2 JULY 2008
Chairman: We will now go into public
session. Looking at the A Briefs.
A1 European Humanitarian Aid (28716).
This is the adoption of a European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid.
That was cleared on 14 November 2007 and is recommended for final
report to the House. I will take silence as agreement. Agreed
A2 Annual Policy Strategy for 2009
(29474), the Commission's likely priority actions for 2009,
which was debated in Westminster Hall on 12 June 2008. The recommendation
is to clear. Agreed
A3 Nuclear safety and security (29718),
to review the safety and security issues arising from an increase
in the number of nuclear power plants. The recommendation is that
we should clear it. Can I add, by the way, that the increased
proliferation risk which is mentioned in this is one of these
great fallacies started by President Carter, the fact it used
mixed-oxide fuel. This is not possible, without huge amounts of
technology, out of the reach of most countries, to extract the
plutonium from mixed-oxide fuel. That is why the Americans are
actually going into reprocessing again.
Angus Robertson: We are discussing the
merits, are we not, Chairman?
Chairman: I am just putting down some
facts for the record.
Angus Robertson: I am glad the Scottish
Government has been consulted, because of course they will not
be able to build a nuclear power station. That is just for the
Chairman: I am ordering candles right
now for the future! Agreed
A4 e-communication (29725), to
set out a three-year action plan to support the transition to
Internet Protocol version 6. That looks interesting. It is recommended
that that is cleared and the draft chapter is attached. Agreed
A5 Eurojust (29306) (29551) (29747),
to amend the Council decision establishing Eurojust (2002/187/JHA).
The recommendation is to clear. Mr Steen.
Mr Steen: Chairman, I am really speaking
on behalf of those who might well have found, or will have found,
their DNA, or parts of their DNA, circulated throughout Europe,
for various reasons which we do not know, and they will never
know because their face does not fit, or they are suspected of
something, or they are activists that the Police Force somewhere
does not like. Any one of the 28 European countries will have
access to parts of those who, for some reason, have their DNA
circulated. We do not know where they are going to be circulated,
who is going to have it circulated, we do not know what is going
to be circulated, and I think this is a very important human rights
issue which is not satisfactorily explained in our notes. It may
well be the Minister has done all the inquiry, but it is not here.
I would, therefore, say, until we know that human rights law has
been protected, that individuals who may be criminally charged
but ultimately not found guilty, we want to know what happens
to their DNA? If it is destroyed, we want to know who is responsible.
We want to know how it is going to be enforced. There are a lot
of questions I feel very uneasy about this particular draft Council
decision. Having said that, I am entirely in favour of Eurojust,
but I think that we have to be very careful what powers we give
Chairman: I think people will applaud
the motivation for making such a contribution, but can I refer
members of the committee, in fact in the memorandum, paragraph
11, it says quite clearly, "The Minister explains that recent
negotiations have focused on the data protection provisions."
He goes on to say, "The recommendations of the European Data
Protection Supervisor have been accepted, in particular that the
proposal should refer to the Council Framework Decision on the
protection of personal data processed in the framework of police
and judicial co-operation in criminal matters." I think that
the investigation has taken place, that the Data Protection Supervisor
rules have been clearly applied to this, and I think it will cover
all the items that you suggest. I am quite willing to suggest
that we do clear it but that we then do ask the question: who
will see this data? How will it be stored? What the protection
is for the personal
Mr Steen: Will it be destroyed?
Chairman: How long will it be held, et
cetera. I think these would be useful additional questions, but
I would still recommend to the committee that we clear it.
Mr Clappison: I think that is a reasonable
approach, Chairman. You could perhaps ask the additional question:
what limits will there be on who Eurojust can supply the data
Chairman: That also seems a very reasonable
Mr Clappison: While we are on this subject,
if the Minister could supply us with a list of European institutions
to which data could be supplied, where they can make a request
from Eurojust, and, also, if we could be told whether a person
will know whether or not their data has been requested by Eurojust.
Chairman: I think we should write to
both the Commission and Eurojust and ask these questions, because
I think it is a matter to ask at European level rather than just
ask our ministers, who may not be willing to give us that information.
Mr Steen: Is there any reason why we
should clear this? Is there a reason why a delay would be a bad
Chairman: It goes to the Council on 26
of the month, so it would be one of these issues where I think
we would be holding it up for no good reason, because we are not
going to change those rules if the Minister assures us that the
Data Protection Supervisor's recommendations have been applied.
We are seeking additional information rather than objecting to
what is going to happen.
