Documents considered by the Committee on 6 January 2016 - European Scrutiny Contents

Meeting Summary

The Committee considered the following documents:

EU measures to combat terrorism

Following the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, the Commission has published a proposed Directive which would update existing EU legislation on terrorism to bring it into line with recent changes to international law. The proposal would require Member States to make it a criminal offence to receive training and to travel abroad (or organise or facilitate such travel) for terrorist purposes. The Government considers that UK law complies fully with international law and questions the need for EU legislation.

As the proposal is subject to the UK's justice and home affairs opt-in, the UK will only be bound by it if the Government decides to opt in. The UK no longer participates in a 2002 EU Framework Decision (which this proposal would replace), following the previous Coalition Government's decision to opt out en masse of EU police and criminal justice measures adopted before 1 December 2009. Opting into the proposal would effectively reverse this decision. The Government also expresses concern that UK participation would cede exclusive competence to the EU for negotiations at an international level dealing with terrorism laws.

Given these concerns, it seems highly unlikely that the Government will decide to opt into the proposal. We nevertheless recommend that the Government's opt-in decision should be debated on the floor of the House so that Members have the opportunity to explore in greater detail the potential risks and benefits of UK participation before any decision is made.

Not cleared: recommended for debate on the floor of the House.

Action Plan for a Circular Economy

The Commission has long seen a more efficient use of resources as a key way of achieving the aims of the Europe 2020 Strategy. In July 2014 it produced a Communication (Towards a circular economy — A zero waste programme for Europe), aimed at retaining product value and eliminating waste, which our predecessors recommended for debate in European Committee A.

That has yet to be debated, but has now been superseded by a further Communication setting out an Action Plan for the circular economy. This focuses on the steps which can be taken at each step of the value chain, looking at the design of products and the efficiency of their production process; the impact of consumer choice; waste management; the reuse of secondary raw materials (including water); the role of innovation, investment and other horizontal measures; and the ways in which progress towards a circular economy can be measured. It is also accompanied by a number of proposals — which we will be considering separately — for amending existing EU legislation on waste.

The Government accepts that a number of the measures proposed can best be addressed at EU level, but stresses the importance of these complementing, rather than duplicating, those taken by individual Member States. In general, however, it has welcomed the broad direction of the Action Plan, and has commented that, as compared with the 2014 Communication, it seeks to adopt a more joined up approach, involving the whole value chain.

This document sets out an ambitious and wide-ranging agenda, and we believe that it raises a number of important issues relating not least the practicality and affordability of the measures in question.

Not cleared: recommended for Debate in European Committee A; earlier recommendation on a related European Commission Communication rescinded.


In May 2013, the Commission proposed a Regulation to establish a regulatory framework to improve the efficiency and competitiveness of all EU ports. The predecessor European Scrutiny Committee recommended this proposal be debated on the floor of the House. Instead the then Government scheduled a European Committee debate for 3 September 2014. This debate was adjourned after 58 minutes of exchanges about the unavailability of recent Council texts of the proposal (some of which were Limité, a Council privacy marking) and the Government's decision against a floor debate. There was no discussion of the substance of the proposal.

Shortly after this a Presidency compromise text based on the Commission's proposal was adopted by the Transport Council in October 2014 as a "General Approach", that is the Council's position for negotiation with the European Parliament. Subsequent to publication of this proposed Regulation, the predecessor European Scrutiny Committee renewed its recommendation for a floor debate on the original proposal and added a similar recommendation for the Council's proposal. We have previously endorsed that recommendation.

Today we have considered a Government letter briefly updating us, in advance of a European Committee debate on the two draft Regulations scheduled for 12 January 2016, on the present position on the negotiation of the proposed legislation. We noted this information and the scheduled debate. However, the proposed legislation is very important for the UK — up to 47 of our ports will be within its scope. So we remain deeply concerned that the Government continues to refuse to have a floor debate on this issue, which may propose a threat to the UK's largely liberalised ports sector.

Debate previously recommended, currently scheduled for European Committee A.

Resettlement of refugees

This non-binding Commission Recommendation adopted last June seeks to fulfil the commitment made by the European Council in April 2015 to introduce a voluntary EU resettlement scheme which provides for the resettlement of 20,000 individuals on the basis of a distribution key intended to reflect the ability of each Member State to receive, absorb and integrate refugees. It has since been superseded by a political commitment made by Member States last July to resettle a total of 22,504 individuals in need of international protection over two years.

The Government has repeatedly made clear that resettlement "is best decided at national level" and that it "will not be signing up to an EU scheme", but the relationship between action at national and at EU level is opaque. We ask the Government to clarify whether UK efforts on resettlement are being funded by the EU and contribute to the voluntary targets agreed to at EU level. The Government is also asked to provide regular updates on the progress being made across the EU to meet the resettlement targets set last July and to explain whether plans for a more ambitious EU-wide resettlement scheme for Syrian refugees have been shelved or delayed.

Not cleared.

Establishing a crisis relocation mechanism

The so-called "Dublin III Regulation" establishes criteria for determining the Member State responsible for examining an asylum application. At times of high migratory flows, it places a heavy burden of responsibility on frontline Member States. The Commission proposal would amend the Dublin III Regulation to include a permanent framework for the relocation of individuals reaching frontline Member States who are highly likely to qualify for asylum at times of extreme migratory pressures "characterised by a large and disproportionate inflow of third country nationals or stateless persons" which place "significant demands" on the receiving Member State's asylum system. The mechanism would operate on the basis of a mandatory distribution key which takes into account each Member State's population size, GDP, unemployment rate, and the average number of asylum applications made during the preceding five year period.

