|Draft Regulation laying down detailed rules for the implementation of Council Regulation (EC) No 2494/95 as regards the temporal coverage of price collection in the harmonised index of consumer prices.
|Article 285(1) EC; co-decision; QMV
|Office for National Statistics
|Basis of consideration
|Minister's letter of 13 July 2006
|Previous Committee Report
|HC 34-xxii (2005-06), para 8 (15 March 2006) and HC 34-xxxiii (2005-06), para 19 (28 June 2006)
|Discussed in Council
|25 April 2006
|Cleared (decision reported on 28 June 2006), but further information requested
62.1 Regulation (EC) No 2494/95 provided for Harmonised Indices
of Consumer Prices (HICPs) to allow international comparisons
of consumer price inflation. They form the basis of the Monetary
Union Index of Consumer Prices used by the European Central Bank
to monitor inflation. In the UK the HICP is published as the Consumer
Prices Index (CPI).
62.2 At present the temporal coverage (time period
for collection) of HICP price collection varies widely between
Member States, from a single day to a period of several weeks.
This draft Regulation would set minimum standards for price collection,
stipulating that temporal coverage of HICP shall take place over
a period of at least one working week around the centre of the
62.3 When we last considered this mattered we cleared
the document. But we asked the Minister about two points :
- whether it is the Government's
view that it is acceptable that, unlike all other Commission legislative
proposals, draft legislation on statistical matters, particularly
in the light of paragraphs 40 and 41 of the Conclusions of the
European Council of 15-16 June 2006, should not be subject to
a formal impact assessment; and
- noting that the Government voted against the
proposal at the Working Group stage, why it allowed the matter
to be taken as a Council "A" point. We asked for an
explanation of this in relation to paragraph (4) of the House's
Scrutiny Reserve Resolution of 17 November 1998 and commented
that requiring the proposal to be taken as a substantive item
would have allowed the Government not only to reiterate, with
an adverse vote, its opposition to the proposal, but to insist
that national parliamentary scrutiny be completed before finalisation
of the proposal.
The Minister's letter
62.4 The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (John
Healey) responds on the first point by saying the Government supports
application of the thrust of paragraphs 40 and 41 of the Conclusions
of the European Council of 15-16 June 2006 to statistics and takes
a strong stance on minimising and reducing burdens, together with
simplification of existing legislation, with respect to statistics.
However, he goes on to comment that notwithstanding these Conclusions
impact assessments are not obligatory the current the
Inter-Institutional Common Approach to Impact Assessment says
"The Commission will, as a general rule, carry out Impact
Assessments on major items of draft legislation, notably those
in its Annual Legislative and Work Programme "
62.5 The Minister adds that whilst the lack of an
impact assessment for this proposal is not in the spirit of better
regulation and that whilst there is no requirement on the Commission
to conduct such an assessment, particularly for secondary legislation,
in the face of pressure from Member States the Commission did
conduct an assessment of the implementation cost.
62.6 In relation to our point on the scrutiny reserve
the Minister, whilst reminding us that, although the Government
voted against the proposal, as one of only two countries to do
so it could not prevent the measure from being adopted, goes on
"Nonetheless, I am regretful for the delay in
responding to your earlier points, as I recognise that would have
also provided an opportunity to update you on the timetable and
our voting intentions ahead of the 25 April Council, and the fact
that not doing so led to the proposal's adoption before scrutiny
could be completed."
62.7 We note the Minister's comments about impact
assessments and encourage the Government to continue to press
the Commission to undertake, in the spirit of better regulation,
impact assessments of proposed legislation on statistical matters.
62.8 We note also the Minister's comments about
adoption of this measure and the scrutiny reserve. However, he
does not address our question as to why the Government allowed
it to be taken as a Council "A" point, thus forgoing
the opportunity both to reiterate its opposition to the proposal
and to demand that national parliamentary scrutiny be completed
before finalisation of the proposal. We ask the Minister to now
address this question.
162 See headnote. Back