European Scrutiny CommitteeSupplementary written evidence from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (ESI 20)

I wanted to thank you for the interesting discussion on scrutiny reform at the evidence session on 4 July. I am writing to address some of the outstanding issues raised by the Committee.

Limité Documents

Your Committee requested clarification on the process by which documents were classified as limité. I can confirm it is the Council Secretariat who place limité markings on documents. It is applied to a document by the Council’s administration based on its view as to the application of the EC Regulation on access to documents.

I can reassure the Committee that the classification and distribution system for EU documents exists for good security reasons. Documents marked limité are not strictly speaking classified but are limited in their distribution. I appreciate the difficulty of reconciling the Committee’s important commitment to transparency and the need to ensure that these documents are not public. The Government has agreed to share limité texts with your Committee, in confidence, to help inform your consideration of legislation and other issues.

Tobacco Products Directive

Your Committee also commented on the Tobacco Products Directive. I understand that the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health, Anna Soubry, wrote to you on the 1 July, reporting on the EPSCO Council, and is due to appear before you for an oral evidence session on the 17 July. Further correspondence and questions on this Directive would be best directed to the Department for Health.

First Reading Deals

I committed to provide details of the last three first reading deals and the timetable involved. As highlighted at the session, this will require some coordination across Government Departments. I hope to be able to send this further information to you shortly.

Statutory Instruments

I agreed to look into flagging Statutory Instruments that ultimately have legal bases in the Treaties. The Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments (JCSI) has confirmed that whilst Members have always been informed when a Statutory Instrument stems from the European Communities Act 1972, this has never been made public in reports. The JCSI does therefore continue to flag Statutory Instruments that emanate from EU legislation to Members, but it is not published in the reports.

EUSRs

Finally, I enclose a copy of the letter (not published here) I sent Baroness Ashton on 3 July, regarding the inadequate process this year for considering EUSR renewals and reiterating the importance of providing sufficient time for parliamentary scrutiny.

I look forward to considering your Committees European Scrutiny Inquiry report this autumn.

16 July 2013

Prepared 28th November 2013