Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirtieth Report



PROCEEDINGS OF THE COMMITTEE

Monday 20 May 2002

 

Members present:

Mr Jimmy Hood, in the Chair


Mr Roger Casale

Miss Anne McIntosh

Mr William Cash

Mr Jim Marshall

Mr Michael Connarty

Mr Angus Robertson

Mr Wayne David

Mr Anthony Steen

Mr Terry Davis

Mr Bill Tynan

Mr Jim Dobbin

 

 

The Committee deliberated.

Draft Report [European Scrutiny in the Commons], proposed by the Chairman, brought up and read.

Ordered, That the draft Report be read a second time, paragraph by paragraph.

Paragraphs 1 to 6 read and agreed to.

Paragraph 7 read, amended and agreed to.

Paragraphs 8 to 11 read and agreed to.

Paragraph 12 read, amended and agreed to.

Paragraphs 13 to 15 read and agreed to.

Paragraph 16 read, amended and agreed to.

A paragraph — (Mr Terry Davis) — brought up, read the first and second time, and added (now paragraph 17).

Paragraphs 17 to 20 read and agreed to (now paragraphs 18 to 21).

Paragraph 21 read, amended and agreed to (now paragraph 22).

Paragraph 22 read and agreed to (now paragraph 23).

Paragraphs 23 and 24 read, amended and agreed to (now paragraphs 24 and 25).

Paragraphs 25 to 29 read and agreed to (now paragraphs 26 to 30).

Paragraphs 30 to 32 read, amended and agreed to (now paragraphs 31 to 33).

Paragraph 33 read and agreed to (now paragraph 34).

Paragraph 34 read, amended and agreed to (now paragraph 35).

Paragraphs 35 to 37 read and agreed to (now paragraphs 36 to 38).

Paragraphs 38 to 97 postponed.

Paragraph 98 read, amended and agreed to.

Paragraph 99 read and agreed to.

Paragraph 100 read, amended and agreed to.

Paragraphs 98 to 100 inserted after paragraph 37 (now paragraphs 39 to 41).

Paragraphs 38 to 45 read and agreed to (now paragraphs 42 to 49).

Paragraphs 46 to 48 read, amended and agreed to (now paragraphs 50 to 52).

Paragraph 49 read and agreed to (now paragraph 53).

Paragraph 50 read, amended and agreed to (now paragraph 54).

Paragraphs 51 to 53 read, amended and agreed to (now paragraphs 55 to 57).

Paragraphs 54 to 58 postponed.

Paragraph 59 read, amended and agreed to.

Paragraph 60 read and agreed to.

Paragraphs 59 and 60 inserted after paragraph 53 (now paragraphs 58 and 59).

Paragraphs 54 to 56 read and agreed to (now paragraphs 60 to 62).

Paragraph 57 read, amended and agreed to (now paragraph 63).

Paragraph 58 read, as follows:

58. While the total number of Council meetings is too large for us, the number in any one subject area would be manageable for a DSC, and we consider the possible role of DSCs below.

Paragraph disagreed to.

Paragraphs 61 and 62 read and agreed to (now paragraphs 64 and 65).

Paragraphs 63 to 65 read, amended and agreed to (now paragraphs 66 to 68).

Paragraphs 66 and 67 read and agreed to (now paragraphs 69 and 70).

Paragraph 68 read, amended and agreed to (now paragraph 71).

Paragraph 69 read, as follows:

69. There are two alternative ways in which the Committees' motions could be given greater importance:

—  by providing that the motion moved in the House must be the one agreed by the Committee, so that if the Government was unwilling to move it another Member would do so, possibly with some time allowed for debate;

—  by providing that if the Government moved a motion different from that agreed by the Committee (or if the Committee had not agreed a motion), a certain length of time would be allowed for debate in the House.

An analogy can be drawn with draft Regulatory Reform Orders, proceedings on which in the House are without debate if the Deregulation and Regulatory Reform Committee recommended approval without a division, but which include debate if the Committee recommended approval on a division or recommended that the Order be not approved.

Amendment proposed, to leave lines 1 and 2 and insert the words:

'There are three alternative ways in which the Committees' motions could be given greater importance:

—  by providing that the decision of the Committee should be put to the House in a motion on the Floor and that any such motion should be subject to a free vote under standing orders.' — (Mr William Cash)

Question put, That the Amendment be made.

The Committee divided.

 

Ayes, 1

            Noes, 5

Mr William Cash

        Mr Roger Casale

 

 

Mr Michael Connarty

 

 

Mr Jim Marshall

 

Mr Angus Robertson

  Mr Bill Tynan

 

 

Paragraph 69 agreed to (now paragraph 72).

