Select Committee on European Scrutiny Fourth Report





Initiative of the French Republic and the Kingdom of Sweden with a view to the adoption of a Council Decision setting up a European crime prevention network.
Legal base: Article 34(2)(c) EU; consultation; unanimity
Forwarded to the Council: 1 December 2000
Deposited in Parliament: 14 December 2000
Department: Home Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 9 January 2001
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: No date set
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared


  8.1  This joint proposal from the former French Presidency and the current Swedish Presidency arises from Conclusion 42 of the Tampere European Council. It is mentioned and supported in the Commission's Communication on the prevention of crime in the EU.[16]

The document

  8.2  The document proposes a Council Decision to establish a European Crime Prevention Network to contribute to the development of crime prevention at EU level and to support crime prevention activities at local and national level. Particular attention would be paid to the fields of juvenile, urban and drug-related crime.

  8.3  The Network, to consist of not more than three contact points from each Member State, one from the Commission, and one, where relevant, from Europol, would facilitate cooperation, contacts and exchanges of information and experience between Member States and national organisations, as well as between Member States and the Commission, other constituent entities of the Council and other groups or networks specialising in crime prevention matters. It would also collect and analyse information on crime prevention activities in order to identify best practices, as well as data on criminality and its development in Member States in order to contribute to the consideration of future national and European decisions. The Network would organise union-level conferences, seminars and meetings to raise awareness and to disseminate results. The Network would also organise the annual award of the European Crime Prevention Prize.

The Government's view

  8.4  In her Explanatory Memorandum, the Minister of State at the Home Office (Mrs Barbara Roche) says:

"In broad terms, the Government welcomes this initiative ...Reducing crime and tackling its causes are vital in improving the quality of life in any country.

"The conclusions of the meeting at Tampere emphasised the importance of exchanging information about juvenile, urban and drug-related crime. The proposal for the Network suggests that these areas should also be the subject of particular attention. The UK Government regards reducing these types of crime as key objectives, and that it is appropriate that they should be given particular attention by any system set up to exchange information.

"The proposal takes a broad, social approach to crime prevention ...This approach is consistent with the thinking behind current national efforts in the UK, which is based on using existing knowledge to the full and extending it through new initiatives that are carefully evaluated and developing a broad, multidisciplinary partnership based approach to crime reduction.

"The Government has been involved in discussions on the formulation of the text that has now been tabled, and will contribute to Council discussions on it, in particular regarding aspects of the financing and administration of the Network. Once the text is approved the Government will wish to play an active part in the formulation and operation of the Network's work programme and in ensuring regular effective evaluation."

  8.5  The Minister also tells us that the intention is for the Network to be financed from the general EU budget, but that the proposal does not quantify the likely costs or include provisions for drawing up a budget. The Government will probe these matters. It will also seek to ensure that there is no duplication of effort on the collection and analysis of data on criminality, and will be considering whether the proposed legal base is sufficient on its own.


  8.6  We note the Minister's welcome for this proposal, which reflects some of the United Kingdom's priorities as voiced at the Tampere European Council. We are glad, however, that she signals her wish to avoid duplication of effort and urge her to ensure that a coherent approach is taken to networking in the area of crime prevention. We clear the document.




COM(00) 786

Commission Communication on the prevention of crime in the EU: reflection on common guidelines and proposals for Community financial support.

Draft Council Decision establishing a programme of incentives and exchanges, training and co-operation for the prevention of crime (Hippocrates).

Legal base: (a) —

(b) Article 34(2)(c) EU; consultation; unanimity

Document originated: 29 November 2000
Forwarded to the Council: 30 November 2000
Deposited in Parliament: 19 December 2000
Department: Home Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 9 January 2001
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: No date set
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared


  9.1  Two of the Tampere European Council Conclusions (41 and 42) called for action in the area of crime prevention. In response, the Portugese Presidency organised a ministerial conference in May 2000 to launch a debate on European crime prevention policy. At the conference, the Commission announced its intention of preparing a communication on crime prevention, including proposals for a Community financial instrument. Hence the current document, the two parts of which we report on separately.

The Communication

  9.2  As its subtitle suggests, the Communication is a reflective document which aims to contribute to the general debate on crime prevention by outlining elements for a European strategy. It emphasises that this should operate on two levels — the national and the European. The focus should be on the prevention of both general and organised crime. (Most EU activity has hitherto concentrated on the latter, and a further working paper from the Commission and Europol on the prevention of organised crime is in preparation.) The strategy should aim to increase knowledge, develop partnerships and promote multi-disciplinary methods of working.

