Select Committee on European Union Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 320 - 324)



  320. Do you think we should be and, if so, who should be the driving force behind moving in that direction?
  (Mr Bruce) I believe in the market deciding. We now have the Dome to fill up next year. This is our opportunity for one of your Lordships who knows a great deal about this, who was pushed out of his job recently, to make it work.

  321. Finally, I did mention right at the beginning that I found your appendix G particularly interesting, which was focused on Europe and the mechanisms there of practices and principles for European policy formulation. We are having a look at that. We have been hearing from some witnesses that they do not believe that, even though Europe perhaps in the past had a good record of being prepared to listen, there is the right intelligence being fed into this area of e-commerce and, as a consequence some of the issues which are emerging are poorly researched, are wide of the mark and not up to date. You have endeavoured pretty comprehensively in your paper to cover a fair number of these problems. What have you done with the paper? What has been the response?
  (Mr Virgo) The paper was drafted with quite a lot of cooperation from officials in both Whitehall and Brussels who actually wanted to see changes. They helped pull this thing together. The draft is from industry. We have not yet endeavoured to drive on making things happen on this, partly because of the European elections and subsequent events. One of the actions on me which I have not followed up yet is to try and do a follow-up discussion session with Commissioner Kinnock, because we think it probably sits in his area. He was very helpful in the past on other EURIM activities. Within the United Kingdom, one of the concerns of the officials in the Cabinet Office was that even if they restructured the consultation processes how would they get publicity for them in the press, because publicity is needed to get responses to consultation exercises. One of the things that is missing from this brief is that we had not at that point realised the problem of consultation overload and the need to have the market research dimension before you have the consultation, to get the consultation correctly structured. We have not yet done our follow through on this but it is on the EURIM action programme and I know that one of my vice-chairmen will be asking me in about a month's time for the plans for follow through on this.

  322. We are going across to Brussels probably in early May. If you have done any further drafting by then and you think there is anything that we can usefully take forward for you, we would be very pleased indeed to do that. You have a very significant number of people lobbying in Europe. I think it would be helpful if we could talk to you about suitable people to meet informally, not necessarily formally, to have a chat with them about the difficulties that they encounter on the spot in Brussels. That perhaps might lead us to some views that we could bring to the recommendations in due course. Finally, if there is anything you would like us to particularly hear before you leave, please feel free to say it now.
  (Mr Bruce) This is a slightly unusual situation in that I am going to do a recruitment speech now. EURIM exists to help the Committee and myself as individual parliamentarians to work with those who are in the know in terms of industry, academia etc. I would very warmly ask you if anybody wants to take issues further—and we do break these things down to individual issues—they might like to join EURIM. The great thing from the salesman's point of view is that, because you are all parliamentarians, it costs you nothing and it is extremely useful for us to have the all party groupings. I hope Your Lordships will also know that PITCOM is a Commons and Lords Committee. That is extremely useful from that point of view. The more that we have an input from both Houses the better. EURIM has been driven both by Lord Renwick and, sadly, Lord Chelmsford who died recently. Therefore, all the fresh blood that I see around me is extremely attractive to the vampire that I have become.

  323. It is very kind of you to extend that invitation to us. How far we qualify to be in the "in the know" category I am not sure. I should declare a personal interest. I do some work with Andersen Consulting too.
  (Mr Virgo) I did bring a set of notes to help answer the questions. Would it be helpful if I handed them in?

  324. I do not think we have stuck precisely to the questions.
  (Mr Bruce) But the answers are all there.

  Chairman: Thank you very much, gentlemen, for your time. It has been very helpful.

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