The Committee looks at the significance of EU proposals and decides whether to clear the document from scrutiny or withhold clearance and ask questions of the Government. The Committee also has the power to recommend documents for debate.
The Committee is now looking at documents in the light of the UK decision to withdraw from the EU. Issues are explored in greater detail in report chapters and, where appropriate, in the summaries below. The Committee notes that in the current week the following issues and questions have arisen in documents or in correspondence with Ministers:
The Commission proposes legislation to protect SMEs in the food supply chain against unfair trading practices by large buyers. The legislation goes beyond the existing provisions in the UK under the Groceries Supply Code of Practice, which applies to the ten largest retailers in the UK and is enforced by the Groceries Code Adjudicator. The Government is opposed to the legislation, arguing that such action is best taken at the national level and expressing concern at the potential cost, given that the scope would extend to the whole supply chain, including food processing and food service. The Government does recognise, though, that the legislation could benefit UK SMEs supplying to EU buyers, even post-Brexit. We encourage the Government to engage positively and request information on: the potential benefits to UK suppliers; the volume of buyers to which the proposal would extend coverage; and the impact of the proposed 30 day payment limit. On Brexit, we note that the UK is likely to need to transpose the legislation into UK law during the post-Brexit implementation period (i.e. before 31 December 2020) and therefore seek clarification on the Government’s transposition plans in the light of its antipathy towards the legislation.
Not cleared; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.
After some initial delays in replying to our first Report on these documents, the new Minister for Women (Victoria Atkins) answers our questions about the Government’s commitment to eliminating the Gender Pay Gap. In particular, she explains what the Government approach will be in terms of maintaining that commitment after 31 December 2020. This includes amendments agreed by the House to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill which relate to the provision of equality impact statements by Ministers when making secondary legislation under the Bill. The Minister also refers to the Government commitment to extend that requirement to other Brexit-related primary legislation.
Cleared from scrutiny; drawn to the attention of the Women and Equalities Committee.
We have expressed concern about the Government’s ‘wait and see’ approach to deciding on the best structure for a new UK partnership with 78 developing countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP), which appear dependent on the outcome of the EU’s own negotiations with those states over the coming years, but with no fall-back option in place once the UK leaves trade and political framework put in place by the current EU-ACP Agreement. We have also taken note of the Government’s renewed offer to continue making a UK financial contribution to the EU’s development policy programmes.
Cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Foreign Affairs and International Development Committees.
We have granted the Government permission to support a compromise legal text on a series of new prudential requirements for banks in the EU, ahead of negotiations with the European Parliament on the new legislation. Despite the UK’s opposition, the reforms are likely to include a requirement for ‘third country’ banks—like the UK when it leaves the Single Market—with substantial operations in the EU to establish a costly new intermediate parent undertaking (IPU) for their EU activities to assist in their supervision and, if necessary, resolution. However, the Government has secured a 7-year transitional period before this new IPU requirement would take effect.
Not Cleared; further information requested.
The Commission has put forward two proposals to make it easier and quicker for law enforcement authorities to obtain electronic evidence (such as e-mails, text messages and photos) for a criminal investigation. They would only apply where the data or the service provider are in a different Member State. The first, a proposed Regulation, would introduce a European Preservation Order to prevent information being altered or erased and a European Production Order requiring the information to be produced within 10 days (or 6 hours in an emergency). The second, a proposed Directive, would require online service providers offering services within the EU to designate a legal representative in the EU responsible for ensuring compliance with European Preservation and Production Orders or other law enforcement requests for evidence needed for criminal proceedings.
Whilst supporting efforts to make cross-border access to data within the EU more efficient, the Policing Minister (Mr Nick Hurd) questions whether additional tools are needed. He sets out the factors which will inform the Government’s opt-in decision on the proposed Regulation, a criminal law measure, and says the Government is considering whether the legal base for the proposed Directive (a non-criminal law measure) is appropriate. This is significant as the UK’s opt-in only applies to the proposed Regulation. We ask the Minister to clarify the Government’s position on the need for further EU legislation, to flesh out the factors informing the Government’s opt-in decision on the proposed Regulation and to indicate whether the opt-in should also apply to the proposed Directive. As the proposals are relevant to the UK’s wider relationship with the EU on security, law enforcement and criminal justice cooperation post-exit, we also ask the Minister to explain what progress has been made in negotiations to shape the UK’s future relationship with the EU in this area.
Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Home Affairs Committee, Justice Committee and Committee on Exiting the European Union.
(‘NC’ indicates document is ‘not cleared’ from scrutiny; ‘C’ indicates document is ‘cleared’)
Exiting the European Union Committee: EU Trade Defence Instruments [(a) Communication (C), (b) Proposed Regulation (C)]; Law enforcement access to electronic evidence [(a) Proposed Regulation (NC), (b) Proposed Directive (NC)]
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee: Unfair trading practices in the food supply chain [Proposed Directive (NC)]
Foreign Affairs Committee: New EU Partnership with Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific [Proposed Decision (C)]
Home Affairs Committee: Law enforcement access to electronic evidence [(a) Proposed Regulation (NC), (b) Proposed Directive (NC)]
International Development Committee: New EU Partnership with Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific [Proposed Decision (C)]
International Trade Committee: EU Trade Defence Instruments [(a) Communication (C), (b) Proposed Regulation (C)]
Justice Committee: Law enforcement access to electronic evidence [(a) Proposed Regulation (NC), (b) Proposed Directive (NC)]
Women and Equalities Committee: Equal Pay and the Gender Pay Gap [(a) Commission Report (C), (b) Communication (C)]
Published: 22 May 2018