Select Committee on European Scrutiny Sixth Report


QUALITY AND SAFETY OF BLOOD


(22122)

5773/01

COM(00) 816


Draft Council Directive setting standards of quality and safety for the collection, testing, processing, storage and distribution of human blood and blood components, and amending Council Directive 89/381/EEC.
Legal base: Article 152(4)(a) EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting
Department: Health
Basis of consideration: Minister's letter of 12 November 2001
Previous Committee Report: HC 28-viii (2000-01), paragraph 11 (14 March 2001) and HC 152-iv (2001-02), paragraph 5 (7 November 2001)
To be discussed in Council: 15 November 2001
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared, but request to be kept informed

Background

  6.1  Although the Community has enacted a number of legislative measures applicable to blood and medicinal products derived from it, the Commission says that these do not address comprehensively the quality, safety and efficacy requirements needed to cover the different destinations of blood[17] or plasma,[18] and that action needed to be taken to meet these requirements. It therefore set out in the current document the ways in which it sees these aims being achieved, including in particular the setting of binding standards for the safety and quality of blood and blood components, and provisions covering the information to be provided to, and obtained from, donors; the criteria for screening and deferring donors; testing requirements for whole blood and plasma donations; storage and freezing requirements; labelling requirements; and quality requirements.

  6.2  The remainder of the proposal, and the Government's reactions to it, were described at greater length in our predecessors' Report of 14 March 2001. This noted that there were good reasons in principle for setting Community standards in this area, and that the main point at issue was whether the proposal did so in a sensible and proportionate way. Our predecessors also noted the Government's reservations that the proposal was likely to give rise to, as yet unquantifiable, costs, and, since it was consulting a range of interests, they decided to defer any decision until the results of the consultation were known, and the Government had provided some kind of Regulatory Impact Assessment.

  6.3  In her Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 24 October 2001, the present Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Health (Ms Hazel Blears) drew our attention to various of the amendments proposed by the European Parliament at its first reading of the proposal on 2 October 2001. She made it clear that some of these, if adopted, would have important implications for the proposal, notably the requirements that all donations of blood (including imports) would have to be voluntary and unpaid; that priority should be given to blood from other Member States of the Community; that all the detailed annexes to the proposal would be deleted; and that a competent person within the terms of the proposal would need to hold a medical qualification, preferably with a specialisation in haematology or a related medical specialisation, and any medical examination prior to donation would have to be carried out by a doctor rather than a nurse.

  6.4  The Minister also attached to her Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum a Regulatory Impact Assessment. This pointed out that the UK currently has one of the safest systems in the world, and that consequently the principal benefit from the proposal would stem from guaranteeing minimum standards across the Community. The Assessment also said that the main costs would arise from the inspection requirements, which would increase two-fold for the Medicines Control Agency (MCA), and — assuming the proposal applied also to hospital blood banks — four-fold for Clinical Accreditation Pathology UK (CPA), which inspects and accredits such banks under a voluntary scheme.

  6.5  It also appeared that, although the Commission had yet to take a formal view on the European Parliament's amendments, and had thus not so far issued any amended proposal of its own, attempts would be made to reach a Common Position at the Health Council on 15 November 2001.

  6.6  In our Report of 7 November 2001, we noted that this proposal seemed likely to provide another example of the Council proceeding to a Common Position on the basis of amendments proposed by the European Parliament, but before these had been the subject of any amending proposal from the Commission. We therefore said that, in view of this, and of the fast-moving nature of the proposal, we did not yet feel able to clear it. In particular, we asked for further clarification (i) on the likelihood of the United Kingdom being able to ensure that supplies from third countries would not be jeopardised by any insistence on their being from unpaid donors; (ii) on whether the proposal would apply to hospital blood banks; and (iii) on the extent to which the conditions regarding the medical qualifications needed would be amended to meet the concerns which the Minister had expressed. We added that it would also be helpful if she could say a little more about the proposal to delete all the detailed annexes in the original proposal. Whilst we could see that the latter might well have been over-prescriptive, total deletion appeared to risk going to the opposite extreme, and leaving the measure couched in terms too general to be effective. We therefore invited the Minister to comment on this possibility.

Minister's letter of 12 November 2001

  6.7  In his letter of 12 November 2001, the Minister of State for Health at the Department of Health (Mr John Hutton) deals with each of these points in turn.

  6.8  On voluntary unpaid donations, he says that, although the UK supports in principle the strong view among several Member States that blood products should only come from unpaid donors, this is impractical at present, given the theoretical risk of vCJD, and the need for the UK to import raw plasma for pooled blood products from the USA (where the only available supply in the quantities needed comes from paid donors). He adds that the UK' s key concerns are to ensure that the text provides sufficient flexibility to enable it to continue sourcing plasma from the USA, and that the measure is not drafted in such a way as to extend Community competence by regulating the way that blood supplies are sourced, Discussions on possible compromise texts are still continuing.

