Documents considered by the Committee on 14th October 2015 - European Scrutiny Contents

Meeting Summary

The Committee considered the following documents:

Relocation of individuals in need of international protection — three legislative proposals

We consider three documents concerning the relocation of individuals already in the EU who have applied for asylum in a frontline Member State — currently Italy or Greece — and who are presumed, on grounds of their nationality, to be in clear need of international protection. The first document provides for the relocation of 40,000 individuals. In July, we recommended that the Government's opt-in decision should be debated on the floor of the House during the September sitting of Parliament. The second document provides for the relocation of an additional 120,000 individuals. Both documents are based on a provision of the EU Treaties authorising the Council to adopt temporary measures to address a sudden influx of third country nationals and are intended to implement the principle of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility.

The measures were agreed by the Council in September but the opt-in debate requested by the Committee has not taken place. The Government's decision not to opt into either measure appeared as a footnote to Council Conclusions, pre-empting any scrutiny by Parliament of the factors informing the Government's decision.

The third document would amend the Dublin III Regulation establishing the criteria for determining the Member State responsible for examining an asylum application. The changes are intended to provide a permanent framework for adopting relocation measures at times of crisis, obviating the need for a succession of free-standing proposals each time there is a surge in numbers. The UK participates in, and fully supports, the Dublin III Regulation but opposes relocation. The UK is at risk of being ejected from the Dublin III Regulation if it decides not to opt into the proposed amending Regulation. The Government considers that the risk of ejection is not significant. We conclude that the risk of ejection, and the prospect of wider changes to the Dublin rules, should be explored in an opt-in debate. As all three opt-in decisions are closely related, we recommend that they should be considered collectively in a single debate.

Commission Communication on a Digital Single Market Strategy

The Commission has set out a strategy for creating a Digital Single Market — one of President Juncker's ten political priorities aimed at creating jobs and growth across the EU. It proposes a mix of legislative and non-legislative initiatives to be tabled by the end of 2016, focussing on three 'pillars': improving access to digital goods and services across the EU for consumers and businesses; creating the conditions and a level playing field for digital networks and services to thrive; and maximising the growth potential of the EU digital economy.

The Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy, Ed Vaizey, supports the Digital Single Market Strategy and has set out the Government's guiding principles in approaching individual Digital Single Market dossiers. However, he does not make clear what the Government's priorities are for the Digital Single Market (and therefore how policy trade-offs may be assessed).

Given the Minister's intention to make progress as swiftly as possible on this agenda, and in view of the forthcoming raft of measures on the Digital Single Market over the next 12 to 15 months, we ask the Minister to provide: a) a clearer indication of the Government's priorities in this area; and b) updates on developments, focusing on the extent to which the initiatives brought forward by the Commission reflect the Government's priorities. Pending the information requested, we retain this Communication under scrutiny and draw it to the attention of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee and the Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

Proposed Police and Criminal Justice Data Protection Directive (the PCJ proposal)

The purpose of this proposal, together with the proposed General Data Protection Regulation, is to update the EU's 1995 data protection rules in line with technological developments, to strengthen online privacy rights and to address divergent national implementation of the existing regime. Protracted negotiations on the PCJ proposal have been revived ever since the agreement of a General Approach (GA) on the proposed General Regulation in June. Following a change in departmental responsibility (from MOJ to DCMS), a Council Press Release now confirms that the GA was agreed at the JHA Council of 8-9 October. We ask the Government to confirm whether a scrutiny override took place and if so, to provide a detailed, targeted and reasoned explanation with reference to the GA text. We also pursue concerns about the original PCJ proposal highlighted by the preceding Justice Committee and our own outstanding request as to why the UK supported the GA on the proposed General Regulation despite "serious reservations". The Government is further asked to comment on the impact of the CJEU's recent invalidation of the current "Safe Harbour" decision for EU-US data transfers. We draw the PCJ proposal and the Report chapter to the attention of the Justice Committee and the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

Integration of the long-term unemployed into the labour market

We report on a draft Council Recommendation setting out how Member States might more effectively tackle the challenge of integrating the long-term unemployed (those unemployed for over a year) into the labour market. The key suggestion made by the Commission in its proposal is that the long-term unemployed be made a specific job integration agreement offer at the latest when they have reached 18 months of unemployment. Improved arrangements for registration with an employment service are also proposed, as is more personalised guidance to those affected. We consider it important that the tone and detail of the text reflect the fact that the European Union may only support the work of Member States in this area of policy. We look to the Minister to provide more detail both on the nature of the proposed changes that the Government is seeking to overcome perceived prescriptiveness and on the progress being made in amending the text. We retain the proposal under scrutiny and draw the document to the attention of the Work and Pensions Committee.

Education and Training 2020

We consider a draft Joint Report from the Commission and Council on the EU's Strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training ("ET 2020"). The draft Joint Report assesses progress made in implementing ET 2020 and considers new priorities for the next five years. We welcome the Commission's acknowledgement that it is for Member States to select, in accordance with national priorities, those areas and issues for work and cooperation in which they wish to participate. While we release the draft Joint Report from scrutiny, we note the Government's intention to amend the draft Joint Report so that it better reflects the UK view that there is mixed evidence of appetite for more intensive co-operation on education and training at the EU level. We ask that, ahead of the Education Council on 23 November, the Minister inform us of his progress in negotiating amendment of the text with specific reference to the precise amended wording achieved. We draw this Report chapter to the attention of the Education Committee.

Outstanding debate recommendations

In September we wrote to the Leader of the House regarding the failure of the previous and current Government to schedule EU Document debates, and the detrimental effect this has had on parliamentary scrutiny. We are writing today to the Leader with a proposed consolidation of outstanding debate recommendations, on condition that the debates directly related to the Government's negotiating objectives and to migration should take place within the next five weeks; and that these debates should last for three hours rather than an hour and a half. We ask the Leader of the House to respond to our proposal and the conditions, in time for consideration at our next meeting.

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Prepared 14 October 2015