  9.3  The Communication identifies three approaches to crime prevention — reduction of opportunities for criminal activity; reduction of the social and economic factors which encourage the development of crime; and provision of support for victims and prevention of victimisation.

  9.4  The document presents an overview of the way in which existing EU policies provide opportunities for work on crime prevention. It considers the concept of "crime proofing" — evaluating existing or planned legislative instruments in terms of the opportunities for crime they may offer. The Communication also proposes the establishment of a European Forum for the prevention of organised crime, as well as the establishment of a financial instrument, with which the attached draft Decision is concerned.

The draft Decision

  9.5  The proposal is for the establishment of a two-year financial programme, with spending on a pilot basis of 1 million euros in each year to be met from the Community budget. During this two-year period there would be an evaluation of the feasibility of combining the new programme with the existing Grotius[17], Oisin[18] and Stop[19] programmes, which are currently under review.

  9.6  The new programme, to be known as the "Hippocrates Programme" (after the man popularly considered to be the founder of medicine and credited with the phrase "prevention is better than cure"), would encourage cooperation between public and private organisations in Member States involved in preventing both organised and general crime. It would co-finance up to 70% of the cost of crime prevention projects, training, exchanges, placements, studies and research involving at least three States; and directly fund seminars, meetings and similar support activities to disseminate information obtained under the programme.

The Government's view

  9.7  The Minister of State at the Home Office (Mrs Barbara Roche) comments:

"The Government fully supports proposals to build crime prevention more fully into European Union policies and programmes, and to develop crime proofing of legislation.

"The Government considers that EU cooperation in the area of organised crime is vital given increasing cross-border criminality. It already participates in a number of specific operational and consultative groups. It will wish to establish during Council discussions how the proposed Forum would strengthen this cooperation.

"Regarding the Hippocrates Programme, the Government would support projects which add value to knowledge about crime prevention techniques. It will want to establish during Council discussions what benefit will be obtained in the important new area for the EC of volume crime along with organised crime. The Government will wish to consider the detail of the management and evaluation arrangements for the programme.

"The Commission propose to include Applicant States in this programme, which we welcome."

  9.8  The Minister also tells us that the Government doubts whether the proposed legal base is sufficient on its own; it will be considering the matter further.

  9.9  She reports that the Commission hopes that the Hippocrates programme will be adopted during the Swedish Presidency.


  9.10  We support both the Minister's general welcome for the document and her wish to probe the way in which specific proposals, such as the establishment of the Forum, would add value to existing initiatives and structures. As we comment in relation to the proposal for a European crime prevention network[20], it will be important to avoid duplication in this field. We wish to be kept informed of progress, especially in relation to the proposed legal base. However, at this stage, we are content to clear the document.














Europol data protection report: Norway.

Europol data protection report: Iceland.

Europol data protection report: Poland.

Europol data protection report: Hungary.

Legal base: Articles 10(4), 18 and 42(2) of the Europol Convention and Council Decision of 27 March 2000 authorising the Director of Europol to enter into negotiations on agreements with third States and non-EU related bodies; information; unanimity
Forwarded to the Council: 5 December 2000
Deposited in Parliament: (All) 21 December 2000
Department: Home Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 8 January 2001
Previous Committee Report: None; but see (20546) —: HC 34-xxix (1998-99), paragraph 13 (27 October 1999)
To be discussed in Council: 15-16 March 2001
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: (All) cleared


  10.1  In March 2000, the Council adopted a Decision authorising the Director of Europol to begin negotiations with third states and non-EU bodies.[21] That Decision includes a Declaration which calls upon Europol to submit reports on the laws and administrative practice in the field of data protection in these third states or bodies, so that the Council can consider whether or not there are any obstacles to the start of negotiations with respect to the transmission of personal data.

  10.2  Documents (a) to (d) are four data protection reports which have been prepared by Europol and considered by the Europol Management Board and the Joint Supervisory Body (JSB). The function of the JSB is to review the activities of Europol to ensure that the rights of individuals are not violated by its storage, processing or utilisation of data. The approval of these reports by the Management Board and the JSB does not allow data exchange to begin — it simply allows for the start of negotiations with Norway, Iceland, Poland and Hungary on an agreement for such an exchange. That agreement will be considered by both the Management Board and the JSB, and will be submitted for scrutiny. (We cleared a draft Council Act authorising the start of negotiations including the transmission of personal data by Europol to Interpol in July.[22])

The documents (a) - (d)

  10.3  The four documents are all structured in much the same way. An introduction emphasises that the reports do not pretend to give a definitive view of data protection administrative practice in the States or bodies in question; they are simply intended to help the Council decide whether or not negotiations on the transmission of personal data by Europol may be started. After an overview of the legal framework, a section lists the data protection principles with which Europol has to comply, and notes the extent to which the State or body in question also operates in accordance with them. A section on administrative practice follows before the report conclusions. Included with each report is the JSB opinion.

