Select Committee on European Union Special Report


SPECIAL REPORT



7 DECEMBER 1999

By the Select Committee appointed to consider European Union documents and other matters relating to the European Union.

ORDERED TO REPORT

INTRODUCTION

1. The Committee was appointed on Monday 6th December 1999, as the successor to the European Communities Committee. Our Orders of Reference, including the membership of the Committee, are printed at Appendix 1. This Special Report covers various administrative and organisational matters which we decided at our first meeting, held on Tuesday 7th December.

WORKING METHODS

2. We propose to continue using the working methods established by the European Communities Committee. The basis of the operation will continue to be the regular "sifting" of documents by the Chairman of the Select Committee, advised by the staff of the Committee. Thereafter the detailed examination of the documents will be carried out by six Sub-Committees.

SCRUTINY RESERVE RESOLUTION

3. The scrutiny work of the Select Committee and its Sub-Committees is underpinned by an undertaking given by the Government that they will not agree in the Council of Ministers to any proposal on which parliamentary scrutiny at Westminster has not been completed. This undertaking was formalised in a House of Commons resolution (the "Scrutiny Reserve Resolution") in 1980. The Resolution was most recently renewed by the Commons on 17 November 1998.

4. The Commons Scrutiny Reserve Resolution has always been held to apply to the House of Lords and there has been no equivalent Lords resolution. However, procedures in the two Houses are now sufficiently different to make it desirable for the House of Lords to have its own Scrutiny Reserve Resolution, and such a Resolution was agreed on Monday 6th December 1999. The text is reproduced in Appendix 2. The practical effect of the Resolution is to continue the Committee's present powers, but with clearer authority.

SUB-COMMITTEE STRUCTURE

5. We have agreed to the appointment of six Sub-Committees. Their membership is set out in Appendix 3. Four of the Sub-Committees (A, B, E and F) have the same remits as their predecessors in the former European Communities Committee.

6. We have appointed, on an experimental basis, a new Sub-Committee C, to cover the Common Foreign and Security Policy (the so-called "Second Pillar" of the European Union).

7. The remits of the old Sub-Committees C (Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection) and D (Agriculture, Fisheries and Food) have been merged in a new Sub-Committee D, which will cover Environment, Agriculture, Public Health and Consumer Protection.

8. A list of the six Sub-Committees follows:

A  Economic and Financial Affairs, Trade and External Relations

B  Energy, Industry and Transport

C  Common Foreign and Security Policy

D  Environment, Agriculture, Public Health and Consumer Protection

E  Law and Institutions

F  Social Affairs, Education and Home Affairs

9. The Sub-Committee structure will be reviewed by the Select Committee towards the end of the present Session.

10. The rotation rule, whereby Members of the Select Committee and its Sub-Committees retire after four years' service, subject to an extension of up to three years for Chairmen of Sub-Committees, has been applied as if the change of name of the Committee had not taken place. It has also been applied, and will continue to apply, to members of former Sub-Committees C and D who continue to serve on the new Sub-Committee D.

INQUIRY INTO THE FORTHCOMING INTER-GOVERNMENTAL CONFERENCE (IGC)

11. We have considered how we can scrutinise the preparations being made for the next Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC), to be held next year. Previous IGCs have been the subject of inquiries by ad-hoc Sub-Committees. On this occasion, we have decided that the Select Committee itself will conduct an inquiry. We propose to invite a limited number of key witnesses to give written and oral evidence, and we are aiming to produce a Report before the Summer Recess next year. Further details will be published in due course.


 
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