The coalition government is firmly committed to protecting the security of its citizens and to restoring and protecting civil liberties.
The UK, in common with many other EU Member States and third countries, places considerable value on the collection and analysis of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data (that data collected by carriers in the exercise of their business) for the purposes of combating terrorism and organised crime. The appropriate use of PNR data is vital in keeping the public safe.
In line with this view the government continues to press for an EU PNR Directive that includes provision for intra-EU flights. The government also believes that clear PNR agreements between the EU and third countries play a vital role in removing legal uncertainty for air carriers flying to those countries, and help ensure that PNR information can be shared quickly and securely with all necessary data protection safeguards in place where appropriate.
We are firmly committed to consistency in our approach to civil liberties and will seek to translate our domestic agenda to the EU level - purpose limitation; rigorous evidence based arguments; the principles of necessity and proportionality; stringent data protection safeguards, especially when handling sensitive personal data; independent data protection oversight; and, of course, full compliance with EU law and the EU Treaties.
On 21 September the European Commission (EC) published a Communication on the global approach to transfers of Passenger Name Record (PNR) Data to third countries (which proposed a set of common principles on sharing data with third countries) alongside a package of draft negotiating mandates for PNR agreements with Australia, Canada and the United States. In response to the Commission Recommendations, on the 18th October the Council presented a draft Council Decision to authorise the Commission to open negotiations for PNR Agreements with Australia, Canada and the US together with draft negotiating guidelines (collectively referred to as negotiating mandates).
We fully recognise the importance of working with partners outside the EU, given that the threats we face are global in nature. Notably, we will continue to engage closely with the US on PNR and data protection; both of which are crucial to our ability to cooperate with the US on improving US and EU security. We will though ensure that the exchange of data with such partners remains subject to rigorous data protection safeguards.
After due consideration of the importance of civil liberties, data protection and security concerns the government has decided to opt in to negotiating mandates for three PNR agreements with Australia, Canada and the US as it believes they will pave the way for EU-Third Country agreements that strike the right balance between civil liberties, data protection and security of the EU. As these mandates are currently restricted so as to preserve the EU negotiating position they are not therefore depositable within Parliament.
The government will continue to work with the Scrutiny Committees when it considers whether to opt in to Council Decisions to sign and conclude each Third Country Agreement. I will also in due course update Parliament on the government’s opt-in decisions at these later stages.
Date: Mon Dec 20 11:15:00 GMT 2010