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Volume 300: debated on Wednesday 12 November 1997

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if proposals have been put forward through European Union or intergovernmental channels to provide legal immunity for police officers who are working or have worked for Europol; and if he will make a statement. [15190]

The privileges and immunities of Europol staff are set out in a Protocol to the Europol Convention, which was signed on 19 June 1997. The Protocol needs to be ratified in each member state before Europol can take up its activities. For the United Kingdom to ratify the Protocol, an Order in Council under the International Organisations Act 1968 will need to be made. We hope to present a draft Order to the House shortly.The terms of the legal immunity for Europol staff are outlined in Article 8 of the Protocol, which states that members of the organs of Europol and staff members of Europol shall enjoy "immunity form the legal process of any kind in respect of words spoken or written, or of acts performed by them, in the exercise of their official functions". Article 12 of the Protocol states that the Director of Europol shall be required to waive the immunity "in cases where the immunity would impede the course of justice".It is important to bear in mind that Europol will not have executive powers. Its role is confined to supporting national investigations through facilitating the exchange of information and offering analytical expertise. Responsibility for subsequent executive action rests with the relevant national bodies which do not enjoy such privileges and immunities.The Protocol will be evaluated by the Management Board of Europol two years after the Protocol enters into force. It will be reviewed following any amendment to the tasks of Europol as set out in the Europol Convention.