Select Committee on European Union Thirteenth Report

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee to Mike O'Brien MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Home Office

  Thank you for your letter of 24 May, informing me of the developments in relation to the above proposal, in particular of the fact that the Presidency intend to seek political agreement on the proposal of 6 June.

  This Directive and the accompanying Framework Directive on equal treatment in employment and occupation are the first major proposals following on from the inclusion of Article 13 in the EC Treaty. They are of great importance both for the UK and for the rest of the European Union, and it is proper that they should be subjected to searching parliamentary scrutiny. I accept that the accompanying Action Programme is of less significance, and therefore the Committee has agreed, exceptionally, to lift the scrutiny reserve on that proposal.

  Sub-Committee F has conducted a detailed inquiry into these proposals, and on 24 May the EU Committee published a substantial Report, containing numerous recommendations which touch both on the general principles at stake and on many points of detail in the Directives. The Report has been recommended for debate, and this recommendation cannot be withdrawn without the formal consent of the Committee. Given the importance of the proposals I believe it is extremely unlikely that such consent would be forthcoming.

  While I am grateful for your letter, there are many questions raised in the Report which the letter does not satisfactorily answer. We look forward to receiving a full Government response to the Committee's Report. I remind you that the Report is likely to be debated in the House in late June.

  I understand that the Race Equality Unit has now sent a copy of the final draft of the Race Directive (9055/00), as it emerged from COREPER on 31 May, to the Clerk of Sub-Committee F. The covering letter describes this text as confidential. However, the document itself is only stamped with the classification "Limite". Numerous documents in the field of Justice and Home Affairs bear this classification before their adoption, and this has not prevented them from being subjected to parliamentary scrutiny. Recent examples include the Draft Council Regulation establishing "Eurodac" (Doc 7079/00 Eurodac 1) and the Draft Convention on mutual assistance in criminal matters (Doc 7846/00 COPEN 32). I would therefore welcome clarification as to your understanding of the status of Document 9055/00. As it appears to differ significantly from the original version of the proposed Directive I would expect it to be deposited in both Houses along with a new explanatory memorandum. I also note that there is a separagraphte report on outstanding issues (Doc 9056/00), which should also be deposited.

5 June 2000

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