Select Committee on European Communities Eleventh Report



Letter from Lord Clinton-Davis, Minister for Trade, Department of Trade and Industry, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  I am writing to inform you that it is possible the Government will have to agree to the adoption of a proposal by Council before your Committee has had a chance to consider it.

  The proposal in question concerns the management by the Commission of the trade concessions contained in the EU/FYROM Cooperation Agreement which will enter into force on 1 January 1998. It is routine in nature but necessary to enable the concessions (tariff free ceilings and quotas) to be utilised. Unfortunately, the Commission were late in coming forward with this proposal. Member States did not receive it until 16 December. At a meeting of the Council Working Group shortly afterwards, the UK placed a Parliamentary scrutiny reserve. All other Member States could accept the proposal without difficulty.

  This item will now fall to the UK Presidency to take forward. In that capacity, and with no opposition from other Member States, the UK is duty bound to have the proposal adopted as soon as possible. In such circumstances, when the vote takes place (qualified majority voting applies in this case) standing instructions are that the UK would have to maintain its Parliamentary scrutiny reserve and abstain. My officials have consulted the FCO and Cabinet Office. It would not appear good at the start of our Presidency (and indeed our relations with FYROM) if we were to do this for a routine proposal which the Government fully supports. UKREP has told the Commission that we were unhappy that the proposal was submitted so late and the difficulties it caused.

  At the start of business in Brussels in the New Year, I therefore propose to instruct our representative to indicate that the UK Parliamentary scrutiny reservation will be lifted when the time comes for adoption in Council, if not before. This may or may not be before your Committee has considered the proposal. We will again make our feelings quite clear to the Commission about its handling of this proposal. I regret having to do this but I hope you will understand our motives in this instance.

22 December 1997

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Lord Clinton-Davis, Minister for Trade, Department of Trade and Industry

  Thank you for your letter of 22 December 1997. I appreciate the situation with which the Government was faced but much regret that this is yet another example of how the provisions of the Maastricht Treaty are being flouted (to say nothing of the spirit of the Amsterdam Treaty). I very much hope that the British Presidency will mark a turning point in the presentation of documents and that in future we can look forward to provision being made for the proper six weeks for scrutiny.

12 January 1998

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