  6.9  As regards the other three points, the Minister says that the most important factor so far as hospital blood banks are concerned is an exclusion regarding inspections and licensing, and that he hopes this will be adopted in the final text. Likewise, he believes that the negotiations have been successful in loosening the definition regarding medical qualifications in order to meet the UK's interests. On the proposed technical annexes, he says that, although the Government did not support those in the initial proposal, it also had reservations regarding the European Parliament's proposed amendment, as this would in effect leave the entire drafting of the technical requirements to the Commission and an expert working group nominated by Member States, which would amount to giving them a carte blanche. He says that the UK would support a solution — which he hopes will be in the final text — which respects the aim of the Directive, but checks the powers of the Commission, by preventing it from extending these without formal request. More generally, he is confident that negotiations in the Health Council on 15 November will be concluded in the best way to preserve UK interests, and he says that he will ensure that UK interventions in the Council will be in line with these principles.

Conclusion

  6.10  We are grateful to the Minister for this further information, and, although the position still appears to be uncertain as regards the main concern over supplies from paid donors, we recognise that, at this stage in the negotiations, particular issues such as this are often resolved only at the last moment. We also recognise that, overall, the UK is in favour of this proposal, in view of the benefits it will bring, not least for those UK citizens who may need to have access to blood when in another Member State. For these reasons, we are clearing the document, but, if a decision is taken at the Council on 15 November, we would be glad if the Minister could write to us again afterwards to inform us of the outcome.





"PERICLES" PROGRAMME FOR THE PROTECTION OF THE EURO AGAINST COUNTERFEITING

(22469)

9690/01

COM(00) 248


(i) Draft Council Decision establishing a training, exchange and assistance programme for the protection of the euro against counterfeiting ("Pericles" programme); and

(ii) Draft Council Decision extending the effects of the Decision establishing a training, exchange and assistance programme for the protection of the euro against counterfeiting ("Pericles" programme) to the Member States which have not adopted the euro as the single currency.

Legal base: (i) Article 123(4) EC; unanimity of Member States that have adopted the euro

(ii) Article 308 EC; consultation; unanimity

Document originated: 22 May 2001
Forwarded to the Council: 22 May 2001
Deposited in Parliament: 20 June 2001
Department: HM Treasury and Home Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 7 November 2001
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: No date known
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared, but further information requested

Background

  7.1  This is one of a number of documents concerned with protecting the euro from counterfeiting.[19]

The document

  7.2  The document comprises two draft parallel Decisions setting up a Community action programme to cover all Member States. The first, based on Article 123(4) EC, sets out the necessary provisions and is applicable to all Member States that have adopted the euro as the single currency; the second, based on Article 308, simply extends the provisions in the first to those Member States which have not adopted the euro as their currency.

  7.3  The proposed programme will run from 1 January 2002 until 31 December 2005. It is named "Pericles", as the document tells us, after the "Athenian statesman associated with the 'golden age'. It was during this age that certain security features were added to coins."

  7.4  The programme covers training, exchange of information and technical, scientific and operational backup. It is intended to ensure equivalent levels of protection in all Member States, developing a shared understanding of best practice while taking account of States' traditional arrangements.

  7.5  The programme is intended for staff of organisations involved in the detection, handling, reporting and resolution of counterfeiting issues, in particular:

  • staff of agencies involved in detecting and combating counterfeiting (NCIS in the UK);

  •  intelligence personnel;

  • representatives of national central banks, mints, commercial banks (and, in the UK, the Financial Services Authority); and

  • other relevant specialists and groups in this field (such as lawyers and, in the UK, the Forensic Science Service);

  7.6  The training will be delivered by organisations with relevant expertise, both at international and national level. The document highlights the contributions to be made by the European Central Bank and Europol.

  7.7  The costs associated with the programme will be shared between the Community and the Member States. The Community will cover publication and translation costs, staff placements and exchanges, and overseas travel and accommodation expenses; Member States will fund the training of their staff and some of the costs associated with events organised on their territory with Community funding.

  7.8  Relevant organisations, including the Commission, will be able to propose workshops, seminars and meetings. The Commission will have the final say on which bids will be approved, based on the capacity of the organisers, the intrinsic quality of the project, the cost and the likely impact. Proposals will need to meet the programme objectives, have a European dimension, and fit well with others. Only the best will be selected.

  7.9  The Commission will submit an independent evaluation report on the "Pericles" programme to the European Parliament and the Council by 30 June 2005, and a detailed report on implementation and results by 30 June 2006.

The Government's view

  7.10  In the Explanatory Memorandum jointly submitted by the Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Ruth Kelly) and the Parliamentary Under- Secretary of State at the Home Office (Mr Bob Ainsworth ) the Ministers tell us:

"Counterfeiting of any currency is a serious criminal offence in the United Kingdom and the Government is committed to the principle of protection of the euro against counterfeiting...

"The Government is also committed to take action to support and supplement anti-counterfeiting measures with appropriate staff training and sharing of information. It is important that the United Kingdom should contribute to efforts to develop and share best practice among Member States. No legislation is required.

"The Decisions would require the active participation of the relevant competent authorities in the UK, in particular the National Criminal Intelligence Service, the Bank of England, the Royal Mint and the Forensic Science Service. The Treasury and the Home Office would share responsibility for oversight."

  7.11  The Ministers say that there will be some costs to the UK, but these are not expected to be significant and should be met within existing budgets.

  7.12  Finally they report: "The Pericles programme is due to be discussed at the plenary session of the European Parliament on 12-15 November. The Presidency aims to finalise the proposal as soon as possible after that."

