Documents considered by the Committee on 20 June 2018 Contents

Meeting Summary

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.

Brexit-related issues

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:

Digital Single Market: Tackling illegal content online

Summary

Whistleblowers and breaches of EU law

The proposed Directive aims to harmonise national laws to a minimum standard on whistleblowing in relation to breaches of EU law. It follows in the wake of recent scandals like Cambridge Analytica. It is accompanied by a Commission Communication which provides background to the lead up to the legislative initiative.

The UK already leads in the EU in the legal protection it affords to whistleblowers (see the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 and the Employment Rights Act 1996). However, the Government does not support the proposal as it considers that a non-legislative measure should have first been attempted by the Commission. It highlights the cost and burden on business of setting up internal reporting procedures (the main difference between the proposal and the current UK legal framework).

As the implementation period/transition is due to expire on 31 December 2020, the UK will not have to implement the proposed Directive (the transposition deadline is 15 May 2021). However, we consider that the UK may either have to align with the proposal as part of the core labour or competition provisions of an EU-UK free trade/other agreement or may choose to do so as part of the PM’s commitment to build on workers’ rights after the UK’s exit from the EU.

We ask questions about possible alignment, explain why we are not recommending a Reasoned Opinion and seek some other clarifications from the Government.

Not cleared from scrutiny; drawn to the attention of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, the Work and Pensions Committee, the Public Accounts Committee, the Health Committee, the Defence Committee, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, the Joint Committee on Human Rights, the Women and Equalities Committee and the Exiting the EU Committee; further information requested

European Defence Industrial Development Programme

The Committee has asked the Minister for Defence Procurement, Guto Bebb MP, to give evidence in the coming weeks about the new EU Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP), part of the controversial new European Defence Fund. The Committee is critical that the UK will be part-funding the Programme during the transition as part of the £39 billion ‘Brexit bill’, even though the Ministry of Defence has conceded that the EU can unilaterally exclude UK firms from bidding for funding during that period. For most other EU programmes, like the Framework Programme for Research, the UK will remain eligible to participate as if it were still a Member State during the transition, but the EU is allowed to exclude the UK unilaterally from the EDIDP on the basis of hypothetical security concerns.

Not cleared from scrutiny; Minister invited to give evidence; drawn to the attention of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Defence and Exiting the EU Committees

Digital Single Market: Tackling illegal content online

The European Commission has built upon its 2017 Communication on tackling illegal content online in a (non-legislative) recommendation which proposes a variety of voluntary operational measure. Various suggestions are proposed which would apply to all illegal content. Specific supplementary measures are proposed for terrorist content. Platforms are asked to report to the Commission biannually on how they have applied the Commission’s recommendations, and on a quarterly basis for terrorist content. The Member States are also asked to report to the Commission on how platforms have responded to the recommendation. This evidence base will help the Commission to decide whether further, possibly legislative, action is needed. The Government supports the recommendation and draws attention to its (in development) Digital Charter, which will establish how the UK intends to regulate the digital economy in the future. As the proposal is non-legislative, and the measures are voluntary, the Committee cleared the document from scrutiny.

Cleared from scrutiny

Drinking Water Directive

The European Commission has proposed to revise its Drinking Water Directive to improve the quality of drinking water, modernise the approach to monitoring water quality and provide both greater access to water and information to citizens. Since the Committee last considered the proposal, the House has issued a Reasoned Opinion arguing that access to water through public drinking fountains is best dealt with at the national—rather than EU—level. The Committee considered a recent letter from the Government noting that the Commission has, in most instances, taken a precautionary approach to water quality parameters, which is unnecessarily constraining and could have unintended consequences. The Committee notes the response and asks for information on the extent to which the Government’s concerns are shared.

Not cleared; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Environmental Audit Committee and the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Veterinary medicinal products

The European Commission proposed revised rules in 2014 to increase the availability of veterinary medicinal products and address the public health risk of anti-microbial resistance. Agreement has finally been reached, but the compromise includes a requirement that producers from third countries that export animal and animal products to the EU should follow EU rules on the use of antibiotics. The UK and other Member States have emphasised that the provision—which would affect the UK post-Brexit—would need to be subject to more detailed implementing rules to ensure its compliance with world trade rules. The Committee clears the document from scrutiny, asking for confirmation of the final agreement and an assessment of the potential impact on the UK of the new third country provision.

