Select Committee on European Communities Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 77 - 79)




  77.  Welcome. I think you are relatively clear on what it is we are attempting, which is to look at the costs and benefits of the Schengen opt-out, in particular the border controls dimension of that, as neutrally as possible. Clearly there are political considerations here which suggest that we should finish our inquiry by asking one or other of the ministers to come and talk to us. Do introduce yourselves. I have you listed in my Civil Service Year Book as "Director, Police Policy", but I understand you have now replaced Tim Walker. Is that correct?
  (Mr Boys Smith)  Thank you, my Lord Chairman, for your welcome. I am Stechen Boys Smith. I am the Director General of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate in the Home Office which I took over some six weeks ago from being the Director General which your Civil Service Year Book refers to. I am accompanied by Mr Mike Eland, my colleague who is a Deputy Director General, responsible for policy, whom you have of course seen before on a previous inquiry.

  78.  Is there anything you would like to say?
  (Mr Boys Smith)  I do not think so. We understand the scope and we are ready to do our best to answer your questions.

  79.  I suppose the obvious first question is what do you see as the main obstacles to the United Kingdom opting into Schengen?
  (Mr Boys Smith)  I think the obstacle is not any single provision within the Schengen Convention or any of the Treaty or associated material. It is simply the position that the government has taken over the maintenance of its frontier controls. You will be familiar with that position, based on the view that, as an island and because of the way therefore those who arrive in the country have to be channelled through particular ports, together with the fact that the government's view is it would be inimical to our traditions and customs to have the kind of internal control that is part of the Schengen arrangement. For those reasons, there should be a maintenance of the frontier control and that therefore renders straightforward adoption of the Schengen arrangements extremely difficult. As you know, the government is still considering what policy to pursue as a result of the opt-in that is now available. The Treaty of Amsterdam makes clear that our partners recognise the position that we are in because the Treaty of Amsterdam recognises the maintenance of our frontier control. None of that of course is to say that the government does not wish to cooperate, and in areas that are consistent with its general position of course it will be ready to consider cooperation. The police front is one which you discussed with my colleague, Mr Warne, three weeks ago and that is clearly one such area. It is that general position rather than any particular provision that underlines the position.

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