158. (i) Early deposit
of Third Pillar proposals is essential if the Committee is to
exercise its Parliamentary scrutiny function and make an effective
contribution to the debate on Third Pillar proposals (para 23).
(ii) The existing undertaking
to deposit the first full text of a Third Pillar proposal should
be replaced with an undertaking to deposit the text of Third Pillar
proposals when they are first tabled by the Presidency, the Commission
or a Member State for consideration in a working group, the relevant
steering group, the K.4 Committee or the Council (para 25).
(iii) Where a Third Pillar proposal
develops in such a way that a composite text only appears when
all the substantive issues have been resolved and the proposal
is ready for presentation to the Council for adoption, the Government
should provide an Explanatory Note to the Committee when the initial
work commences outlining the nature of the proposal being negotiated,
its implications for the United Kingdom and the Government's policy
stance in the negotiations (para 26).
(iv) It would now be appropriate
to adopt more formal guidelines for the deposit of Third Pillar
documents. We note with approval the changes proposed by the House
of Commons Select Committee on European Legislation to the House
of Commons Standing Order No. 143 (para 39).
(v) Where Government Departments
are in doubt as to whether a proposal falls within the criteria
for deposit, we recommend that they contact the Committee Secretariat
to discuss the matter on an informal basis (para 42).
(vi) Where a document is the subject
of an enquiry by the Committee or one of its Sub-Committees the
Government must ensure that the Committee is kept informed of
significant developments on the proposal at the earliest possible
opportunity (para 48).
(vii) The Government should provide
Supplementary Explanatory Notes outlining substantive changes
to any Third Pillar proposal which has been deposited in Parliament
irrespective of whether it would require, if adopted, primary
legislation in the United Kingdom or not. The Government should
err on the side of furnishing material rather than withholding
it from Parliament (para 49).
(viii) While we would not expect
the Government to supply all subsequent versions of a Third Pillar
text that had been deposited in Parliament, at the very least
we would expect to see the draft text of a Third Pillar proposal
which was due to go to the Council for adoption (para 51).
(ix) We regard the imposition
of a formal Parliamentary scrutiny reserve in relation to Third
Pillar proposals as essential if Parliament is to play an effective
role in scrutinising the Third Pillar (para 59).
(x) We believe that granting Parliament
a minimum period of time to scrutinise Third Pillar instruments
is essential to permit effective Parliamentary scrutiny of the
Third Pillar. The Amsterdam Treaty is unlikely to be ratified
by all Member States for at least eighteen months and we see no
reason for delaying the introduction of a minimum scrutiny period
in the interim (paras 65 and 66).
(xi) We recommend that the Government
should not agree to the adoption in the Council of a Third Pillar
proposal which has been deposited in Parliament within a six-week
period preceding the date of the Council unless it has received
confirmation from the relevant Parliamentary Committees that scrutiny
of the document has been completed (para 67).
(xii) The basic principle should
be that Third Pillar documents are depositable and the exceptions
for confidentiality and secrecy must be interpreted narrowly (para
(xiii) The provision of Council
agendas in advance of the Justice and Home Affairs Council is
essential (para 84).
(xiv) The Government should forward
to the Committee at least two weeks in advance of the Council
meeting either a copy of the provisional agenda or, if this is
not available, a note outlining the matters likely to be considered.
The agenda should be provided as soon as it is available thereafter
(xv) The Government should be
required to furnish the Committee with a note of the proceedings
of the K.4 Committee within a week after each meeting (para 86).
(xvi) The Government should be
obliged to provide Parliament with a detailed written report on
the outcome of a Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting within
two weeks after each meeting. Following receipt of the report,
the Committee could decide whether or not to invite the relevant
Minister or officials to attend a public meeting of the Committee
to answer questions arising therefrom (para 96).
(xvii) There are no compelling
reasons for restricting access to Third Pillar proposals save
where that can be justified on the grounds of secrecy or confidentiality
(xviii) The Government should
consider making available to interested organisations on request
the first draft of any Third Pillar document which has been deposited
in Parliament together with any subsequent drafts which contain
material changes to the original proposal (para 107).
(xix) We urge the Government to
explore with other Member States the possibilities for publication
of Third Pillar proposals in the interim period prior to ratification
of the Amsterdam Treaty (para 108).
(xx) We welcome the Home Office
undertaking to notify Parliament of any decision to take part
in the existing or future Schengen acquis. As the United
Kingdom has not been a party to the Schengen Agreement and Parliament
has not scrutinised the measures already adopted it is crucial
that any measure which it is intended to accept is deposited in
Parliament in time to enable it to consider and comment on the
desirability or otherwise of agreeing to apply the measure in
the United Kingdom. We recommend that such measures should be
treated in the same way as proposals for new legislation under
either the Community Pillar or the Third Pillar and that the Government
should make any application to participate in Schengen measures
subject to Parliamentary scrutiny (para 121).
(xxi) There must be Parliamentary
oversight of common position texts (para 127).
(xxii) We recommend that national
parliaments and the European Parliament should explore the possibilities
for enhancing the exchange of information and documentation on
Third Pillar matters (para 135).
(xxiii) We welcome the draft Protocol
on the role of National Parliaments as offering a substantial
improvement over Declaration 13 to the Maastricht Treaty, though
the present draft does contain shortcomings which may reduce its
effectiveness. Paragraph 3 should apply to all Third Pillar proposals
irrespective of their origin (paras 142 and 143).
(xxiv) We welcome the work being
undertaken by the Council in exploring the possibilities for the
introduction of an electronic document transmission system. The
introduction of a full electronic system would, in our view mark,
a great step forward and we hope that by the time the Amsterdam
Treaty enters into force such a system will be fully operational
(xxv) We recommend that decisions
to override the minimum scrutiny period should be taken by the
same voting procedure required for the measure concerned (para
(xxvi) We welcome the new provisions
on transparency and openness contained in the Amsterdam Treaty
(xxvii) We are pleased to note
that the provisions on transparency and openness will be applicable
to the Third Pillar by virtue of Article K.13. We are, however,
concerned that the Declaration on Article 191a(1) could severely
limit the application of the new provisions on transparency and
openness to the Third Pillar (para 155).
(xxviii) We welcome the extension
of the role of the European Ombudsman to the Third Pillar (para
159. The Committee
believes that the matters considered in this Report raise important
questions to which the attention of the House should be drawn,
and we make this Report to the House for debate.