Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Seventh Report

62 Statistics



COM(05) 539

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.

Legal baseArticle 285(1) EC; co-decision; QMV
DepartmentOffice for National Statistics
Basis of considerationMinister's letter of 13 July 2006
Previous Committee ReportHC 34-xxii (2005-06), para 8 (15 March 2006) and HC 34-xxxiii (2005-06), para 19 (28 June 2006)
Discussed in Council25 April 2006
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared (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 month.

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.[162]

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 to say:

"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

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