the extent that you think this country will suffer seriously?
(Mr Warne) I think it would be fair to say that
we are not sufficiently confident that all Member States can operate
the sorts of controls that we do to our standards. There are parts
of the external frontier that are very difficult to man. Controls
can only be as good as the weakest point and we need to make sure
that we have effective controls for admission to this country.
10. Could I ask more specific questions
to your colleagues in the criminal vein. We all know or read that
there is massive crime, possibly mafia crime, in Russia and the
Ukraine. Would you be concerned that some of this might cross
over into the United Kingdom?
(Mr Warne) If I may start and then gladly invite
colleagues to contribute. I think I need just to go back to explain
that my particular focus is precisely in this area of the law
enforcement and judicial aspects of Schengen and the like, rather
than the mechanics of immigration control. I also need to distinguish
between immigration control for immigration purposes, that is
to say to ensure that people are properly admitted, and some other
benefits that can arise from a check, a police presence for example,
at a port. In that context there are opportunities to operate
against the movement of criminals. The frontiers position in Amsterdam
negotiated by the Government is designed to maintain the United
Kingdom's freedom to manage its own immigration controls. The
other checks are, if you like, incidental but they do derive for
us a particular benefit. I do not know if you would like to add
(Mr Abbott) I think your specific question requires
a little refinement, if I may, because it seems to me that we
need to try and understand the nature of organised crime. I would
agree with you that there is a threat of organised crime from
the former Eastern Bloc, particularly the Ukraine and Russia.
That said, I should emphasise that the majority of major organised
criminals travel legally between the states and do not take risks
that cause them to be subject to being checked at borders. They
also have other means of operating by, for example, moving money
electronically. Although some still may carry it in suitcases
many of them will move their money electronically. I think I would
share Mr Warne's view that we need to be a little cautious about
the external frontiers because they really are only as strong
as the weakest link and I would offer as my evidence there the
great increase that we have had in illegal immigration and particularly
the organised crime involvement in illegal immigration over the
last five years in particular. All of the National Criminal Intelligence
Service's strategic reports predict that this will continue to
be a major challenge.
11. Can I just follow up a question put
by my Lord Chairman and Lord Bridges. How can you differentiate
or distinguish between a third country national and a third country
national who is lawfully legally settled in this country?
(Mr Warne) Sorry, settled in this country?
(Mr Warne) I do not think you can. What we are
distinguishing here is simply on the basis of passport, citizens'
passports. A French passport is a French passport but another
citizen resident in France may not be entitled to admission to
this country. If he were a third country national holding a third
country passport then he would be subject to immigration control.
13. Does it mean that those who are lawfully
settled in this country may have to go through the same process
that you employ for those who may not be settled?
(Mr Warne) No, I do not think it carries any such
14. I want to pursue one other question.
Some years ago when I carried out an investigation on the immigration
procedure one of the bases on which the Home Office dealt with
illegal immigration in this country was they said there were certain
countries from which there was pressure to migrate to this country
and therefore those countries were identified. What sort of guidance
or information do you receive from the Home Office about those
sorts of countries? What are the criteria that are being used?
What do you do when you receive this information?
(Mr Warne) I am not myself aware of the receipt
of such information but in my position I probably would not be
because that would go to the Immigration Department of the Home
Office. I think the answer to your question is that entitlement
for immigration purposes has to be judged against the statutory
published Immigration Rules. There can be no other approach.
15. May I just take one further question.
In terms of matters like drug importation into this country is
it the type of policy that you adopt that certain flights from
certain countries will receive special treatment in terms of dogs
sniffing around, etc., or people that you identify receive a different
treatment, for example people coming from Colombia, Jamaica, Turkey,
(Mr Warne) I understand the question, my Lord,
and in a moment I will ask my colleagues to develop the answer
that I shall start with. I think that there is no such (what I
would describe as) rather crude approach. Much of the focus on
serious organised crime and drugs is now intelligence led. It
is not a matter of focusing on particular flights or particular
means of transport in the hope that you might get a lucky strike.
Of course, the occasional deterrent examination at a port can
be disruptive for those who are seeking to manage drug smuggling
and indeed delivery of other commodities, but the initial approach
is not a broad brush "let us target flight X because it is
coming from country Y". The targeting for serious crime purposes
is much more intelligence driven and specific. My colleagues may
wish to elaborate on that.
(Mr Penrose) Yes, thank you. I would certainly
echo what Mr Warne has just said. The effective deployment of
resources is clearly based upon intelligence that is gained, not
just domestic intelligence but that which has been gained through
bilateral sharing or multilateral sharing with other colleagues
in other countries. For example, through John Abbott's responsibility
for drug liaison officers within Europe and Her Majesty's Customs
in other parts of the world there is intelligence which leads
certainly Her Majesty's Customs and indeed ourselves from the
operational standpoint to look at certain individuals when they
are entering this country because suspicion is heavily based on
that. I think it is fair to say that none of us have the resources
to have a fortress Britain and therefore it has to be a fairly
scientific intelligence led process.
