Speech on the Passenger Name Records Directive

Chairman, Commissioner, Today's debate and tomorrow's vote are something which at times I doubted would happen in my lifetime. I hope that tomorrow's vote is a positive one. We have created a Directive which I know will save lives, protect rights, catch criminals, and make Europe a safer place for our citizens. Throughout this process there has been more than enough finger pointing, enough games, and enough politics. Today, I hope to provide some facts and the arguments for why I feel we need this instrument; a view shared by governments of all political persuasions and by all law enforcements authorities across the whole EU. There may be people here in this debate today that will vote against this report. But I believe this is the best deal we ever could have reached. Too often politicians come away from negotiations in possession of a piece of legislation that feels like the lowest common denominator. Something they can live with, something which "could have been worse". I do not feel that way at all. I can say with my hand on my heart that I am proud of what we will vote on tomorrow. I know that we pushed for sound data protection provisions which mirrored those of the data protection Directive and which provide specific rules for PNR. I know we allowed fir the ECJ judgment on retention to have resonance and be a meaningful basis for any review. I know that we have retention periods where proportionate, and that we are collecting PNR data to combat a list of crimes which we must prevent and prosecute. Never have the challenges Europe faces been so prevalent, and inevitably the fight against terrorism has become the focus of this Directive for many, given its value in combatting EU foreign fighters; But I have been urging this parliament to support PNR for nearly 5 years. Not just because of terrorism, but because it tackles the worst and darkest kinds of criminality. Human trafficking, child trafficking, drug trafficking, paedophiles, murderers and rapists. PNR doesn't just help bring perpetrators to justice, it can save people from the horrors that criminality brings. There are many examples from the UK, where PNR has helped rescue children and women from a life of exploitation and suffering. PNR is not a hypothetical instrument and the UK has had a system in place for a decade. It works, it saves lies, and it puts criminals where they belong, behind bars. To the critics who say we are sacrificing civil liberties in the name of security, let me emphasise that without this PNR Directive there would be no European standards whatsoever specific to PNR. No specific rights of redress, no rules on data retention periods, no rules on who can access the information, no rules of pseudonymising the data, no rules on keeping logs, no rules on reviews, or compliance with the principles of proportionality and necessity, and ECY rulings. For those who ask why we need a European solution, on this I have listened to the experts, to EUROPOL director Rob Wainwright, to anti-terrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove, and to law enforcement experts from around Europe. By having a single set of rules at a European level, we close the legal loopholes criminals seek to exploit under different legal jurisdictions. By collecting and sharing the same information across the EU, we make data comparable and relevant, we cut down the lengthy delays of exchanging information through bilateral agreements, allowing for an expediency which is so vital in criminal investigations. For those who say we need mandatory sharing of all information for a centralised EU database, I would say that mandatory exchange of personal data without regard to necessity and proportionality would be contrary to the fundamental principles of data protection. But sharing relevant information with law enforcement agencies in other Member States and, with Europol, should take place whenever necessary. Irrelevant or unnecessary processing of data would undermine individuals' rights and will make it more difficult for authorities to prioritise the most relevant and serious cases. Colleagues, this is NOW it. I have listened to the debate with care. In that, I have attempted to listen to all views but I have always welcomed positive contributions and I look forward the debate. It is now or never for the PNR debate. I hope you will not vote for the amendments tabled by political groups, the adoption of just one amendment, will take us back to square one, with no agreement. Commissioner, President, my country is in the middle of a nationwide debate on why we should be members of the European Union. Our security and our cooperation in the fight against criminality is something I strongly believe that does add that value and it is not just terrorism but some of the greater successes are criminal law, trafficking, drugs, etc. This Directive is an example of where we need more European cooperation, where we can pull together to protect our citizens against people who do not respect any legal boundaries or the rule of law. I ask the Parliament and its Members at the vote tomorrow to make a responsible decision, and to acknowledge that keeping citizens safe is a fundamental right no different to any other and a primary duty of all of us. Public trust and confidence in our institutions is stretched to breaking point, so let's restore some of that trust by doing the right thing and making the right decision. Thank you.