Select Committee on European Communities Second Report


13.  CREATION OF A SINGLE EUROPEAN SKY (13735/99)

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Chris Mullin MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

  Thank you for your Explanatory Memorandum of 18 January 2000, which was discussed at Sub-Committee B's meeting on 2 February.

  The Sub-Committee last conducted an inquiry into the Management of European Airspace in 1996 in a report entitled Air Traffic Management (HL Paper 105)—its chief recommendation was that the Commission should not become a member of EUROCONTROL or ECAC (paragraph 93).

  The Sub-Committee noted that this Communication was an interim account from the Commission on a continuing process of negotiation, and attaches considerable importance to the United Kingdom's participation in the High Level Group discussions.

  It is important that we be kept fully informed of the outcome of these discussions before they are presented to the Transport Council on 26-27 June 2000. In the meantime, the scrutiny reserve is lifted on this specific document.

3 February 2000

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Lord MacDonald of Tradeston CBE, Minister for Transport, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

  This document, under your Department's Explanatory Memorandum 13735/99, was considered at Sub-Committee B's fifth meeting on 2 February. Subsequently, I wrote to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, Mr Chris Mullin MP, pointing out that the Sub-Committee had conducted an inquiry into the Management of European Air space in 1996 in a report entitled Air Traffic Management and that its chief recommendation was that the Commission should not become a member of EUROCONTROL or ECAC.

  The Sub-Committee was prepared to lift the scrutiny reserve on this specific document, but it was on the understanding that it would be consulted on the outcome of the High Level Group discussions and that the Sub-Committee would be properly informed of the outcome of these discussions before they were presented to the Transport Council on 26-27 June.

  I am therefore somewhat alarmed to see from your letter dated 31 March that the Government has "effectively agreed" to "the terms of the Community accession to EUROCONTROL". This was not what we intended when lifting the scrutiny reserve on this document. I should be grateful to learn why my letter of 3 February to Chris Mullin was not taken into consideration at that time. We are, in effect, being presented with a fait accompli.

9 May 2000

Letter from the Rt Hon Lord MacDonald of Tradeston CBE, Minister for Transport, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  Thank you for your letter of 9 May, expressing concern about developments on the question of Community accession to EUROCONTROL.

  As I said in my letter of 31 March, the terms of Community accession are effectively agreed, though the Gibraltar problem remains to be resolved. In the meantime, let me assure you that the Government does not view this as a "fait accompli" or take parliamentary approval for granted. In due course, ratification of an Accession Protocol by both the UK (as a member of EUROCONTROL) and by the Community would be subject to UK Parliamentary scrutiny procedures. This is still some way off. Nevertheless, as I also explained in my letter, I intend to submit to you an "unnumbered" Explanatory Memorandum on Community accession to EUROCONTROL once we receive a proposal for a Council decision authorising signature. This will explain in more detail the proposed terms of accession.

  I note that Sub-Committee B was opposed in 1996 to the EC's accession to EUROCONTROL. My predecessors did, of course, inform the Parliamentary Scrutiny Committees of the Government's intention to make progress on Community membership of EUROCONTROL during the UK Presidency in 1998, and of the decision taken at the June 1998 Transport Council to agree a mandate for such negotiations. However, in accordance with guidance, negotiating mandates are not subject to parliamentary scrutiny. Moreover, there has been a climate of change in Europe since 1996, as a result of which Community accession could now be viewed in a more positive light. It is likely to result in overall benefits to European Air Traffic Management.

  It might be helpful if I clarify the relationship between the accession of the Community to EUROCONTROL and the Commission's Single Sky Communication. Negotiations on the Community's accession to EUROCONTROL began during 1998 and were therefore well advanced before the Commission's Single Sky Communication was published. There is clearly a link between the two initiatives, in that Community membership of EUROCONTROL could play an important role in helping to deliver any proposals arising from the Commission's Single Sky initiative. However, the two issues are not directly inter-dependent.

  You may also wish to know that the Single Sky initiative is not now likely to result in a single and final proposal to the Transport Council in June. A stepped approach seems more likely and, while an interim report will be presented to the June Transport Council, detailed proposals may not emerge until later this year, or, more probably, in 2001.

6 June 2000

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Lord MacDonald of Tradeston CBE, Minister for Transport, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

  Thank you for your letter dated 6 June 2000 which was considered by Sub-Committee B at its 22nd meeting on 21 June 2000.

  The Sub-Committee notes that the question of the Commission's accession to EUROCONTROL is a separate issue from the Single European Sky initiative. The Sub-Committee also notes that the Government's acceptance of the Commission's case dates from the UK Presidency in 1998.

  The Sub-Committee would, however, like to see the arguments advanced for it and would be grateful if the unnumbered Explanatory Memorandum promised in the second paragraph of your letter could be submitted now rather than after the resolution of the Gibraltar dispute.

21 June 2000


 
previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2000