CODECISION AND NATIONAL PARLIAMENTARY
CHAPTER 1: THE CODECISION PROCEDURE:
ORIGINS, SCOPE, EXPANSION AND THE POSSIBLE EFFECT OF THE LISBON
1. Codecision is the European Union legislative
procedure whereby a proposal from the European Commission is negotiated
and adopted jointly by the Council of Ministers and the European
Parliament. Under codecision the Parliament and the Council enjoy
equal powers; neither can adopt a legislative act without the
agreement of the other.
2. The procedure was introduced in the 1993 Maastricht
Treaty. Since then the treaties of Amsterdam (1999) and Nice (2003)
have expanded the areas which are subject to codecision to 44.
The Lisbon Treaty would expand these areas significantly further
into areas including agriculture, fisheries, justice and home
affairs and the budget. The Treaty would also rename codecision
the Ordinary Legislative Procedure and make very small changes
to the procedure itself.
3. For some time the perception has been that
the codecision procedure makes it harder to conduct effective
parliamentary scrutiny. We decided to conduct our inquiry to test
this and, where appropriate, to consider updating our scrutiny
procedures and practices. In addition we make a number of recommendations
to the Government relating to the information they provide to
us. For simplicity's sake we collate these updates and recommendations
in Chapter 3.
4. The members of the Select Committee which
conducted this inquiry are listed at Appendix 1. During this inquiry
we have taken oral evidence from the then Minister for Europe,
the UK and French Deputy Permanent Representatives to the European
Union, two UK MEPs, and staff of the Commission, Council and European
Parliament. We also received written evidence from a number of
interested parties. The full list of those who gave evidence is
printed at Appendix 2; the evidence itself is printed with this
report. We wish to thank all of them for taking the time to send
us their views.
5. We have also sought the views and practical
experience of our own sub-committees. These are printed at Appendix
6. The primary aim of this report is to present
ways in which parliamentary scrutiny of negotiations on European
legislation could be improved. In this respect interest in this
House in our report may well be limited to those serving on our
Committee and sub-committees. Nonetheless we make this report
for debate. In addition we anticipate that there will be interest
in this report from those who perform a similar function to us
in the other national parliaments of the EU.
How codecision worksthe
procedures as laid down in the Treaties
7. The codecision procedure itself is a framework
for negotiations between the Council and the European Parliament
set out in Articles 250 and 251 TEC.
8. The procedure allows for a maximum of three
parallel stages in the European Parliament and Council called
first reading, second reading and conciliation/third reading.
The 1999 Amsterdam Treaty introduced the possibility for the procedure
to be completed, and for a proposal to be adopted, in fewer than
three readings. So, unlike the UK system, where a Bill must complete
all its stages to become an Act, if the Council and Parliament
reach agreement earlier in the process the legislation is adopted
without recourse to the remaining stages.
9. Here we first set out the formal steps of
the codecision procedure (Figure 1 sets them out in flow chart
form) before reviewing the evidence we have received on how the
procedure now works in practice.
Some jargon simplifiedpart one
|The Council Presidency consists of the ministers and officials of the Member State which chairs all the meetings of the Council. The Presidency rotates every six months.
A Council Working Group is the first level at which negotiations are held in the Council on Commission proposals. A working group is attended by specialist officials from each of the Member States and is staffed by the General Secretariat of the Council. There are some 250 working groups.
A Rapporteur is the Member of the European Parliament appointed to draft the Parliament's report. The same rapporteur will work on all three readings of a legislative proposal.
Shadow rapporteurs are appointed by their political groups to follow the work of the rapporteur and to lead for their group on discussions on a proposal. Often there will be shadow rapporteurs appointed by all the main groups other than the group which appointed the rapporteur.
The General Approach is the first public expression of the views of the Council on a legislative proposal from the Commission. It usually lists the changes that the Council is likely to make to the proposal.
The Common Position is the text produced as a result of the Council's first reading of a proposal by which time the Council has usually had the opportunity to consider the Parliament's first reading position.
Conciliation is the mechanism by which the Parliament and Council meet together, prior to third reading, with the aim of producing a draft of a legislative proposal which is acceptable to both.
