FIRST SPECIAL REPORT
The European Scrutiny Committee has agreed to
the following Special Report:
GOVERNMENT OBSERVATIONS ON THE FIFTH REPORT
FROM THE COMMITTEE OF SESSION 2001-02
On 12 November 2001 we published a Report on the
Convention to Prepare for the 2004 Inter-Governmental Conference
(Fifth Report of Session 2001-02, HC 152-v). On 6 December we
received a response from the Government, which is set out below.
Convention to Prepare for the 2004 Inter-Governmental
Conference: The Government's Response to the Committee's Fifth
Report of Session 2001-02
1. The Government is grateful to the Committee for
this report. We welcome the debate on the Future of Europe. We
share the Committee's conclusion that the Convention offers a
valuable opportunity to widen the range of those contributing
to this debate, and to improve its transparency. We hope that
the Convention will make a substantial contribution to the Intergovernmental
2. As the Committee notes, decisions at the 2004
IGC will be for the governments of the Member States. But the
outcome will require ratification in accordance with each Member
State's constitutional provisions. In the UK, legislation is required
before the UK can ratify a new or amended EU treaty. So Parliament
will be able to contribute to the debate both before the IGC through
the Convention and the national UK debate; and afterwards, when
it will decide whether or not to accept the results the Government
secures in 2004.
Objectives and Terms of Reference of the Convention
Our view is that the terms of reference of the
Convention should be focused on the four points agreed at Nice,
but that the Convention should be free to range over related constitutional
or institutional issues.
3. Final decisions on the objectives and terms of
reference of the Convention will be taken at the Laeken European
Council on 14-15 December. We want the European Council to agree
a mandate which asks fundamental questions about the future of
the EU, which allows full and open discussion of all possible
solutions to the challenges the EU faces, and which addresses
the practical concerns of EU citizens. We expect Laeken to take
the Nice Declaration as the starting point, and to identify themes
developed from the four Nice agenda items.
We recommend that the Convention...be required
to give a clear indication of which options it prefers, and that
it be able to put forward alternatives for which there is substantial
support. We further recommend that the European Council commit
the IGC to explaining publicly its reasons for rejecting any of
the conclusions of the Convention.
4. We want the Convention's final report to reflect
the full range of opinions and options expressed. It will be for
the President of the Convention to decide how best to do this.
The Government is calling for a "pause for reflection"
between the end of the Convention and the start of the IGC. This
will provide an opportunity for all parties to consider and clarify
their response to the Convention; and for the Government to hear
the views of Parliament on the outcome before the IGC negotiations
Composition of the Convention
We recommend that the Commons member on the Convention
be appointed formally by a motion in the House, that the Member
be selected from within the European Scrutiny Committee, and that
arrangements be made for the Member to consult and report back
to other members.
5. We note the Committee's suggestion on the selection
of the representative of the Commons. Baroness Symons has also
met interested members from the House of Lords to hear their views.
No final decisions have yet been taken. But the Government is
unlikely to accede to the request that the member selected should
be drawn only from within the European Scrutiny Committee.
We accept the GAC's decision about the representation
and voting rights of the candidate countries.
6. The composition of the Convention will also be
decided at Laeken. We are pleased that the candidate counties
are likely to be represented fully. We note the Committee's comments
about the voting rights of candidate countries, but the Convention
is a deliberative body, which is not expected to vote.
Operation of the Convention
We recommend that the Convention have the right
to choose its own President.
7. We note the Committee's comments. We consider
it important that the Chair is an effective and credible leader,
able to produce a final report which will inform and assist the
member states in the subsequent IGC. For that reason, we will
wish the European Council to appoint a Chair who both enjoys the
confidence of national governments, and can operate as a credible
and independent chair of the Convention.
We recommend that the members of the Praesidium
be elected by the Convention itself or by its constituent parts
separately, and that it be not dominated numerically by Member
8. As with other aspects of the composition of the
Convention, final decisions on the Praesidium will be taken at
Laeken. Whatever is decided on the Praesidium, it is already agreed
that the Convention itself will not be dominated numerically by
representatives of member states' governments. MEPs (16) and national
parliamentarians (30) will collectively outnumber the 15 member
states' representatives by three to one.
9. The Government looks forward to further contributions
from the Committee on the Future of Europe. We welcome in particular
their inquiry on "Democracy and accountability in the EU
and the role of national parliaments". This will be a valuable
contribution to the debate.
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth
Foreign and Commonwealth Office