Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report


Letter from David Lammy MP, Minister for Culture, Department for Culture, Media and Sport to the Chairman

  Thank you for your letter of 22 November 2005[206] in response to my Explanatory Memorandum dated 25 October. Following further discussions at working group level 1 now have additional information with which to address your questions.

  The main objectives of the Year are: to help all those living in an expanded European Union to adapt to a more open, multicultural environment, and to raise the awareness of all those living in the European Union of the importance of engaging in dialogue with people from other ethnic and faith groups and from other countries in the EU. I fully support these objectives.

  The Year has a modest budget and the Commission's intention is that the Year should complement, draw attention to and add value to Intercultural Dialogue activities within other programmes rather than focussing on projects. This will ensure that it does not duplicate the actions which other Programmes could fund. The Culture programme (formerly known as Culture 2007) and Citizens for Europe are two examples of programmes which should be strengthened by the related activities under the proposed Year of Intercultural Dialogue.

  The budget proposed for the Year is €10 million (£6,820,000), but the final budget is still to be agreed as part of the Inter-institutional agreement with the European Parliament. This will fund an awareness-raising campaign and a limited number of emblematic actions on a European scale aimed at raising awareness, particularly among young people, of the objectives of the European Year. The Commission also proposes co-financing actions on a national scale with a strong European dimension. This funding would be allocated to Member States on the basis of their relative size, but the Advisory Committee would also need to ensure that any application met the selection criteria.

  It is envisaged that promotion of the proposed Year of Intercultural Dialogue in the UK will be done through the funded actions which take place here. While it is too early to discuss specific examples of such activities, some possibilities are already being considered: English Heritage are interested in the potential links between involving citizens in the historic environment and developing active European citizenship and celebrating cultural diversity.

  We in DCMS are eager to take advantage of the fact that 2008 is both the Year of Intercultural Dialogue and the year when Liverpool will be European Capital of Culture. Officials will be having an initial meeting with the European Commission and Liverpool to discuss the possibilities for an event in Liverpool to bring together both Years.

19 February 2006

Letter from the Chairman to David Lammy MP

  Thank you for your letter dated 19 February which was considered by Sub-Committee G on 16 March.

  In principle, we continue to support the general objectives of the Year, as you do. They are potentially important and topical. But they are vaguely-defined and will require sensitive interpretation. We still find it hard to judge what effect these proposals might have in practice and to be confident that they will add worthwhile value to all the other Commission-funded cultural programmes. With the modest budget proposed, it will be essential to ensure that any projects funded from it are sound and likely to make a significant impact.

  Much will therefore depend, in our view, on the integrity and effectiveness of the proposed Advisory Committee, about which we can find no details in the documentation produced so far. We would be grateful if you could explain how this Committee will be chosen, what its terms of reference will be and what oversight Member States will have of its activities.

  We also want to be sure that the results of the Year will be rigorously evaluated by the Commission and Member States, as well as being submitted for Parliamentary scrutiny in due course.

  We will continue to retain the document under scrutiny, pending your reply on these points. But we would also be glad to be kept in touch with the Department's thinking, as it develops, on how to make the best of this opportunity in the UK.

  Although we accept that it may be too soon to say exactly what activities might be held here under the aegis of the Year, we warmly welcome your efforts in trying to link the Year with the designation of Liverpool as the European Capital of Culture. At first sight, this strikes us as a potentially important initiative to which priority should be given. We hope it will be pursued with vigour and imagination in the Department's discussions with the city authorities and the European Commission.

16 March 2006

Letter from Shaun Woodward MP, Minister for Creative Industries and Tourism, Department for Culture, Media and Sport to the Chairman

  I am writing to ask you and your Committee to consider the attached Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum on the Proposal concerning the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue (not printed).

  The initial proposal for the Year was cleared by the House of Commons European Committee in November last year, but the House of Lords Committee placed a scrutiny reserve on the proposal, which it maintains.

  I believe that the concerns which your Committee expressed in your letter of 16 March about the clarity of the objectives, the Advisory Committee and the evaluation process have been effectively answered in the revised text of the Proposal, and I would be grateful if you could urgently consider this issue before the Council meeting next week on 18 May.

12 May 2006

Letter from the Chairman to Shaun Woodward MP

  Thank you for your letter and Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum dated 12 May, the electronic version of which only reached us shortly after 6 pm on Monday 15 May.