The Joint Text is the draft of the legislative proposal agreed in the Conciliation meeting. It must be adopted at third reading by both the Parliament and Council to become law.
10. First reading is of the Proposal as presented
by the Commission to the European Parliament and Council. There
are no formal time limits to this stage so the speed of the negotiations
depends on political impetus coming, usually, from the Council
11. As it takes time for the European Parliament
to take decisions on which members and committees will lead on
the Proposal, the Council is usually able to begin work first.
The relevant Council working group (made up of officials from
the national representations) begins work with a view to producing
a "General Approach". This indicates the Council's views
on the Proposal and the changes that the Council is likely to
make to it.
12. In the Parliament a member (or, on occasions,
more than one member) is appointed to act as rapporteur. The rapporteur
is responsible for taking the proposal though all its stages in
the Parliament. This begins with drafting a report containing
amendments to the Proposal for the rapporteur's committee to consider,
amend and agree. Where possible this also lists amendments that
would be required to the Council's General Approach. Once the
committee has agreed the report, it is debated, amended (where
necessary) and adopted in Plenary. This completes first reading
in the Parliament.
13. The amendments the Parliament wishes to make
to the Proposal are then considered by the Council in its first
reading. At this point the Council has two options. First, it
can approve the Parliament's amendments and adopt the act ("First
reading agreement"see below). Second, it can disagree
with some or all of the Parliament's amendments, or propose its
own, different amendments. In this case the Council adopts a "Common
Position" (so called because it reflects the common view
of the Member States in the Council, not because it reflects a
common position between the Council and Parliament).
14. Second reading must be completed
within six months, extendible to eight. It begins with the Parliament
considering the Council's Common Position.
15. On the basis of a report from the rapporteur,
the Parliament's second reading can (i) approve the Common Position
and adopt the Proposal as set out there ("Early second reading
agreement"see below); (ii) reject the Common Position
entirely, in which case the Proposal falls; or (iii) adopt amendments
to the Common Position.
16. Where the Parliament has chosen to amend
the Common Position, its amendments are considered at the Council's
second reading. At this stage the Council can approve all Parliament's
amendments and adopt the Proposal accordingly. If the Council
is unable to agree all the Parliament's amendments the process
moves to conciliation/third reading.
CONCILIATION AND THIRD READING
17. Third reading must be completed within 18
weeks, extendible to 24, of the Council's second reading.
18. The aim is to produce a "Joint Text":
a draft of the legislative proposal which is acceptable to both
the Parliament and the Council. Initially this is done through
informal three-way meetings, or trilogues, between the Parliament,
Council and Commission. At a trilogue the Parliament is usually
represented by a delegation including the rapporteur; the Council
by the current Presidency's Permanent (or Deputy Permanent) Representative;
and the Commission by the relevant Director General.
19. When appropriate (for example, when agreement
is thought to be close) a formal conciliation committee meeting
is held. Here representatives from each of the 27 Member States
attend on the Council's side. They are matched by an equal number
of MEPs. The meeting is co-chaired by the minister of the Presidency
country and a vice president of the Parliament.
20. Any Joint Text agreed in a conciliation committee
has to be approved, at third reading, by the Council and the Parliament.
If no agreement is possible, or either Institution fails to approve
the result of the conciliation, the proposal falls.
The Codecision Procedureflowchart
How codecision worksthe
21. As the Parliament and Council have become
familiar with codecision the way they use the procedure has changed.
Importantly, there has been a trend towards shortening the legislative
process through (i) an increase in first reading agreements, and
(ii) the development of early second reading agreements. As the
Commission puts it, first reading agreements have "gradually
become the norm [with] more than 70% of files now concluded"
at that stage (p 79).
22. The recommended procedures for achieving
agreement at these earlier stages are set out in a June 2007 Joint
Declaration by the Parliament, Council and Commission on "Practical
Arrangements for the Codecision Procedure".
Some jargon simplifiedpart two
|First reading agreement is where the amendments to the Proposal in the Parliament's first reading report are all agreed by the Council at its first reading.
Early second reading agreement is similar except that the agreement between the Council and Parliament is reflected in the Council's Common Position rather than the Parliament's first reading report. This may be because a compromise was reached between the two only after Parliament had adopted its first reading report.