Mr Clappison: Yes, but I think we need
to know more.
Chairman: Cleared, and then we will go
forward with questions. Thank you very much. Is that agreed.
Mr Steen: Agreed. Agreed
Chairman: A6 The EU's Disaster Response
Keith Hill: Chairman, can I move that
we delete paragraph 0.18 from the conclusions. I do so because
I really do not understand why there are such lengthy criticisms
levelled at the Minister at the end of these conclusions. Of course,
I acknowledge that paragraph 18 begins with an expression of gratitude,
but if you read through the information that the Minister has
supplied to us in paragraphs 15 and 16, it seems to me that the
Minister offers a pretty detailed account of the contents of these
draft conclusions but he stresses the extent to which these conclusions
meet the concerns which this committee has expressed, and I really
do not understand why we are so critical, in the end, of the Minister,
when, in fact, if I could anticipate the next A brief, A7, we
actually use this Minister's letter as an exemplar of what we
expect to receive from a minister when we come to criticise the
Minister for Europe at the end of A7. So, for all of these reasons,
I really do not understand why we have such a critical report
to make to the House on this matter.
Chairman: The aim of the document: proposals
for strengthening and enhancing the EU's capacity to respond to
natural and man-made disasters. We are recommending that it be
cleared. There were some thoughts in my mind, as I read the criticisms,
that there were reasons for not clearing it, but clearly we have
moved on from the first position, which was not helpful to us
as a committee and we were not happy with it at the time. I think
the Minister was conscious of that as well, but he did as his
officials wished him to do, which is, again, hold this line that
they do not tell us what is going to come up in draft conclusions.
I know that you, Mr Hill, particularly take a view of this, but
that is legitimate for the government. This committee has consistently
said it is not legitimate for the Government to take that position,
and, therefore, the criticism was that the Minister could have
done this in the first place. He could have given us full information,
given Parliament full information. It would not have harmed the
conclusions at the end of the day, and it does seem to us that
that is the criticism. We are saying he does come up with it and
I can say that what he is getting is eight out of ten. I have
got to say, when we come to A7, I think the Minister of Europe
has become an expert in telling people nothing at very great length,
and that is a criticism that will be much more strongly expressed
in A7, but in A6, I think we are legitimately putting down a marker,
a consistent request to ministers to give us draft conclusions
and do not get into the embarrassing position where they tell
us after the event what they could have told us before the event,
to no detriment to either the UK's position in Council but to
a great advantage to the knowledge of this committee and Parliament.
Keith Hill: I certainly want to revert
to this issue of this constant stand-off between this committee
and the Government on its draft conclusions. Before we break for
the division let me say, because I want to come back on this,
that the Minister is actually under the guidance of the Council
and the arrangements of the European Union in this matter, and
that is the constraint under which he is operating. Having said
that, if you actually look at what he says in his letter, he goes
out of his way, and I can take it case by case, to demonstrate
that the Government has been utterly mindful of the consideration
and concerns of this committee in its approach to the draft conclusions.
Chairman: We know that now, if you did
not tell us before. Let us get the vote over before we go. There
is a motion that we extract paragraph 18 from the report. I stand
by the report. Those for Mr Hill's proposed amendment to take
18 out are yes, those against are no.
Paragraph 1, Headnote read. Amendment proposed
in line 7, to leave out the word "For debate in European
Committee", and to insert the word "Cleared".
Question put, That the Amendment be made
The Committee divided.
|Keith Hill||Mr Adrian Bailey
|Mr James Clappison||Mr Greg Hands
|Mr Anthony Steen||Richard Younger-Ross
| Headnote agreed to.|
We will clear without amendment. Agreed. Agreed
The committee adjourned for a division in the
House from 3.05 p.m. to 3.15 p.m.
Chairman: A7 The place of the child in EU external
Keith Hill: Chairman, can I ask a question
and the answer may be very simple and straightforward on
this question about draft council conclusions because, of course,
we devote a good deal of our report, again, to this issue. Is
my understanding correct that we will just revert to this issue,
we will state our position, which is that they should be disclosed,
and the FCO will simply continue to restate its position, which
is that they are not going to disclose them, and we expect this
kind of stand-off to go on for ever?
Chairman: I hope the stand-off will not go on for
ever, Mr Hill, on the basis that the Government will see reason,
given that we know, and we did say in our evidence, that these
draft conclusions are put to some Parliaments, they are public
documents in at least three Parliaments of the EU, and they are
circulated informally throughout the Brussels offices on a regular
basis. We do not use them as our information, because we do not
take informal documents like that, but they would certainly be
available to us if we ever wished to seek to take that position.
