Commission Report to the European Council : Better lawmaking 2001.
|Document originated:||7 December 2001
|Forwarded to the Council:||10 December 2001
|Deposited in Parliament:||16 January 2002
|Basis of consideration:||EM of 28 January 2002
|Previous Committee Report:||None
|To be discussed in Council:||No date set
|Committee's assessment:||Legally and politically important
12.1 Since the Edinburgh European Council in December
1992, the Commission has produced annual reports dealing with
progress made in improving legislation in the EU. From 1995 onwards
the reports have considered not only the application of the principles
of subsidiarity and proportionality, but also ways of making legislation
simpler, more understandable and more accessible.
12.2 When we considered the Commission's report for 2000,
we drew attention to the recognition by the Commission that respect
for diversity and the enlargement of the European union would
require more attention to be paid to subsidiarity.
12.3 The first part of the report is concerned with the
operation of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality.
The second part describes the legislative activity of the Community
in 2001 and the final part is concerned with the quality of lawmaking.
12.4 The discussion of the principles of subsidiarity
and proportionality refers to legislative activity in the field
of asylum policy and the treatment of third country nationals
as an area where Community action was justified. The report refers,
in a similar vein, to environment and social policy, the protection
of the Community's financial interests against fraud, regional
policy and statistics. Somewhat revealingly, the Commission refers
to subsidiarity and proportionality requirements as being questions
of 'expediency and
scale', but also points out that the subsidiarity principle applies
only to areas in which the Member States and the Community share
competence. However, the report contains no instance of a decision
by the Commission not to make a proposal because of respect for
the above principles.
12.5 In describing the Community's legislative activity
in 2001, the Commission points out that there has been a decline
in the overall number of proposals made by the Commission since
1990. (There has been a fall from 787 in 1990 to 493 in 2000 and
400 by the end of October 2001). The Commission also emphasises
its increased efforts to conduct wide consultation before making
12.6 On the quality of lawmaking, the Commission reports
that the joint practical guide for persons involved in the drafting
of legislative texts has now been finalised in all official languages
and is accessible on the Internet. The guide recommends that all
Community institutions should organise their internal services
so that legal/linguistic experts are involved at an early stage.
The report also reviews progress in the recasting, consolidation
and codification of Community legislation. In 2001, seven proposals
were made by the Commission for codification, which would replace
78 existing legal acts. The Commission estimates that the number
of consolidated measures should have reached 1240 by the end of
2001, compared with the total of 1030 reached at the end of 2000.
The Government's view
12.7 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 28 January 2002
the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy
of Lancaster (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) comments on the policy
implications of the report as follows:
"The report this year places greater emphasis on subsidiarity,
which the Government welcomes. The examples given show instances
where more Community action has been taken and where the Community
has left action to Member States. Above all, it shows that the
Commission is giving serious attention to the principle of subsidiarity
in drawing up proposals. This is further borne out by the table
showing the number of legislative proposals in 2001. Despite the
addition of objectives by successive Treaties this number has
fallen from 787 in 1990 to 400 in 2001.
"The Government is committed to further developments in the
application of the principle of subsidiarity. This will be a major
objective for the Future of Europe process, which is to be taken
forward by a Convention beginning in March 2002. We will look
at ways of strengthening the principle within the Treaties and
making it more visible and more applicable. But there is much
that can be done outside Treaty change, such as greater attention
to the subsidiarity fiche that is completed for each proposal
and greater efforts to review existing legislation within the
acquis communautaire and identify measures which are no
longer needed or which might now be better handled by Member States.
The Government will encourage the Commission in these efforts."
12.8 We are grateful to the Minister for his comments
on the question of subsidiarity. We agree that the principle should
also be brought to bear on the existing body of Community legislation,
and we shall look forward to hearing more of the Government's
proposals in due course.
12.9 Whilst we broadly agree with the Minister's assessment
of the Commission's report, we would have found the Commission's
engagement with the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality
more convincing if the report had given details of occasions when
these principles had persuaded the Commission not to bring forward
12.10 We have no questions to put to the Minister
and we clear the document.
would suggest - wrongly in our view - that Article 5 EC is only
concerned with the appropriateness of action by the Community
and contains no legal limitation on the Community's powers. Back