INCREASE IN FIRST AND EARLY SECOND READING DEALS
23. According to Dr Charlotte Burns from
the School of Politics and International Studies at the University
of Leeds, the Amsterdam Treaty introduced the possibility for
agreement at first or second reading to "speed up decision
making particularly on policies where there was no substantial
disagreement between the European Parliament and Council or where
the proposals concerned were merely technical" (p 76).
However, Klaus Baier from the European Parliament's codecision
secretariat told us that in the current legislature (ending on
14 July 2009) almost 400 legislative acts were adopted under codecision
of which 69 per cent were concluded at first reading (Q 125).
Furthermore, as recent high profile examples such as the Climate
Change Package show,
early agreements are now sought on important and controversial
24. Indeed, the 2007 Joint Declaration encourages
the Institutions to "cooperate in good faith with a view
to reconciling their positions as far as possible so that, wherever
possible, acts can be adopted at first reading".
However, as we heard from Anthony Teasdale, Head of Strategy and
Political Bodies in the Cabinet of the President of the European
Parliament, "people have been slightly startled by the speed
and intensity" of the take-up of opportunities for earlier
agreement (Q 130). There are suggestions that it is by no
means certain that the Parliament will continue to pursue so many
early deals when it returns to legislative work after the elections.
25. The Conference of Presidents in the Parliament
estimates that early second reading agreements now account for
half of all second reading agreements.
How these deals occurinformal
26. In practice, first readings in the Council
and Parliament which make the same changes to the Commission's
Proposal do not happen by accident. Rather, the Council, the Parliament
and the Commission meet in an "informal trilogue" to
negotiate an acceptable text. As Philippe Léglise-Costa,
French Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU, put it: "the
real negotiation takes place in the trilogue" (Q 81).
The deal arising from this negotiation is then presented to the
Council and Parliament for their votes.
Some jargon simplifiedpart three
|Informal trilogues are private meetings between representatives of the European Parliament, Council and Commission which take place at each stage of the codecision procedure. Contrary to popular belief these meetings are not small. Although numbers vary, usually they are attended by the Parliament's rapporteur, shadow rapporteurs and support staff, staff from the Council Presidency and staff from the Commission. In total there may be some 20 to 40 people in attendance. They are a vital part of the codecision procedure because they allow frank, face-to-face discussions between those leading on the Proposal under discussion from each of the Institutions. But, as M Léglise-Costa told us, they are preceded by even more informal contacts between the rapporteur and Presidency at which the real decisions can be made: "there is a lot of preparation before the actual negotiation in order to assess with the Parliament ... what is the right way to proceed" (Q 83). In terms of a record, the Parliament requires a report back to the responsible committee. We understand that the Council Secretariat produces a summary of the discussions which it circulates to the Representations of the Member States.
COREPER is the regular meeting, at ambassador level, of representatives of the Member States. This is where many of the decisions relating to European legislation and policy are taken, before being approved at ministerial meetings. There are two formats: COREPER 1 which is attended by Deputy Permanent Representatives and currently handles most codecision, and COREPER 2 which is attended by the Permanent Representatives.
Committee coordinators are those members of the Parliament's committees who, rather like whips in the Westminster system, run the business of the committee. Typically there will be a coordinator from each political group.
27. Trilogues, as the primary forum for negotiation,
are attended by a surprisingly large number of people. M Léglise-Costa
told us that for the Council there will usually be "the President
of COREPER, assisted by staff of his own representation and the
Secretariat of the Council and Legal Service of the Council":
typically this would be some ten people (Q 81).
28. Representation from the Commission would,
for important negotiations, be of a similar size and headed by
the relevant Director General.
29. The European Parliament has agreed a Code
of Conduct for negotiating codecision files
which makes clear that the responsible committee should take the
"decision on the composition of the EP negotiating team"
and that "political balance shall be respected".
Arlene McCarthy MEP, chairman of the Parliament's Internal Market
Committee and veteran of many trilogues, told us that for her
committee this means that she always leads negotiations on behalf
of the Parliament because as chairman she is responsible for taking
"forward the result of the Committee vote". Usually
she would be accompanied by the rapporteur, shadow rapporteurs,
committee coordinators, Parliament staff and staff working for
the political groups (Q 234).
