SELECT COMMITTEE ON
EUROPEAN LEGISLATION 1992-97
Report by Mr Jimmy
Hood, Chairman of the Committee
1. The Committee's main
- on behalf of the
House, to examine a wide range of European Community documents,
including proposals for legislation, Commission Communications
and Green and White Papers, draft Council Recommendations and
Resolutions, and Reports from the Court of Auditors;
- to assess the legal
and/or political importance of these documents, and to decide
which should have further consideration, either in European Standing
Committee or on the Floor of the House;
- in its weekly Scrutiny
Reports, to provide information and analysis for the House and
the public on all documents of legal and/or political importance;
- to monitor the operation
of the European Scrutiny system and the discharge of the Government's
obligations to the House.
2. A statistical summary
of the Committee's Scrutiny work during the 1992-97 Parliament
is set out separately. The Committee's work is carried out almost
exclusively on the basis of European Community documents, Explanatory
Memoranda and other written evidence, not oral evidence, because
of the volume of work, the range of subject matter and the need
to report quickly on most proposals.
3. The Committee considers
a Scrutiny Report each week when the House is sitting, except
when undertaking a visit. It makes two Presidency visits a year,
holding meetings with representatives of Parliament and Government
in those countries which are about to assume the six-monthly Presidency
of the European Union. It visits Brussels each year for meetings
with the Commission, the European Parliament and the United Kingdom
Permanent Representation to the EU. It has also been to the European
Court of Justice and the European Court of Auditors in Luxembourg
on two occasions during the Parliament. The Committee regularly
meets representatives from other European Parliaments and Governments
at Westminster; for example, it held eight such meetings in 1996.
It also takes regular oral evidence on developments in the Communities.
4. Alongside its regular
Scrutiny work, the Committee has been engaged in a long term inquiry
into the preparations for and the proceedings of the Inter-Governmental
Conference. It has produced three Reports on the subject: one
and two in 1995-96.
The Committee addressed a series of institutional and procedural
issues in these Reports on the basis of its experience in carrying
out Scrutiny of European Community documents.
5. One recommendation in
particular has gained much wider currency. In its Twenty-fourth
Report of 1994-95, the Committee recommended that there should
be a minimum period of notice of four weeks for legislation to
be considered in the Council, in order to allow National Parliaments
sufficient time for Scrutiny. This recommendation was restated
in the Twenty-eighth Report of 1995-96. The United Kingdom Government
has supported this proposal and has tabled a Treaty amendment
at the IGC to provide for its adoption. In addition, at its meeting
in Dublin in October 1996, the Conference of European Affairs
Committees (COSAC), representing all European Affairs committees
in the EU, gave its unanimous support.
6. The Committee's Twenty-eighth
Report of 1995-96 also provided an analysis of the working of
the Scrutiny process in the House and made recommendations for
its improvement. This was in part the Committee's contribution
to the Procedure Committee's inquiry into the conduct of European
business, but it also addressed other matters relating to Scrutiny.
In particular, the Committee announced that in future the presumption
would be that it would not clear documents for which it had no
official text, the unavailability of texts being a continuing
and increasing problem. On the future of the Scrutiny process,
the Committee recommended that documents produced under the Inter-Governmental
of the Treaty should be subject to Scrutiny in the same way as
those produced under the Community Pillar.
7. The Committee established
a sub-committee in 1993-94 to investigate issues relating to road
The inquiry was triggered by disagreements between the Government
and the European Community on who has the power to legislate for
seat belts in buses and coaches, particularly those used for school
transport, and took place against the background of a number of
serious accidents involving coaches, buses and minibuses. The
Report assessed the competence of the Community to act, and the
extent to which Member States can implement their own policies
to secure road safety measures.
8. From the beginning of
the 1996-97 Session, all of the Committee's Reports have been
posted in full on the Internet on their day of publication.
It is the first Committee of the House to have its Reports electronically
published in this way.
66 Twenty-fourth Report: The 1996 Inter-Governmental Conference: The Agenda; Democracy and Efficiency; The Role of National Parliaments; HC 239-I (1994-95). Back
67 Twenty-seventh Report: The Scrutiny of European Business, HC 51-xxvii (1995-96); and Twenty-eighth Report: The Role of National Parliaments in the European Union, HC 51-xxviii (1995-96). Back
68 Common Foreign and Security Policy, and Justice and Home Affairs. Back
69 Twentieth Report: The United Kingdom and the Community: Who makes the Law on Road Safety?, HC 70-xx (1994-95). Back
70 Available via the House of Commons home page at www.parliament.uk. Back