Select Committee on European Communities Seventeenth Report


Letter from Kim Howells MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Competition and Consumer Affairs, Department of Trade and Industry, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  I am writing to inform you that at the next available EU Council meeting I intend to remove the Parliamentary Scrutiny reserve on the above proposal.

  This proposal will roll-over for another six months (from 1 July to 31 December 1999), the EC's unilaterally imposed quota restrictions on imports of certain steel products originating in Kazakhstan. The import restrictions under this proposal are an important lever intended to bring Kazakhstan to the negotiating table.

  The European Commission have, for some time, been attempting to negotiate a bilateral agreement with Kazakhstan. Under the proposed agreement, there would be restrictions limiting imports of certain steel products, until Kazakhstan introduces a free market (rather than a state-controlled market) in steel products. On the introduction of a free market in Kazakhstan, the agreement will remove all EC steel quota restrictions on imports from Kazakhstan. A negotiated agreement will eventually increase bilateral access for steel products to the EC and Kazakhstan markets.

  Member States were only notified of this proposal by the EC Commission on 3 June 1999 (at a meeting of the Article 133 Steel Committee meeting in Brussels). Despite the UK notifying the Commission of its Parliamentary scrutiny obligations, the EC Commission intend to put the proposal to COREPER in the week beginning 7 June and then to the first available Council meeting after that date. My Department submitted an un-numbered short Explanatory Memorandum on this proposal on 4 June 1999 (copy enclosed).

  I am well aware of the requirement to provide your Committee with an adequate opportunity to scrutinise measures before adoption in Council. However, since the agreement is non-contentious and very much in the interest of the UK, I would not wish to delay its adoption. I hope you appreciate, therefore, why I intend to lift the UK Parliamentary Scrutiny reserve on this proposal when it comes to Council for adoption in the very near future.

7 June 1999

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Kim Howells MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Competition and Consumer Affairs, Department of Trade and Industry

  Thank you for your letter of 7 June, telling us that you intended to remove the Parliamentary scrutiny reserve on the above proposal when it came up for adoption at Council. I am glad to tell you that the proposal was cleared through scrutiny, as far as this House is concerned, on 8 June.

17 June 1999

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