Ministers warned UK missing out on cross-border crime database

A House of Lords committee said the failure to gain access to Europe's Schengen Information System could "severely undermine" policing efforts.

Britian's failure to join a European database could hurt and "severely undermine" efforts to tackle cross-border crime, according to a report from a House of Lords committee.

The Lords' European Union (EU) committee told ministers that the Schengen Information System II (SIS II) database, which allows European governments to share data about people and property related to border security issues, is vital to protecting British interests.

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"The government's fight to tackle cross-border crime will be severely undermined by any delay in taking part in the second-generation Schengen Information System," said committee chairman Lord Patrick Wright.

Because the UK isn't part of the wider Schengen area, which removes border controls between states, it doesn't have access to the database.

"Because successive governments have decided to maintain UK border controls, we cannot be a full member of Schengen," said Wright. "But this should not stop us having access to data on aliens where an alert is based on a threat to public policy, public security or national security."

While the government agrees on the usefulness of the database, it won't be giving up border control, the Home Office said. "We feel having our own frontier controls is the best way to control immigration and cross border crime," said a Home Office spokesperson. "We are fully committed to joining up to SIS II as soon as possible... without having to sign up to the rest of the treaty."

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France, Germany, Italy and Spain are among the fifteen full-members of the Schengen area, which is set to expand into Eastern Europe this year.

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