Select Committee on European Communities Eleventh Report


20 January 1998

  By the Select Committee appointed to consider Community proposals, whether in draft or otherwise, to obtain all necessary information about them, and to make reports on those which, in the opinion of the Committee, raise important questions of policy or principle, and on other questions to which the Committee considers that the special attention of the House should be drawn.



  1.    As part of its work on Community proposals, the Select Committee sends letters to Ministers to express its views on proposals under scrutiny. The procedure of sending a letter may be adopted when the timetable of the Council of Ministers is too short for the Committee to make a report, or if the enquiry indicates that the points at issue do not warrant a full report. Such letters pass the same stages of approval as a report, and are normally signed by the Chairman. Occasionally the Chairman delegates authority to a Sub-Committee Chairman. Where the timing of discussions in the Council of Ministers does not permit consideration in advance by the Committee, the letter is sent on the authority of the Chairman and placed before the Committee at its next meeting.

  2.      The Committee therefore considers that the attention of the House should now be drawn to letters which it has sent since the last volume of correspondence was issued, together with replies received from Ministers. It includes letters sent by the Committee and replies received since the beginning of this session (May 1997).

  3.    This Report is in four parts. The first includes letters relating to the policy issues raised by proposals; the second includes letters relating to cases where the Committee has been unable to scrutinise documents effectively; the third includes letters relating to issues of legal and procedural interest; and the fourth includes correspondence relating to the Committee's reports and Government responses to them.

  4.    In previous Reports we have expressed our dismay at the frequency with which Community proposals, and Government explanatory memoranda, are received by us too late for any effective scrutiny to be undertaken. It is therefore encouraging to note that the Treaty of Amsterdam includes a Protocol on the Role of National Parliaments with express provision for a six-week period between proposals being made available and their coming before the Council for decision. That Treaty is, however, not yet in force and, as the letters in our second category show, our problems have continued unabated. We hope that during the United Kingdom Presidency the Government will set an example by adhering to the spirit of the new Protocol.

  5.    The two immediately previous volumes of Correspondence with Ministers were published as the 5th Report, 1996-97 (HL Paper 31) and the 12th Report, 1996-97 (HL Paper 69).

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