  10.4  In all four cases, the Management Board concludes that the data protection regulations and administrative practices are such that negotiations covering the transmission of personal data from Europol to these countries can be started.

  10.5  The JSB opinions also conclude that no obstacles exist to the start of negotiations. However, the JSB opinion in relation to Poland, (included in document (c)), notes "substantive problems in respect [of] the present data protection legislation and practice". It emphasises that issues not addressed in Polish legislation will need to be addressed in detail in the agreement. In relation to Hungary (document (d)), the JSB notes that it has not been provided with the relevant legal provisions applicable to all the Hungarian law enforcement authorities to which Europol data might be transmitted.

  10.6  The opinions highlight issues which should be addressed in the agreements. Most of these are the same, but there are some individual differences, as indicated above. In its consideration of the final agreement, the JSB will take into account the degree to which these issues have been satisfactorily addressed.

The Government's view

  10.7  The Minister of State at the Home Office (Mrs Barbara Roche) comments:

"The Government considers the provision of agreements allowing exchanges of information between Europol and third countries important in the fight against organised crime both within the EU and in countries outside the EU whose organised crime activity impacts upon the EU. The Government is content with the JSB's reports for Norway, Iceland, Poland and Hungary and welcomes its opinion that there are no barriers to negotiations commencing with these countries."

  10.8  The Minister points out that, although there are no immediate financial implications, any agreements that are concluded may place extra demands on the Europol budget, to which the UK's contribution will be 17.15% in 2001.


  10.9  We consider this to be a complicated process in a good cause — that of data protection. Our chief concern has always been the extent to which the Europol Management Board will take account of the Joint Supervisory Body's views. We are encouraged, therefore, to see these reports in which the Joint Supervisory Body spells out clearly the issues which it expects to see addressed in the agreements. This should allow us to keep the process under review. We clear all the documents.





Commission Report to the European Council : Better lawmaking 2000.
Legal base:
Document originated: 30 November 2000
Forwarded to the Council: 1 December 2000
Deposited in Parliament: 9 January 2001
Department: Cabinet Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 15 January 2001
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: No date set
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared


  11.1  Since the Edinburgh European Council in December 1992, the Commission has produced annual reports dealing with progress made in improving legislation in the EU. The first two reports were limited to describing how the principle of subsidiarity was being applied, but from 1995 onwards the reports have considered not only the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality, but also ways of making legislation simpler, more understandable and more accessible.

  11.2  When we considered the Commission's report for 1999, we noted the comment of the Minister for the Cabinet Office (the Rt. Hon. Marjorie Mowlam) that the assessment of progress in the report was "over-generous in parts". We were pleased that the three institutions involved in the Community legislative process were taking measures to improve drafting, but were concerned that the initiative — like preceding ones — would lose momentum.

The report

  11.3  The first half of the Report, entitled "Effective and Modulated Lawmaking" is concerned with the operation of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. The second half, "Quality Lawmaking", deals with the "transparency and clarity" of legislation. An Annex suggests some processes for determining whether action at Community level is justified.

  11.4  The discussion of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality makes two general points. The first is the comment that:

"The forthcoming adoption[23] of a Charter of Fundamental Rights, which will focus on diversities and how to respect them, will require more attention to be paid to subsidiarity."

  11.5  Secondly, the Commission states that:

"Enlargement enhances the need for strict application of the subsidiarity principle, given that society in the applicant countries is even more differentiated than in the present Member States, and in the light of the new policies designed to ease the integration of the new Member States."

  11.6  As examples of the strict application of the subsidiarity principle, the Commission cites the GALILEO project for an integrated satellite navigation system,[24] as well as proposals in the fields of environment, health protection, energy and transport policy. A particular example cited is the proposal for a Decision of the European Parliament and the Council on a common regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services.[25]

  11.7  As an example of the principle of proportionality, the Commission refers to the proposal for a Council Regulation concerning the implementation of the competition rules laid down in Articles 81 and 82 of the EC Treaty[26]as an example of a new general approach to make Community legislation "more modulated and effective". The Commission points out that the proposal rests on the principle that the national competition authorities will apply Articles 81 and 82 of the EC Treaty in conformity with the procedural rules in place in their countries, and that:

"In terms of reform implementation, then, there has been no obvious need for any integral harmonisation of national procedural rules."