Conclusion

  7.13  We are at a loss to understand how it can have taken the two Ministers over four months to produce an Explanatory Memorandum on this uncontroversial proposal. We ask the Ministers for an explanation of the delay.

  7.14  It is also not clear to us what is meant by "finalising" the proposal. We remind the Ministers that the parliamentary scrutiny reserve remained on this document until our consideration of it today. We ask the Ministers for a likely timetable for agreement of the measure.

  7.15  Meanwhile, we clear the document.

INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION POLICY OF THE EU

(22538)

10511/01

COM(01) 354


Commission Communication on a new framework for co-operation on activities concerning the Information and Communication Policy of the European Union.
Legal base:
Document originated: 27 June 2001
Forwarded to the Council: 29 June 2001
Deposited in Parliament: 18 July 2001
Department: Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 24 October 2001
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: No date set
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared

The Commission Communication

  8.1  The purpose of the Communication is to propose how a new framework might be set up for the Institutions of the EU to co-operate more closely on information and communication work. The Commission says that the aim will be to establish a new inter-institutional relationship for joint implementation of information policies under administrative arrangements which are "easy to handle, decentralised and [which] involve as little bureaucracy as possible".

  8.2  The Commission acknowledges that the European Parliament (EP) has asked it on several occasions in the past to set up a joint strategy for information and communication work. This Communication was eventually called for by the Helsinki European Council in December 1999 which invited the Commission to "study the general question of the Union's information policy, including improving co-ordination with its information offices in the Member States and links with national information offices".

  8.3  The Commission says that this is a big job. It requires considerable input from all the Institutions and the Member States. Given what is at stake, it calls for a debate, particularly on content, based on the framework it proposes. It says:

"The Institutions face many difficulties in reaching out toward the citizen and cannot reasonably be expected to be able to launch and uphold a debate on their own. Ways must be found to overcome barriers to communication whether of a linguistic, cultural, political or institutional kind and taking full account of the differences between Member States: a European Public does not exist today for most purposes.

"We therefore have to adapt the message to convey according to the specificities of the public addressed".

Co-operation between the European Commission and the European Parliament

  8.4  The framework for this co-operation is envisaged as taking place at three different levels:

  • the political level, in the form of the Inter-institutional Group on Information (IGI), which will define the general guidelines and priorities, whilst fully respecting the sectoral competence of the Parliamentary Committees;

  • the operational level, where the relevant services of the Commission and the EP will decide on what action should be taken; and

  • the decentralised level, "at which execution takes place in the Member States (Representations and External Offices)."

  8.5  The Communication spells out at greater length how co-operation at these different levels might be strengthened, for instance in Member States by more systematic contact between the Heads of the Commission Representations and those of the EP's External Offices.

Co-operation between the Council, the other Institutions, the Member States and the National Parliaments

  8.6  The Council has a different information and communication policy to those of the EP and the Commission. Although it has limited budgetary resources for the purpose and shares some facilities with the other Institutions, it does conduct its own relations with the press and media. It participates in the EUROPA web-site and in Europe by Satellite and sits on the editorial and managerial committees, but does not take part otherwise in the formulation of information and communication policies. It does not take part in the IGI.

  8.7  The Communication suggests that future developments could include the Council co-ordinating with the Commission and the EP information and communication on second and third pillar issues. It will invite the Council to consider how it should handle issues such as the rapid reaction force and EU participation in international peace-keeping operations, and how it envisages participating in the IGI.

  8.8  In the section on co-operation with Member States and National Parliaments, the Communication suggests that the Commission should enhance co-operation with national, regional and local administrations, in partnership with the Member States. Such arrangements already exist in Paris and Lisbon and will soon be in place in Rome. Permanent information centres have been, or are to be, established in those cities. Alternatively, joint activities could be undertaken on specific policy priorities like the euro or enlargement. The advantages include "the possibility of reaching groups of the population which no European Institution may reach alone". The Member States have reacted differently to "the advances of the Commission regarding conventions. Some have embraced the proposals with enthusiasm". Only two Member States have not yet agreed. The Communication makes no direct reference to national parliaments.

Commission information and Communication Services

  8.9  The Commission says that the Representations will continue to play a crucial role in helping to implement major information activities decided upon by the Commission within the framework of PRINCE.[20] Under the heading Externalisation possibilities, the Commission says that its information might reach the citizen more easily if it were to make increased use of external services.

Annex

  8.10  In the annex the Commission sets out in more detail information on activities at present being undertaken, such as PRINCE, Europe Direct, Eurojus, Signpost Service, networks and relays, including the European Movement, training for journalists, the Central Library and visits.

  8.11  The Commission's Visits Services devotes most of its human and financial resources to organising visits by "senior groups" of information multipliers and opinion-formers from Member States. The Communication recognises that the EU's information efforts need to be targetted at the public as well as at the traditional targets of the media and politicians. More use could be made of tools such as Eurobarometer and public hearings if further resources were available.

The Government's view

  8.12  The Minister for Europe at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr Peter Hain) says that the Government supports the aim of the Communication "to improve the supply of meaningful information about the EU to the citizens of the Union" and the particular objectives set out in it. He notes that the Commission intends to analyse the responses it receives to the Communication and to present its conclusions by the end of the year.

