Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of
the Committee to Barbara Roche MP, Minister of State, Home Office
Thank you for your letter of 4 May containing
a brief response to the Committee's Report on UK participation
in the Schengen Acquis. I note that there is a possibility of
reaching agreement on the UK's Application to take part in the
Schengen acquis at the May Justice and Home Affairs Council.
Sub-Committee F (Social Affairs, Education and
Home Affairs) has considered the proposed amendments (in the UK
Permanent Representative's letter to the Council Presidency) to
Article 5(2) of the draft Council Decision specifying which parts
of the Schengen acquis are to apply in Gibraltar. Your officials
have also provided a revised consolidated draft of the Council
Decision. There are three points on which the Committee would
welcome further clarification.
First, the two main areas of the acquis in which
Gibraltar will not participate are Schengen provisions on cross-border
surveillance and the Schengen Information System (SIS). As regards
cross-border surveillance, you state that "these provisions
are not designed for application to a border of the sort which
exists between Gibraltar and Spain where customs checks are applied".
While the Committee understands that there may be political sensitivities
about Spanish and Gibraltar police forces carrying out surveillance
in each other's territory, the particular rationale you advance
seems somewhat odd. The relevant provision on the Schengen Convention
(Article 40) concerns persons, not goods.
Secondly, as regards the Schengen Information
System, it seems clear that there would be no terminals giving
direct access to SIS data located in Gibraltar, but there remains
a question as to the possibility of Gibraltar authorities obtaining
information indirectly via the relevant UK authorities. The Committee
would welcome clarification of both points.
Finally, you do not explain the position with
regard to the participation of the Channel Islands and the Isle
of Man in parts of the Schengen acquis. The amendments proposed
in the Permanent Representative's letter indicate that an earlier
declaration (set out in your letter to the Committee of 31 January
2000) expressing the UK's intention that the Islands should participate
as fully as possible is to be omitted. The latest consolidated
revised draft Decision contains a slightly different declaration.
The Committee would be grateful for an explanation of the significance
of the differences.
In view of the possibility of reaching agreement
on the draft Decision at the Justice and Home Affairs Council
on 29 May, the Committee has decided to clear the document from
scrutiny. I would be grateful if you could also include in your
response to the points mentioned above an explanation of the outcome
of discussions at the Council meeting.
18 May 2000