PN020207EUF

Embargo: 00:01 Friday 2 March 2007
Contact: Owen Williams 020 7219 8659

GOVERNMENT'S RELUCTANCE TO JOIN SCHENGEN INFORMATION SYSTEM WEAKENS BATTLE AGAINST CROSS BORDER CRIME

A House of Lords Committee have today warned that the Government's delay in joining the second generation Schengen Information System (SIS II) will damage British attempts to fight cross border crime.

The warning comes in the Lords European Union Committee's report on the development of SIS II. The Committee point out that although Britain is not a full Schengen State, the development of SIS II is still of vital importance to the UK. They argue that this is recognised by agencies combating serious cross border crime, such as the police and the Serious Organised Crime Agency, but not by the Government who have not joined the current SIS and are content for Britain to be one of the last countries to join SIS II.

Under the current arrangements the UK will not have access to SIS II immigration data. The Committee argue that this poses a potential threat to European security, and that Ministers should take steps to persuade their colleagues from Schengen States to allow the police and other UK law enforcement bodies access to SIS II immigration data for public policy, public security and national security purposes.

The Committee also make several recommendations about the operation of SIS II. They include:

€ The Government must put more resources into developing the national connection to SIS II so that the UK is ready to participate as soon as the central system is ready.

€ The Home Office must plan for the inevitable increase in the resources needed by the Crown Prosecution Service.

€ There must be regular reports on UK preparation for joining SIS II, and the impact on the UK.

€ There should be more transparency over the whole SIS II process including the awarding of contracts.

€ The data protection rules applicable to SIS II are unduly complex, and conflict with the proposed Data Protection Framework Decision. Negotiations on this must be taken forward, and it must be in force before SIS II is implemented.

Commenting, Lord Wright of Richmond, who chaired the Committee investigating SIS II, said:

"The Government's fight to tackle cross border crime will be severely undermined by any delay in taking part in the second generation Schengen Information System.

"The Government have underlined the importance of dealing with international crime and the threat of terrorism. SIS II provides a real opportunity to do just that right across Europe. The Government must do more to ensure the UK isn't left out in the cold.

"Because successive Governments have decided to maintain UK border controls, we cannot be a full member of Schengen. But this should not stop us having access to data on aliens where an alert is based on a threat to public policy, public security or national security."

Notes to Editors

1. The report is published by The Stationery Office, Schengen Information System II (SIS II), House of Lords European Union Committee (Sub-Committee F), 9th Report of 2006/07, HL Paper 49.

2. The full report will be available shortly after publication at:
http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/lords_s_comm_f.cfm

3. The members of the Committee who conducted the inquiry were:

Lord Wright of Richmond (Chairman)

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock

Lord Avebury

Lord Harrison

Baroness Bonham Carter of Yarnbury

Baroness Henig

Earl of Caithness

Lord Jopling

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale

Earl of Listowel

Baroness D'Souza

Lord Marlesford

Lord Dubs

Lord Teverson

Viscount Ullswater

For copies of the report or to request an interview with Lord Wright, please contact Owen Williams, Committee Press Officer on 020 7219 8659 or 07961 101 461.

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