Documents considered by the Committee on 4 December 2013 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents

1 The manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco and related products



COM(12) 788

+ ADDs 1-7

Draft Directive on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States concerning the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco and related products
Legal baseArticle 114 TFEU; co-decision; QMV
Basis of consideration Minister's letter of 2 December 2014
Previous Committee Reports HC 83-xx (2013-14), chapter 1 (6 November 2013);

HC 83-xiii (2013-14), chapter 1 (4 September 2013);

HC 83-viii (2013-14), chapter 5 (3 July 2013);

HC 83-vi (2013-14), chapter 1 (19 June 2013);

HC 83-v (2013-14), chapter 5 (12 June 2013);

HC 86-xxx (2012-13), chapter 3 (30 January 2013)

Discussion in Council No date set
Committee's assessment Legally and politically important
Committee's decision Recommended for debate in European Committee C (decision reported on 4 September 2013)

Background and previous scrutiny

1.1 The draft Directive would replace the existing regulatory framework for tobacco products, which has been in force for more than a decade, and introduce a number of changes which are intended to take account of scientific, market and international developments, including the entry into force of the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2005. Our earlier Reports provide a detailed overview of the draft Directive and its scrutiny history.[1]

1.2 At our meeting on 4 September 2013, we recommended the draft Directive for debate in European Committee C. At the time, the European Parliament was expected to approve a negotiating mandate for trilogue discussions at its plenary session in September. In the event, the plenary vote was postponed until October. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Public Health (Jane Ellison) wrote to us shortly afterwards setting out the European Parliament's position on key aspects of the draft Directive. Our Twenty-second Report, agreed on 6 November, provides further details.

1.3 We noted the importance of the issues at stake, as well as the political impetus to conclude negotiations by the end of the year, and underlined that the debate in European Committee C should take place at the earliest opportunity. In a subsequent letter to the Minister, we expressed concern at the delay in scheduling the debate and asked her to confirm a date as a matter of urgency, adding:

    "We understand that trilogue discussions are proceeding at a pace, yet the various texts being considered by the parties concerned are classified as limité meaning that their contents may not be made publicly available. We consider this to be a highly unsatisfactory state of affairs, given the level of public interest in the outcome of the negotiations. We trust that, during the debate, you will be in a position to provide Parliament with a detailed explanation of the progress of trilogue negotiations, highlighting the key issues in contention and the Government's position on them."[2]

The Minister's letter of 2 December 2013

1.4 The Minister (Jane Ellison) apologises for the delay in setting the date for the debate, confirms that it will take place on Monday 16 December 2013 and looks forward to the opportunity to explain the progress of negotiations in greater detail. She continues:

    "As I informed you in my letter of 31 October, following the European Parliament vote on 8 October, trilogue negotiations are ongoing. As expected, these negotiations have focused on key areas of UK interest such as how to ban characterising flavours, the regulation of e-cigarettes and cross-border sales of tobacco products.

    "On nicotine-containing products, the Government are listening carefully to the arguments that are being made by the European Parliament for the approach that they support (for e-cigarettes to continue to be made available as general consumer goods, with specific regulatory requirements in place) and the position of other Member States on the regulation of these products.  As you would expect, we are contributing to efforts that are being made by the Presidency to identify whether an acceptable compromise can be found on the regulation of e-cigarettes.  I will stay in close touch with the Committee on developments regarding the regulation of nicotine containing products.

    "Due to the sensitive nature of the negotiations I am as yet unable to provide the detail of possible compromises in this letter. I fully appreciate that your Committee is entitled to regular updates but, as I am sure you understand, our first priority must be to maintain UK efforts to best pursue our negotiating objectives.

    "I can assure you that we are continuing to press hard to achieve the UK's priorities and that I will regularly update you on the final stages of the negotiation as soon as information is available. The next trilogue will be held on 3 December and I will write to you again shortly after this to inform you of any further provisional compromises reached. As per the Presidency's aim, trilogue negotiations will hopefully be concluded by the end of the year with a view to adopting the revised Directive before the end of the current Parliament in May 2014. As such, I expect to be able to write to you informing you of the final outcome of the negotiations shortly after the Committee C debate on 16 December.

    "I greatly appreciate your understanding of the sensitivity of these negotiations. I and my officials stand ready to provide any further information to you that would be helpful."


1.5 We note the significant difference in approach towards the regulation of non-tobacco, nicotine-containing products (such as e-cigarettes) taken by the European Parliament and the Council and the absence, so far, of any indication as to how this difference can be bridged. Whilst recognising the sensitivity of the negotiating process, we think it imperative that Parliament should have further information on the scope of the compromises being considered, as well as the factors that the Government will take into account in determining whether an acceptable compromise can be reached. We ask the Minister to report back on the outcome of trilogue negotiations taking place on 3 December so that the information we have requested is available to Parliament in advance of the debate on 16 December.

1   See headnote. Back

2   Letter of 27 November 2013 from the Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee. Back

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Prepared 11 December 2013