Conclusion

  8.13  The Minister has little to say about this effort from the Commission, with its snappy phrases such as the need to "provide information at decentralised grassroots level", "execution in the Member States Representations" and "externalisation possibilities". The Commission describes the task of devising this strategy as a big job, which is no doubt why it has taken since December 1999 to complete. We welcome the aim and look forward to the execution.

  8.14  Meanwhile, we clear the document.

SPEED LIMITATION DEVICES

(22543)

10546/01

COM(01) 318

 


Commission Report on the implementation of Council Directive 92/6/EEC of 10 February 1992 on the installation and use of speed limitation devices for certain categories of motor vehicles in the Community;

Draft Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 92/6/EEC on the installation and use of speed limitation devices for certain categories of motor vehicles in the Community.

Legal base: Article 71 EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting
Document originated: 14 June 2001
Forwarded to the Council: 18 June 2001
Deposited in Parliament: 18 July 2001
Department: Transport, Local Government and the Regions
Basis of consideration: EM of 19 October 2001
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: 6-7 December 2001
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared

Background

  9.1  At present, Council Directive 92/6/EEC of 1992, requires top­speed limiters to be fitted to buses and coaches with more than eight passenger seats whose maximum weight exceeds 10 tonnes, and to heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) whose maximum weight exceeds 12 tonnes.

  9.2  Article 2 of the Directive requires the installation of speed limitation devices with a maximum set speed of 100 km/h for category M3 vehicles (buses) and Article 3 requires the same for category N3 vehicles (lorries), but with a maximum speed of 90 km/h. In Great Britain top­speed limiters are fitted to goods vehicles, buses and coaches weighing 7.5 tonnes or more.

The documents

  9.3  Document (a) sets out the general case for the introduction of speed limitation devices, including the four basic arguments that justified the introduction of such devices for heavier HGVs, such as categories M3 (buses)[21] and N3 (lorries). The report states:

  • if large engines are unrestricted, they pose an excessive risk to the vehicle's performance, particularly in terms of braking and tyre performance;

  • lower speed results in fewer road accidents and fewer casualties;

  • lower speed means lower fuel consumption and vehicle emissions; and

  • lower speed means less wear and tear on the vehicle and so better safety and environmental standards.

  9.4  The report summaries some studies that examined the effects of using speed limiters on vehicles. The report notes:

"The studies differ slightly in their conclusions but the following overall positive effects are noted: lower fuel consumption (from 3% to 11 %), lower maintenance costs (tyres, brakes, engine), increased road safety (fewer casualties), more relaxed driving and lower insurance premiums as a consequence of less accidents. As negative effects the following are noted: decreased road safety when performing an overtaking manoeuvre as overtaking another vehicle takes relatively longer, and increased delivery times as the journey takes longer to make.

"Whilst not indicated in these studies, it is clear that a further positive effect is that vehicle emissions (C02 and NOx) are reduced when speed is reduced, because these are directly proportionally linked to fuel consumption.

"An indirect effect is that the long overtaking manoeuvres of vehicles fitted with speed limitation devices have the effect of reducing the average speed of other road users.

"To summarise, it is clear that the known effects of speed limitation devices are generally very positive for drivers, for companies, for society and for the environment. The negative aspects are small and avoidable: if all the speed limitation devices were set accurately to the same speed, there would be less need for overtaking, and as the use of speed limitation devices is accepted, the timetables given to the drivers are more realistic in comparison with the old practice of giving unrealistic timetables which, to be met, required speeding."

  9.5  The report also points out that when the Commission asked Member States to share their experience of speed limitation devices, only four Member States (Denmark, Spain, Luxembourg and the UK) replied. Although the responses noted some difficulties, Member States were generally supportive of the present system. The authorities in the United Kingdom stated that:

"although some problems exist with tampering of the speed limitation device and thus more enforcement is needed, the overall results of the use of speed limitation device are positive, especially in lowering the average speed of buses and their accident and casualty rates."

  9.6  The report goes on to estimate the benefits of introducing speed limitation devices to lighter HGVs based on a study conducted in the Netherlands that concluded that speed limitation devices for lighter vehicles would have a positive effect both for the transport sector and for society generally. By extrapolating the results of the Dutch study, the Commission estimates that the total benefits of the introduction of speed limitation devices with a maximum speed of 90 km/h for light trucks would be around _3 billion (around £2 billion).

  9.7  The European Commission's proposal (document b) would effectively extend in full to the lighter HGVs, buses and coaches and to midi­coaches and minibuses the requirements and the speed limits already applied to the heaviest classes. In his Explanatory Memorandum of 19 October 2001, the Under-Secretary for Transport at the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (Mr David Jamieson) summarises the Commission's proposals:

"—  restrict the speed of all minibuses and "midi­coaches" with more than 8 passenger seats to 100 kph (62 mph), which is 8 mph less than the current GB maximum speed limit for such vehicles (70 mph);

  • restrict the speed of the lighter HGVs of over 3.5 and up to 7.5 tonnes weight to 90 kph (56 mph), which is 14 mph below their current GB maximum speed limit (again, 70mph);

  • restrict the speed of HGVs of between 7.5 and 12 tonnes to 90kph (56 mph), which is 4 mph below the current GB limit for such vehicles (60 mph) to which they are already speed­limited;

  • require retrospective fitting of top speed limiters to vehicles already registered.[22] The initial requirement would be to fit only to new vehicles registered as from 1 January 2004. But, by 1 January 2005, the requirement would extend to all vehicles in the new categories registered from 1 January 2001. There would be an extra year of grace, until 1 January 2006, for those in­scope vehicles used exclusively in national transport."

