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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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