16. I am getting a little confused about
what constitutes border control. Does it literally mean at a country's
borders, including their airports, or what can transpire once
an illegal immigrant or a criminal lands in this country and maybe
begins to be absorbed by it or is absorbed into the population?
I gather, from what Mr Abbott said, that the chances of catching
a criminal at the border is very remote, it is really not a runner.
Your chances of catching an illegal immigrant at the border I
suppose is rather greater. Do you distinguish between the border
as ports and airports and the work that both the criminal investigation
organisations and the Home Office and so on pursue internally
in the country either as a result of information from other security
organisations or from leads they have of their own internally?
Is there any confusion in this?
(Mr Warne) I think, if I may say so, my Lord,
it is a very important question to know what we mean when we talk
about frontier controls. What I mean and what we in the Home Office
mean when we are talking about frontier controls is a control
system for a primary purpose, namely controlling immigration.
In addition there may be border checks, there may be a police
presence, there may be a Customs presence, but it is not the channel
through which everyone has to move. By contrast you must go through
the immigration channel in order to be admitted to this country.
In addition there are separate checks. Those checks can be carried
out at different points. For terrorism purposes they are conveniently
conducted at ports. For some other police purposes they can be
effectively conducted at ports. For Customs purposes also because
people do try to move prohibited goods using the narrow opportunities
that exist. The distinction I think is between deployments for
the prevention of terrorism and related purposes and for crime
detection in the form of checks; and a frontier control system
through which everyone must pass for a single purpose, namely
(Mr Abbott) May I just correct a possible misimpression
that I might have given? In answering Lord Pilkington's question
I was talking specifically about top tier organised criminals
and the likelihood of catching them at a border control or a border
check. I think it is important to recognise that there are significant
benefits derived from having border checks. When one looks, for
example, at the number of drugs seizures that are made, firearms
seizures that are made, cash money seizures that are made, these
remain very significant. In the region of half of the drugs seizures
made in this country are made at ports of entry.
17. But is that without prior intelligence?
(Mr Abbott) I would suggest that certainly the
majority of the larger seizures are as a result of prior intelligence.
18. That makes quite a difference.
(Mr Abbott) But there will still be seizures without
Lord Lester of Herne Hill
19. I was wondering whether the Home Office
could provide us with a cost-benefit analysis of the practical
advantages and disadvantages of being out of Schengen for British
citizens travelling outside the United Kingdom and the advantages
and disadvantages for those coming into this country in terms
of protecting our own core interests. Presumably there has been
a cost-benefit analysis of that kind done for the purpose of advising
successive governments. I am not asking for further work to be
done, but I cannot imagine the Home Office would be proceeding
without the benefit of a cost-benefit analysis. Could we be provided
with such an analysis to help us in our work?
(Mr Warne) We will certainly provide what we can,
my Lord. I think that there are a very complex set of issues here
about the benefits of being within or without. We start from the
fact that the Government has negotiated a separate protocol for
frontiers which leaves us operating our own immigration control
by agreement with other members of the European Union. There then
remains the question as to whether there would be benefits in
participation in other aspects of co-operation, for example police
co-operation and judicial co-operation. That analysis continues,
it is not complete. As you know, we have had a little difficulty
in establishing precisely what the acquis is. There are
a number of complex issues to address. If I may focus on three
of them. First of all, having negotiated that frontiers protocol,
we want to maintain it. That is the Government's position. We
think it is right to operate a different system of control and
therefore we do not wish to participate in arrangements that would
do damage to that position. However, there are a number of other
areas where a degree of participation may be possible and that
is really where the cost-benefit analysis has to be made. For
example, is there an advantage or disadvantage in being involved
in the police co-operation aspects of Schengen? If I might offer
a view on that it would be that there are some issues on which
we would need quite detailed discussion with partners, in particular
in the areas of hot pursuit and cross-border surveillance, but
in other respects most of the police co-operation provisions are
ones that we would gladly subscribe to because for a long time
we have been working with European Union partners on serious crime.
Similarly, the judicial co-operation provisions do not hold many
fears for us. Indeed many of them have been in a sense overtaken
by European Union provisions on extradition, on mutual legal assistance
and the like. So I think the analysis has to be done in that kind
of way, i.e. what position could we adopt that did not do damage
to our immigration position but enabled us to participate and
contribute both for UK advantage and more collective advantage.
When we get to real hard cost it often comes down to the cost
of, say, joining the Schengen Information System. What would be
the burden of providing information to it and what would be the
cost of our duties and obligations under it against the benefit
that we might derive from such a system. That is where our analysis
is. I do not wish to pretend to the Committee that we have done
a cost-benefit analysis on different forms of immigration control
because the Government's position is clear, i.e. it believes that
this form of control is the best one and one that delivers most
effectively for the United Kingdom and other options are not under