The Government's view

  9.8  The Government is opposed to the Commission's proposal to fit speed limiters to smaller vehicles. In his Explanatory Memorandum of 19 October 2001, the Minister says:

"The Government is strongly opposed to the fitment of speed limiters to smaller vehicles (ie those below 7.5 tonnes) as proposed by the EC, and to their retrofitting. It does not believe that the case is made for doing so.

"The Government is concerned that there may be disadvantages as well as benefits in so wide­ranging an extension as proposed. A blanket upper speed limit may give rise to congestion which in turn may reduce the potential environmental benefits of speed limitation, as well as introducing new hazards as a result of traffic bunching. The Government believes that the scope of the measures (size of vehicles covered), the need for retrospective fitting, and the most appropriate speeds for different sizes of vehicle all need to be examined critically before the Council is invited to reach a decision."

  9.9  As regards the Commission's estimated benefit of _3 billion (around £2 billion), the Minister says:

"—  it is not entirely clear if the benefits claimed are gross benefits or net benefits after allowance has been made for the costs.

  • Whilst the European Commission argues that further benefits would be gained by extending speed limitation to all buses with more than eight passenger seats, it provides little support for this argument.

  • The EC accepts that political considerations militate against extension at present to cars and light vans below and including 3.5 tonnes.

  • The Report does not attempt any sensitivity analysis to assess levels of benefit in respect of different speed limits or sub­categories of vehicle."

  9.10  As the Minister acknowledges, there is a lack of clear evidence in the UK on the effect of using speed limiters on HGVs, including their effect in reducing speed-related accidents. The Minister says:

"In the UK, we do not have clear evidence to show how many accidents have been prevented by fitting top­speed limiters to the heavier vehicles. Nevertheless, the small reduction in mean speeds achieved since 1988 may have delivered reductions in the numbers killed and in the number and severity of injuries. It will also have delivered environmental benefits. It will therefore be similarly very hard to quantify the potential benefits for lighter vehicles. There should, however, be some in­principle environmental benefits through fuel and emissions savings. Equally, a reduction in speed limits for some of the vehicles (which is in effect part of the Commission's proposal) should reduce the number and severity of accidents.  

"As regards costs, the attached RIA [Regulatory Impact Assessment] shows that the cost implications of fitting retrospectively to vehicles already registered are less favourable than those of fitting to new vehicles. In addition, implementation of the proposal as it stands could lead to congestion effects, caused for example by more vehicles being trapped in long overtaking manoeuvres. It would also impose additional costs on operators because of increased journey times. We would like to buy time in negotiation to give an opportunity to elucidate these effects, although Presidency pressure to come to an agreement in Council may preclude this."

  9.11  We note the disturbingly high incidence of HGVs speeding on dual and single carriage ways. The Minister says:

"In 1999, on motorways a little under 7% of HGVs were found to be speeding and 4% of buses and coaches. But on dual carriageways, even given the existing requirement to fit top­speed limiters to the heaviest categories, those speeding increased hugely to well over 80% of HGVs and 50% of coaches and buses, and on single carriageways well over 60% and 23% respectively."

  9.12  As regards the results of consultations, the Minister says that:

"There is some broad support (by no means universal) for a compromise similar to the present UK requirement, that is, that top­speed limiters should be required on vehicles (goods and passenger­carrying) over 7.5 tonnes maximum permitted weight. On the other hand, there are protagonists of extension down to 3.5 tonnes as proposed, and others who would have none of it. ROSPA are not convinced that the measures as proposed would have a significant effect on accident reduction."

Conclusion

  9.13  We note the Commission's general view that the effects of fitting speed limiters to heavy goods vehicles "are generally very positive for drivers, for companies, for society and for the environment" whereas the costs are "small and avoidable." In terms of extending the fitting of speed limiters to lighter heavy goods vehicles, the Commission estimates that the total benefits of the introduction of speed limitation devices with a maximum speed of 90 km/h for light trucks would be around _3 billion (around £2 billion), including fewer and less severe accidents.

  9.14  We note that the UK Government is strongly opposed to the fitment of speed limiters to lighter heavy goods vehicles (i.e. those below 7.5 tonnes) and that it does not believe that the case is made for doing so. However, we also note that the Minister acknowledges that there is a lack of clear evidence in the UK on the effect of using speed limiters on heavy goods vehicles. We call upon the Government to undertake and publish research into the subject, especially given the high incidence of speeding by heavy goods vehicles and the lack of any consensus among interested parties.

  9.15  Meanwhile, we clear the document.





SATELLITE DISHES

(22545)

9650/01

COM(01) 351


Commission Communication on the application of general principles of free movement of goods and services (Articles 28 and 49) to the use of satellite dishes.
Legal base:
Document originated: 27 June 2001
Forwarded to the Council: 27 June 2001
Deposited in Parliament: 23 July 2001
Department: Trade and Industry
Basis of consideration: EM of 11 September 2001
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: No further substantive discussion expected at this stage
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared

Background

  10.1  The document arises out of several complaints, petitions and requests for information which the Commission has received both from individuals and institutions, including the European Parliament.

