Select Committee on Liaison First Report



Memorandum to the Liaison Committee

1.  We welcome the opportunity to put on record our work and that of our predecessors during 2001, and to give some indication of our approach to our role both in the immediate term and over the course of this Parliament.

Work of the previous Committee

2.  We felt that it would be inappropriate to comment in detail on the work of the previous Committee, but we wish to record the inquiries that they undertook. After their Report on The work of the Committee in the 1997 Parliament, our predecessors published the following reports:

    • The Department of Trade and Industry: Role, Objectives and Targets;
    • Vehicle Manufacturing in the UK;
    • Steel;
    • Impact on Trade and Industry of Motor Fuel Taxation;
    • Local Loop Unbundling;
    • UK Online reviewed: the First Annual report of the E-Minister and E-Envoy;
    • Mobile Phone Masts;
    • Industrial and Trade Relations with Turkey;
    • Enterprise Policy in the Regions; and
    • Ilisu Dam.

They also published two Reports (on Strategic Export Controls: Annual report for 1999 and parliamentary prior scrutiny and the Draft Export Control and non-Proliferation Bill) jointly with the Defence, Foreign Affairs and International Development Committees (informally know as the Quadripartite Committee).

In addition, the Committee took oral evidence on gas prices in the UK, the UK Aerospace Industry and the work of the Small Business Service.

Present Committee

3.  The current Committee was appointed on 16 July 2001 and published the Government's observations on the previous Committee's reports on Steel, the Impact on trade and Industry of Motor Fuel Taxation, Local Loop Unbundling, UK Online Reviewed, Industrial and Trade Relations with Turkey and the Ilisu Dam on 20 July. We will keep the issues raised in our predecessors' reports under review and undertake further inquiries as appropriate. It is worth noting that since the publication of this First Special Report of Session 2001-2002, the UK contractors involved with the proposed construction of the Ilisu dam have announced their withdrawal from the project.

4.  By the end of 2001 we had completed one inquiry and embarked on two others. We conducted a short inquiry into the End of Life Vehicles Directive, which is intended to provide for the safe and environmentally beneficial disposal of vehicles which have come to the end of their useful life. The Directive is due to come into force in April 2002, will have major cost implications for the UK car manufacturing, secondhand car parts and scrap industries, and will also affect the way in which last owners of vehicles may dispose of their cars. The DTI was consulting on the implementation of the Directive in the UK, and we used this opportunity to monitor and to make recommendations on the Government's transposition of this significant piece of European legislation — something which is not really possible under the procedures for parliamentary consideration of secondary legislation.

5.  We also initiated inquiries on security of energy supply in the UK, on which we have completed our programme of oral evidence, and on the productivity and competitiveness of the UK manufacturing industry which will be completed in the first quarter of 2002.

6.  We have joined the Defence, Foreign Affairs and International Committees in re-establishing the Quadripartite Committee to examine issues connected with strategic export controls.

7.  In addition to our programme of inquiries, we intend to hold annual evidence sessions on the role, objectives and targets of the DTI and to scrutinise the work of organisations such as Ofgem and Oftel and the office of the e-Envoy on a regular basis, usually annually. To that end we have took oral evidence from the Secretary of State on her plans for the restructuring of the DTI, and held a general evidence session with Consignia in December. We intend to take evidence from the e-Envoy and the Minister for e-Commerce in February.

8.  We have also undertaken and will be continuing a series of informal briefing meetings with non-governmental organisations, to maintain our awareness of issues of concern to consumers and industry, and to guide our choice of issues for formal inquiry.

9.  We intend also to review the prospects for the next round of WTO trade negotiations, the framework for which was agreed at Doha in November 2001, during the first half of 2002; and to conduct a brief inquiry into fuel poverty during the spring. We will identify further issues for investigation as the year goes on.

10.  We will visit Brussels in February to discuss with Commissioners, officials and MEPs such issues as the new WTO round; the opening of the electricity, gas and postal markets; the burden of regulation on small businesses; and the security of energy supply. We hope, like our predecessors, to make such a visit once a year, to keep ourselves informed about the most important developments on trade and industry in the European Union.

17 January 2002

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