I remember Professor Simon Hix saying in part of his evidence,
if not conclusions on the question of the general lack of transparency
of the EU, that much benefit would be gained if we would just
accept that to put information out into the public domain would
improve people's perceptions of the EU. We might not get into
the situation where they are so suspicious that they vote against
treaties beneficial to us. So we will consistently stick with
Keith Hill: I note Professor Hix's view on this, but
I have to say as a minister who has negotiated in the European
Council that my own view is that it would not be helpful to disclose
every aspect of your negotiating hand before you actually finalise
the negotiations; but there you go, I think we have a different
angle on this. Can I also just note, somewhat ironically, Chairman,
that in paragraph 21 of the report, having castigated Mr Watson
in our previous report, we here shower him with praise in order
to pour further ordure over the Minister for Europe. I think this
is known as having it both ways.
Chairman: I think, as I said earlier, we did say that
we would at least give Mr Watson eight out of ten, because he
did give us quite a lot of information but did not give us the
draft conclusions, but it would have been very beneficial, and
he would probably have had ten out of ten, if he had given us
Keith Hill: Chairman, as they say in Scotland: I hear
Chairman: I think the Minister for Europe would be
considered to have a fail on this one and not eight out of ten,
so I move that, to promote a comprehensive EU approach towards
the protection and promotion of children's human rights in third
countries, but we have already cleared this on 30 April.
Richard Younger-Ross: There may be a drafting point
which may be made on the copy I have in front of me. On 21 it
says, "Chapter question mark, question mark".
Chairman: The reason is that we do not know how many
of these chapters of our report are chapters of our actual printed
document, and we will not know which one that will be until it
is actually approved by the committee. That is the reason. The
number will go in when these matters are ordered and put into
a final version. Do not worry. I did notice that question.
Richard Younger-Ross: As long as the Government continues
its position of not telling us what is actually in the public
domain in Europe, it just helps those in opposition to describe
the Government as being secretive and not being transparent; so
may Mr Hill's physician long remain in government!
Keith Hill: Chairman, I concluded long ago that the
greatest of all political virtues was self-restraint, and I propose
to exercise my self-restraint on this occasion.
Chairman: I commend you upon that.
Keith Hill: I made that conclusion when I was the
Deputy Chief Whip, probably because I was the Deputy Chief Whip.
Chairman: A8 Emissions from heavy duty vehicles
(29317), to set new, more demanding limits on emissions from
heavy duty vehicles. The recommendation is that we have this debated
in the European Committee. Mr Bailey.
Mr Bailey: I was going to speak up in support of that.
I am the last person to speak on behalf of the road haulage industry,
but I do think that, as of this time, if we are to introduce extra
regulations, they must be based on very sound and robust statistical
scientific evidence. There does seem to be a genuine divergence,
both between this Government's position and the Commission's position
on this, and, indeed, scientifically, on the basis of the figures
that are put before them, there seems to be some doubt as to the
actual overall benefit that would accrue from the policy. Given
the fact that the thrust of government taxation policy at the
moment is to reduce CO2 emissions, this, on the face of it, whilst
maybe being beneficial in some other areas, would appear to contradict
this. So, on that basis, would support it going for broader debate
because I think both the scientific and the environmental issues
have to be more fully developed before it is implemented.
Chairman: I agree.
Keith Hill: Chairman, since I am obviously on a winning
streak this afternoon, can I propose that we do not debate this
matter, and I do so for the following reasons. It does seem to
me that essentially what we are debating here is a technical disagreement
over fuel consumption with, of course, consequential implications
for cost-benefit analysis, but I think this is an extremely technical
and, frankly, complex issue which is simply unsuitable for a Parliamentary
debate. Remember that already our debates attract extremely low
levels of participation. I think at the debate in which you participated,
Chairman, on the annual policy strategy, there were only two other
back-benchers involved in that debate and three front-benchers.
When we had our debate in the European Standing Committee on the
consular arrangements, there were, effectively, only two participants
who were actually members of this committee, which adds to the
somewhat incestuous nature of these things. I do think that it
behoves us to consider whether we are recommending for wider debate
in the House issues which are really going to attract any level
of participation. Finally, can I draw the committee's attention
to the fact that there is a consultation taking place precisely
on this issue, and it is surely far more appropriate that the
academics, the economists and other stakeholders who will, obviously,
be involved in that consultation should participate in a technical
exercise of this nature. For all of those reasons, I reiterate
my recommendation that we do not debate this in Standing Committee.
