Select Committee on European Communities Seventeenth Report


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

  At its meeting on 4 May, Sub-Committee A considered the texts which you supplied of these two documents, together with your Explanatory Memoranda on them. It cleared the documents from scrutiny, but nevertheless asked me to write to you.

  The proposals in these two documents seem sensible, and your letter tells us that they are in line with proposals in your Institutional Strategy paper. But you do not tell us whether they are simply a matter of routine, or whether (as we suspect) they represent something of a triumph for the United Kingdom and like-minded Member States. Nor do you tell us whether they have any relevance to the running argument on EU aid priorities, though we have noted that in the first document there is at least one reference to "very important specialised areas such as poverty reduction . . .". I should welcome your response on these points.

  We have had similar difficulties with one or two other Explanatory Memoranda from you recently. Although they give a brief summary of the matter in hand, they do not always give the flavour of what the Government considers to be the most important points, not do they always indicate what the Government is doing to press its views on other Member States, and how successful it has been or is likely to be. The scrutiny process would be likely to go more smoothly if you were able to provide more information of this kind—as you did in your Explanatory Memorandum of 30 April on the Food Aid Convention 1999, which we found extremely helpful.

17 May 1999

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

  Thank you for your letter of 17 May commenting on the two Explanatory Memoranda (EMs) submitted for Parliamentary Scrutiny on Evaluation and Complementarity respectively.

  I am grateful for your feedback on the style and content of these EMs and your positive comments about the EM on the Food Aid Convention. It is extremely helpful to have your comments on the kind of detail you would like to see in Explanatory Memoranda and I have asked my officials to take them on board with immediate effect.

  As you suspected, the Evaluation Conclusions (which were adopted by the Development Council on 21 May) do represent something of a triumph. The Conclusions focus on organisation and systematic problems in the EC's development effort and, as you pointed out, tie in very closely with the proposals in our Institutional Strategy Paper. I was disappointed that, due to objections from the Spanish and the need to agree Conclusions by consensus, the language on the desirability of creating a single Commissioner and Directorate-General for development had to be watered down from that originally proposed. However, as you will see from my report on the Council (which I am sending you separately) a large majority of Member States spoke in favour of such a rationalisation in the Council and, in summing up, the Presidency emphasised its importance to the Commission.

  The Resolution on Coordination and Complementarity is less significant. It seeks to create an environment in which coordination, particularly at country-level, can flourish but, in practise, it is likely to add little to existing practice. That said, there is of course important linkage between this Resolution and the Evaluation Conclusions. The successful implementation of the recommendations in the latter will help to facilitate more meaningful coordination and complementarity between the Community and Member States. The decentralisation of more decision-making power to EC delegations would, for example, be an important move in the right direction.

  On a more cautious note, the real test of the importance of both documents will be in the speed and manner in which they are implemented and, ultimately, their impact on the EC's effectiveness. Too often the Council agrees policy statements to which the Commission fails to give practical effect. The request for an Action Plan and agreement to a process through which the Council will follow up the Evaluation Conclusions will, I hope, help to address this potential problem. The UK, in cooperation with other Member States, will of course continue to press the Commission to deliver.

  I would very much like to meet you with my official who leads on this work if you would find that useful.

28 May 1999

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

  Thank you for your letter of 28 May, giving further information about the two (un-numbered) documents which you had submitted for scrutiny. As you will know, we have already cleared them, but it is most helpful to have this further information. We are also grateful for your offer to meet the Committee on this topic, and may well take you up on it in due course.

17 June 1999

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