Paragraph 70 read, as follows:

70. The Procedure Committee in 1997 recommended the first of the two alternatives above, with an hour allowed for debate. Our predecessors agreed in 1998. However, in the absence of any view expressed by the Government, the Modernisation Committee in 1998 considered it 'clear that the present Government, like the previous Government, is unlikely to view such proposals with favour', and that reiterating it was 'unlikely to lead to constructive dialogue'. We consider that, in the light of the Government's desire to improve the ways in which the House deals with European business, the issue should be reopened. We see no reason why the motion should necessarily be one the Government agrees with, since it has the option of moving an amendment. We prefer the first of the alternatives in paragraph 69 above, but would be happy with either. In either case, a brief explanatory statement from a Minister and from another Member (who would usually have been the mover of the amendment in Committee) would be sufficient. We emphasise that occasions when this procedure was invoked would almost certainly be rare. We recommend that the motion moved in the House on an EU document should always be that agreed by the European Standing Committee, that if the Government does not wish to move it another Member should do so, and that in such circumstances a brief explanatory statement by the mover and a Minister should be permitted.

Amendment proposed, in line 17, to leave out from 'Committee' to end of paragraph. — (Mr William Cash.)

The Committee divided.

 

 

Ayes, 1

            Noes, 5

Mr William Cash

        Mr Roger Casale

 

 

Mr Michael Connarty

 

 

Mr Jim Marshall

 

Mr Angus Robertson

  Mr Bill Tynan

 

 

Paragraph 70 agreed to (now paragraph 73).

Paragraphs 71 to 73 read and agreed to (now paragraphs 74 to 76).

Paragraph 74 read, as follows:

74. One possibility is for us to be able to refer documents for debate in Westminster Hall. The advantages would be the greater prominence compared with a European Standing Committee and the greater time compared with the Floor of the House. Debates could take place during a three-hour sitting on Thursday afternoon, and the time could be divided, as in a European Standing Committee, between questions and debate. We would envisage using this opportunity sparingly, and under the temporary standing order relating to Westminster Hall it would be for the Chairman of Ways and Means to decide how often time there should be used in this way. If the motion was agreed to, the document would be cleared from scrutiny; if there was objection the motion would instead be moved without debate in the House. It would need to be considered whether paragraph (10) of the temporary standing order (enabling six Members to prevent business from being taken in Westminster Hall) should apply. We recommend that provision be made for us to refer EU documents for debate in Westminster Hall.

Amendment proposed, line 15, at the end, to add the words 'and that the European Scrutiny Committee shall name a rapporteur to speak in such debate'.

The Committee divided.

 

 

 

Ayes, 1

            Noes, 5

Mr William Cash

        Mr Roger Casale

 

 

Mr William Cash

 

 

Mr Jim Marshall

 

Mr Angus Robertson

  Mr Bill Tynan

 

Paragraph agreed to (now paragraph 77).

Paragraph 75 read, amended and agreed to (now paragraph 78).

Paragraphs 76 to 83 read and agreed to (now paragraphs 79 to 86).

Paragraph 84 read, as follows:

84. We also believe DSCs could play a useful role by carrying out pre- and post-Council scrutiny. As indicated above, monitoring activity in an individual Council formation is a relatively manageable task for a DSC. It would involve, in the first instance, examining Council agendas and ensuring adequate information was provided afterwards about the outcome and the part played by UK Ministers at the meeting. It would of course be for the DSC to determine to what extent it wished to take oral evidence. We would be pleased to co-ordinate our activities with those of any DSC which wished to undertake this task. Discussions are already under way at official level about improving co-ordination generally between the European Scrutiny Committee and DSCs.

Paragraph disagreed to.

Paragraph 85 read, amended and agreed to (now paragraph 87).

Paragraphs 86 to 91 read and agreed to (now paragraphs 88 to 93).

Paragraph 92 read, amended and agreed to (now paragraph 94).

Paragraphs 93 to 96 read and agreed to (now paragraphs 95 to 98).

Paragraph 97 read, amended and agreed to (now paragraph 99).

Paragraphs 101 to 104 read and agreed to (now paragraphs 100 to 103).

A paragraph — (Mr Angus Robertson) — brought up, read the first and second time, and added (now paragraph 104).

Paragraphs 105 to 115 read and agreed to.

Annex amended and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Report, as amended, be the Thirtieth Report of the Committee to the House.

Ordered, That the Chairman do make the Report to the House.

A Paper was ordered to be appended to the Report.

Ordered, That the provisions of Standing Order No. 134 (Select Committees (reports)) be applied to the Report.

 

  [Adjourned till Tuesday 21 May at 5.20 p.m.

