FOREWORDWhat this Report is about |
Home Office Ministers hold regular meetings with
the ministers of the interior of the other five largest EU States:
Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Poland. At the last such meeting
in Heiligendamm in March 2006 the G6 ministers discussed their
joint response to terrorism, illegal immigration and organised
crime. The United Kingdom was represented by the then Home Secretary.
Decisions were reached at that meeting which, if
taken forward, would involve important changes to current EU thinking
and to declared Government policy. The Home Office releases no
information about these meetings, which receive minimal publicity.
Ministers should report back to Parliament routinely after such
Europe has experienced a rise of terrorism; the G6
ministers represent some of the countries which consider themselves
most vulnerable. The exchange of information between law enforcement
agencies is a major weapon in the fight against terrorism and
other serious crime. The response of the ministers has been to
reconsider the constraints which data protection rules place on
the sharing of such data. The Committee has considered the decisions
taken at the Heiligendamm meeting, and in particular the tensions
between law enforcement and data protection.
We do not understand why the former Home Secretary
should have apparently agreed with other G6 ministers to press
forward with the "availability" principle and disregard
data protection issues. This is contrary to the decision of the
Member States in the Hague Programme, contrary to the advice of
independent data protection authorities, inconsistent with what
the Home Office Ministers had told us, and against the views of
the Finnish Presidency. The exchange of information between the
law enforcement authorities is important, but not so important
that civil rights can be eroded.