  You asked for a decision to be taken on the scrutiny reserve before Thursday 18 May when the Council was due to decide on a General Approach. Members felt strongly that the notice given was unreasonably short and that your letter had not explained adequately why it could not have been submitted before. Your officials were therefore told that your request could not be considered until the weekly meeting of Sub-Committee G on the morning of 18 May.

  This is not the first request we have had recently for urgent consideration of what appears to be a last-minute move by the Austrian Presidency to bring outstanding items forward for decision at Council. We suggest that the Presidency might be reminded that Parliamentary scrutiny is taken very seriously in this country and that the scrutiny committees cannot be expected to short-circuit their normal procedures of methodical consideration when there is no apparent good reason for doing so.

  Following careful consideration by the meeting of Sub-Committee G on 18 May, I confirm that we are prepared to release this document from scrutiny, as requested, to enable you to support the expected proposal for an agreed General Approach at the Council meeting on 18 May. The Clerk passed a telephone message to that effect to UKREP in time for the afternoon session of the Council when we understand this was due to be discussed.

  In reaching this decision, we still felt that the overall objectives of the Proposal remained vague. We would like to remind you of what I said in my letter dated 16 March to David Lammy about the need for sensitive interpretation of the objectives and to ensure that any projects funded from the Year's budget are sound and likely to have a significant impact.

  We are glad to see that the UK will be represented on the Advisory Committee which will assist the Commission in carrying out the programme and trust you will ensure that the UK representative is fully aware of our views in this respect. We also welcome the new arrangements for continuous, as well as final, evaluation by the Commission which is a step in the direction indicated in my letter dated 16 March.

  Nevertheless, we are still not entirely clear how the management arrangements will work in practice. Since the General Approach is only a decision in principle in favour of the Proposal, we assume that these details are still to be worked out. We would be glad to know how the Government proposes to make sure that the combination of the Advisory Committee and the continuous evaluation will give Member States proper oversight of the way that the Commission is running the programme and carrying out its responsibilities for the overall coherence of the programme and complementarity with other initiatives, as set out in Article 10.

  We also agree that the proposed reallocation of the budget to give more scope for co-financing actions at both Community and national level, and rather less for general information and promotional activities, is potentially helpful. But we will want that the distribution to be carefully monitored by Member States to make sure that the balance is right.

  We are particularly pleased that the Department has made more progress in trying to capitalise on the designation of Liverpool as the European Capital of Culture in the same year as the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue, and that the Commission also seem to be keen on this idea.

  The notion of trying to link Liverpool with other leading maritime cities "on the edge" of Europe is interesting and we hope it will be pursued with vigour and imagination. But we suggest that some less ambiguous term than "on the edge" might be found which would make clear that it is intended to mean the maritime geographical extremities of Europe.

  We look forward to your report on the outcome of the Council meeting and your comments on the above. We would also be grateful if you could keep us informed of further developments.

18 May 2006

Letter from David Lammy MP to the Chairman

  Thank you for your letter of 18 May addressed to Shaun Woodward in which you confirmed that the House of Lords Select Committee had agreed to lift the scrutiny reserve on the European Commission Proposal for a European Year of Intercultural Dialogue 2008. I am sorry for the delay in replying.

  I am sorry if the Committee felt that we were trying to rush them into a decision. I would certainly not wish your members to feel pressured in any way, and I known that my officials were only concerned that the scrutiny reserve might be lifted as soon as possible so that the UK could take a full part in discussions in Council.

  I am very glad that the Committee decided to lift the reserve and very grateful for the speed of their decision. This enabling the UK to support the proposal for an agreed General Approach at the Council meeting on 18 May. I should also like to thank your Clerk for taking the trouble to pass the news by telephone to UKREP before the afternoon session of the Council on 18 May.

  I agree with your view that the objectives of the Proposal will need careful handling and that projects should be sound. With both these aims in view, I am very encouraged by the potential of the Liverpool "Cities on the Edge" programme (even if you do not care for the name).

  I am not yet sure exactly how the Advisory Committee will carry out its work and how the budget will be distributed. I will of course keep you in touch with these details as they become clearer, and continue to inform you of all important developments in the programme.

18 July 2006

206   Correspondence with Ministers, 45th Report of Session 2005-06, HL Paper 243, p 617. Back

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