Select Committee on European Communities Eleventh Report


C. LEGAL AND PROCEDURAL ISSUES

52. COMMISSION COMMUNICATION CONCERNING THE COMMUNITY VOTE ON A PROPOSAL WITHIN THE STANDING COMMITTEE OF THE EUROPEAN CONVENTION FOR THE PROTECTION OF ANIMALS KEPT FOR FARMING PURPOSES (6991/97)

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to the Rt Hon Dr John Cunningham MP, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

  I refer to your explanatory memorandum on this document which relates to the Standing Committee's Draft Recommendation concerning Ratites (Ostriches, Emus and Rheas). The Communication proposes that the Council authorise the Commission to vote in favour of the proposal. The document has been cleared from scrutiny but it would be helpful if you could provide some clarification on the question of the legal basis. Under this heading your memorandum states: No legal basis. This is not a formal act, but was covered by a simple statement in the Council minutes". This suggests that the Council accepted the Commission's proposal and gave the necessary authority to the Commission to act. If so, it is somewhat surprising if there were no legal basis for the substance of the Council's action even if there was no formal instrument but merely a statement in the minutes. I would be grateful if you could provide an explanation of this position. I think you would agree that it would be remarkable if authority can be given by the Council to the Commission to act on behalf of the Community in an international forum in the absence of a legal basis under the Treaty.

6 June 1997

Letter from Elliot Morley MP, Minister for Fisheries and the Countryside, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  Your Letter of 6 June queried the entry in Explanatory Memorandum 6991/97 relating to the legal basis for the Council's decision.

  I am sorry we were not clear on this point. As I understand it, on the basis of advice my officials have received from FCO Legal Advisers, the long-standing practice of the Council is not to cite a legal basis when it authorises the Commission to negotiate and vote in international fora. This is what we intended to reflect in our legal basis" section of the Explanatory Memorandum.

  We did not intend to suggest that the Council was acting outside the scope of its Treaty powers. The Community has competence to deal with the welfare of farmed ratites under Article 43 of the EC Treaty, which empowers the Council to legislate for the Common Agricultural Policy. The Council was following the procedure in Article 228 of the Treaty, which provides for the negotiation and conclusion of agreements between the Community and Third Countries or international organisations. Thus, the legal basis for the substance of the Council's action in this case was Articles 43 and 228 of the Treaty.

  I hope this answers the Committee's point but do please let me know if you require anything further.

23 June 1997




 
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