  11.8  The second point made by the Commission about the proportionality of the proposed Regulation is that it provides an example of a case where the implementation of rules falling within the exclusive competence of the Community can be assigned to Member States' authorities and courts.

  11.9  The second half of the report is concerned with consolidation, codification and simplification of legislation as well as with the quality of its drafting. The Commission points out that a number of codification proposals have been adopted and draws attention to the SLIM (simpler legislation for the internal market) initiative. Unlike last year's report, there is no suggestion that other Community institutions are less committed to improving legislation.

  11.10  The discussion of the quality of drafting is brief. Reference is made to a joint practical guide agreed by the three legal services of the EU institutions to give effect to a 1998 inter-institutional agreement on the quality of drafting of Community legislation. There is no discussion of any case where, on reflection, the instrument might have been more clearly drafted..[27]

The Government's view

  11.11  In his Explanatory Memorandum the Parliamentary Secretary at the Cabinet Office (Mr Graham Stringer) comments:

"The report merely recounts progress to date and then in a favourable light. It does not propose new actions and lacks self-criticism the Government believes due. While all action to improve the European regulatory environment is strongly welcomed by the Government, it expects significantly more than the report describes. The conclusions of the Lisbon Special Economic Council committed the Commission, Council, and the Member States to set out a 'strategy for further co-ordinated action to simplify the regulatory environment' by 2001. The report underplays this commitment to which the Government attaches significant importance."


  11.12  We remain convinced that 'better lawmaking' is an important subject, and that the momentum for this initiative should not be lost. We draw attention to the recognition by the Commission that respect for diversity and the enlargement of the European Union will require more attention to be paid to subsidiarity.

  11.13  We note that, for the second year running, the Government has taken the view that the report lacks the degree of self-criticism which it believes to be due. We would find it helpful if the Government could explain more specifically the grounds for this belief, with examples of cases where the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality have not been followed or where the drafting of legislation could have been improved. We also ask what steps the Government proposes to take to ensure that the conclusions of the Lisbon Special Economic Council in this area are taken more seriously.

  11.14  In the meantime, we clear this document.




Special Report No. 20/2000 by the Court of Auditors concerning the management of the Common Organisation of the Market for Sugar.
Legal base:
Document originated: 27 October 2000
Forwarded to the Council: 1 December 2000
Deposited in Parliament: 10 January 2001
Department: Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
Basis of consideration: EM of 19 January 2001
Previous Committee Report: None; but see (21743) 12087/00: HC 23-xxxi (1999-2000), paragraph 10 (29 November 2000) and HC 28-ii (2000-01), paragraph 4 (10 January 2001)
To be discussed in Council: No date set
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared, but relevant to any debate on the reform of the sugar regime


  12.1  The Community sugar market is extremely complex, and covers a range of producer, consumer and trading interests. Beet production is by far the major source of supply within the Community, and is of considerable economic significance in a number of regions, such as East Anglia. Annual production has averaged about 16.7 million tonnes (of white sugar equivalent) over the last six years, whereas, over the same period, consumption has averaged around 12.68 million tonnes (three-quarters in the form of processed products, such as confectionery and cakes). This built-in surplus can only be accommodated by building up stocks or by exports (though, in the latter case, the quantities which may be exported with a subsidy are having to be progressively reduced as a result of the Uruguay Round Agreement). The position is further complicated by the undertaking which the Community has given to permit preferential access at guaranteed prices to around 1.3 million tonnes of cane sugar from the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, 1.13 million tonnes of which is imported into the UK (where it provides a major source of supply for the associated refining industry).

  12.2  The provisions of the common organisation of the market are also extremely complex, and, in addition to the preferential import arrangements for the ACP countries, involve:

  • a system of internal price guarantees, comprising a minimum price for sugar beet and an intervention price;

  • the application of duties on imports from third countries, and the payment of export subsidies, designed to take account of the substantial difference between world and Community market prices;

  • the application of three production quotas, fixed for each Member State and establishment — A (corresponding to the demand in the internal market), B (representing the excess sugar which may be exported with the aid of refunds), and C (covering any excess quantity, which has to be exported without refund);

  • levies paid by producers on A and B quotas, to cover the cost of export refunds (other than those on quantities equivalent to the ACP imports, which are financed by the Community budget);

  • monthly storage payments on stocks of sugar, aimed at encouraging orderly marketing, and funded by a levy on sales to the consumer;

  • production refunds on sugar used to manufacture chemicals; and

  • a requirement, dating back to the shortages in the mid-1970s, for a minimum stock level (currently 3% of the annual quantity produced or refined by an undertaking).

