Select Committee on European Union Thirteenth Report

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

  Thank you for your letter of 5 June in response to mine of 24 May.

  Firstly, I would like to thank you and your Committee, and indeed Lord Wallace and the other members of Sub-Committee F, for the excellent report which you produced. Fortunately, we had two weeks to digest the report before the Social Affairs Council at which political agreement on the Race Directive was reached. In addition my officials followed closely the oral evidence sessions which comprised much of the raw material for the report. They were thus keenly aware of the issues which you thought were problematic with the draft text, and were able to act upon these during the negotiations.

  I have pleasure in attaching an Interim Response from the Government to the report which I hope will be of use in Friday's debate. The Interim Response covers the issues which you have raised which relate to the Race Directive, and related issues which cover questions of religion only in the framework (employment) Directive. A full Government Response covering all the points raised will be sent in due course, and certainly by your deadline of 25 July, but you will, I am sure, understand that our response to the framework Directive will be somewhat more complicated, particularly since it is still the subject of negotiation.

  Secondly, you raised the question with me of our understanding of the status of documents which are classified as "limite". We have checked this with the Council Secretariat who have replied that:

    "The reference LIMITE and SM apply to documents internal to the Council which are not intended for disclosure to the public but are not, however, classified information".

  The Council Secretariat stressed to officials throughout the negotiations that the documents produced between Working Group meetings should be kept in confidence since they revealed Member States' negotiating positions. Documents 9055 and 9056 have, in fact, now been superseded by document 9339, the final text as it emerged from the Council which we shall of course deposit. We shall also deposit document 9264, which is the Commission's incorporation of the Opinion of the European Parliament. Both these documents are still marked "Limite" and should not, therefore, be printed in a form which would make them available to the public. After the Directive has been formally adopted by the Council, we shall have a final document which we shall publish and make widely available as part of our consultation exercise on implementation.

  Finally, I would like to thank you and the Committees for your indulgence over the speed at which we were asked to agree to the Race Directive. The alternative to our working together on this would have been to leave the UK isolated in vetoing the Directive at Council when all our 14 partners were ready to reach political agreement.

28 June 2000

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