TRILOGUESMANDATES AND ACCOUNTABILITY
30. For the Council's part, the formal position
is set out in the written evidence from the General Secretariat:
trilogue negotiations "begin only after each Institution
has established internally its own negotiating position".
However the Secretariat also recognise the possibility for "informal
or exploratory contacts" between the Presidency, the Parliament
and the Commission (p 86). In addition there are "bilateral
meetings with, for instance, the Presidency and the Parliament"
(Q 191). In these the Presidency cannot "commit the
Council to anything that has not yet been formally mandated by
COREPER" (p 86).
31. In practice, as we heard from M Léglise-Costa,
these informal contacts are frequent and extensive: the rapporteur
and he "spent a lot of time assessing the position in the
Council and in the Parliament ... what to propose to COREPER,
what to say, how to transmit a document to the Parliament a bit
ahead of the trilogue, how to organise the trilogue, what the
rapporteur would say, what I can answer to that in order to progress
and what other members from the other parties would understand
from that and how to conclude at the end of the trilogue"
32. In terms of accountability, M Legal told
us that after every trilogue meeting "there is always precise
feedback to the delegations [viz. the Permanent Representations]
by the Presidency on how the negotiations have been conducted"
(Q 194). This would be either to the working group, where
the trilogue was organised at that level, or to COREPER where
it was attended by the Deputy Permanent Representative.
33. For the European Parliament the Code of Conduct
requires that "in general, the amendments adopted in committee
or in plenary shall form the basis of the mandate for the EP negotiating
team". In addition, the negotiating team is required to "report
back to the committee on the outcome of the negotiations and make
all text distributed available to the committee". Should
this not be possible, "for timing reasons [only]", a
report must be circulated to the shadow rapporteurs and committee
coordinators instead. Arlene McCarthy told us that she took it
on herself to report the results of a trilogue back to the committee
coordinators (Q 234).
34. Professor Simon Hix, from the London
School of Economics, told us that since 2004 "94 percent
of codecision bills (201 out of 219 agreements) were discussed
via the informal trilogue procedure before open deliberations
and votes could take place in committee" (p 92). However,
Jonathan Dancourt-Cavanagh, from the General Secretariat of the
Council, reinforced the importance that the Parliament places
on ensuring that a rapporteur has a mandate before beginning negotiations:
he assured us that in his "experience of over 100 codecision
negotiations it is very rare for the Parliament to seriously commence
a negotiation before the Committee has voted in first reading"
COUNCIL, EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND
35. When the Council itself meets its deliberations
on acts to be adopted under codecision must be open to the public
as must the results and explanations of votes and any statements
made in the minutes of proceedings.
Non-confidential documents are available to all on the Council's
public register. All other supporting documents are available
internally and to the national administrations of the Member States
through their Permanent Representations and the Ministries of
36. All this has not prevented a tide of criticism
over a perceived lack of transparency in the Council's deliberations.
As Richard Corbett MEP points out, "even if the Council itself
now meets in public when finalising legislation, COREPER proceedings,
conciliation meetings and trilogue talks are behind closed doors"
(p 59). In practice this means that publicly accessible deliberation
in the Council on codecided legislation is usually limited to
ministers formally approving the results agreed in private meetings
only. Added to this is what Professor Hix describes as "incomplete
access to legislative deliberations of Ministerial meetings of
the Council" (p 93). All this means that there is no
public access to trilogues, nor to discussions at which the mandates
for informal trilogues are agreed, nor where the Presidency reports
back on them.
37. In contrast, European Parliament committee
meetings are, almost without exception, open to the public (Q 126).
Meetings of committee coordinators are, however, held in private.
Implications for national parliaments
seeking to keep abreast of negotiations
38. Much of the evidence we have received suggests
that both the codecision procedure itself and these trends in
codecision practice make it harder for national parliaments to
follow the procedure. The points raised most often are that:
- Codeciding legislation can mean that a proposal
will change substantially from the Commission's initial text:
it is therefore not sufficient for us only to scrutinise the proposal
proposed by the Commission;
- Agreement at first or early second reading hinders
- The speed at which legislation is adopted is
too fast to enable effective scrutiny; and
- The use of informal trilogues is not conducive
to effective scrutiny.