The regime also sets production quotas for two competing bulk sweeteners — isoglucose (made from wheat or maize) and inulin (made from chicory).

  12.3  Since the sugar regime was not subject to the major reforms which took place in the arable sector in 1992, or part of the Agenda 2000 reforms of the CAP, it is widely accepted that its reform is long over-due. An opportunity for reform currently exists in that the present arrangements expire on 30 June 2001. However, as we have noted in our reports of 29 November 2000 and 10 January 2001, the Commission considers that account needs to be taken of such factors as the financial framework agreed in 1999 in Berlin; the forthcoming round of WTO negotiations on agriculture; and the future enlargement of the Community. It also suggests that there is a need to review first the operation of the quota system and such issues as lack of competition within the sector, which it expects to take until July 2002 at the latest. It has therefore merely proposed[28] that the present regime should be extended, with some modifications, for a further two years until 30 June 2003.

The current document

  12.4  This Report by the Court of Auditors examines both the way in which the Community has managed the regime, and the extent to which the regime itself has on the one hand achieved its objectives, and is on the other hand still appropriate.

— (a) Commission's management of the sugar regime

  12.5  The Court notes that, in addition to the overall objectives of the Common Agricultural Policy in Article 33 of the EC Treaty,[29] the sugar regime contains a number of specific objectives, notably to ensure that the necessary guarantees in respect of employment and standards of living for Community growers of sugar beet and cane are maintained; to ensure a fair balance of rights and duties between processors and growers; to make the regime self-financing for the disposal of that part of Community sugar production under quota which is surplus to internal consumption; to enable the outlets for sugar and isoglucose on the internal market to be enlarged; to achieve a steady and even flow of raw sugar to Community refineries. It also notes that the main means at the Commission's disposal in managing the market are the level of production quotas; its annual proposals for institutional prices; decisions on the export programme and the "self-financing" system. It then examines each of these in turn.

  12.6  As regards production quotas, the Court says that it examined the Commission's proposal for the present quotas covering the period 1999-2001 to see whether these were formulated "in a way consistent with the efficient achievement" of the objectives of the CAP and the regime. It notes that, having asked whether the quotas should continue (and, if so, at what level), the Commission had concluded that they should be maintained, with quotas kept at their existing levels. However, the Court observes that the Commission neither addressed the extent to which the CAP objectives were being achieved, nor presented any analysis of the economic effects of the regime, nor considered possible reforms or alternatives. In particular, there was no assessment of productivity improvements, the incomes of beet growers, or whether the prices borne by consumers were reasonable. Indeed, the Court goes on to comment that the only information presented showed that the quotas led to a surplus each year of between 1.3 and 1.5 million tonnes. Conversely, it considers that a number of other issues should have been considered, including the economic cost of surplus production and high prices; the effect on developing countries' incomes of subsidised exports; the extent to which progress in beet production and processing techniques justified a review of the share of revenue enjoyed by each sector; the barriers to the entry of new beet growers; the relative profitability of beet compared with other crops; the environmental impact, particularly of surplus production; and the effects of fixed national quotas in limiting specialisation and competition.

  12.7  The Court then notes that, although there had been a thorough internal assessment by the Commission in 1992, which had concluded that there should be "significant" price cuts over a seven year period, its proposals in 1994 for a renewal of the quota system for a six year period concentrated on the minimum adjustments needed to comply with the constraints imposed by the GATT Uruguay Round, and to ensure that the Community's refining industry had adequate supplies of raw sugar. No information was given on the desirability of reform, and the concerns of consumers and industrial users were not addressed. The Court concludes that it is clear that the Commission did not present all the appropriate information to justify continuation of the quota arrangements for 1995 to 2001, did not give a comprehensive analysis of the achievement of the regime's objectives, and failed to present the likely impact of the proposals as compared with other options.

