Letter from the Chairman to Brian Wilson
MP, Minister of State for Energy and Construction, Department
of Trade and Industry
Thank you for your Explanatory Memorandum dated
23 January 2003 which Sub-Committee B considered at its meeting
on 10 February.
I have already lifted the Scrutiny reserve on
Sub-Committee B has, nevertheless, looked at
the Commission's Communication carefully. We share the Government's
caution about many of the proposals. We understand the context
of these proposals, particularly enlargement and the need for
EU-wide proper regulation in nuclear safety. However, because
of the importance of this subject, we would welcome your advice
on the position being taken by HMG in any discussions at Working
Group level. We note, for example, that the Government's own programme
for dealing with the management of nuclear waste envisages a review
that will only be completed by 2006. We wonder how this will be
accommodated by the timetables which the Commission's proposals
are expected to introduce. In short, there appear to be significant
differences here between the UK position and that of the Commission,
and we wonder how the Government expects the gap to be bridged.
We should also like confirmation of the legal
basis for the proposed draft Directives. Presumably, they will
be subject to Qualified Majority Voting.
It would be helpful to know what consultations
you are undertaking with interested UK parties. We look forward
to receiving full Explanatory Memoranda as soon as the draft Directives
are presented to the Council.
12 February 2003
Letter from Brian Wilson MP
In response to an Explanatory Memorandum I submitted,
you wrote on 12 February requesting details about the Government's
negotiating position, how the Government intended to bridge the
gap between the Commission's proposals and the Government's position,
the legal base for the proposals and details of consultations
being undertaken with interested UK parties.
As stated in the Explanatory Memorandum, the
Government has a number of concerns with the proposed Directives
on installation safety standards and on the management of radioactive
waste. These Directives have now been adopted by the College of
Commissioners and the Commission are currently seeking the opinion
of the Economic and Social Committee before presenting the proposals
to the Council. For both measures, my Ministerial colleagues have
agreed that it would be desirable to press for a non-legally binding
instrument (Council Recommendation or Resolution) rather than
Directives. For radioactive waste management, such an instrument
could, for example, require Member States to advise the Commission
of their plans and then to report at regular intervals on what
actions they are taking to carry forward these plans. This would
avoid a legal conflict of the type you allude to in your letter.
The draft Directives adopted by the Commission
state that the proposals are being made under Articles 31 and
32 (Chapter 3) of the Euratom Treaty. Measures under this section
are subject to Qualified Majority Voting. However, it is not clear
as to how far the Community has competence in the area of the
design, construction and operation of nuclear installations and
a recent judgement of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the
Case C29-99 Commission v. Council, has not clarified the
issue. The Council Legal Services (CLS) will be asked to examine
the judgement and report to the Council after the measures have
been tabled. Some Member States have already put the Commission
on notice that they believe Article 203/Euratom should be invoked
either for both Directives in their entirety or at least the specific
proposals on decommissioning funds and radioactive waste management.
This requires unanimity from the Council.
These proposals were only adopted by the Commission
at the end of January. We have not yet commenced consultations
with interested parties although there have been discussions on
the proposed safety Directive with some of the key players who
will be affected. Officials from my Department and DEFRA are now
preparing to consult interested bodies informally. Formal consultation
will be carried out once the proposals have been presented to
10 March 2003
Letter from the Chairman to Brian Wilson
Thank you for your letter dated 10 March which
Sub-Committee B considered at its meeting on 24 March.
We note that the draft Directives have now been
formally adopted by the Commission and will be put to the Council
in due course. We note, too, that you and your colleagues will
be pressing for non-legally binding instruments (Council Recommendation
or Resolution) rather than the Directives. We agree with the Government
that this would be preferable. Because these Directives would
be subject to qualified majority voting, we should very much like
to know what sort of support you think the Government's position
will attract in the Council.
We note from your letter that there is some
uncertainty about the extent of Community competence in the area
of design construction and operation of nuclear installations,
and also in the matter of decommissioning funds and radioactive
waste management, and that these areas will require unanimity
in the Council. These are important issues, and we remain concerned
to know how a Community approach would impact on HMG's own plans
for the above matters.
We should also be grateful for an account of
the informal consultations that are currently taking place, and
also of the formal consultations when they have taken place.
26 March 2003