Select Committee on European Scrutiny Tenth Report





COM(00) 760



COM(01) 397

Draft Council Decision on the signing, on behalf of the European Community, of the United Nations Convention against transnational organised crime and its Protocols on combating trafficking in persons, especially women and children, and the smuggling of migrants by land, air and sea.

Draft Council Decision concerning the signing of the United Nations Protocol, annexed to the Convention against transnational organised crime, on the illicit manufacture of and trafficking in firearms, their parts, components and ammunition, on behalf of the European Community.

Legal base: (a) Articles 47, 62(2)(a), 63(3)(b) and 95 EC; consultation; unanimity

(b) Articles 95 and 133 EC; consultation; qualified majority voting

Document originated: (a) 4 December 2000

(b) 13 July 2001

Forwarded to the Council: (a) 5 December 2000

(b) —

Deposited in Parliament: (a) 12 January 2001

(b) 27 September 2001

Department: Home Office
Basis of consideration: EMs of 30 November 2001
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: (a) Already adopted

(b) No date known

Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: (Both) Cleared


  7.1  Document (a) was deposited in January 2001. The Home Office then tried to withdraw it, as it was thought that it had been deposited in error. (The Commission had by then signed the UN Convention to which it relates.) Our sister Committee in the House of Lords did not consider that the document should be withdrawn, and requested an Explanatory Memorandum on it in March 2001. Since then, the Cabinet Office has regularly reminded the Home Office that the Explanatory Memorandum was outstanding. It was submitted on 30 November 2001.

  7.2  Document (b) was deposited in August 2001, and the Explanatory Memorandum was due in September. Again, it was submitted on 30 November 2001.

The documents

  7.3  Document (a) is a draft Decision, authorising the Commission to sign the UN Convention on Transnational Organised Crime and its protocols on trafficking in human beings and migrant smuggling. The Convention and its protocols include provisions on money laundering and frontier controls which were deemed to fall within Community competence. The draft Decision was not published by the Commission until 4 December 2000; it was adopted before the signature conference in Palermo on 12-15 December 2000. At that event, over 100 countries and the Commission signed the Convention and protocols.

  7.4  Document (b) is a draft Council Decision authorising the Commission to sign the Protocol on the illicit manufacture of, and trafficking in, firearms which is annexed to the UN Convention on Transnational Organised Crime. The measure includes provisions on the making of firearms, record-keeping, import, export and transit licensing, border controls, brokers and deactivation of firearms which were deemed to fall within Community competence.

The Government's view

  7.5  The Parliamentary Under- Secretary of State at the Home Office (Mr Bob Ainsworth) apologises for the delay in submitting both Explanatory Memoranda. He tells us that neither measure is controversial, since both are based on prior agreements to the effect that certain provisions fell within Community competence.

  7.6  The Minister says that the draft Decision on the Protocol on the illicit manufacture of, and trafficking in, firearms will be adopted as soon as parliamentary scrutiny in various Member States is completed. The Government also intends to sign the Protocol on behalf of the UK.


  7.7  This is another sorry tale of poor departmental performance. The uncertainty over whether or not the original document should have been deposited cannot explain or excuse the long delay in submitting an Explanatory Memorandum once one had been requested. No explanation is offered for the delay in submitting the Explanatory Memorandum on the second document. Both Memoranda are extremely brief: it is difficult to believe they were time-consuming to compose. We require an explanation for the delay in both cases.

  7.8  The first document is now obsolete; the second, uncontroversial. We therefore clear them both.

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Prepared 17 December 2001