Select Committee on European Union Thirty-Seventh Report


46th REPORT: ANNUAL REPORT 2006

Letter from Rt Hon Geoff Hoon MP, Minister for Europe, Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the Chairman

  I am writing with regard to the House of Lords European Union Committee Annual Report 2006.

  The Government welcomes the quality of analysis and expertise, reflected in this annual report, that the Committee contributes on European issues.

  Your report highlighted a number of procedural issues on which a Government update may be helpful. I attach a short note covering these points.

26 June 2007

Government Response

SCRUTINY OF HUMAN RIGHTS

The Committee expects shortly to receive from the Government proposals designed to provide enhanced information on the human rights implications of proposed EU legislation. This would deliver an undertaking given by the Government in response to our Review of Scrutiny. We await the Government's proposals with interest. (Paragraph 125)

  1.  We have now agreed an approach. following Baroness Ashton's letter to you of 26 March 2007 and your reply of 25 April 2007.[42] The Government has undertaken to provide an analysis of compliance with fundamental rights (as described by Article 6(2) of the TEU) in Explanatory Memoranda of EU legislative proposals submitted for scrutiny. Officials are now working on guidance for departments and will liase with the staff of the Committee before this issues. We expect to be able to start providing this information shortly. The Government agrees that it would be sensible to review how the procedure has operated in due course.

SCRUTINY DURING CO-DECISION

The Committee also expects shortly to receive from the Government proposals designed to provide enhanced information during the co-decision process on EU legislation. This too would deliver an undertaking given by the Government in response to our Review of Scrutiny. We await the Government's proposals with interest. (Paragraph 126)

  2.  Cabinet Office officials have been liasing with the Clerk of the Committee on the production of new guidance. A draft has been shared with the Clerk and is being considered before it can be presented to the Committee formally.

SCRUTINY AND OVERRIDES—SUMMARY

The Committee continues to take very seriously any breach by the Government of the Scrutiny Reserve Resolution (ie by agreeing to proposals in the Council of Ministers before our scrutiny of them is complete). We publish in each Annual Report data on the number of overrides by Department. The Government's statistics for the periods July to December 2005 and January to June 2006 appear in Table 1. This data is supplied by the Cabinet Office on behalf of the Government as a whole. The Committee will, over the year ahead, review the derivation of this data and report to the House again in the next Annual Report. (Paragraph 127)

  3.  The Scrutiny Reserve Resolution imposes an important, discipline on Ministers and the Government does not override the work of the Committee lightly. The Government will continue to work closely with the Committee, as it has done particularly in the area of CFSP/ESDP business, to ensure that business is conducted smoothly and to avoid overrides occurring. The Government will continue to take note of any changes the Committee might consider would improve the presentation of the twice-yearly information supplied on overrides. Cabinet Office officials have just recently reminded all departments of the importance of avoiding overrides with a reminder of good practice in keeping the Committee informed of developments on matters under scrutiny, or which might be coming forward for scrutiny on a fast track.

EMS WEBSITE

The Committee continues to place a high value on the exchange of correspondence with Ministers, all of which we "make publicly available. We will continue to press Government Departments to ensure that replies are timely and respond appropriately to our questions and concerns; and to ensure that a dedicated website for Explanatory Memoranda is established. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Lord Triesman, stated in the debate of 27 October 2006: "The Government are committed to producing that website, which we hope to have up and running early in 2007". We welcome this undertaking. (Paragraph 132)

  4.  Prompt replies to the Committee's questions are important, particularly in the context of ensuring that scrutiny can be completed in good time as this can be key to avoiding scrutiny overrides. The website is now ready and contains Explanatory Memoranda submitted from the beginning of 2007. FCO Ministers wrote to you about this on 6 June and a Written Ministerial Statement was deposited in Parliament on 11 June to announce it more widely. Cabinet Office officials have briefed your Clerk on these developments.



42   Correspondence with Ministers, November 2006-April 2007, Human Rights Proving EU Legislation. Back


 
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