HL Deb 01 July 2002 vol 637 cc4-6WA
Lord Desai

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they intend to detail the outcome of the Justice and Home Affairs Council held in Luxembourg on 13 and 14 June and what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including its voting record. [HL5001]

Lord Filkin

I, together with my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and my right honourable friend Jim Wallace, the Deputy First Minister and Minister for Justice for Scotland, represented the United Kingdom at the Justice and Home Affairs Council in Luxembourg on 13 June.

A points: the A points were approved as in document 9825/02 PTS A 31 and ADD 1 and COR 1 (a copy of which has been placed in the Library), except points 23, 24, 25 and 45.

Terrorism: the Council noted a terrrorism threat assessment document, Europol reports on security measures taken since 11 September and extremist terrorism and a report on the current list of terrorist organisations. The Director of Europol reported on the work of the Europol Counter-Terrorism Task Force, noting that the provision of information to Europol had improved but remained insufficient and that more could be done to improve co-operation with the United States.

Activities of the Spanish Presidency on the subject of violence against women, to be submitted by the Ministers of Education, Justice, Home Affairs and Health at forthcoming Councils: the Presidency presented a study on measures adopted by member states to combat violence against women and a guide to good practice to mitigate the effects of and eradicate violence against women.

Illegal immigration and external borders: during a general debate on illegal immigration and asylum, the Home Secretary called for the Seville European Council to deliver concrete results so that citizens could see the relevance of a European Union (EU) approach. He said that the message should not be one of "Fortress Europe" but a coherent policy which opposed racism, welcomed legal inward migration, protected refugees and ensured that each member state accepted its responsibilities. The Home Secretary vigorously supported common action to protect the European Union's external frontier, arguing that this should he achieved through the use of joint operations at weak points in the border, extensions of the immigration liaison officer network and greater use of Europol's expertise, rather than through the establishment of a new border police. He also supported the need to complete work on common asylum measures and co-operation with third countries in a spirit of "positive conditionality", involving the provision of assistance to support returns and develop migration infrastructures.

The Council also noted a Presidency report on progress made in the fight against illegal immigration, agreed conclusions on measures to be established for the prevention of and the fight against illegal immigration and the trafficking of human beings by sea and agreed a plan on the management of external borders.

Proposal for a Council regulation establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the member state responsible for examining an asylum application lodged in one of the member states by a third country national: in discussing key aspects of the draft Dublin II Regulations, the majority of member states, including the United Kingdom, said that the exisitng Dublin convention criteria should be taken as a starting point but that procedures should be improved and time limits shortened. Two member states with difficult external frontiers argued that they should not be penalised by virtue of their geographical position. Two other member states also opposed the proposed new criterion on tolerated illegal presence.

Proposal for a Council Decision on the implementation of specific measures for police and judicial co-operation to combat terrorism in accordance with Article 4 of Common Position 2001/ 931/CFSP: the Council reached a general approach on the Council decision. Portugal, France, Ireland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom maintained parliamentary scrutiny reserves on the text.

Proposal for a Council framework decision laying down minimum provisions on the constituent elements of criminal acts and penalties in the field of drug trafficking: the Council reached a general approach on the majority of the text. However, member states were divided by a proposal to permit the imposition of lower penalties for trafficking in small quantities of drugs. The Presidency concluded that discussions on this item would continue under the Danish Presidency.

Proposal for a Council directive to improve access to justice in cross-border disputes by establishing minimum common rules relating to legal aid and other financial aspects of civil proceedings: the Council agreed that the scope of the draft legal aid directive should be limited to cross-border claims.

Proposal for a Council regulation creating a European enforcement order for uncontested claims: the Commission presented its proposal for a European enforcement order. This would abolish, in uncontested cases, the requirement for a court to examine the procedure by which a judgment was issued in another member state before recognising the validity of that judgment.

Civilian aspects of crisis management: the Presidency reported that member states had met the targets set by the Gothenburg European Council for the provision of officials and judges to international missions intended to strengthen the rule of law in third countries.

Any other business: the Commission presented its revised scoreboard on the implementation of the Tampere European Council conclusions.

Mixed Committee: the Mixed Committee with Norway and Iceland met at ministerial level in the margins of the Council. It noted the existence of two negotiating mandates for the association of Switzerland with the implementation of the Schengen acquis, the Dublin Convention and Eurodac acquis; of a general approach on the proposal for a decision amending Article 40 of the Schengen Convention, subject to parliamentary scrutiny reserves from Germany, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom; of conclusions concerning the new requirements for the Schengen Information System (SIS) and a technical solution for the participation in the SIS by the United Kingdom and Ireland, reflecting the partial participation of the United Kingdom and Ireland in Schengen; and of a plan on the management of external borders.