Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report


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

  The next meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) is on 10 April 2005. At this meeting Foreign Ministers are expected to agree a Common Position setting out restrictive measures against certain officials of Belarus following the Presidential election on 19 March. An Explanatory Memorandum is attached (not printed).

  Unfortunately it has not been possible before now to submit this draft Common Position for scrutiny. Owing to the Easter recess, this would have required depositing the text by 23 March and the draft Common Position was not ready by then. It was also unclear at that point precisely what restrictive measures EU Member States would agree.

  We are keen to send a strong message to the Belarus Government as quickly as possible and are reluctant to hold up agreement at the Council. I will therefore have to agree to this Common Position at the GAERC before scrutiny can be completed. I hope you will understand our reasons.

7 April 2006

Letter from the Chairman to Rt Hon Douglas Alexander MP

  Thank you for your letter and Explanatory Memorandum dated 7 April 2006. The documents were considered by Sub-Committee C by written procedure during the week commencing 17 April.

  We accept the need for an override in this instance due to the need to impose further restrictive measures as soon as possible following the Belarusian elections in March.

  We also note the fact that this override occurred during the Parliamentary recess. However, the Explanatory Memorandum was sent on Friday 7 April and the GAERC took place on Monday 10 April therefore it would have been impossible for us to conduct scrutiny of this item even had Parliament being sitting. We accordingly take this opportunity to emphasise that the FCO should continue to make strenuous efforts to ensure that during Parliamentary sittings Explanatory Memoranda are deposited in sufficient time to allow for proper scrutiny.

24 April 2006

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