  12.8  On the regime's institutional prices, the Commission is required to propose an intervention price for white sugar and a basic price for beet, with the latter being based on the intervention price less the costs of processing and transport. However, the Court notes that in practice the elements in this equation have not been reviewed for many years, and that such data as the Commission has on processing costs has been provided by the body which defends the interests of the processing industry. The Court also notes that some elements of production costs have undergone considerable changes over the years, but have not been reported on by the Commission in the price proposals — a fact which it says has been strongly criticised by consumers and industrial users of sugar. Likewise, the Court notes that, although growers' incomes from sugar have been affected by increasing yields at a time when the prices for other crops have been reduced substantially, the extent to which returns from sugar may be out of line with the rest of the arable sector have not been addressed. The Court further notes that, although the Commission has not proposed any changes to white sugar and beet prices since 1991, only the budgetary impact has been taken into account, and that, even here, an internal Commission analysis had estimated that a 15-20% price reduction would reduce the Community's surplus sugar production by between 2 and 3 million tonnes, and produce a gain for consumers of up to 650 million euros.

  12.9  The Court concludes this part of its report by noting that as regards the following other aspects of the regime:

  • although the guaranteed price for ACP raw cane sugar has to be negotiated separately "within the range of prices" obtaining in the Community, the Commission has always proposed that the guaranteed price should simply be equal to the raw sugar beet intervention price, and that there has in practice been no negotiation or consideration of the economic factors;

  • the Commission has acted to obtain lower rates for export refunds only since the Uruguay Round agreement imposed limits on the quantities of exports which can be subsidised;

  • whereas significant savings could be made through the tendering arrangements by accepting fewer offers for export licences when world prices are low, the Sugar Management Committee does little more than rubber stamp the Commission's proposals;

  • the data used to determine the production and storage levies charged to meet the costs of surplus production and storage are based on unreliable data; and

  • responsibility within the Commission for financial control is divided.

— (b) Review of the sugar regime

  12.10  The Court says that, although the Commission has launched an evaluation of policy in the sugar sector — the first since the regime was introduced in 1968 — it had not, at the time this report was drafted, seen the results of that evaluation. However, it considers that four key questions need to be addressed:

  • the extent to which the regime's objectives have been achieved (is the policy effective?);

  • the cost of achieving those objectives (is the policy efficient?);

  • whether the regime's mechanisms, and in particular the levels of production quotas and price support, are still appropriate; and

  • whether the measures are still in line with the CAP following the 1992 and Agenda 2000 reforms.

  12.11  On the achievement of the regime's objectives, the Court concluded that it has ensured a good revenue for beet growers, produced a stable market, guaranteed supplies, improved productivity (within the constraints imposed by quotas), and been self-financing "to the extent provided for by the Regulation". However, it also notes that only Japan and Switzerland have higher sugar prices, and that the Community's institutional prices are more than three times world market levels.

  12.12  More specifically, the Court suggests that the costs of achieving these objectives can be assessed in the light of the structural surplus in the production of sugar, the high level of internal prices relative to world prices, a high level of stocks, a highly regulated and anti-competitive framework, and the need for costly administration and controls. It puts the net annual cost of the structural surplus to the Community budget, after deducting the production levies, at 800 million euros, but adds that the similar level of cost represented by those levies are in practice borne by consumers, who also have to bear the difference between the Community support price and the world market price (which the Court suggests could be up to 6.5 billion euros a year). The Court also notes that just 5 companies hold over 50% of the total Community sugar quota, and that, in 10 of the 14 sugar-producing Member States (including the UK), the entire national quota is in the hands of only one or two companies, leading in several cases to abuses of competition. Similarly, the Court suggests that, if there were no quotas on alternative sweeteners such as isoglucose and inulin, these would enjoy a much larger share of the sweetener market, and that the regime is in this sense constraining rational economic development

  12.13  As to whether these various mechanisms are still appropriate, the Court notes that the processing industry and growers' organisations are strongly in favour of them being maintained, and of existing levels of price support and quotas: on the other hand, it says that consumers and industrial users of sugar have pointed to the high profits of the most efficient processors, and have questioned whether an agricultural policy should regulate and protect that industry so closely. The Court suggests that quotas have had the effect of preserving sugar production in regions which are not well suited to it, whilst the most efficient regions have not been able to obtain increased quota. Furthermore, it considers that they have contributed to a situation where there is no real common market for sugar, with processors remaining largely in their home markets, being protected to an unusual degree, and consumers bearing the costs involved.

  12.14  Finally, on the relationship between the sugar regime and the 1992 and Agenda 2000 reforms of the CAP, the Court observes that, whereas the first of these changed the emphasis from price support for products to income support for growers, the sugar regime remains almost entirely targeted on the processing companies and the finished product. Similarly, it describes the emphasis in Agenda 2000 as being on competitiveness on world markets, environmental protection and sustained rural development, and it notes that Community sugar is clearly not competitive, and that, because of its heavy use of water and herbicides, intensive sugar production can have negative environmental consequences.

