Select Committee on European Communities Report


Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Lord Donoughue, Minister for Farming and the Food Industry, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

  Thank you for your explanatory memorandum dated 18 February 1998 covering the above Document. I notice that the text of this Document became available on 5 December 1997 and I am therefore puzzled as to why it has only just been deposited to the Committee for scrutiny. I would be most grateful if you could provide the Committee with an explanation of the delay.

25 February 1998

Letter from Lord Donoughue, Minister for Farming and the Food Industry, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  In your letter of 25 February you asked for an explanation for the delay in the deposit of Document 13182/97 for scrutiny.

  I can assure you there was no delay in the deposit of this document within the UK. You will note from the English text of 13182/97 that the 5 December date carries a suffix (27.01), which refers to the issue date of the English translation. The document was received by the Cabinet Office on 2 February and deposited in Parliament on 3 February and an explanatory memorandum submitted on 18 February.

  As regards the delay between the French text emerging on 5 December and its circulation in English, it would appear that the proposal suffered, along with other proposals, from the end-year pressures on the Council Secretariat translation services. Preparation for the December Fisheries Council followed by the Christmas holiday period left the translation services with a backlog.

  My officials here and others in Cabinet Office do carefully monitor documentary delays and I stand ready to make representations to the Commission and the Council Secretariat should that prove necessary. However I am advised that matters have improved over the past year and are likely to improve further with the introduction of electronic transmission. I know that you raised the general issue of documentary delays with Douglas Henderson recently and I understand that Douglas undertook to explore the possibility of introducing the minimum six week scrutiny period before the Amsterdam Treaty is ratified. This would obviously improve the opportunities for the Committee to scrutinise measures effectively. I am not therefore inclined to intervene at this stage but will keep the situation under review.

11 March 1998

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