Select Committee on European Union Nineteenth Report

CHAPTER 5: Conclusions

133.  We welcome the increased commitment to the scrutiny process shown by the FCO over the previous two years and hope that the culture of scrutiny which has been created will continue in future and be fully adopted by the MoD. (para 27)

134.  We urge both the FCO and MOD to continue to have a dedicated person who exercises oversight of the scrutiny process of all proposals going to Council, and acts as a single point of contact for Committee staff. (para 31).

135.  We urge the MoD to develop more specific scrutiny guidelines to those working on EU proposals. (para 32)

136.  In view of the short time often available to engage in an exchange of views and the wide-ranging subject matters of many proposals, we expect Government officials to readily continue to be available to assist the Sub-Committee members in the scrutiny process. (para 37)

137.  We reiterate the importance of receiving a signed explanatory memorandum for the final version to be considered by the Sub-Committee. In order to be considered in the Chairman's sift, signed memoranda must be deposited by midday each Thursday during Parliamentary sittings. (para 43)

138.  The "effective engagement" (Q 2) between our staff and officials within both the FCO and MoD has been an important development which has enabled the fast and effective handling of scrutiny. We fully welcome the advance provision of explanatory memoranda and briefings on forthcoming documents. (para 44)

139.  For it to be practicable to organise extra meetings which a majority of Members are able to attend, the Government must give as much notice as possible, either informally or in writing, of documents which will require scrutiny. (para 46)

140.  We will only examine documents at very short notice where there is a real urgency (that is, a real need for a document to be deposited just days prior to its probable agreement by Council). In these cases we expect the Government to explain fully the urgency of the situation and to provide as detailed an explanatory memorandum as soon as possible, particularly with regard to the Government position, in order to enable effective scrutiny. (para 49)

141.  Although documents may be informally considered prior to the weekly sift, it is essential that the Government ensure that documents are deposited in sufficient time to allow the Chairman to consider whether they should be sifted for examination to the Sub-Committee. (para 50)

142.  We urge the Government, when a dissolution is imminent, to deposit as many documents as possible prior to dissolution in order that scrutiny may take place before the Committee ceases to exist. (para 55)

143.  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. (para 57)

144.  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. (para 59)

145.  We underline the great importance of the Government keeping us informed of potential ESDP missions at an early stage, including in those cases in which the Council chooses not to act. Given the speed at which eventual joint actions on ESDP missions are adopted, early warning is crucial for scrutiny. We urge the Government to make these letters as detailed as possible. It is at this stage, when the Council is yet to make a final decision, that we can most usefully make a contribution. (para 73)

146.  The Government alert the Committee to potential new initiatives and reviews of existing legislation and policies at as early a stage in the process as possible. Where draft proposals cannot be provided due to the restricted nature of the documents, the Government should outline the main proposals along with a statement of the Government's position. (para 80)

147.  Where advance notification of proposals or draft instruments cannot be given the Government should provide a full indication of the reasons for this in either its explanatory memorandum on the deposited document or by letter. This should include, where necessary, an explanation of the main points of disagreement on a particular proposal. (para 82)

148.  It is necessary for our scrutiny of Commission documents for the Government to give a broad view and explain their position on the overall issue and, where it is a Member State competence, what course it seeks the Council to follow. (para 97)

149.  In order for the Committee to properly scrutinise the Government's handling of CFSP it is necessary for the Government to start systematically depositing a number of non-legislative Council documents. (para 105)

150.  We acknowledge that the Government is already depositing a number of useful non-legislative documents. However, we believe that the Council takes politically significant decisions on non-legislative proposals that are not currently subject to scrutiny by Parliament. We therefore welcome Mr Douglas Alexander's acknowledgment that there is "further scope for a greater degree of transparency" in the Government's handling of the scrutiny of CFSP. (Q 12) (para 106)

151.  We conclude that the failure of the MoD to inform the Committee of the Battlegroups initiative was a serious mistake. We urge the Government to provide an assurance that major initiatives such as this will in future be deposited for scrutiny. (para 107)

152.  It is the responsibility of each Government department to ascertain what proposals for possible new reviews, strategies or other initiatives falling under Pillar II of the Treaties should be deposited. We expect the Government to act in a transparent manner in the exercise of that discretion. (para 110)

153.  Items which the Council notes, discusses, underlines, welcomes or stresses (and other similar terms which do not denote agreement to follow a specific course of action) we would not expect the Government to deposit for scrutiny. Items which the Council agrees, endorses, or approves we expect the Government to deposit for scrutiny. (para 114)

154.  In addition, we expect the Government to deposit for scrutiny any new initiative which is likely to appear in the next ESDP Presidency Report.
(para 115)

155.  We do not propose any change to the Scrutiny Reserve Resolution. It will continue to be the case that there will be no possibility of an override on a non-legislative document. (para 117)

156.  We do, however, recommend that the scrutiny process be the same for non-legislative as for legislative documents. The Government should make every effort to deposit a non-legislative document as much in advance of the Council meeting at which it is to be considered as possible. We also maintain that non-legislative documents should be accompanied by comprehensive explanatory memoranda rather than by covering letter. (para 118)

157.  We do not believe that it would be practical either for the Sub-Committee or for the Government for there to be prior scrutiny of all items for discussion on the Council agenda. It is important nevertheless that we are able to request from the Government, usually by correspondence, further information on items which appear to be of a substantial nature, but relating to which there have been no formal documents submitted for scrutiny.
(para 123)

158.  We seek an assurance from the Government that the Minister for Europe will continue to provide oral evidence on current developments in European foreign policy twice a year. (para 126)

159.  The MoD should provide separate written ministerial statements on defence matters prior to and following each defence GAERC in May and November. (para 130)

160.  The MoD should provide a Minister to give oral evidence to the Sub-Committee following each defence GAERC in May and November.
(para 132)

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