  12.15  In the light of its findings, the Court concludes that serious consideration should be given by the Commission to improving the quality of its management of the sugar regime as regards (i) the quality, independence and completeness of the basic information it uses, and (ii) its analysis of all the elements which influence its price proposals, including those for ACP guaranteed sugar. It also says that, since the appropriateness of the regime's mechanisms have been called into question, the Commission should address a number of alternatives, and should examine whether the current level of support remains appropriate when quotas far exceed the level of Commission demand and prices are no longer in line with those for other crops.

The Commission's response

  12.16  In its response, the Commission says that it is difficult to obtain precise information as this is received from a broad range of sources often with conflicting interests; that preferential sugar should not be included in the structural surplus, and that the net cost to the budget roughly equates to the cost of exporting an equivalent amount of sugar to that imported on a preferential basis; that consumer costs for sugar, in terms of purchasing power, are among the lowest in the world; that many objectives of the 1992 and Agenda 2000 reforms have been pursued, namely production and expenditure control; that it is continually reviewing the regime and examining alternatives, but that adoption of all CAP reform measures would have a very high budgetary cost; and that its current proposals to reform the regime include an undertaking to carry out studies to examine, among other things, the critical points raised by the Court.

The Government's view

  12.17  In her Explanatory Memorandum of 19 January 2001, the Minister of State (Commons) at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (the Rt. Hon. Joyce Quin) says that the Court's main recommendations are broadly shared by the UK, which has "argued consistently" for price cuts to reduce over-production and costs to consumers, and has always seen quotas as an inefficient measure of production control, as they stifle competition and sustain uncompetitive producers. She adds that the UK has sought simplification of the regime, and for sugar to be brought into line for review with other CAP regimes, though she also points out that the Commission considered the results of the Court's audit before publishing its proposals to extend the current regime until 2002-03.


  12.18  Whilst many of the points in this report confirm long-standing shortcomings of the sugar regime, they are no less valid for that. Furthermore, the Court's findings provide a fascinating insight into the extent to which the Commission appears to have been aware of those shortcomings, but chose to overlook them when putting forward its proposals for reform. To a degree, of course, the same can be said of the proposals currently on the table, which, as we noted in our report of 10 January, principally convey the impression of buying time, and we can only hope that the Commission will indeed carry out its intention to put forward more radical proposals in a couple of years' time.

  12.19  In the meantime, this report is clearly relevant to the current reform proposals, which we are still considering. Consequently, although we are clearing this document, we would regard it as relevant should we later decide to recommend a debate on the reform proposals.




COM(00) 749

Commission Report under Council Decision 1999/296/EC for a monitoring mechanism for Community greenhouse gas emissions.
Legal base:
Document originated: 22 November 2000
Forwarded to the Council: 23 November 2000
Deposited in Parliament: 12 January 2001
Department: Environment, Transport and the Regions
Basis of consideration: EM of 19 January 2001
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: No date known
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared


  13.1  At the Kyoto conference on climate change, the Community agreed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 2008-2012 by 8% as compared with 1990 levels. This overall target has since been distributed on a differentiated basis to individual Member States under a burden sharing mechanism agreed by the Council in June 1998. The UK target involves a reduction of 12.5%.

  13.2  The purpose of this Communication is to evaluate the progress to date in meeting these targets, in terms of both actual and projected progress, on the basis of information supplied by the Member States.

The Communication

  13.3  The main conclusions of the Communication are:

  • that the greenhouse gas emissions by the Community as a whole fell by 2.5% between 1990 and 1998;

  • that, within this overall figure, carbon dioxide emissions almost stabilised, whilst those for methane and nitrous oxide fell by 16.5% and 9.9% respectively;

  • that, although these figures suggest that the Community is on track to meet its international commitments, this is due mainly to large one-off reductions which were achieved in the last decade by Germany and the UK. Luxembourg was the only other Member States to exceed its target, and, although France and Sweden were near, all the other Member States fell well short;

  • all Member States but one experienced considerable emission increases from the transport sector, which is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions across the Community;

  • current projections suggest that existing policies and measures would at best reduce Community greenhouse gas emissions in 2010 by 1.4% below 1990 levels, and at worst stabilise them at 1990 levels; and

  • these projections reflect uneven contributions from Member States, and leave a considerable gap to both the Community's Kyoto target and individual commitments by Member States.