39. We consider each of these in turn.
SCRUTINY OF CHANGES MADE DURING
40. Richard Corbett's evidence to us is clear
that the codecision procedure can, and does, make substantial
changes to a proposal. He told us that "the Commission proposal
really is a first draft and is almost always amended" (p 59).
In his view this means that "national parliamentary deliberations
must be couched in [terms of] responding to the initial proposal"
(p 59), suggesting improvements and setting down limits on
what would be acceptable. This is the approach taken by, for example,
the French Sénat who communicate their position "quickly
and as early as possible after the presentation of the legislative
proposal" to their government (p 90).
41. The value of commenting at the earliest possible
stage has been made clear to us by many of those we have spoken
to. Una O'Dwyer, Acting Director of Legislation in the Commission's
Secretariat General, told us that the "pre-legislative phase"
is most important (Q 154).
42. However, commenting on the initial proposal
only is rejected by Dr Helle Krunke, Associate Professor at
the University of Copenhagen's Faculty of Law. Dr Krunke's
argument is that, because "quite extensive alterations"
can be made during codecision negotiations, giving national parliaments
the ability to scrutinise proposals only at the beginning of the
procedure "can undermine the quality/effectiveness of parliamentary
scrutiny" (p 105).
43. Our own experiences of scrutiny reinforce
Dr Krunke's view. When Sub-Committee F was scrutinising the
proposed Returns Directive, it was faced with the situation where
the Council and Parliament were holding negotiations on the basis
of a significantly different document to that which had originally
The Sub-Committee did not have access to this document. The initial
Proposal, presented in September 2005, had proved controversial
and had been dormant for much of 2006 and 2007. However, the Slovenian
Presidency in the first six months of 2008 had revived the Proposal
and restarted informal trilogue talks which resulted in the adoption
of a text which, in the words of the Government, "developed
along lines different than [sic] those originally proposed".
In this situation it was clearly not effective that our committee
was forced to rely on scrutiny of the Commission's original Proposal
44. Whilst it is important that our scrutiny
procedures enable us to give our views promptly on the Commission's
Proposal, we do not accept that our scrutiny of codecided legislation
should be limited to commenting at this stage alone. The fact
that we clear an initial proposal from scrutiny does not mean
that we should not scrutinise it again if changes with policy
implications occur during codecision. The Government must provide
us with sufficient information on changes and proposed changes
to proposals to allow us to comment before UK Ministers agree
AGREEMENTS AT EARLY STAGES
45. Professor Simon Hix, from the London
School of Economics, noted that whilst legislative debates used
to span several readings with formal debates held in Council and
Parliament, currently legislation was adopted via "a deal
between a small group of MEPs and the Council Presidency ... and
then rubber stamped". As a result, "full scrutiny by
MEPs, let alone by national parliaments or the wider public, is
increasingly difficult" (p 93).
46. His point is that, for a proposal adopted
after conciliation, versions of or amendments to it would be formally
available as follows:
(1) The Commission's original proposal;
(2) Council General Approach;
(3) European Parliament first reading;
(4) Council Common Position;
(5) Parliament second reading;
(6) Council second reading; and
(7) Conciliation Joint Text (which represents the agreement).
47. But for a proposal adopted at first reading
this is diminished dramatically. Only the Commission's proposal
and the Council's General Approach are available for comment before
the agreed text is presented in the Parliament's and Council's
first readings. For Anthony Teasdale, from the Cabinet of the
President of the Parliament, this means that the "paper trail
disappears" (Q 135).
48. Even Richard Corbett, who is perhaps the
strongest supporter of the codecision procedure we have heard
from, acknowledged that second and third readings made national
parliamentary scrutiny potentially easier and that first reading
agreements "limit" the "advantage" national
parliaments have (p 59). Una O'Dwyer felt that "second
reading negotiations do give everybody within and outside the
institutions a better handle on the negotiations" (Q 147).
This is a particularly important observation given that early
agreements are now reached on proposals which raise complex issues
rather than those restricted to technical adjustments.
