Select Committee on European Communities Seventeenth Report


B. CASES WHERE EFFECTIVE SCRUTINY HAS NOT BEEN POSSIBLE

41.  COMMON CUSTOMS TARIFF DUTIES: IMPORTS OF SARDINES ORIGINATING IN MOROCCO

Letter from Jeff Rooker MP, Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  I am writing to let you know of one proposal adopted during Recess prior to consideration by your Committee.

  The Co-operation Agreement between the Community and Morocco, which provided for the exemption of duty on sardines originating in Morocco expired on 31 December 1998. This proposal, to re-introduce the arrangements autonomously with effect from 1 January 1999, would exempt customs duties on preserved and prepared sardines within certain CN Codes. Failure to continue these arrangements would have had a detrimental effect on the price of canned sardines on the UK market. In these circumstances, we therefore agreed to the adoption of the proposal as an "A" point at the Research Council on 22 December. An unnumbered Explanatory Memorandum is enclosed.

11 January 1999

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Jeff Rooker MP, Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

  Thank you for your letter of 11 January enclosing an Explanatory Memorandum on the above proposal. In Monday's sift, I lifted the scrutiny reserve on this document, but I am surprised that it was not possible to deposit this in Parliament earlier or to inform us that it was coming up for decision. I note that, in paragraph 10 of your Explanatory Memorandum, you state that "Importers have been consulted on the Regulation . . .", so I assume that it would also have been possible to consult Parliament.

  I would be grateful for your comments on this.

22 January 1999

Letter from Jeff Rooker MP Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  You wrote to me on 22 January enquiring why it had not been possible to deposit the Explanatory Memorandum on the above proposal earlier or to inform your Committee that it was coming up for decision. You have highlighted paragraph 10 of the Explanatory Memorandum which states that "Importers have been consulted on the Regulation . . . . . . . . . . . ." as the reason for your query.

  I am sorry that it was not possible to alert the scrutiny Committees earlier about this proposal but this was because the Council proposal was not issued until 16 December and not received in MAFF until 18 December. Its late publication was an oversight by the EU Commission who had not appreciated that the previous arrangements would expire on 31 December 1998 unless the tariff arrangements for canned sardines were immediately extended. The late publication therefore prevented us from raising the isue with the scrutiny Committees before the Christmas Recess but it was possible to seek urgent views from the importers' trade association (by telephone) who fully supported the proposal.

  I hope that this clarifies the position.

3 February 1999


 
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