  13.4  The Communication notes that Member States have started to develop new national programmes to deliver their Kyoto targets, and that the UK, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland and Germany have all now published programmes. It concludes that the additional policies and measures identified by Member States could reduce emissions by 7% by 2010, but it adds that one-third of these savings would come from Germany and the UK, and that many Member States have not yet adequately identified or assessed such measures. The Communication also concludes that common and co-ordinated policies and measures at Community level will become an increasingly important element to supplement and reinforce national climate change strategies. It notes that some of these — for example, on fuel efficiency of new cars, better energy efficiency, and regulation in the form of the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control and Landfill Directives — are already in place, but that work on other existing and additional proposals is currently being carried out as part of the development of the European Climate Change Programme.

  13.5  The Communication also notes that Member States have made good progress with reporting emission inventories, though it says there are some data gaps. It adds that assessing projected emissions and the impact of policies and measures has been more difficult because of varying assumptions and methodologies, and it stresses that it will be necessary to improve the quantitative assessment of additional measures both in terms of emission reduction and cost impact.

The Government's view

  13.6  In his Explanatory Memorandum of 19 January 2001, the Minister for the Environment (the Rt. Hon. Michael Meacher) points out that the UK continues to play a leading role in international and European efforts to tackle climate change, and is also ensuring that action is taken at home to meet both its Kyoto target, and to move towards its domestic goal of a 20% cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2010. He adds that the UK's climate change programme was published in November 2000, and that its contents could cut the country's greenhouse gas emissions by 23% and its carbon dioxide emissions by 19%. He also suggests that further, as yet unquantified, policies could mean that the UK will meet its domestic goal.

  13.7  The Minister says that the Government therefore welcomes the Commission's Communication as a "useful signpost" of the progress made and of the further action needed if all Member States and the Community are to meet their Kyoto targets. The Government is, however, concerned that all Member States should meet their targets and that the Community should not rely on over-compliance by some Member States to ensure that its overall target is met. It therefore welcomes the Communication's endorsement of this point, and believes that it will increase the pressure to take action on those Member States in danger of missing their targets.

  13.8  Finally, the Minister says that the Government supports the process to develop a European Climate Change Programme, and is participating in many of the sectoral working groups which have been set up to develop specific proposals. He comments that the UK will support "sensible, practical and cost effective measures" that will help Member States to cut emissions and meet their targets, and that the Government will look carefully at individual proposals and consider their costs and benefits, and likely impacts on the UK. He points out that some of the measures which the Commission may propose could cut across domestic action or could, like any proposed taxation measures, be more appropriately introduced nationally.


  13.9  Communications from the Commission which contain no proposals for legislation are documents which we tend to clear as not politically important. However, in this case, although we believe that the document can be cleared, we consider that the importance and topicality of the subject justify our doing so on the basis of this brief report to the House.

16   (21903) 14245/00; see paragraph 9 of this Report. Back

17  Programme of incentives and exchanges for legal practitioners. Back

18  Programme for the exchange and training of, and cooperation between, law enforcement authorities. Back

19  Incentive and exchange programme for persons responsible for combating trade in human beings and the sexual exploitation of children. Back

20  See paragraph 8 of this Report. Back

21  (20546) -; see headnote to this paragraph. Back

22  (21419) - ; see HC 23-xxv(1999-2000), paragraph 12 (19 July 2000). Back

23  The Charter was 'proclaimed' at the Nice European Council in December 2000. Back

24   (21872) -; see HC 28-i (2000-2001), paragraph 17 (13 December 2000).  Back

25   (21562) 10962/00; see HC 23- xxix (1999-2000), paragraph 15; and (21585) 11117/00; see HC 23-xxix (1999-2000), paragraph 18. The document referred to by the Commission - COM(2000)407 - is a proposal for a Decision on a regulatory framework for radio spectrum policy in the European Community. The proposal on the common regulatory framework is for a Directive rather than a Decision.  Back

26  (21672) 11848/00; see HC 23-xxx (1999-2000), paragraph 2 (22 November 2000).  Back

27   We have ourselves drawn attention to cases where the drafting of legislation was not clear. For example our comments on Article 3 of the Council Directive implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin (21360) 9264/00; see HC 23-xxix (1999-2000), paragraph 23 (15 November 2000).  Back

28  (21743) 12087/00: see headnote to this paragraph. Back

29  To increase productivity by technical progress and rational development of production; thus to ensure a fair standard of living for the agricultural community; to stabilise markets; to assure the availability of supplies; and to ensure that consumers are supplied at reasonable prices. Back

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