49. Whilst we recognise that the reduction
in the number of readings to which a proposal is subjected speeds
up the process of lawmaking, diminishing the number of versions
which are made available and debated in public and which are deposited
by the Government for parliamentary scrutiny can and does have
an impact on the ability of national parliaments to scrutinise
changes made to proposals during negotiations.
50. Professor Hix's evidence is clear that
"legislation is now passed at a significantly quicker pace".
His research indicates that in 2000-01 codecided legislation was
passed in an average of 686 days, whilst in 2006-07 the average
was a mere 206 days (p 92). Whilst he saw this as hindering
parliamentary scrutiny others use this as evidence of more efficient
lawmaking by the EU. Una O'Dwyer, for example, told us that "we
all want the best and most efficient deals possible and, therefore
... it is not really a question of having fewer first reading
51. It is not the absolute length of time from
adoption of a proposal by the Commission to agreement in Parliament
and Council that is the biggest problem. Rather, timing issues
arise when negotiations are bunched together over a short period.
Typically this is driven by the Council and occurs towards the
end of a six-month Presidency as the Member State in the chair
strives to reach as many agreements as possible so as to succeed
on what Anthony Teasdale referred to as the "Presidency Scorecard"
52. The European Parliament has recognised the
importance of allowing sufficient time for all its members to
assess a trilogue deal before voting on it in plenary. The Parliament
has agreed a Code of Conduct that advises that a "cooling
off period" (Q 127) be inserted between the Committee
and plenary votes. For Anthony Teasdale this is "to ensure
that the political groups and the plenary as a whole has an adequate
opportunity to reflect upon whether the balance struck in the
negotiation [in the informal trilogues] is one they can in fact
endorse"(Q 137). The Parliament's Conference of Presidents
had recommended that the "cooling off period" should
normally be one month.
53. We do not see a case for a general slowing
of the pace of negotiations on codecided legislation. In the exceptional
cases where legislation is adopted too quickly to allow us to
scrutinise it effectively, it is open to us to make this case
to the Government. Where this happens we would expect them
to refuse to lift their scrutiny reserve until national parliamentary
scrutiny is complete.
54. However, where the majority of discussions
take place in informal trilogues, we see the tendency to hold
a series of trilogues on a single proposal in quick succession
as creating difficulties for national parliaments and others seeking
to follow negotiations. This appears to us to be a consequence
of the rotating six-month Presidency system. In this respect the
introduction of the Permanent President of the European Council
by the Lisbon Treaty will have no effect as the European Council
does not legislate and the rotating Presidency will continue to
set the agenda with regard to the majority of codecided legislation.
We urge the Government to ensure that an arrangement similar
to the cooling off period provided for by the Parliament's Code
of Conduct is applied to lessen the difficulties often faced by
those seeking to follow the negotiations on legislative proposals
at the end of a Presidency.
AGREEMENTS REACHED IN INFORMAL TRILOGUES
Janèiæ, PhD candidate at Utrecht
University and visiting fellow at Sciences Politiques, Paris,
argued that because informal trilogues "lack visibility both
to the public and to the parliamentary institutions" they
could impede national parliaments' ability to scrutinise the agreements
reached (p 98). This is, in general, backed up by those national
parliaments we have heard from.
56. In Denmark the use of informal trilogues
has made it increasingly "more difficult for the Danish Government
to determine when exactly ministers should appear before the European
Affairs Committee and obtain a negotiation mandate" (p 107).
In The Netherlands, the confidential nature of first and second
reading deals "can make it hard" for both the government
and the national parliament to "control the process"
(p 94). This is complicated by the lack of "standard
reporting procedures" from informal trilogues (p 94).
In Finland the problem is slightly different: pressure put on
the Council to agree deals made in informal trilogues requires
"a reassessment at short notice of a national position that
may have been the result of careful and lengthy deliberation.
The Eduskunta is simply faced with a document (that the government
may or may not support) and told that Finland has the option of
approving it immediately, or being outvoted" (p 109).
57. Arlene McCarthy told us that even in the
European Parliament there had been complaints "that there
was not enough transparency, that people did not understand what
was going on, that the pace was sometimes very fast" (Q 245).