Mr Clappison: Is that a motion you are putting forward?
Keith Hill: Yes.
Mr Hands: Can I totally disagree with that. HGVs is
not something that is my area of specialisation either, but I
think this document is relatively easy to understand. I think
it is not an esoteric subject at all, emissions from HGVs, and
I think it would be easy for a committee to get to grips with
it. Can I say, from my own experience of the two European committees
that I have done recently, I think since we have changed the procedure
whereby members of this committee are members of the Standing
Committee, it has actually worked incredibly well. I was amazed,
as I mentioned to this committee, Chairman, at the attendance
on the Western Balkans one, where I think there were seven or
eight people participating in that debate. It was extremely interesting.
Just on the EU consular affairs, there were at least six speakers,
including Mr Hill, myself, Mr Heathcoat-Amory, plus at least three
other speakers, and I thought, again, that was an extremely helpful
and useful debate on something which was not that difficult to
understand. So I think the system is working well. I think it
is relatively easy for one of those committees to get to grips
Mr Steen: I am all for lorries. I have just been down
to be photographed with them. Is it anything to do with it?
Chairman: It is, yes
Mr Steen: I am all for them, and if Mr Hill is for
Chairman: As long as you do not have dirty, polluting
Mr Steen: That is exactly right. If that is what he
is talking about, I would support him. If he is not talking about
that, I do not know what he is talking about.
Chairman: Mr Hill is moving that we do not have a
Mr Steen: Indeed. He is wrong.
Chairman: It is aye for no debate and no for a debate.
Mr Steen: We want a debate.
Paragraph 5.18 read.
Question put, That the paragraph stand part of the report.
|The Committee divided
|Mr Adrian Bailey||Keith Hill
|Mr James Clappison||Mr Greg Hands
|Mr Anthony Steen||Richard Younger-Ross
Paragraph agreed to.
Chairman: Expressions of interestwe have one
already from Kelvin Hopkinsfor participating in this debate.
Mr Steen: If it is lorries, I am interested in lorries.
Chairman: Mr Bailey, did you indicate an interest.
Mr Bailey: No.
Mr Steen: If it is this year.
Mr Bailey: I am sorry, are we talking about attending
the Standing Committee? Yes, I would be interested in attending.
Chairman: Thank you very much. At least there will
be a number of people.
A9 European Transparency Initiative (29726),
to outline the Commission's Code of Conduct on lobbying. The recommendation
is that we clear it with a report to the House.
Richard Younger-Ross: This is an important issue which
I hope will come back to us when they have done their pilot study.
As the committee may be aware, there are 15,000 lobbyists in Brussels,
which is the equivalent of one lobbyist for every MEP and every
member of MEP staff. It would be interesting to see whether these
regulations can be extended at a later stage so that when lobbyists
see a decision-maker the decision-maker has to be aware they have
actually seen the lobbyist, so that we have even more transparency.
Chairman: I know that Mr Kelvin Hopkins, who unfortunately
had to leave the committee, said the Public Administration Committee
of this House has been undertaking a year-long study into all
these practices in this House. I think everyone is interested
in improving lobbying, which can be legitimate but it must not
be abused. So we are recommending a report to the House. Is that
Richard Younger-Ross: Agreed. Agreed
Chairman: A10 Public access to documents (29666),
to amend Regulation (EC) 1049/2001 on public access to documents.
The recommendation is that we do not clear this but seek further
information. Is that agreed. Agreed
B Briefs, which, as you know, are briefs which
are recommended to be of insufficient legal or political importance
to warrant a substantive report to the House. I will read through
the numbers and I will take silence as assent.
B1 Evaluation of a small spending programme (29733).
B2 The Eurozone (a) (29677) (b)(29680). Agreed
B3 Addressing the challenge of energy efficiency
through Information and Communication Technologies (29688). Agreed
B4 Aviation Insurance (29654). Agreed
B5 Statistics (29741). Agreed
B6 Eligibility for beef subsidy payments (29683).
B7 The European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument
(ENPI) (29742). Agreed
B8 Production and labelling of organic products
C Briefs, again summary briefs only provided.
Silence is taken as consent.
C1 Agreement between the European and Community
and the Government of Denmark and the Home Government of the Faeroe
Islands (29707.) Agreed
C2 Statutory markings for two or three-wheel motor
vehicles (29740). Agreed
There are no pre and post council scrutiny matters. Thank
you for your attendance.