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


23 Comitology: the working of the committees in 2014

Committee's assessment Legally and politically important
Committee's decisionCleared from scrutiny; further information requested; relevant to the debate on the Better Regulation package recommended in European Committee C (decision reported on 21 July 2015)
Document detailsCommission Report on the working of the committees in 2014
Legal base
DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Document Numbers(37079), 11807/15 + ADD 1, COM(15) 418

Summary and Committee's conclusions

23.1 Committees, consisting of representatives of Member States, exercise oversight of the use of implementing powers given to the Commission in EU legislative acts pursuant to Article 291 TFEU. This process is known as "comitology".

23.2 The current document is the fourth annual report on committee activities which the Commission is required to present in accordance with Article 10(2) of the Comitology Regulation (No. 182/2011).[ 131] This Regulation introduced new comitology procedures: the advisory (Article 4) and examination (Article 5) procedures. It is to be reviewed in 2016.

23.3 All comitology procedures provided for in the previous Comitology Decision,[ 132] with the exception of the regulatory procedure with scrutiny (RPS), were automatically updated to the new comitology procedures provided for in the Comitology Regulation. In addition, in order to adapt all RPS provisions in existing basic acts to the criteria laid down in Articles 290 and 291 TFEU, the Commission adopted in 2013 three proposals to align a total of 200 basic acts which our predecessors scrutinised.[ 133] In November 2014, the Commission withdrew these proposals pending the outcome of future discussions between the institutions in the context of the Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Regulation (IAA) (see paragraph 23.11 below for how our scrutiny of the Better Regulation package[ 134] is relevant to this document). The package includes a proposed Common Understanding on Delegated Acts, annexed to the IAA, which reassures Member States of early input into the delegated legislation procedure and sets out, for the first time, some guidelines for determining when procedure for the Commission to adopt EU subordinate legislation should be the delegated legislation procedure or the implementing legislation procedure.

23.4 The report gives an overview of developments in the comitology system during 2014 when the committees were operating under the new advisory and examination procedures, as well as under the RPS (Article 5(a) of the Comitology Regulation). All of these procedures are explained at paragraph 23.12 of this chapter.

23.5 The Commission sets out the number of committees, meetings, opinions, implementing acts and the use of RPS. A working document accompanies the report, providing detailed information about the work of individual committees in different policy areas. The detailed findings of the report are set out at paragraph 23.13 of this chapter.

23.6 In brief, the Commission confirms that there were 14 fewer committees in operation in 2014 than in 2013. This was essentially reflected in the reduced number of committees using the examination procedure, whereas the number for committees using the lighter touch advisory procedure remained static. There was approximately a 10% reduction in the total number of implementing acts adopted in 2014 under the new procedure. The majority of decisions received positive opinions. The Commission also reports that it completed a review of the rules of the appeals committee in April 2014.

23.7 The Government welcomes the report as a tool to assist the Government's critical assessment of the current effectiveness of committees. It emphasises the importance of consideration of Member States' views in any Council discussions on the use of Delegated and Implementing Acts.

23.8 We report on this document to the House not only because of the useful information it contains but also for its relevance to the Better Regulation package which we recommended for debate in European Committee C in our Report of 21 July. We ask the Government to include this chapter of the Report in the debate pack.

23.9 Before the debate takes place, we ask the Minister to write to tell us whether the modest but notable reduction in the use of implementing acts (which Member States have favoured in the past as being subject to their greater control) has been mirrored by an increase use of legislation by way of delegated acts? Does the Minister expect that downwards trend in the use of implementing acts to become more or less pronounced should the Common Understanding on Delegated Acts be adopted? We ask this question, having already noted the Government's response to our Report of 21 July[ 135] on how any choice remaining with the legislator between Delegated or Implementing Acts might be made within the proposed new Common Understanding.

23.10 We now clear the document under scrutiny.

Full details of the document: Commission Report on the working of the committees in 2014: (37079), 11807/15 + ADD 1, COM(15) 418.

Background

23.11 Our predecessors have scrutinised previous annual Reports on the working of the Committees,[ 136] focussing their attention on the question of how the choice of whether the Commission should legislate by Delegated or Implementing Acts is determined. Our Reports[ 137] on the Better Regulation package are also relevant to the current document. In our Report of on 21 July[ 138] we recommended both the Commission Communication: Better regulation for better results and the Commission Communication: Proposal for an Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Regulation[ 139] for debate in European Committee C.

