Scrutiny Reform follow-up and Legacy Report - European Scrutiny Contents

6  TTIP scrutiny

53. The EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (better known as TTIP) has been the subject of considerable interest in Parliament and among the wider public and is likely to be the subject of scrutiny by our successor Committee.

54. We held two oral evidence sessions with the responsible Minister, Lord Livingston, in June 201435F[36] and February 2015.36F[37] Given the potential scale of the agreement and its impact on many areas of Government policy we have been pleased to note the engagement of other Select Committees in TTIP scrutiny—notably the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, the Environmental Audit Committee37F[38] and the Health Committee.

55. One outstanding issue arising from TTIP is the scrutiny process from now until the conclusion of the agreement, and potentially beyond that during the ratification of any Agreement by individual Member States.

56. Much criticism of the TTIP process in 2014 centred on the lack of transparency and poor availability of information, with—for example—the negotiating mandate only being made publicly available in October 2014, after a leaked version being available online for over a year. The new Commission has taken a series of steps to address this but its efforts regarding parliamentary scrutiny have, so far, centred on MEPs not national parliamentarians.

57. Lord Livingston told us in February that he was seeking to ensure that the increased access to documents recently granted to MEPs was extended to MPs. He added that "we would like to see further documents made available to the Chair of the Scrutiny Committee"38F[39] and proposed discussions "to increase the ability of this Committee to have access raised to a level of things similar to those that will go to the top officials and so on." 39F[40]

58. We asked the Minister to set this out in more detail in correspondence, given that the essence of the scrutiny process is that it is based on public documents, and also to ensure that any special arrangements take account of the involvement of other Select Committees. We received the Minister's reply as we finalised our Report, which stated:

    "The new EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström has, with UK support, committed to greater transparency and has now published the negotiating mandate, a number of position papers with accompanying explanatory material, and EU textual proposals in nine of expected twenty-four chapters of the agreement. This material is available for everyone to consider at: Commission plans to make public further material as negotiations progress.

    "Alongside this extensive public material, the Commission is now making additional restricted material available to MEPs, such as draft textual proposals. We would like to see equivalent access extended for UK parliamentarians and will explore the scope and methods by which this information can be shared while still preserving the confidentiality of sensitive documents.

    "Further steps we are taking to improve transparency with the public are:

·  the creation of a new Ministerial Advisory Board on Trade. This Board will include a full range of interested parties-representatives of business, trades unions, civil society groups and consumers.

·  publication of a series of UK explanatory notes on key aspects of the negotiations and ongoing publication of information about progress in the negotiations."

59. Following the session the Minister also provided us with additional updates on the eighth negotiating round, TTIP and CETA Ratification and UK Relationship with the EU, ISDS and Increased Transparency, which we have published on our website.

60. We discussed with Lord Livingston what information would be made available during the weeks (or months) in the new Parliament before a new Scrutiny Committee meets. He replied that the Government "will continue to write as if the Committee exists, so that there is not a gap in documentation—the documents continue to come to the Committee, and they have it during that period."40F[41] We stressed to the Minister that there is no mechanism to publish incoming documents within this period, so there would be a need for the Government to make proper alternative arrangements to inform all Members of the House.

61. We recommend that our successor Committee hold a session with the relevant Minister early in the new Parliament to take forward our scrutiny of TTIP. We agree that MPs and Peers should have equivalent access to documents as MEPs (as should Parliamentarians of other EU Member States) and urge the Government to secure this important commitment.

62. We ask the Government to inform all Members of the House about the progress of negotiations during the period before Select Committees are appointed, when there is no mechanism for our Committee secretariat to publish incoming correspondence.

36   Oral evidence taken on 11 June 2014, HC 292 Back

37   Oral evidence taken on 26 February 2015, HC 1084 Back

38   Ninth Report of the Committee, Environmental risks of the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, HC 857 Back

39   Oral evidence taken on 26 February 2015, HC 1084, Q 52 Back

40   Oral evidence taken on 26 February 2015, HC 1084, Q 52 Back

41   Oral evidence taken on 26 February 2015, HC 1084, Q 55 Back

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Prepared 25 March 2015