Cleared; further information requested

EU Pet Travel Scheme

The Committee considered a letter from the Government promising that, post-Brexit, there will be new opportunities for managing pet travel arrangements, ensuring that there are robust controls on disease and animal welfare. The Government would like owners to be able to continue to travel with their pets to and from the EU with the minimum of inconvenience while protecting the EU’s biosecurity.

Cleared; drawn to the attention of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

EU Chemicals policy

The Committee considered letters from the Government on two documents relating to the UK’s future engagement in EU chemicals policy, including possible associate membership of the European Chemicals Agency. The Committee considers it instructive that the Minister does not reject the suggestion that the UK would need to abide by EU rules in the areas covered by the Agency (as well as the rules of the Agency). This would require regulatory alignment with a number of EU Regulations, both as they are currently in force and as they might be amended in the future by the EU institutions. The Committee requests an update on the progress of negotiations.

Not cleared; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Environmental Audit Committee

Documents drawn to the attention of select committees:

(‘NC’ indicates document is ‘not cleared’ from scrutiny; ‘C’ indicates document is ‘cleared’)

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee: Apportionment of the EU’s concessions on Tariff Rate Quotas (WTO) in view of UK withdrawal from the EU [Proposed Decision, Proposed Regulation (NC)]; Whistleblowing and breaches of EU Law [Proposed Directive, Communication (NC)]; European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP) [Proposed Regulation (NC)]

Defence Committee: Whistleblowing and breaches of EU Law [Proposed Directive, Communication (NC)]; European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP) [Proposed Regulation (NC)]

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee: Whistleblowing and breaches of EU Law [Proposed Directive, Communication (NC)]

Environmental Audit Committee: EU Chemicals Policy [Proposed Regulation (NC), Communication (C)]; Drinking Water Directive [Proposed Directive (NC)]

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee: Apportionment of the EU’s concessions on Tariff Rate Quotas (WTO) in view of UK withdrawal from the EU [Proposed Decision, Proposed Regulation (NC)]; EU Pet Travel Scheme [Report (C)]; Multi Annual Plan for fishing in Western Waters [Proposed Regulation (NC)]; Drinking Water Directive [Proposed Directive (NC)]

Exiting the European Union Committee: Apportionment of the EU’s concessions on Tariff Rate Quotas (WTO) in view of UK withdrawal from the EU [Proposed Decision, Proposed Regulation (NC)]; Whistleblowing and breaches of EU Law [Proposed Directive, Communication (NC)]; Managing EU migration and security databases [Proposed Regulation (NC)]; Proceeds of crime: mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders [Proposed Regulation (NC)]

Health and Social Care Committee: Whistleblowing and breaches of EU Law [Proposed Directive, Communication (NC)]

Home Affairs Committee: Managing EU migration and security databases [Proposed Regulation (NC)]; Proceeds of crime: mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders [Proposed Regulation (NC)]

International Trade Committee: Apportionment of the EU’s concessions on Tariff Rate Quotas (WTO) in view of UK withdrawal from the EU [Proposed Decision, Proposed Regulation (NC)]

Justice Committee: Managing EU migration and security databases [Proposed Regulation (NC)]; Proceeds of crime: mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders [Proposed Regulation (NC)]

Joint Committee on Human Rights: Whistleblowing and breaches of EU Law [Proposed Directive, Communication (NC)]

Public Accounts Committee: Whistleblowing and breaches of EU Law [Proposed Directive, Communication (NC)]

Treasury Committee: Apportionment of the EU’s concessions on Tariff Rate Quotas (WTO) in view of UK withdrawal from the EU [Proposed Decision, Proposed Regulation (NC)]; VAT: Quick Fixes to tackle fraud and reduce burdens on businesses [Proposed Directive and Proposed Regulation (C)]

Women and Equalities Committee: Whistleblowing and breaches of EU Law [Proposed Directive, Communication (NC)]

Work and Pensions Committee: Whistleblowing and breaches of EU Law [Proposed Directive, Communication (NC)]





Published: 26 June 2018