Documents considered by the Committee on 18 March 2015 - European Scrutiny Contents

Meeting Summary

The Committee considered the following documents:

Restrictive measures against Iran: nuclear issues

We consider a Council Decision, agreed on 12 February, which relists, as subject to restrictive measures, one individual (Gholam Hossein Golparvar) and an entity (National Iranian Tanker Company). The original listings were annulled by the General Court, and solicitors acting for both have expressed objections to the relisting of their clients directly to us. When we last considered this (then draft) Decision we declined to substitute ourselves for a Court in considering the detailed evidence in support of the relistings, but we did ask the Minister why he could not provide us with open source information used to justify them. We also sought assurances that the relistings were robust and that they could withstand legal challenge. We have received a response from the Minister, which we report this week. The Minister says that the relistings are "proportionate, adequately supported by open-source evidence, and consistent with Government policy towards Iran". This falls short of the confirmation he was invited to give. We also strongly doubt that the Council or Government will be able to enforce the confidentiality of open source material or sustain it if challenged.

In supporting the adoption of the relistings at Council, the Minister overrode scrutiny. We do not accept that the override was unavoidable or justifiable. In fact we consider that scrutiny of this matter has been characterised by mistakes and omissions, and we ask for the handling of this matter to be reviewed. The outcome of this review, and particularly steps taken to improve engagement with Parliament, should be reported to our successor Committee. In the meantime, we retain the Decision under scrutiny.

Broad guidelines for economic policies

EU "integrated guidelines", for economic and employment policies, underpin the Europe 2020 Strategy and are relevant to the annual European Semester. The Commission has proposed four broad guidelines for economic policies, as part of new "integrated guidelines", for consideration by the June European Council. The Government tells us that it is broadly supportive of the Commission's proposed text, but is critical of some of the detail, concerning third country labour migration and taxation. The broad guidelines for economic policies are important in the context of both the Europe 2020 Strategy and the European Semester. We therefore recommend that they are debated in European Committee B and we urge the Government to ensure that the debate takes place before the June European Council.

National Emissions Ceilings

We return to the draft Directive on the reduction of national emissions of certain atmospheric pollutants. We retained this draft Directive under scrutiny in January 2014 pending further information, as the Commission had not provided an assessment of the impact of the proposal, and the Government said it would be undertaking its own analysis. During the course of 2014, we received updates from the Government on the predictions of the costs and benefits of the draft Directive. The Government then wrote on 14 January 2015 to say that the proposal would be modified as part of the legislative follow-up to the 2030 Climate and Energy Agreement. The Government now writes to say that the Commission has suggested some changes to the ceilings previously proposed for 2030, and has also given an updated impact analysis for both the EU as a whole and for the UK (although, in the latter case, UK officials are continuing their own analysis). The Government says that the European Parliament is progressing with its consideration, and that its lead committee is expected to vote on a draft report before the summer. In view of this, the Minister asks whether, given the limited time before the dissolution of Parliament, we would be prepared to release the document from scrutiny. There are still a number of uncertainties, and we are yet to see the UK's own analysis of the proposal. Given the general importance of the proposal, it does not seem right to clear the document at this stage. However we do not wish to unduly fetter the Government's negotiating freedom in the period before our successor Committee is appointed. We therefore grant a scrutiny waiver allowing the Government to support a General Approach in the Council, but we expect the Government to provide further updates as the negotiations progress.

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Prepared 27 March 2015