54. DELEGATION OF POWER TO THE COMMISSION:
REFORMING COMITOLOGY (3RD REPORT, SESSION 1998-99)
Memorandum from the Foreign and Commonwealth
1. The Minister for Europe welcomes the
Committee's Report on the delegation of powers to the Commission
(Reforming Comitology). The Government agrees overwhelmingly with
the Committee's conclusions and values the contribution which
they make to the current negotiations on the Commission's proposal
to reform comitology procedures.
2. The Government has the following detailed
observations on the Report's conclusions and recommendations.
3. The Government agrees with the three
main objectives identified by the Committee. The key issue is
the extent to which the European Parliament should be able to
scrutinise the work of comitology committees. Beyond that, there
is much scope for simplifying the present system and for making
it more transparent.
4. The new Decision should lead to a more
open and efficient system for implementing legislation, but as
the Committee recognises, it must also reflect the institutional
balance provided for in the Treaties.
A GREATER ROLE
5. The Government agrees with much of the
Committee's analysis of the extent to which the European Parliament
should be involved in scrutinising implementing legislation. In
particular, we share the Committee's view in paragraph 145 that
greater involvement on the part of the Parliament should be consistent
with maintaining the institutional balance and "should not
jeopardise speedy and effective law-making".
Consequently, we welcome the Committee's recommendation
that the way forward is to improve the position of the European
Parliament in the scrutiny of comitology procedures rather than
to give it a veto over implementing measures.
The regulatory committee procedure
6. The Government agrees that a regulatory
procedure should be maintained. As the Committee notes, it is
often the most appropriate way of dealing with subjects which
are controversial or touch on sensitivities in one or more Member
7. We also welcome the Committee's view
that the Commission's proposed changes to the regulatory procedure
are not acceptable. The regulatory procedure often deals with
matters which need to be resolved urgently, such as those concerned
with animal health or food safety. Such cases could not be dealt
with quickly enough if the Commission were required to drop any
measure not accepted by a regulatory committee and were instead
required to present a full legislative proposal.
8. We are, however, happy to consider other
ways of meeting the EP's concerns and are grateful for the Committee's
suggestion that a solution could be found by building on the modus
vivendi. For example, in the event of the regulatory committee
giving a negative or no opinion on a measure implementing a codecided
basic act, the proposed measure should be referred to the Council
for a decision, and the European Parliament should also be given
a chance to comment on it. The exact details of such a procedure
will need to be worked out in negotiation with other Member States,
but the Government agrees with the principle stated by the Committee
in paragraph 154 that the EP's role in this procedure should be
to influence decision taking, rather than to exercise a veto.
9. The Government notes the Committee's
recommendation that the draft Decision should go further than
it does on information to be provided to the European Parliament.
We agree that there is scope for more information to be sent to
the EP for scrutiny purposes (for example more details of the
membership of committees). The Government has no objection to
the EP's right to receive such information being explicitly included
in the body of the Decision. We also agree that provision should
be made for exceptions in urgent cases.
Criteria determining the choice of type committee
10. The Government reiterates its view that
criteria to guide the choice of committee types could, in principle,
be helpful. We share the Committee's view that such criteria should
be non-binding, and are attracted by its conclusion that these
criteria might be laid down in a political text, such as an interinstitutional
agreement. However, we do not rule out the possibility that Article
2 could also be adapted to set out both non-binding and useful
11. Like the Committee, the Government is
concerned about the exact wording of any criteria. We are currently
negotiating detailed changes with partners.
Removal of the variants
12. The Government agrees with the Committee's
analysis in paragraph 169. In principle, we are in favour of greater
simplification, but the practicality of dropping certain of the
procedures will depend on the nature of those retained. As the
Committee notes, we are anxious about the Commission's proposed
changes to the safeguard procedure. We welcome the Committee's
support for our position.
13. The Government agrees wholeheartedly
that there is a need for greater transparency in the comitology
system. The present system does have a reputation for being "shrouded
in mystery and secrecy". The Government is pushing hard in
the Council for many of the recommendations which the Committee
makes. We have already tabled language calling for a complete
list to be published of comitology committees, their remits and
membership. As the Committee notes, it would be for the Commission
to compile this list and to keep it up to date. The list could
be published in the Official Journal, but for ease of access it
could also be put on the Internet. The rules of procedure for
each committee should also be made public.
14. The Government does, however, believe
that there is a distinction to be made between information made
available to the European and national parliaments for scrutiny
purposes and information intended to inform the general public.
The former must be provided promptly to allow parliaments to present
their views on a measure. The latter might better be presented
retrospectively so as to avoid problems of commercial or market
Role of national parliaments
15. The Government welcomes the Committee's
support for the suggestions in its recent White Paper on Westminster
scrutiny of implementing measures. We agree that whether or not
a proposal is "particularly significant" will be a question
of political judgement and welcomes the Committee's ideas on how
this judgement might be exercised. While it will not always be
clear whether or not a proposed measure will need to go to the
Council for a decision, the criteria suggested by the Committee
in paragraphs 183 and 184 seem a good basis on which to work.