Select Committee on European Communities Sixth Report


  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 76).

(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 (para 85).

(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 (para 106).

(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 (para 144).

(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 145).

(xxvi) We welcome the new provisions on transparency and openness contained in the Amsterdam Treaty (para 152).

(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 157).


  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.

previous page contents next page
House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 1997
Prepared 12 September 1997