Documents considered by the Committee on 24 March 2015 - European Scrutiny Contents


18 Trans-boundary effects of industrial pollution

Committee's assessment Legally important
Committee's decisionCleared from scrutiny (decision reported on 19 November 2014)
Document detailsDraft Council Decisions relating to amendments to the Convention on the Trans-boundary Effects of Industrial Accidents
Legal baseArticles 218(3), (4) and (9) TFEU; QMV
DepartmentWork and Pensions
Document numbers(a)  (36457), 14733/14 + ADD 1, COM(14) 652

(b)  (36461), 14762/14 + ADD 1, COM(14) 651

Summary and Committee's conclusions

18.1 The UNECE Helsinki Convention applies to industrial accidents at sites where activities capable of causing hazardous trans-boundary effects take place, and has been implemented within the EU, firstly by the so-called Seveso II Directive (96/82/EC), and latterly by the Seveso III Directive (2012/18/EU).

18.2 These two draft Council Decisions relate to areas of activity which were to be considered by the Parties to the Convention in December 2014. Document (a) recommends that the Council should agree to the EU supporting a proposal that Annex I of the Convention should be brought into line with the latest definitions in the Seveso III Directive, whilst document (b) recommends that the EU should agree to participate in discussions on four areas within the Convention on which a Working Group had made recommendations, as well as on a proposition that UN Member States which are not part of the UNECE region should nevertheless be considered for accession to the Convention.

18.3 As we noted in our Report of 19 November 2014, the Government supports both propositions, but said that, in addition to the procedural legal bases, the substantive legal base of Article 192(1) TFEU should also be cited. We said that we supported this view, and asked the Government to let us know what efforts it had made to secure that additional legal base.

18.4 The Government has now written to say that it was clear the UK did not have support from other Member States for such an addition, but that, notwithstanding this, it had decided to vote in favour of both Decisions in the Council, as being beneficial to British business.

18.5 The reason why it is important for EU legislation to cite its legal basis in full is to make it transparent that the EU is only acting within the limits of the competences conferred on it by the Treaties.[69] Simply citing a procedural legal basis alone does not fulfil this function and is not usual practice. We therefore deprecate the absence of a substantive legal basis for these Decisions.

Full details of the documents: (a) Draft Council Decision on the position to be adopted, at the Eight Conference of the Parties to the Helsinki Convention on the Trans-boundary Effects of Industrial Accidents with regard to the proposal for an amendment of Annex I: (36457), 14733/14 + ADD 1, COM(14) 652 and (b) Draft Council Decision authorising the opening of negotiations on the amendment of the Convention on the Trans-boundary Effects of Industrial Accidents: (36461), 14762/14 + ADD 1, COM(14) 651.

Background

18.6 The EU and its Member States are parties to the UNECE (Helsinki) Convention on the Trans-boundary Effects of Industrial Accidents, which has been implemented within the EU by the so-called Seveso II Directive (96/82/EC), and latterly by the Seveso III Directive (2012/18/EU), which must be implemented in all Member States by 1 June 2015.

18.7 These two draft Council Decisions relate to areas of activity mandated by the Parties to the Convention in 2012, and which were to be considered by them in December 2014. First, Annex I of the Convention sets out the categories and named substances for the purpose of defining hazardous activities, and it is proposed that this should be brought into line with the latest EU definitions in the Seveso III Directive. Document (a) recommends that the Council should agree to the EU supporting this course of action.

18.8 Secondly, a Working Group had been looking at four areas[70] within the Convention, and had made recommendations to the Conference. Document (b) simply seeks Council agreement to the EU participating in discussion on these points (and on a proposition that UN member states which are not part of the UNECE region should nevertheless be considered for accession to the Convention). Any amendments resulting from the ensuing negotiations would require a further Council Decision.

18.9 We were told that the UK supported both propositions, which would have no material effect on the practical arrangements within the UK, but that it had suggested that, in addition to the procedural legal bases of Article 218 (9) in respect of document (a) and Article 218 (3) and (4) TFEU in respect of document (b), the legal base should include Article 192(1) TFEU. We supported this view as essential in demonstrating the basis and extent of the EU's competence to act in these matters, and, although we decided to release the documents from scrutiny, we asked the Government to write to us in due course to let us know what efforts it had made to secure the citation of that additional legal base.

18.10 We have now received a letter of 17 March 2015 from the Minister for Welfare Reform at the Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud) saying that other Member States had not supported the UK on this point, and that, notwithstanding this, the Government had voted in favour of both proposals in the Council, as their adoption would be beneficial to British business,

Previous Committee Reports

Nineteenth Report HC 219-xix (2014-15), chapter 15 (19 November 2014).


69   See Case C-370/07 at para 49. Back

70   A revision of definitions to achieve consistency with other UNECE Conventions, strengthened public participation, increasing the frequency of meeting from biannual to annual, and clarifying the application of the Convention to new Parties. Back


 
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