Lease of life for key flight data anti-terror plans

10-Jun-2013 @ 18:0

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Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

A crucial piece of security legislation was rescued from derailment last night by a key vote in the European Parliament.

The decision handed a lease of life to proposed measures to counter serious crime and terrorism by creating a legal framework for sharing air passenger data within the European Union.

The draft directive has been drawn up by Conservative MEP Timothy Kirkhope and would create a legal and open system for security and law-enforcement authorities to analyse and share the passenger information which is routinely stored by airlines.

He strongly believes that his proposals would protect the lives and safety of European citizens, while respecting their data and personal rights. However, his report faced being sidelined earlier this year after the Justice and Home Affairs Committee narrowly rejected it throught the efforts of Green and hard-Left MEPs and some Liberals.

Last night, however, Mr Kirkhope persuaded a plenary sitting of the full parliament in Strasbourg not to endorse the rejection decision, but to send the whole report back for the committee to reconsider its position.

"This was a sensible and open-minded decision by the Parliament," said Mr Kirkhope, Conservative spokesman on justice and home affairs and a former Home Office minister.

"It gives the committee a chance to look at this critical piece of legislation afresh, to talk through concerns and hopefully to reach and agreement on a sensible way forward,"

"I believe the report strikes a proper balance between the importance of our ongoing fight against terrorism and serious crime, and the need for a proper legal framework which protects the rights and interests of the public."

"If the measures are not implemented, up to 16 EU countries will continue to build systems for the collection of passenger data, but with no compatible rules or legal clarity for the airlines, and no cross-border rights for passengers.

"I strongly believe this could allow criminals and would-be terrorists to slip through the net. The directive would create a strong framework within which passenger flight data can be exchanged between law enforcement authorities in member states, for the prevention and prosecution of serious cimes and terrorism.

"I hope that those political groups who opposed this directive at committee level, will now see the necessaity to find a compromise and move forward this vitally important directive, and not sacrifice it to misplaced concerns over privacy and civil liberties."

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