Select Committee on European Scrutiny Second Special Report

Departmental Select Committees and the EU

We would particularly wish to see Departmental Select Committees examining Commission Green and White Papers. (para 86)

  1. These issues are for individual Committees and the Liaison Committee to decide. However, the Government notes that in many cases Departmental Select Committees already examine Commission Green and White Papers.
  2. Now that the House has invited the Liaison Committee to establish common objectives for select committees, taking account of the Modernisation Committee's illustrative model, we recommend that the objectives include consideration of the European Commission's Green and White Papers. (para 87 - i.)

  3. As mentioned above, the Liaison Committee has included consideration of European Commission White and Green Papers in its core tasks for departmental select committees.
  4. We believe it would be helpful if Departmental Select Committees (or at least those in subject areas with much EU legislation) considered appointing a European rapporteur, who could keep a watching brief on developments in the EU and whom we could consult and pass information to. (para 87 - ii.)

  5. Committees must of course be free to decide how they best carry out the core tasks endorsed by the Liaison Committee. We note however that the Modernisation Committee in its First Report of Session 2001-02 (HC 224-1) recommended that select committees should experiment with appointing one of their number as a rapporteur on a specific task (recommendation ten).
  6. General debates on EU matters

    In particular, we would welcome more debates on specific EU matters, such as reform of the Common Agricultural Policy or EU transport policy, which are not tied to the detail of a legislative or other text. (para 89)

  7. The Government notes the Committee's recommendation. There may be occasions when a further free standing debate on a European matter would be appropriate, even though the House currently holds two general European debates a year and a debate on fisheries policy, in addition to the regular opportunities to debate particular documents. However, the introduction of Westminster Hall means that there are now significant opportunities for backbenchers or Committees to seek debates on European matters, and it may be that proposals from the Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons will also introduce new flexibility. There is always more demand for debates on the floor than time available and the Government cannot guarantee that it will be able to provide extra time for European business.
  8. One possibility that attracts us is an equivalent of the ten-minute procedure for EU documents. (para 90)

  9. The Government is not attracted to this proposal. There are already greatly increased opportunities for debate provided by Westminster Hall. If the House adopts reforms to the procedure for Parliamentary questions, then questions will become more timely and topical. These reforms themselves offer opportunities for better scrutiny of European business.
  10. Information on the internet

    While we will continue to publish hard-copy Reports, we regard their publication on a greatly improved web-site as the main way in which we should be disseminating them. (para 95)

    In particular, we believe people need to be able to indicate their interests and receive automatic notification when a document relating to a particular subject (or Department) appears on our list of forthcoming business or in one of our Reports (para 96)

  11. This is a matter for the Committee, but the Government welcomes this commitment to public information.
  12. The devolved institutions

    We recommend that the Government relax the confidentiality provision in the concordat sufficiently to be able to indicate in EMs whether discussions have taken place with the devolved institutions and, as far as possible, on what subjects. (para 106)

  13. In future, where an Explanatory Memorandum states that a minister from one or more devolved administrations also has an interest, the Government intends this to indicate that those devolved administrations have been consulted on the terms of the Explanatory Memorandum and on its subject matter.
  14. Relations with MEPs

    We envisage regular meetings with MEPs, perhaps every six months, related where possible to specific EU activity, such as the Commission's Annual Work Programme or a Presidency's priorities, and possibly involving representatives of DSCs. (para 107)

  15. This is a matter for the Committee, but the Government agrees that closer links between national Parliaments and the European Parliament are desirable, and will help increase the EU's democratic legitimacy. We therefore warmly welcome the Committee's proposal. Such issues are among the wide range of questions being considered in the Convention on the future of Europe.
  16. The Government was also pleased that the House recently agreed to increase Members' entitlement for travel to EU institutions and national parliaments to allow for up to three visits each year, rather than only one. This will allow a greater degree of contact between MPs and their counterparts in other EU member states.

Streamlining the System

We propose that a similar procedure of regular lists instead of depositing be applied to:

  • Community positions on rules of procedure for various Councils and Committees, including those established under Association Agreements;

  • Proposals to extend Common Positions imposing sanctions (without making substantive changes) in pursuance of UN Security Council resolutions;

  • Proposals making minor changes to lists of people or organisations subject to restrictive provisions in existing measures;

  • draft Council Decisions relating to decisions already made in Association Councils or Committees;

  • reappointment of members to EU organisations;

  • documents on anti-dumping measures.

We would expect to receive regular lists of such documents and to be kept informed by Ministers' letters of any broader issues or general developments or trends in respect of Association Councils and Committees and anti-dumping, and we would reserve the right to require the deposit of any of these documents if we considered this necessary. We will discuss this further with the Cabinet Office. We invite our sister Committee in the Lords to consider this proposal, so that procedures in the two Houses can remain in step. (para 111)

  1. The Government warmly welcomes this offer to consider which categories of documents may not be worth depositing. Removing certain categories of documents from those that must be deposited will help focus the Government's scrutiny resources on providing information on documents that are of real interest to the Committee. The Government agrees, however, that it would be helpful if the procedures in the two Houses can remain in step. The Cabinet Office is ready to discuss this further with the Committees.
  2. Transposition and implementation of EU legislation in the UK

    We support the Leader of the House's proposal for a Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee and for debates on statutory instruments it recommends for debate. (para 113)

  3. The Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons has undertaken to look at proposals for a sifting committee. The Government looks forward to its proposals with interest.


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