 

 

 

 

  THE COMMITTEE'S STANDING ORDER AND MEMBERSHIP AND THE

  SCRUTINY RESERVE RESOLUTION

The European Scrutiny Committee is appointed under Standing Order No.143 to examine European Union documents and—

(a)  to report its opinion on the legal and political importance of each such document and, where it considers appropriate, to report also on the reasons for its opinion and on any matters of principle, policy or law which may be affected;

(b)  to make recommendations for the further consideration of any such document pursuant to Standing Order No. 119 (European Standing Committees); and

(c)  to consider any issue arising upon any such document or group of documents, or related matters.

The expression 'European Union document' covers —

(i)  any proposal under the Community Treaties for legislation by the Council or the Council acting jointly with the European Parliament;

(ii)  any document which is published for submission to the European Council, the Council or the European Central Bank;

(iii)  any proposal for a common strategy, a joint action or a common position under Title V of the Treaty on European Union which is prepared for submission to the Council or to the European Council;

(iv)  any proposal for a common position, framework decision, decision or a convention under Title VI of the Treaty on European Union which is prepared for submission to the Council;

(v)  any document (not falling within (ii), (iii) or (iv) above) which is published by one Union institution for or with a view to submission to another Union institution and which does not relate exclusively to consideration of any proposal for legislation;

(vi)  any other document relating to European Union matters deposited in the House by a Minister of the Crown.

The committee consists of sixteen Members, appointed for the duration of a Parliament. Its quorum is five. It has power to send for persons, papers and records, to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House, to adjourn from place to place, to report from time to time, and to appoint sub-committees. It also has power to seek from any Committee appointed under Standing Order No. 152 (Select committees related to government departments), the Select Committee on Public Administration, the Committee of Public Accounts, and the Environmental Audit Committee, that Committee's opinion on any European Union document, and to require a reply to such a request within such time as it may specify.


The present membership of the Committee is as follows:[1]

Colin Breed MP (Liberal Democrat, Cornwall South East)

Roger Casale MP (Labour, Wimbledon)

William Cash MP (Conservative, Stone)

Michael Connarty MP (Labour, Falkirk East)

Tony Cunningham MP (Labour, Workington)

Wayne David MP (Labour, Caerphilly)

Terry Davis MP (Labour, Birmingham Hodge Hill)

Jim Dobbin MP (Labour, Heywood and Middleton)

Mark Hendrick MP (Labour, Preston)

Jimmy Hood MP (Labour, Clydesdale)

Anne McIntosh MP (Conservative, Vale of York)

Jim Marshall MP (Labour, Leicester South)

Angus Robertson MP (SNP, Moray)[2]

Laurence Robertson MP (Conservative, Tewkesbury)

Anthony Steen MP (Conservative, Totnes)

Bill Tynan MP (Labour, Hamilton South)

On 18 July 2001, the Committee elected Mr Jimmy Hood as its Chairman.

 

 

  Resolution of the House of 17 November 1998[3]

That,

(1) No Minister of the Crown should give agreement in the Council or in the European Council to any proposal for European Community legislation or for a common strategy, joint action or common position under Title V or a common position, framework decision, decision or convention under Title VI of the Treaty on European Union—

(a)  which is still subject to scrutiny (that is, on which the European Scrutiny Committee has not completed its scrutiny) or

(b)  which is awaiting consideration by the House (that is, which has been recommended by the European Scrutiny Committee for consideration pursuant to Standing Order No. 119 (European Standing Committees) but in respect of which the House has not come to a Resolution).

(2) In this Resolution, any reference to agreement to a proposal includes—

(a)  agreement to a programme, plan or recommendation for European Community legislation;

(b)  political agreement;

(c)  in the case of a proposal on which the Council acts in accordance with the procedure referred to in Article 251 of the Treaty of Rome (co-decision), agreement to a common position, to an act in the form of a common position incorporating amendments proposed by the European Parliament, and to a joint text; and

(d)  in the case of a proposal on which the Council acts in accordance with the procedure referred to in Article 252 of the Treaty of Rome (co-operation), agreement to a common position.

(3) The Minister concerned may, however, give agreement—

(a)  to a proposal which is still subject to scrutiny if he considers that it is confidential, routine or trivial or is substantially the same as a proposal on which scrutiny has been completed;

(b)  to a proposal which is awaiting consideration by the House if the European Scrutiny Committee has indicated that agreement need not be withheld pending consideration.

(4) The Minister concerned may also give agreement to a proposal which is still subject to scrutiny or awaiting consideration by the House if he decides that for special reasons agreement should be given; but he should explain his reasons—

(a)  in every such case, to the European Scrutiny Committee at the first opportunity after reaching his decision; and

(b)  in the case of a proposal awaiting consideration by the House, to the House at the first opportunity after giving agreement.

(5) In relation to any proposal which requires adoption by unanimity, abstention shall, for the purposes of paragraph (4), be treated as giving agreement.


1  Appointed on 16 July 2001.Back

2   Appointed on 12 November 2001.Back

3   Votes and Proceedings, 17 November 1998, p 1250.Back

 

 


 
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