  10.2  The purpose of the Communication is to clarify the Commission's intention that private individuals should be free to use satellite dishes without undue technical, administrative, planning or tax obstacles. It applies only to satellite dishes which receive services. No legislation is scheduled to arise from the Communication, which is intended to be merely informative.

The document

  10.3  The Communication emphasises basic principles of free movement of goods and services: individuals who wish to have access to a satellite dish must be able to do so. Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (freedom of expression) applies to this area.

  10.4  The Communication also refers to the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the Autronic case[23], where Article 10 of the Convention was held to apply not only to the content of information but also to the means of transmission and reception, including satellite dishes.

  10.5  The Communication lists the relevant national or local restrictions brought to its attention and summarises its guidance as follows:

  • Technical specifications and standards: any provision which lays down technical specifications and/or conditions concerning the installation of satellite dishes may constitute an obstacle to the free movement of goods and services.

  • Administrative rules: systematically requiring an administrative procedure to be followed prior to permitting the use of a satellite dish has restrictive implications.

  • Architectural and urban planning rules: architectural and urban planning concerns can be efficiently addressed through measures which aim to minimise the visual impact of satellite dishes without infringing the right to satellite reception of the individuals concerned and without forcing them to pay excessive fees.

  • Tax rules: any taxation which applies only to satellite dishes as compared to other types of receivers is an obstacle to the free movement of services in the Single Market.

  • Rules on reception: the choice of the means of reception and of the possible services available via satellite belongs to the individual concerned.

The Government's view

  10.6  In his Explanatory Memorandum, the Minister of State for e-Commerce and Competitiveness at the Department of Trade and Industry (Mr Douglas Alexander) says:

Technical specifications and standards

"In the UK, satellite receivers do not need to comply with any technical specifications apart from those laid down by Directive 73/23/EEC relating to electrical equipment designed for use within certain voltage limits and electromagnetic compatibility.

"All satellite receivers in the UK are exempt from the requirement to be licensed under section 1(1) of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949, except in relation to the reception of television broadcasting.

"The Communication points out that restrictions on the size of satellite diameters and bandwidths can cause problems with compatability with Articles 49 et seq. of the EC Treaty. In the UK the maximum diameter allowed for a domestic satellite dish is 1.2 metres. The normal UK household satellite dish (BskyB) measures 60 cms.

"There are of course safeguards needed for the installation of larger receiver dishes, used for commercial or scientific purposes.

Administrative rules

"The UK Government is in favour of reducing regulatory hurdles and agrees that any constraint which works against Single Market principles of importation, installation and use of receive-only satellite terminals would need to be justified and proportionate. There are balances to be made especially in areas like planning permission, where aesthetics (manifestly subjective) have to be weighed.

"European (including UK) operators and manufacturers continue to face regulatory problems deploying Very Small Ampliture Terminals (VSATs) including receive-only. We will continue to work with the Commission on these issues and encourage the co-operation between the EU and the Conference of European Postal and Telecommunications (CEPT), with its 44 European States membership.

Architectural and urban planning rules

"In England and Wales the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995, allows for the installation of one satellite dish on a dwelling-house without a requirement for planning permission, subject to a limitation on size of the dish and the position of the dish on the building. In key environmental areas, such as conservation areas, planning permission may in certain circumstances be required, for example in relation to the position of the dish on a building.

"The limitations on permitted development rights in such areas are intended to protect the environment from unnecessarily large, unsympathetic or poorly sited satellite dishes. This does not mean that the installation of satellite dishes will not be allowed if it does not fall within the permitted developments rights but rather that in such circumstances the local planning authority will have an opportunity to consider the suitability of that particular development in that place.

"Listed building consent is also required for any dish that affects the character or appearance of a listed building or its setting.

"The planning provisions in Scotland in this regard are virtually identical to those in England and Wales (including requirements relating to listed building consent). In addition to dwelling-houses, the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Scotland) Order 1992 would allow 2 satellite antennas to be installed on any other building (including a block of flats) without a requirement for planning permission. This permitted development right is subject to conditions relating to the size of the dish and the amount of other types of antenna on the building. This permitted development right does not apply in certain designated areas, in which case an application for planning permission would be required.

Tax rules

"As the Communication makes clear, taxation is a matter for Member States subject to compatibility with the fundamental freedoms in the EC Treaty.

"The Communication indicates that any national tax measures, which specifically target satellite dishes, are likely to run counter to the free movement of services. There are no tax measures specific to satellite dishes in the UK.

Rules for broadcasting reception

Under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949 (as amended), a licence is required if a person installs, uses or intends to use television receiving apparatus (terrestrial, cable or satellite). Obtaining a TV licence satisfies this legal requirement.

"The Government agrees with the principle that rules on broadcasting reception should be technologically neutral. The UK does not set any rules requiring satellite dishes to be directed at any specific transmission services. UK policy is therefore in accordance with the principles set out in the Communication."

