Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report


Letter from the Chairman to Gerry Sutcliffe MP, Minister for Employment Relations, Consumers and Postal Services, Department of Trade and Industry

   Your Explanatory Memorandum dated 5 December 2005 was considered by Sub-Committee G on 26 January.

  We were rather surprised that, having initially opposed this Proposal, the Government has now apparently decided to go along with it. It is not entirely clear from your EM why you did so, rather than continuing to support the Swedish view that the Proposal is unlikely to have any benefits.

  It seems to us that much depends on the apparent assumption that the cross-border trade in fireworks is not only low, but expected to remain so. The other key factor, as we see it, is the extent to which the essential level of consumer protection in other Member States is adequate and unlikely to be improved significantly by harmonising standards. We would welcome your considered views on both aspects.

  Your EM gives us the impression that not enough attention has been paid so far to the possible benefits for vehicle component manufacturers. We hope that your consultations will throw more light on that aspect, as well as on the effect on SMEs.

  We do not know what is meant by the reference in your EM to "issues relating to one-off pyrotechnic articles (particularly set piece fireworks)" and would be glad if you could clarify this.

  Although we hope that you will be able to find out more about the extent of injuries caused by badly-manufactured and malfunctioning fireworks, we note that the Commission's EM indicates that firework accident information in some Member States is inadequate. More attention may need to be paid to this aspect.

  Your view that the Proposal does not raise any subsidiarity concerns struck us as rather sweeping, given the very prescriptive nature of the Directive, and we would be glad if that could also be given further consideration.

  In the circumstances, we will continue to hold the document under scrutiny. We would welcome a further report when you have considered the above observations and taken stock of your consultations.

26 January 2006

Letter from Gerry Sutcliffe MP to the Chairman

  Thank you for your letter of 26 January regarding the above.

  You raise a number of important issues for our consideration, which require further discussion and development with the Health and Safety Executive and other stakeholders.

  I will of course ensure that we provide you with a further report when we have considered your observations further.

24 February 2006

Letter from the Chairman to Gerry Sutcliffe MP

  Thank you for your letter dated 24 February which was considered by Sub-Committee G on 16 March.

  We await with interest the promised substantive response when you have completed your consultations and consideration of the issues raised in my letter dated 26 January. The document will be retained under scrutiny pending that response. We assume that it will cover the concerns which we understand that some UK trade organisations have already expressed about the possible implications of the Directive.

  Your officials report that the Austrian Presidency has still not made arrangements for Council Working Group negotiations on the Proposal, although consideration by the European Parliament Internal Market Committee is already under way. We would be grateful if you would let us know as soon as the Presidency has fixed the timetable for Council consideration.

16 March 2006

Letter from Gerry Sutcliffe MP to the Chairman

  Thank you for your letter of 16 March.

  My officials are still continuing consultations with the relevant Trade Associations and other interested parties and as promised I will let you have a substantive response when these are complete. The response will cover the concerns raised by those bodies. At present the consultation process is being slowed down by the lack of progress in the Council. To date the Austrian Presidency have still not picked up the dossier and started discussions. The Presidency has repeated that inter-departmental wrangling in Vienna has not resolved the question of "ownership".

  I will keep you informed of progress.

10 April 2006

Letter from the Chairman to Rt Hon Ian McCartney MP, Minister for Trade, Investment and Foreign Affairs, Department of Trade and Industry/Foreign and Commonwealth Office

  Gerry Sutcliffe's letter to me dated 10 April was considered by Sub-Committee G on 11 May.

  We are glad to know that the Department are continuing consultations about this Proposal with the relevant trade associations and other interested parties, although the letter does not say who those other parties are. We trust that they include representatives of consumers' interests, as well as the Health and Safety Executive. We look forward to your report on the results of those consultations.

  We note that there is still apparently no progress in starting Council Working Group discussions on this dossier. Please let us know as soon as those discussions have started and you have a clearer sense of how long they are likely to take.

  Gerry's letter has still not replied to the points raised in my letter to him dated 26 January, following our initial consideration of the Proposal. We are content to leave that for the moment so long as you ensure that when you do report on the outcome of your consultations all those points are also covered in your letter.

  In the meantime, we will continue to hold the document under scrutiny.

12 May 2006

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