European Scrutiny Committee Contents



Annex: the Minister's letter of 13 July 2012 to the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

"I am writing to you regarding my scrutiny obligations to the UK Parliament, as my colleague David Lidington (Minister for Europe) did in July 2011. As you are no doubt aware, I am required to submit to the EU Scrutiny Committees in the House of Commons and House of Lords the EDA's Budget, Head of Agency Report and Guidelines. Unfortunately, there have been a number of problems with this process in recent years owing to delays in the downgrading, from limité to unclassified, of documents. This downgrade is vital as we cannot deposit the documents in Parliament (and thus complete our scrutiny process) whilst the documents remain at limité.

"This year, matters have come to a head. Despite repeated requests from my officials and from the UK Representative's Office to the EU in Brussels, we had no indication as to when these documents would be downgraded. Furthermore, we are yet to receive an adequate explanation as to why they remained limité for so long.

"The EDA Steering Board met on the 30 November 2011, agreeing three documents (Head of Agency's Report to the Council, Council Guidelines for the Agency's work in 2012, 2012 Budget and 2012-14 Financial Framework). The documents were made public on the following dates:

a.  The Report was classified PUBLIC on 20 Dec 2011

b.  The Guidelines were made PUBLIC on 24 May 2012

c.  The Budget was made PUBLIC on 20 Apr 2012

"This represents a delay of between 1-6 months and has prevented me from meeting my scrutiny obligations to parliament. Indeed, the Parliamentary Committee that scrutinises EU documents have made their dissatisfaction to me very clear, requesting that I write to you to request a solution to this simple issue.

"I would therefore appreciate your intervention on two counts:

a.  "With the CTS, ensuring that they make EDA documents public as soon as they are agreed by the Member States, notifying the UK Perm Rep if they cannot meet UK scrutiny deadlines and if so any reasons for such delays;

b.  "With the EDA, ensuring that they make available their documents to the CTS for publication in the Council Public Register in time for UK scrutiny obligations.

"As I am sure you will agree, EU Scrutiny by Member States is imperative and for the UK is a vital component of Parliamentary oversight of government interaction with the EU, and as such, my obligations to the Committees are of the utmost importance. Given that this is the second letter from a UK Minister raising the subject of document release for scrutiny in the past year, I trust this will reinvigorate your undertaking to remind your Service of the need to be timely in circulating documents for national parliamentary scrutiny.

"In respect of the CTS, I am advised that they do not routinely notify Member States of the Public release of documents. That policy should be changed.

"Original Signed

"GERALD HOWARTH MP

"(Approved by the Minister and signed in his absence)"[46]


46   We would not normally have accepted a letter not personally signed by a Minister, but were prepared to make an exception on this occasion only because the then Minister was representing the Government at the Farnborough Air Show and could not otherwise have written to the Committee before the summer recess. Back


 
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Prepared 2 January 2013