Select Committee on European Union Forty-Ninth Report

Letter from Bob Ainsworth MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, to the Chairman

  You asked to be informed about the current status of this initiative.

  To date there has been no progress, as neither the Danish nor the Greek Presidency has considered this proposal in Council working groups. However, the Article 36 Committee at its meeting on 19-20 February agreed to refer the initiative to the Working Group on Co-operation in Criminal Matters.

  We will of course keep you informed of any developments once negotiations have begun in this working group.

4 March 2003

Letter from the Chairman to The Rt Hon Baroness Scotland of Asthal QC, Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department

  Thank you for the Explanatory Memorandum supplied by Jim Wallace and yourself. Sub-Committee E (Law and Institutions) considered the Green Paper at its meeting on 12 February. We agree with the Government that it is necessary to consider the extent to which a European Order for Payment Procedure might add value to existing arrangements including, if adopted, the European Enforcement Order. It is clear from the Green Paper that further measures in this area might have wide and potentially serious implications for civil procedures of the Member States. We also agree that any proposals providing new mechanisms in purely domestic cases would need the most careful scrutiny to ensure that they were compatible with the principle of subsidiarity.

  We are also mindful of developments in the Convention on the Future of Europe and the upcoming InterGovernmental Conference (IGC). There are, as you are aware, some quite wide-ranging recommendations relating to the extension of qualified majority voting and at least one Working Group has called into question the future status of arrangements which give some Member States (including the United Kingdom) the right of opt-in/opt-out. Civil procedure may not be the most politically exciting topic but it is an essential element in the maintenance of the fabric of society and in upholding the judicial process. There have been reports in the media that the Government may be prepared to accept extensions of the principle of qualified majority voting in future. We would urge the Government to approach with caution any such extension in relation to measures directed to harmonisation of civil law or judicial co-operation in civil matters.

  The Committee agreed to clear the document from scrutiny and would be grateful if you would keep it informed of developments.

13 February 2003

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