The current document

Summary of procedures

23.12 To assist understanding of the report's findings, the Commission provides an explanation of the advisory, examination and RPS procedures in the addendum to the report. The impact of a committee's opinion on the Commission and the resulting implementing act varies according to the type of procedure used.

i)  The advisory procedure is a non-legally binding procedure where the Commission "must take utmost account" of the committee's view before deciding on the draft implementing act;

ii)  The examination procedure, considered to be more rigorous, is based on qualified majority voting. If a qualified majority of the committee members vote in favour of the decision (positive opinion), then the Commission adopts the decision. In the event of a negative opinion (qualified majority against) then the Commission cannot adopt it — although it can resubmit an amended version, or refer the original decision to an Appeal Committee. In the absence of a qualified majority in the Appeal Committee, the Commission can choose to adopt or amend the act, though cannot do so in certain cases,[ 140] where the Commission has the same options as under a negative opinion; and

iii)   Under RPS, the Commission is obliged to adopt the measure following a positive opinion of the relevant committee. In the case of negative or no opinion, the Commission submits the proposal to the Council for decision. The Council and the European Parliament can oppose the adoption of a draft measure even if the committee has given a positive opinion.

SUMMARY OF KEY FINDINGS

23.13 The Commission confirms that in 2014:

·  There were 287 committees in operation (14 fewer than in 2013).

·  The advisory procedure was used in 25 committees (same as in 2013).

·  The examination procedure was used in 103 committees (13 fewer than in 2013).

·  A total of 22 committees (3 less than in 2013) also used RPS.

·  The report confirms that the Council opposed adoption of draft measures under RPS in one case in 2014 (DG SANTE), same as in 2013.

·  There were 137 committees which operated under multiple procedures.

·  The report shows that the total number of implementing acts adopted was 1,563 (153 less than in 2013) under the two new procedures, and a further 165 measures adopted under the RPS (6 less than in 2013).

·  Similarly to the previous year, the most active committees were those in the following areas:

·  Health and Food Safety (SANTE), including public health and safety of food, animals or plants, which gave 799 opinions and adopted 695 acts.

·  Research and Innovation (RTD), which gave 152 opinions and adopted 150 acts; and

·  Agriculture (AGRI), which gave 141 opinions and adopted 135 acts.

·  Similarly to previous years, the majority of decisions listed in the addendum received positive opinions from committees There were no negative opinions issued, as in 2013;

·  'No opinion' (no qualified majority in favour or against) was given on 40 occasions; same as in 2013;

·   'No opinions' occurred in the following areas: Secretariat General (13), Trade (10), Taxation and customs (7), Health and Food Safety (3), Research and innovation (2), Mobility and transport (2), International cooperation and development (1), Maritime affairs and fisheries (1), Budget (1).

The Government's view

23.14 In his Explanatory Memorandum[ 141] of 22 September 2015, the Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) welcomes the Commission's report. He considers that this new statistical and factual overview of the committees' activities assists the Government's critical assessment of their effectiveness, following the changes made by the Comitology Regulation in 2011.

23.15 After summarising the key findings of the Commission's report, the Minister comments:

    "The Government considers the Commission's annual reviews to be important for building on and improving the existing practice of the work of committees. The Government will closely scrutinise the outcome of these reviews and emphasise the importance of Member State views being taken into account through all Council discussions on the use of Delegated and Implementing Acts."

Previous Committee Reports

None, but see (36353), 13389/14: Eighteenth Report HC 219-xvii (2014-15), chapter 9 (5 November 2014) and Fifteenth Report HC 219-xv (2014-15), chapter 7 (22 October 2014).


131   Regulation No. 182/2011 laying down the rules and general principles concerning mechanisms for control by Member States of the Commission's exercise of implementing powers. Back

132   Council Decision 1999/468/EC of 28 June 1999, OJ No. L 184, 17.07.99, p.23. Back

133   (35507), 15882/13: Draft Regulation adapting to Article 290 and 291 of the TFEU a number of legal acts providing for the use of the regulatory procedure with scrutiny; (35189) 12730/13: Draft Regulation adapting to Article 290 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union a number of legal acts providing for the use of the regulatory procedure with scrutiny; (35179) 12539/13: Draft Regulation adapting to Article 290 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union a number of legal acts in the area of Justice providing for the use of the regulatory procedure with scrutiny. Back

134   This consists of (a) (36885), 9079/15 + ADDs 1-2, COM(15) 215: Commission Communication: Better regulation for better results - An EU agenda (b) (36888), 9121/15 + ADD 1, COM(15) 216: Commission Communication: Proposal for an Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Regulation. Back

135   This was reported in our Report of 9 September 2015. Back

136   See, for example, our predecessors' scrutiny of the 2014 report: (36353), 13389/14: Eighteenth Report HC 219-xvii (2014-15), chapter 9 (5 November 2014) and Fifteenth Report HC 219-xv (2014-15), chapter 7 (22 October 2014).  Back

137   Third Report HC 342-iii (2015-16), chapter 1 (9 September 2015). Back

138   First Report HC 342-i (2015-16), chapter 1 (21 July 2015). Back

139   See footnote 4 for details of these documents. Back

140   Where (i) the matter concerns taxation, financial services, protection of health or safety of humans, animals or plants, or definitive multilateral safeguard measures; (ii) the EU legislation provides that it may not be adopted; or (iii) a simple majority of committee members opposes the decision. Back

141   http://europeanmemoranda.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/files/2015/09/EM_11807-15.pdf. Back


 
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Prepared 14 October 2015