CHANGES IN THE WORKING METHODS OF
56. While there is genuine urgency with regard
to some CFSP documents, there are others where this is not the
case. One category which stands out is extensions of joint actions,
common positions and council decisions where the current instrument
is about to expire. The date on which an instrument needs to be
renewed is, by definition, known well in advance. When such renewals
are submitted for scrutiny at the very last minute we are usually
informed by the Government that the reason is late submission
by the Council Secretariat. This may be due to prolonged discussions
concerning the renewal of such instruments but we wish to be involved
in the decision-making process at as early a stage as possible.
57. Where the timing of a proposed extension
is entirely predictable we urge the Government to give notice
of the impending decision as early as possible to enable Parliamentary
scrutiny to take place. We suggest that the Government in turn
encourage the Council Secretariat to forward drafts to Member
States at an early date.
58. The Council Secretariat may also be responsible
for delays in scrutiny by holding up documents forwarded by the
Commission. A recent example of this was a Commission Communication
on the 10th Anniversary of the Euro-Med Partnership.
The Commission published this document on 12 April 2005 and
sent it to the Council Secretariat on 18 April. However, it was
not until 27 October that the Council Secretariat circulated the
document thus triggering a request from the Cabinet Office for
the FCO to produce an explanatory memorandum. Committee staff
and members were able to see the published Communication, but
the Sub-Committee were unable to scrutinise it formally without
the deposit of an explanatory memorandum setting out the Government's
position. Scrutiny only took place one week prior to the Summit
which approved the five-year work programme set out in the Communication.
There was no opportunity for any correspondence with or evidence
from the Government on this important Summit.
59. In their letter to us,
the Government provide an assurance that they will monitor the
situation and ensure that the same early warning mechanism which
they have developed for legislative material is transposed for
non-legislative material. This is a helpful response. However,
the Government should explain why it is not possible for an
explanatory memorandum to be produced prior to the circulation
of a document by the Council Secretariat. Though the Cabinet
Office cannot be expected to keep track of the vast majority of
documents which they have not yet received, it should be possible
to take notice of significant new initiatives such as the Communication
on the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership which was a published document
being used to prepare for a major international summit.