Conclusion

  10.7  The document has already been discussed at the Satellite Action Plan Plenary Meeting on 9 and 10 July and there are no plans to produce any specific legislative proposals. Nevertheless the document is important in re-stating certain core principles of EC law in a significant area, and as the first initiative under the Commission's new Strategy for Services. We are pleased to note that UK policy accords with all the principles in the Communication. The Communication is intended only as guidance, and we are content to clear it.






PEDESTRIAN PROTECTION

(22581)

9616/01

COM(01) 389


Commission Communication: Pedestrian Protection: Commitment by the European automobile industry.
Legal base:
Document originated: 11 July 2001
Forwarded to the Council: 19 July 2001
Deposited in Parliament: 7 August 2001
Department: Transport, Local Government and the Regions
Basis of consideration: EM of 10 October and Minister's letter of 12 November 2001
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: 26 November 2001
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared, but request to be kept informed

Background

  11.1  The explanatory note to the document states that the Commission had been considering legislation to increase the protection of pedestrians and other road users from injury arising out of a collision with a motor vehicle. To this end, the Commission was expected to produce a Directive by mid-2001. However, in its Communication of 21 December 2001, the idea of a self-regulatory code was raised. The Commission subsequently entered into discussions with the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA), and the Japanese and Korean equivalents (JAMA and KAMA respectively). A public meeting was held on 6 February 2001 and views were contributed by interested parties, including Member States.

  11.2  The outcome of these discussions is the proposed voluntary agreement. The proposed technical requirements are based on the suggestions of the Joint Research Centre (JRC), and are less rigorous than the measures for a proposed directive contained in the 1999 report of the European Enhanced Vehicle Safety Committee (EEVC — WG17) — a body in which Member States collaborate on research.

The document

  11.3  The voluntary code will be binding on the members of the three associations, the ACEA, JAMA and KAMA; however, as is usual with Directives, independent companies are excluded.

  11.4  In addition to cars, the voluntary agreement will apply to all passenger vehicles with nine or ten seats (known as M1 vehicles) and goods or dual purpose vehicles (known as N1 vehicles) which are derived from M1 vehicles and which weigh 2.5 tonnes or less.

  11.5  Under the agreement, the industry commits itself to:

"—  ensure that the parts of new cars forward of the windscreen meet the technical test requirements recommended by the JRC (to apply to new models from 1 July 2005; 80% of all new registrations from 1 July 2010, 90% in 2011 and all new registrations by 2012);

  • introduce anti-lock braking systems (ABS) in 2003 and daytime running lights in 2002 on all new vehicles;

  • not fit rigid bull bars on new vehicles from 2002; and

  • comply with the EEVC-WG17 targets for pedestrian safety (to apply to new models in 2010; and all new registrations progressively from 2012, but not later than the end of 2014) through application of EEVC-WG17 technical requirements or other measures which provide equal protective effect."

  11.6  The Commission proposes to set up a Monitoring Committee to report on compliance with the agreement. The monitoring will be based on the findings of reports carried out by independent technical services. Manufacturers would supply the monitoring committee with information on technical progress and planning.

The Government's view

  11.7  In his Explanatory Memorandum of 10 October 2001, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (David Jamieson) states:

"The proposed technical requirements for the first phase are significantly less severe than the full EEVC proposals. However, they are expected to take effect two years earlier than a Directive. We are currently considering the concept of a voluntary approach, giving earlier first phase benefits.

"We believe that Member States should be involved in any decisions on how to implement daytime running lamps as there is no agreed definition of these.

"Although the agreement includes a proposal for monitoring, we believe that the Commission should be invited to review the monitoring arrangements with a view to agreeing a more robust procedure with manufacturers.

"The second phase of the agreement commits manufacturers to achieving the full EEVC-WG17 technical requirements, or to introduce other measures which have equivalent effect. The document is silent on how equivalence will be judged. We believe that the Commission should consider establishing an expert technical forum, involving Member States, to establish a mechanism and resources for continued development of all car pedestrian protection measures.

  11.8  In a letter of 12 November enclosing a Regulatory Impact Assessment, the Minister comments as follows:

  • Consultation

"We received 42 formal responses during our recent consultation on the Commission's proposal. There was a range of views expressed, but no clear consensus emerged. Road safety groups were opposed to the concept of a negotiated agreement, and believed that only the full technical requirements backed by legislation was acceptable. The motor manufacturers, on the other hand, believed that a negotiated agreement offered the best way forward. Between these two extremes were those who accept that the negotiated approach did have shortcomings, but that in the circumstances it probably represented the most acceptable option. A summary of responses to the consultation has been placed in the Libraries of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords."

  • the potential impact on the industry and a comparison of the EEVC approach with the JRC approach

"We have consistently supported, and will continue to support research to improve the safety of pedestrians hit by cars. We believe that the requirements proposed by the European Enhanced Vehicle Safety Committee (EEVC) offer the most scientific basis for the assessment of pedestrian protection. However, we also recognised that the negotiated agreement is a step forward which could make a worthwhile contribution to pedestrian safety. In our Road Safety Strategy, Tomorrow's Roads — Safety for Everyone, we supported the bringing forward of a Directive. However, this was before the possibility of a negotiated agreement had been mooted by the Commission. While we share some of the scientific reservations about the negotiated agreement, we also judge that what might be achieved in the first phase of a Directive, although not certain, might not be very different. But taking the Directive route would inevitably lead to a two year delay. It could be argued that we should go straight to the full EEVC requirements, but aside from the inevitable wrangle over the science, the feasibility and costs would currently be hotly disputed relative to the benefits. In our judgement the current package, which would give early first phase benefits and a second phase with at least the benefits associated with the EEVC proposals, offers the better route forward."