The UK participates fully in the Dublin III Regulation but opposes relocation. Although the UK's justice and home affairs opt-in has so far enabled the Government to resist the imposition of EU quotas on relocation and on resettlement, the success or failure of these measures is likely to play into a wider-ranging review of the future functioning of the Dublin rules in which the UK does, currently, participate. We therefore request regular progress reports on negotiations.

Not cleared.

Safe countries of origin for asylum purposes

A number of Member States have a list of designated safe countries of origin. Asylum applicants originating from these countries are often dealt with by fast-track procedures. The criteria for designating safe countries of origin are set out in the 2013 Asylum Procedures Directive, but the designation is made at national level. The number and identity of countries included in national lists varies considerably. The proposed Regulation would establish a common EU list of safe countries of origin comprising six Western Balkans countries and Turkey. The aim is to reduce existing differences between Member States, facilitate the application of fast-track procedures for applicants unlikely to have well-founded claims, and deter secondary movements within the EU.

The UK does not participate in the 2013 Directive — it would have to do so if it wished to opt into the proposed Regulation. The Government now confirms that it has decided not to opt into the proposal but does not address the remaining questions we raised when we considered the proposal in October. These concerned the Government's view on the inclusion of Turkey in the common EU list of safe countries of origin; the implications of a Court of Appeal judgment in July 2015 suspending the UK's "detained fast-track procedures" (since the ability to apply these procedures was one of the reasons given by the Government for not participating in the 2013 Asylum Procedures Directive); the conferral of powers on the Commission temporarily to remove a country from the common EU list; and whether the Government consulted the Devolved Administrations on the proposed Regulation.

Not cleared.

The proposed EU Data Protection package: General Data Protection Regulation and the Police and Criminal Justice Directive (PCJ Directive)

This proposed Data Protection package will overhaul the existing EU 1995 Data Protection rules in order to keep pace with technological developments and to strengthen online privacy rights across the EU. Negotiations of these important proposals have been ongoing since 2012, but they are likely to be finally agreed very soon, probably at the March JHA Council. The Government now confirms that, the proposed Regulation was agreed with UK support in the final trilogue of 15 December, but that UK intervention prevented the inclusion in the text of mandatory parental consent for under 16 use of most internet sites. The Minister commits to providing a more detailed update on the developments on both proposals later in January.

Not cleared: already recommended for debate.

The Financial Benchmarks Regulation

This is an important proposal with implications for financial markets in the EU and the UK and on which the preceding Committee recommended a Reasoned Opinion (RO).This was on the grounds that an overly prescriptive approach to benchmark regulation which diverged from international benchmark standards undermined the supposed benefits of action at EU level. Subsequent negotiations on the text have progressed towards a more proportionate approach to benchmark regulation which also accommodates the use of third country benchmarks. The Committee therefore cleared the proposal from scrutiny in late November, in anticipation of final agreement in December. The Government now writes to confirm the outcome of the final trilogue and COREPER meetings in December and its intention to vote in favour of the proposal in Council.

Already cleared; drawn to the attention of the Treasury Committee.

European Defence Agency 2016 budget and annual report, and wider CFSP/CSDP issues:

In reporting on the EDA's 2015 annual report and 2016 budget, we draw attention to the wider issues that they highlight regarding parliamentary scrutiny of CFSP/CSDP, and ask the Government to deposit two forthcoming key documents for prior scrutiny — a European Defence Action Plan (in which the Commission and the European Defence Agency are taking the lead — and the EU High Representative's review of European Security Strategy, which will be the first since the original 2003 strategy put together by the first HR, Javier Solana.

We also draw these developments to the attention of the Defence Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee, and consider them relevant to the debate that is to be held on CFSP/CSDP in European Committee on 18 January 2016.

Cleared. Relevant to debate scheduled for 1 February.

Regulation of medical devices

Scrutiny of these important and complex proposals is nearing its conclusion as the Government reports that trilogue negotiations involving the Council, European Parliament and Commission are underway with a view to securing agreement on a compromise text before the end of the Dutch Presidency in June. The Government expresses cautious optimism that a satisfactory outcome on the UK's key negotiating objectives is within reach. These focus on two concerns: the possible introduction of additional pre-market scrutiny of higher risk medical devices by a central Committee of Member State experts, and the proposed removal of an existing exemption for "in house" devices manufactured and used within the same health institution. The Government considers that additional pre-market scrutiny would be ineffective, overly bureaucratic and delay patient access to life-changing medical technologies, whilst the removal of the exemption for "in house" devices would substantially increase costs within the NHS. We continue to support the Government's approach to the negotiations and request a further update on progress once trilogue negotiations near their conclusion and the shape and content of the final legislation is clearer. At that point, we will consider lifting our scrutiny reserve.

Not cleared.

Exhaust emissions from passenger cars

On 25 November 2015, we recommended for debate a Commission proposal to address the issues raised by use of so-called "defeat devices" by vehicle manufacturers in connection with the measurement of tail-pipe emissions, on the basis of an Explanatory Memorandum from the Department of Transport. A text of the draft Commission Regulation (document 14506/15), the contents of which are fully reflected in our earlier Report, has now been received, and we have therefore recommend it for that debate.

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Prepared 15 January 2016