Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report


Letter from the Chairman to Rt Hon Charles Clarke MP, Secretary of State, Home Office

  Thank you for your letter of 16 December[157] which was considered by Sub-Committee E (Law and Institutions) at its meeting of 8 February 2006.

  The Committee welcomes your assurances that the protection of fundamental freedoms, and in particular freedom of expression, will be given the utmost consideration in the implementation of the Strategy. We will examine carefully all proposals and initiatives which emanate from this Strategy in order to ensure that fundamental rights and freedoms are not eroded.

  In order to do this as effectively as possible, it is critical that we have sight of proposals and accompanying EMs at the earliest possible stage. While we accept that time constraints and divergent views within the Council can make it difficult to submit proposals well in advance of adoption, we are sure you will agree that sufficient time ought to be allowed for scrutiny by national parliaments and that the scrutiny reserve should only be overridden in exceptional circumstances. Documents which are most sensitive, and will therefore be the hardest to agree within the Council, are the very documents which this Parliament ought to have the opportunity to examine in detail. Your undertaking to ensure that any legislative proposals or financial initiatives that may emanate from the Strategy in the future will be submitted for scrutiny "as soon as is practicably possible" is helpful. However, it provides limited reassurance where it is not, in the Government's opinion, practicably possible to deposit the proposal any earlier, as appears to have been the case here.

  We urge the Government, in such cases as these, to look at ways of maximising parliamentary participation. A recent Report by this Committee, Review of Scrutiny: Common Foreign and Security Policy (19th Report, Session 2005-06, HL 100) looked at scrutiny in second pillar matters. The Committee reported the efforts made by the FCO to enable more effective scrutiny to take place. These include advising the Committee in advance of proposals which are expected to be agreed and submitting draft (ie unsigned) EMs at the same time as the proposal. In relation to restricted documents, an unclassified summary is provided to assist the Committee. We invite the Home Office to adopt this practice. We would also encourage the submission of earlier drafts of proposals and delaying the adoption of proposals which are not time-critical.

  The Committee decided to clear this document from scrutiny.

9 February 2006

157   Correspondence with Ministers, 45th Report of Session 2005-06, HL Paper 243, pp 418-419. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2007