Select Committee on European Scrutiny Eleventh 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) 5 April 2001
(b) 27 September 2001
Department:Home Office
Basis of consideration: Minister's letter of 4 January 2002
Previous Committee Report: HC 152-x (2001-02), paragraph 7 (12 December 2001)
To be discussed in Council: (a) Already adopted
(b) No date known
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:(Both) Cleared (decision reported on 12 December 2001)


  6.1  These documents authorise the Commission to sign the UN Convention and the protocols, on the basis of prior agreements that certain provisions fall within Community competence. The Convention and the protocols on trafficking in human beings and migrant smuggling were signed by the Commission in December 2000. The 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.

  6.2  When we considered the documents in December we cleared them both since document (a) was obsolete and document (b) uncontroversial. However, we asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office (Mr Bob Ainsworth) for an explanation for the long delay in submitting the two Explanatory Memoranda.

The Minister's letter

  6.3  The Minister has now replied, apologising on behalf of the officials concerned for the delayed submissions. He tells us:

    "The Home Office Scrutiny co-ordinator contacted the Committee Clerks to apologise for the delay and said that we would submit the EMs as soon as possible. The documents were not under active negotiation. However, I agree that delays of this kind are unacceptable and must be avoided in future.

    "The reason for the delay was that the section concerned, which is part of the Judicial Cooperation Unit, has had difficulty in managing its work load with its existing staffing level. This section is responsible for general judicial cooperation policy including co-ordination of work on mutual recognition, approximation of criminal law and penalties, Council of Europe and UN matters. Staffing levels had not kept up with the substantial increase in [Justice and Home Affairs] work since 1995. This has now been rectified and staffing levels will be kept under review in the light of workload and financial circumstances in order to ensure a better service. Officials are fully aware of the need to make the best use of available resources, and know that they are expected to deliver."


  6.4  We thank the Minister for his explanation. It is encouraging to learn that steps have been taken to rectify the situation; we look forward to receiving prompter Explanatory Memoranda from the section in future.

  6.5  We have already cleared the documents.

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