Select Committee on European Communities Eleventh Report



Letter from the Rt Hon Clare Short MP, Secretary of State, Department for International Development, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  I am writing to apologise for the late submission of the draft EM on a Microfinance Resolution to Parliament and to advise you of my intention to support the text at the Development Council tomorrow.

  Due to administrative error for which I apologise, the English language version of the draft Resolution, which was received in my Department in draft on 11 November, was not submitted to Parliament earlier. A more vigilant examination of the Council agenda could have alerted my officials of the need for scrutiny at an earlier stage. We all regret that this has happened and are tightening our procedures to ensure that this does not happen again.

  The Resolution is a statement by the Council proposing the development of consistent EU policies on microfinancing projects. The Resolution is routine and does not involve financial commitments. Discussion of the issue raised by the Council will continue after the adoption of the Resolution, with a view to agreeing guidelines for adoption at the Development Council in May 1998.

  This Resolution is a helpful statement by the Council on an issue which can play a significant part in the fight against poverty and completely in line with government policy. Please accept my reassurances that my Department takes the requirements of Parliamentary Scrutiny very seriously and will continue to work closely with Cabinet Office to seek to ensure that future documents are submitted promptly.

27 November 1997

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to the Rt Hon Clare Short MP, Secretary of State, Department of International Development

  Thank you for your letter of 27 November and the enclosed Explanatory Memorandum informing me that on 28 November you intended to support the text of a Council Resolution on microfinancing projects.

  I am grateful for your apology for the late submission of the Explanatory Memorandum and, like you, hope that the tightening of procedures" will preclude any repetition which prevent Parliament from carrying out its duty of scrutiny. I note that guidelines are to be prepared for adoption by the Development Council in May 1998. We look forward to receiving information on the proposed guidelines so that the scrutiny procedures can be operated normally in a timely manner.

  There is one other aspect of the present position to which I would draw your attention. Your letter indicated that, the next day, you intended to support a particular text. Your Explanatory Memorandum, however, was headed Official text not available". It seems unsatisfactory that only 24 hours before the Council meeting no official text was available. Presumably you were aware of an unofficial text" which was expected to be very close to the text likely to be adopted. In these circumstances, I suggest that the most helpful course might have been for you to have submitted an unofficial text with an explanation of the unavailability of an official text.

3 December 1997

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