Skip to main content

Crime: Databases

Volume 470: debated on Friday 25 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what discussions (a) Ministers and (b) officials in her Department have had with (i) foreign governments and (ii) foreign intelligence services on granting access to UK databases to foreign law enforcement and intelligence agencies; and if she will make a statement. (180149)

This Government believe that the sharing of data with other countries is fundamental to our ability to tackle serious crime, terrorism and illegal immigration. We have therefore been engaging with our EU partners to pursue a number of projects to improve the exchange of law enforcement data including through the joining up of national databases on DNA, fingerprints and vehicle registration (the PrĂ¼m Council Decision), and through the joining up of criminal records databases.

The United Kingdom is a significant provider of information to Europol and Eurojust to facilitate the cross-border prosecution of terrorism and organised crime. We are also in the process of implementing the Schengen Information System II, which will provide us with alerts on matters such as missing persons, fugitives and stolen vehicles.

As part of the G8 the UK has encouraged all states to contribute data to and participate in the Interpol 1-24/7 database for lost and stolen passports and identity documents. G8 states took the lead by being among the first states globally to submit all of their data on both issued and unissued lost and stolen documents to Interpol.

Furthermore, the UK is participating in a project to evaluate the extent that G8 countries share data between their own migration authorities and police and other competent security authorities with a view to development of best practice procedures for this. The UK has also led a project to create the G8 DNA 1-24/7 Sear Request Network, which involves access between national databases (although on a hit/no hit basis only for DNA). It does not include the creation of a common data base, automatically link databases or allow automatic access to an existing database or information held on the database of a G8 state from outside that state itself. All participating states retain direct in-country control to enable them to decline any inquiry.

We have numerous bilateral relationships with key partners both in Europe and beyond, including the United States, which enable our law enforcement and intelligence agencies to cooperate effectively to protect the security of the public in the UK and other countries.

In all cases where the Government shares personal data with other countries, it must ensure the relevant arrangements comply with legal obligations to provide appropriate safeguards for privacy rights, including those set out in the European Convention on Human Rights and the Data Protection Act 1998 (which implemented EC Directive 95/46 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data). Many of the key instruments providing for the sharing of personal data between law enforcement agencies at the EU level incorporate data protection safeguards tailored to the specific types of data to be shared. The Data Protection Framework Decision will, when adopted, set uniform data protection standards for personal data sent from one member state to another, and also to European bodies such as Europol, for the purposes of the prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of criminal offences or the execution of criminal penalties.