To counter this, the Code of Conduct includes rules requiring
detailed oral reports back to the responsible committee and the
provision of supporting documents to MEPs. We receive summaries
of these reports via our EU Liaison Officer in Brussels; they
can be a useful way to follow negotiations.
58. The experiences of our sub-committees reinforce
the view that informal trilogues are often too opaque. Sub-Committee
D, on environment and agriculture, reports that "the emerging
consensus between the European Parliament and Council can be almost
impossible to determine. Updates from the Government are usually
too infrequent, and negotiations proceed too rapidly and opaquely
for accurate tracking of the inter-institutional negotiations".
It gives the example of the proposal for a directive on stage
II petrol vapour recovery during refuelling of passenger cars
at service stations.
This is a case of particularly poor information from a Department:
the Explanatory Memorandum was submitted two months after the
Commission had adopted the Proposal; an updating letter was received
a month later stating that the Institutions "appear agreed
on fast-tracking this proposal" but providing no further
details; finally a supplementary explanatory memorandum was submitted
on 1 May noting the rapid progress of negotiations and that agreement
was expected at the beginning of May.
59. Conversely, in some cases the information
provided by the Government has greatly assisted the Committee
in following the negotiations in informal trilogues. Sub-Committee
G, on social policy and consumer affairs, scrutinised a proposal
on the organisation of working time (commonly known as the Working
As part of the sub-committee's scrutiny the Government provided
(i) "substantial" information during the UK Presidency,
including a summary of the proposed compromise; (ii) informal
briefing to officials before sub-committee meetings during the
UK Presidency; and (iii) the texts of the Portuguese and Slovene
draft Presidency compromise texts.
60. We consider that informal trilogues, whilst
helpful to expeditious agreement of legislation, make effective
scrutiny of codecided legislation by national parliaments very
difficult. There are two reasons for this:
(a) Their informal and confidential nature
is not transparent: as a result it is difficult for us to follow
the course of negotiations and comment usefully to the Government;
(b) The Council is represented only by the Presidency
which tends to hold its cards close to its chest: as a result
it may be difficult for all governments other than the Presidency
to follow the course of negotiations and to represent the views
of their national parliament at the appropriate point.
61. The increased use of informal trilogues to
the point that they are now the primary form of negotiation between
the European Parliament and the Council has magnified the difficulties
we face. As a result it is important that the system under
which the Government keeps us updated on negotiations is effective
and operated uniformly and rigorously by all Departments. The
Government must ensure that this happens without the delays that
have sometimes occurred in the past.
62. Should the Lisbon Treaty come into force,
these difficulties will be magnified by the expansion of codecision
into new areas: notably agriculture, fisheries and justice and
home affairs. Departments that will gain responsibility for
negotiating codecided legislation must devise and put in place
effective systems for ensuring Parliament is fully kept up to
date. This must be done in good time to ensure that they are ready
to do so properly as soon as and when the Lisbon Treaty comes
63. We turn to these systems in the next chapter.
1 For example, the European Parliament rejected proposed
legislation on the liberalisation of port services (in 2003) and
on the harmonisation of laws on takeover bids (2001) at third
As outlined by Hubert Legal of the Council Legal Service at Q
Treaty establishing the European Community. Back
This would be changed slightly by the Lisbon Treaty. See Q 203. Back
Appended to the Commission's written evidence are lists of all
legislative proposals concluded at each stage since the entry
into force of the Amsterdam Treaty. There have been 438 agreements
after first reading, 277 after second reading and 109 after conciliation Back
OJ 2007/C145/02. Also appended to the Commission's written evidence
to our inquiry. Back
ibid. paras 12 ff Back
COM (2008) 30 Back
Op cit paragraph 11 Back
Second interim report of the European Parliament's Working Party
on Parliamentary Reform: "Legislative activities and Interinstitutional
relations" p 25 Back
See Appendix 5 Back
Code of Conduct heading 3 Back
Article 8 of the Council's Rules of Procedure Back
Ibid. Article 9 Back
See Appendix 4 Back
EM 10737/08 Back
COM (2008)812 Back
COM (2004)607 Back