Select Committee on European Communities Twelfth Report


Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to the Rt Hon Michael Howard, QC, MP, Home Secretary

  I am writing in reply to your letters of 13, 25 and 28 November concerning third pillar proposals. I am grateful to you for keeping the committee informed about the progress of third pillar matters, but I am concerned about the apparent delay in depositing these documents in Parliament.

  The first document, Proposal for a Programme of Law Enforcement Co-operation (OISIN) was deposited with your letter of 13 November, but the date on document 10369/96 was 2 October 1996.

  The second, Presidency proposal for a draft Council Resolution on measures to combat and dismantle illicit cultivation and production of drugs within the EU, was dated 28 October but was not deposited until 25 November.

  The third document, Presidency proposal for a draft Council Resolution on sentencing for serious illicit drug trafficking, was dated 7 November, but was not deposited until 28 November.

  All three documents were, I understand, discussed at the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 28 and 29 November. Effectively, therefore, we had no opportunity to scrutinise the last two of these documents as they were submitted only days before they were due for final decision.

  As you know, your officials are in correspondence with the Clerk of the Committee about ways to improve the handling of third pillar documents. I hope that together we can find ways to avoid a repetition of delays such as these, which make proper scrutiny impossible.

12 December 1996

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to the Rt Hon Michael Howard, QC, MP, Home Secretary

  Thank you for your letter of 10th March[11] enclosing the Dutch Presidency's provisional work programmes for the three Third Pillar Steering Groups, together with an explanatory note.

  These documents are of considerable interest to the Select Committee and its Sub-Committees. However, the delay in deposit of these documents reduces their usefulness considerably. If national parliaments are to play an effective role in scrutinising the work done under the Third Pillar, it is essential that they should have as much notice as possible not only of texts of proposals, but also of work programmes and Council agendas. Without this information, it is extremely difficult for us to plan our own work programmes effectively.

13 March 1997

Letter from the Rt Hon Michael Howard, QC, MP, Home Secretary, to Lord Tordoff Chairman of the Committee

Parliamentary scrutiny of Third Pillar documents

  Thank you for your letters of 12 December and 13 March drawing attention once again to delays in the deposit of particular Third Pillar documents for scrutiny.

  I entirely understand, and sympathise with, your concern about the apparent delays which have occurred in depositing these Third Pillar documents in Parliament. I was therefore glad to see that in Sub-Committee F's enquiry into House of Lords scrutiny of the Third Pillar, as well as in the correspondence that I understand is going on between my officials and the Clerk of your Committee, the timing of submission of documents has been identified as a key issue for consideration. Let me assure you that my officials and I will co-operate fully with the Committee and Sub-Committee in trying to find ways of improving the handling of Third Pillar documents. I do not promise that we shall be able to eliminate all the delays, but we shall look for ways of ensuring that any avoidable delay is kept to a minimum.

21 March 1997

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