Tuesday, 20 February 2018
Vehicle Registration Data (Automated Searching and Exchange) Bill 2018: Committee and Remaining Stages
In 2008 Ireland opted into two EU instruments, known as the Prüm decisions. These two EU decisions involve agreement to share three kinds of information in order to combat terrorism and serious crime. The information to be shared consists of DNA, fingerprint and vehicle-registration data. Under the Prüm decisions, legislation for sharing DNA and fingerprint data is the responsibility of the Department of Justice and Equality and was passed in 2014. I understand that following protracted technical testing and arrangements, the sharing of those data will commence in the coming months.
Responsibility for vehicle registration data, VRD, rests with my Department. The Bill before the House deals with the sharing of vehicle registration data in accordance with the decisions. In practical terms it means that if an Irish-registered vehicle is used in a serious crime in another EU country, the authorities there will be able to search Irish data to find the registered owner. Likewise the authorities here will be able to use the system to find out quickly the owner of a vehicle registered elsewhere in the EU if it is used in a serious crime here.
Under an agreement between the EU and Iceland and Norway, these countries will participate in the Prüm decisions. The Bill has been carefully drafted to give effect to the EU requirements. We can discuss the specific details as we go through the Bill. In summary, the Bill does the following: allows searches of Irish vehicle-registration data by the appropriate authorities in other EU member states, Iceland and Norway; allows us to search the vehicle-registration data held in those countries; specifies who may conduct these searches; makes provision for data protection, including monitoring of data shared under the decisions; and makes provision for procedures for handling complaints and corrections where errors are made. All of this complies with EU requirements under the decisions.
Ireland is facing infringement proceedings for delays in implementation of the Prüm decisions. I had intended to introduce the Bill earlier, but it has proven to be a complex matter and it was essential that we got it right.The Prüm decisions are an important tool in fighting serious crime across Europe and as such they benefit us and our fellow Europeans. I know that there is concern at EU level that we are behind in implementing these important measures. The fact that we are soon to be sharing DNA and fingerprint data is an important step, but it is also essential to get this Bill passed urgently so that we can proceed to sharing vehicle registration data as well.
Once the Bill is passed my Department will be able to move quickly to implementation. While there are several technical steps which must be passed, including testing of the system's use, I believe we can pass these rapidly. This is because the vehicle registration data is already being shared over the same network as will be used by Prüm under the entirely separate EU cross-border exchange directive which involves data to investigate serious road traffic offences.