Documents considered by the Committee on 27 October 2010 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents

10 Approval of international fisheries agreements



COM(07) 595

Draft Council Regulation authorising the Commission to approve modifications to protocols of fisheries partnership agreements concluded between the European Community and third countries

Legal baseArticles 37 and 300(4) EC; consultation; QMV
DepartmentEnvironment, Food and Rural Affairs
Basis of considerationMinister's letter of 11 October 2010
Previous Committee ReportHC 16-v (2007-08), chapter 2 (5 December 2007)
To be discussed in CouncilSee paragraph 10.6 below
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared


10.1 Over many years, we and our predecessors have considered from time to time documents concerning either the conclusion (or extension) of a fisheries partnership agreement with a third country providing EU fishing vessels with catch opportunities in the waters of the country in question, in return for a financial payment. Almost invariably, such documents comprise a draft Council Decision and a draft Council Regulation formally approving the agreement on behalf of the EU, and, because agreements of this kind usually relate to waters in which the UK industry has no interest, the documents tend to be cleared without our making a substantive Report to the House.

10.2 These fisheries partnership agreements and their associated protocols now enable amendments to be made where appropriate both to the fishing opportunities provided and to the related financial contribution by the EU. In order to streamline the decision-making process, the Commission put forward in October 2007 this proposal that any such amendments should in future be approved by itself, rather than the Council, subject to it securing the necessary qualified majority within the Committee for Fisheries and Aquaculture. However, this would also be subject to any new fishing opportunities being distributed among the interested Member States in accordance with the allocation key set out in the Council Regulation concluding the protocol of the relevant agreement, and to the new financial contribution not being more than double the amount in the original agreement.

10.3 Our predecessors were told by the then Government that the change proposed could undermine the Council's powers, and raised important questions about the roles, responsibilities and powers of the different institutions. It therefore said that the UK would need to have a convincing explanation from the Commission of the necessity for such a change before agreeing, though it added that "the proposal will theoretically have little impact on UK policy".

10.4 In their Report of 5 December 2007, our predecessors drew the proposal to the attention of the House, and said that they would be interested to learn in due course whether the Commission was able to give any explanation beyond the need to streamline procedures, and whether this met the Government's concerns. They also raised a number of questions on the proposal, including whether it would simply apply to partnership agreements where fishing opportunities are provided in exchange for a financial contribution, or whether it would also apply to agreements, such as those with Norway, based on reciprocal access to fish stocks. Pending this further information, they said that they were holding the document under scrutiny.

10.5 They subsequently noted (but did not report to the House) a letter of 21 February 2008 from the Government, drawing attention to the difference of view between the Commission and a significant number of Member States (including the UK) over the implications which the proposal would have for the competence of the Council in this area, and indicating that the Presidency was reflecting on what the next steps should be.

Minister's letter of 11 October 2010

10.6 We have received from the Parliamentary Under Secretary for Natural Environment and Fisheries at the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Mr Richard Benyon) a letter of 11 October 2010 saying that the Commission has now withdrawn the proposal entirely, and has not indicated any plans to re-draft or submit an alternative.


10.7 In the light of this information, we are content to clear the document.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2010
Prepared 5 November 2010