Select Committee on European Union Twelfth Report

Letter from Barbara Roche MP to Lord Tordoff

  Thank you for your letter of 25 May.

  2.  I appreciate the detailed consideration which your Committee has given to this draft Convention, and I was very grateful that you were able to clear it from Scrutiny before the 29 May Council. Like you we are concerned at the short deadlines for the consideration of documents being submitted for approval at Council and will write to the Council Secretariat asking that all attempts should be made to ensure that they be provided in a more timely manner.

  3.  I agree that the text in 7846/00 COPEN 32 does not now specify the consequences of failing to reply within the extended eight day deadline. Given the likelihood of substantial dialogue between the intercepting and notified States I do not think that this issue is likely to arise in practice; nevertheless we will seek to ensure that the Explanatory Report contains a specific reference to the consequences of a failure to reply within this period. I can also confirm your analysis that Article 20(4)(b) provides the only conditions under which intercept material may be used without the permission of the notified Member States. I understand that the retention of intercept material to justify any action taken on the basis of it refers only to material used in accordance with Article 20(4)(b). I can also confirm that the clarifying footnotes in the earlier texts of the Convention will be included in the Explanatory Report. We will provide the Committee with a copy of the Report when we receive it.

  4.  You also sought a more detailed explanation of why the Government and other Member States considered a specific reference to the 1981 Council of Europe Convention on data protection to be unacceptable in the EU Mutual Assistance Convention. You will understand that I am unable to comment on the negotiating positions of individual Member States. Nevertheless you should be aware that a number of Member States did not support the inclusion of any data protection provision at all. The existing text is a compromise designed to satisfy the countries that did not want any form of data protection provision or reference to the 1981 Council of Europe Convention, and those that favoured some form of specific clause.

  5.  We will seek to ensure that the nature and extent of the liability of officials and other international organisations or third countries operating on the territory of a Member State is fully clarified in the Explanatory Report.

  6.  You will now be aware that the draft Convention was signed by the Home Secretary at the May Council. Although we have not yet received the final text I can assure you that we will forward it to you as soon as we receive it.

  7.  I am sending a copy of this letter to Jimmy Hood, Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee.

28 June 2000

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