Select Committee on European Communities Seventeenth Report


Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Kate Hoey MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office

  Sub-Committee F considered this document at its meeting yesterday. In discussion, it was suggested that the version which the Sub-Committee looked at (dated 10 November 1998) had been superseded. I would be grateful if you could confirm whether or not this is the case, and if you could submit an up-to-date text of the Action Plan.

  For the moment, the Sub-Committee is maintaining the scrutiny reserve on this document.

17 December 1998

Letter from Kate Hoey MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  Thank you for your letter of 17 December requesting an up-to-date text of the Action Plan. I enclose the final version of the Plan (document number 13844/98 JAI 41).

  I note from your letter that the Sub-Committee is maintaining a scrutiny reserve on this Action Plan. However, as foreseen in my letter of 17 November, the text I enclose (JAI 41) was endorsed by the Vienna European Council on 11-12 December 1998.

  You will recall that in my covering letter I said that we were sending you the Action Plan "for information". I used this form of words advisedly, having regard to the fact that the plan is not a legislative instrument, and therefore not properly subject to the Scrutiny Reserve Resolution which now applies to all such EU legislation. My letter nevertheless recognised that the document is one of considerable political significance, and it was for that reason that I also invited your Committee to make any comments.

  We now know that in your sift on 21 November you decided that the draft Action Plan should not be cleared from scrutiny and should be referred to Sub-Committees E and F. Unfortunately, this was not picked up at the time by officials here who, bearing in mind that the Action Plan had been submitted only for information, did not consider it necessary to seek advice from your Committee as to whether the draft had cleared scrutiny, either before the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 3-4 December or the Vienna European Council on 11-12 December 1998. Had we been aware of the outcome of your sift on 21 November, we would have contacted your Committee to discuss the situation.

  I am, of course, sorry for any misunderstanding which may have occurred in this case. Officials here have already been in touch with your staff to see what can be done to avoid future problems over scrutiny of documents, such as this one, which do not constitute draft EU legislation but are nevertheless politically important. I will write to you soon with our further thoughts on this subject. I would, of course, still be very interested in any views the Committee might have on the Action Plan.

23 January 1999

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