  • monitoring

"Key Member States are in favour of the negotiated agreement, and expect that it will be operated in a very similar way to a Directive. We are satisfied that monitoring arrangements will include checks on the conformity of production. The technical requirements of the first phase will be operated in a flexible manner, which allow manufacturers to develop cars in phase one which move towards the phase two levels."

  • miscellaneous amendments proposed by the Council

"the controls on bull bars [should] be extended to vehicles outside the scope of the agreement, through amendments to the 'external projections Directive' (74/483/EEC); Member States and type approval authorities should be involved in the basis of a harmonised global regulation; the Daytime Running Lamp element should be postponed; it should be emphasised that Directives are generally still the preferred route; and the Commission should be invited to continue with the preparation of Directives that might supplement or replace the negotiated agreement if the need arose."

Conclusion

  11.9  The proposal is the first voluntary agreement in this area. Whether the Commission proceeds along this path with other motor vehicle regulations will depend to a large extent on the success or failure of this voluntary agreement. The most important advantage of the voluntary approach is the earlier date on which it can come into force. The strongest basis for believing the agreement may be successful is the 'carrot and stick' approach: the Directive could be introduced at a later stage if the voluntary approach fails.

  11.10  We are grateful to the Minister for his letter and attached Regulatory Impact Assessment, which addressed most of our concerns. We would like to be informed of the manner in which equivalence will be judged and on what is agreed about day-time running lamps.

  11.11  We believe the voluntary agreement is a sensible step by the Commission which should result in greater protection for pedestrians throughout the European Union at the earliest possible date. We are content to clear the document.





JOINT INVESTIGATION TEAMS

(22620)

11990/01


Initiative of the Kingdom of Belgium, the French Republic, the Kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom for the adoption by the Council of a draft framework decision on joint investigation teams.
Legal base: Articles 31(a) and 34(2)(b) EU; consultation; unanimity
Department: Home Office
Basis of consideration: Minister's letter of 6 November 2001
Previous Committee Report: HC 152-ii (2001-02), paragraph 41 (17 October 2001)
To be discussed in Council: No date set
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared (decision reported 17 October 2001)

Background

  12.1  When we considered this document in October, we cleared it because the text was almost identical with Articles in the already-cleared Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters.[24] However, we asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office (Mr Bob Ainsworth) for a fuller explanation of his assertion that the proposal did not confer on Europol investigative powers in the Member States. We also asked to be sent a copy of the explanatory note (which was promised in the document itself) and to be kept informed of progress.

The Minister's letter

  12.2  The Minister has now responded, addressing our points. In relation to our question about investigative powers, he states:

"It is the Government's understanding that the agreements [envisaged in the proposal] could not confer investigative powers, in the sense of intrusive or coercive powers, or powers of a police constable on Europol officers or seconded officers under present domestic legislation. But my officials are still considering how the agreements might be drafted, and I shall write to you again shortly with a fuller explanation of the way the Framework Decision would be operated in practice."

  12.3  The Minister agrees that he undertook to send us a copy of the explanatory note. However, he now understands that the note will not be produced, since the information it would have contained is already available in the explanatory report on the Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters. He tells us that, if a note is produced, he will send it.

Conclusion

  12.4  We thank the Minister for his response, and, in particular, for his undertaking to write shortly with a fuller explanation of the way in which the Framework Decision will be operated in practice. We ask that his response not only covers the UK, but also gives some indication about whether there is any risk that investigative powers might be conferred on Europol in any other Member States.

  12.5  Although we have cleared the document, we are still interested in its progress. In this connection, we ask the Minister, when he writes to us again, to indicate the likely timetable for the measure. We had understood that it would be discussed at the 16 October Justice and Home Affairs meeting, but this does not appear to have been the case.

  12.6  We have already cleared the document.


17  Whole blood comprises components such as red cells (which carry oxygen), white cells (which fight infection), and platelets (which help prevent bleeding). Back

18  Plasma is the clear liquid within which the other blood components are suspended. Back

19  See, for example, (20624) 12585/99; HC 23-x (1999-2000), paragraph 5 (1 March 2000), (21553) 10847/00; HC 28-v (2000-01), paragraph 9 (7 February 2001) and (22408) 9961/01; HC 152-ii (2001-02), paragraph 12 (17 October 2001).

 Back

20  The Commission notes that the PRINCE programme, which was introduced in 1995 largely at the instigation of the European Parliament, involves priority campaigns in partnership with the institutions and the Member States. It is now applied to enlargement, to the euro, to the debate on the future of the European Union and to the new campaign on the creation of an area of freedom, security and justice. Back

21  Having a maximum weight exceeding 10 metric tonnes. Back

22  According to the Government the estimated cost of retrofitting for each vehicle would be in the region of £320. Back

23  Judgment of 22 May 1990. Back

24  (21233) 7846/00; see HC 23-xix (1999-2000), paragraph 14 (24 May 2000). Back


 
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