Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Security (James Brokenshire):
The government has decided to opt in to the Council Decisions to sign and conclude the transfer and processing of Passenger Name Records data agreement with Canada (European Union Document Nos. 12645/13 and 12637/13).
These decisions relate to a draft Agreement between Canada and the European Union to allow the use and transfer of passenger name record (PNR) data to the Canadian Competent Authority. PNR is a record of each passenger’s travel requirements which contains all information necessary to enable reservations to be processed and controlled by air carriers.
The UK has recognised first-hand the benefits of PNR through its own border systems programme (formally e-Borders), which has already been used to arrest suspects wanted for serious offences such as murder, rape and kidnap. For this reason, the Government remains committed to the use of PNR as a way of tackling serious crime and terrorism but not at the expense of data protection and civil liberties.
The agreement provides that Canada shall ensure that its competent authority processes PNR ‘strictly’ for the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of terrorism and other serious crime that is transnational in nature. Such processing constitutes a legitimate objective for the purposes of Article 52 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. PNR data has a clear value in combating these types of crime, which goes to the necessity of the measure to protect the public.
The agreement is strictly limited to the transfer of PNR for the purposes of preventing and combating terrorism and other serious transnational crime. It is therefore not directly applicable to the control of immigration but could be used to help fight people trafficking.
We are in regular contact with the airline carriers, on whom the burden for provision of PNR data rests. They are required by Canada to provide such data already; this agreement will provide the legal coverage they need to do so. The arrangements envisaged are already in operation in practice and the proposed agreement will not have undue impact on the carriers’ existing systems.
We expect the agreement to be adopted at the December Justice and Home Affairs Council under the ‘A points’ list.