Select Committee on European Union Thirty-Second Report


For the benefit of Peers who intend to speak during the Report Stage of the EU Treaty (Amendment) Bill (2nd Day), I am writing to place the attached statement on JHA Opt-Ins in the Library of the House of Lords.

Statement on JHA Opt-ins

The Government believes that it is important for the EU Scrutiny Committees, and Parliament as a whole to have a clear idea of the Government's approach to JHA; individual JHA measures should be seen in this context. The Government is keen to ensure that the views of the Scrutiny Committees, benefiting from expertise in the area and having a strategic overview of the UK policy on the EU and our engagement on Justice and Home Affairs business, inform the Governments decision making process. As such, the Government therefore commits:

  • ·  To table a report in Parliament each year and make it available for debate, both looking ahead to the Government's approach to EU Justice and Home Affairs policy and forthcoming dossiers, including in relation to the opt-in and providing a retrospective annual report on the UK's application of the opt-in Protocol;
  • ·  To place an Explanatory Memorandum (EM) before Parliament as swiftly as possible following publication of the proposal and no later than ten working days after publication of the proposal. That EM would set out the main features of the proposal, as now, and, in particular, to the extent possible, an indication of the Government's views as to whether or not it would opt-in. Where the Government is in a position to provide them at that stage, the EM will also cover the factors affecting the decision. The European Scrutiny Committees of the two Houses will then be able to fully review the proposal and, where it has been possible to give a view, the Government's approach to the opt-in;
  • ·  Provided that any such views are forthcoming within 8 weeks of publication, to take into account any opinions of the Committees with regard to whether or not the UK should opt-in;
  • ·  The Committees, as with all proposals, can call a Minister to give evidence and can make a report to the House, if they wish with a recommendation for debate, on a motion that would be amendable (other debates in the Lords to take note of Committee reports are not usually amended).
  • ·  For the Commons, such a debate would usually be in Committee. In the Lords, where a Committee determines that a decision on whether or not to opt-in to a measure should be debated, the Government will undertake to seek to arrange a debate through the usual channels.
  • ·  As a general rule, except where an earlier opt-in decision is necessary, not to override the scrutiny process, by making any formal notification to the Council of a decision to opt-in within the first 8 weeks following publication of a proposal[5]. Where the Government considers an early opt-in to be essential, it will explain its reasons to the Committee as soon as is possible. The Government will continue to keep the Committees fully informed as negotiations develop;
  • ·  To ensure that a Minister is regularly available to appear before the Scrutiny Committees in advance of every Justice and Home Affairs Council.

This package of measures will be reflected in a Code of Practice, to be agreed with the Scrutiny Committees, setting out the Government's commitment to effective scrutiny. The Government believes that the Scrutiny Reserve Resolution should also be amended, or a new resolution brought forward, to incorporate these commitments.

This will be reviewed three years after the entry into force of the Treaty to ensure that the enhanced scrutiny measures are working effectively.

We believe that this package, in addition to the strengthened role for national parliaments in the Treaty, strikes the right balance between ensuring that the Government can exercise the opt-in effectively within the Treaty deadline, whilst ensuring that Parliaments views are fully considered.

5   An example of where an early opt-in may be necessary is on the opt-in to the final text of a readmission agreement. These are often concluded very close to meetings with the third states concerned, to be signed at the meeting. In order to allow signature at the meeting, the Government undertakes to EU partners to complete the domestic opt-in process quickly. Back

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