UK parliament committee criticises EU plan for collection of PNR data

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The Select Committee on the European Union in the House of Lords has issued a highly critical report on an EU proposal for airline and shipping companies to be required to collect and pass over details on all passengers entering a member state - the EU's equivalent to the USA PNR scheme. The Committee's report says that the proposal, initiated by the Spanish government in March 2003 is "seriously flawed". It will, say the Committee, lead to "serious delays and disruption", largely ineffective and place a "disproportionate" burden on carriers.

The Committee Chair, Baroness Harris said the plan "would certainly cause massive disruption to millions of passengers travelling into and around the EU and create substantial extra costs for air and sea carriers. This half-baked idea is unlikely to reduce immigration significantly... the EU should think again," she said. The report questions how the plans would help combat organised crime or national security threats, saying that this has not been substantiated. It says the proposal has no provision for passengers to seek redress if they are wrongly prevented from boarding.

The committee recommends: "In view of the wide-ranging implications, it would be better for the government to participate fully in the negotiations in order to seek to remove some of the more objectionable features, if it is not possible to secure its withdrawal altogether."

The Committee's Conclusions and Recommendations

36. The effectiveness of the proposal as a tool to combat organised crime or threats to national security has not been substantiated (paragraph 9).

37. An adequate case for the need for the proposal has not been made (paragraph 10).

38. We do not see how the proposal would help to counter identity theft or document forgery and conclude that in its present form the requirement that would be imposed on carriers is disproportionate to its objective (paragraph 12).

39. The application of the Directive to the borderless Schengen area would be disproportionate to its objective. It would in effect re-introduce border checks through the back door. It would also run counter to the main thrust of EU border control policy in recent years, which has concentrated effort on strengthening the external borders of the Union (paragraph 13).

40. The imposition on carriers of a duty to transmit information on the use of return tickets by third country nationals is disproportionate and impractical. Leaving Member States discretion on whether to implement this aspect of the proposal would be likely to lead to substantial differences between Member States and considerable confusion for both carriers as to their duties and passengers as to their rights. The provision should be deleted (paragraph 15).

41. A proper assessment of the implications for carriers, passengers and airport authorities of the increase in check-in times that would result from the implementation of the Directive is essential (paragraph 17).

42. The financial implications of the proposal should be fully assessed. There should be no question of adopting the Directive in advance of submission of a detailed Regulatory Impact Assessment (paragraph 18).

43. We do not favour a minimum penalty because of its inflexibility. It would also be more appropriate to relate the sanction to the journey rather than to the passenger (paragraph 23).

44. We recommend that Article 4(2), which provides for additional sanctions for very serious infringements, be deleted (paragraph 24).

45. The Directive contains no provision for remedies for aggrieved passengers. This is unacceptable (paragraph 25).

46. The safeguards on the transmission of passenger data are largely compatible with the data protection principles in domestic and international legislation, including on length of retention, but may fail the proportionality test (“data must not be excessive in relation to the purpose for which they are processed”) (paragraph 27)

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