COMMONS

European Scrutiny Committee Meeting Summary: 19 June 2013

21 June 2013

European Scrutiny Committee Meeting summary: 19 June 2013

Regulation of tobacco and related products

The Committee retained the Draft Directive on the regulation of tobacco and related products under scrutiny last week pending further information from the Government.  The Minister for Public Health, Anna Soubry, has now confirmed that the Irish Presidency is keen to seek agreement to a compromise text at the Health Council on 21 June.  She reports that the Government has secured some changes to the Commission’s original proposal.  For example, it should be possible for Member States to introduce more stringent domestic tobacco control measures if duly justified on public health grounds, and the dose threshold above which non-tobacco nicotine containing products (NCPs), such as e-cigarettes, would have to be regulated as medicines has been lowered and is broadly in line with Government policy that “all products which are medicinal in function are caught by medicines regulation.”  However, a number of important issues remain unresolved so the Committee has not granted the Minister’s request for a scrutiny waiver; the Directive remains under scrutiny and we have asked for a full report on the outcome of the Council.

EU Special Representatives: Central Asia and the Southern Mediterranean region

The Committee is reporting this week and next week on a series of Council Decisions renewing the mandates of the EU Special Representatives.  The Minister for Europe sets out the activities and budgets for these missions and says that – on the whole – the Special Representatives are working well, and that there is effective co-operation with the UK Government.  We commend the Minister and his officials for their ongoing engagement with the organisation of these missions, including pressure for budgetary restraint.

EU Citizenship

These two Commission Reports describe significant developments concerning EU citizenship for the period 2011-13 and propose a number of actions to overcome remaining obstacles to the practical exercise of EU citizenship rights. These seek to enhance opportunities for working, studying or training in another Member State, cut red tape, protect the vulnerable, remove barriers to cross-border shopping, increase awareness of EU citizens’ free movement rights and enhance participation in the democratic life of the EU.  On the latter, the Commission suggests   that three obstacles need to be addressed: the practice in some Member States (including the UK) of disenfranchising overseas voters, the "asymmetry" in the rights conferred on EU citizens who are able to vote and stand as a candidate in local and EP elections but are unable to do so in national elections which directly affect them; and the absence of a “European public space” in which to conduct a more informed democratic debate on European issues.  We ask the Minister for a more detailed analysis of the practical and political implications of extending the franchise for national elections which the EU Citizenship Report appears to advocate and retain this  document under scrutiny.

Ports

The aim of this Draft Regulation, which is accompanied by a Commission Communication, is to improve access to port services and the financial transparency of ports, by establishing a new regulatory framework.  The Minister has concerns about the proposal and has established a working group with ports industry representatives to help co-ordinate analysis of the present text and future amendments and to liaise with other interested parties.  We have asked for a more detailed commentary from the Government, based on the consultation and its impact assessment checklist.  The document remains under scrutiny.

Civil aviation safety

This draft Commission Regulation would legislate about flight and duty time limitation requirements (FTLs) for the crew of aeroplanes involved in commercial air transport.  FTLs are designed to ensure that airline crews do not become fatigued to the extent that it affects their ability to undertake their duties safely. The Commission’s proposal will be based on an Opinion published, following a consultation, by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), in October 2012. Given advice from the Civil Aviation Authority, the Government supports the proposals set out in the EASA’s Opinion and so it expects that it will be able to support the legislative proposal (unless – which it believes is unlikely – the draft deviates significantly from the Opinion).  This issue has already been the subject of an inquiry by the Transport Select Committee, so before considering the document further we are asking that Committee for a formal Opinion.


Other documents reported

We are also reporting on documents relating to:

  • Department for Business, Innovation and Skills: Action Plan for a Maritime Strategy in the Atlantic area 
  • Cabinet Office: International procurement
  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Advocates-General at the Court of Justice of the EU; EU-Syria relations; European Neighbourhood Policy Action Plan between the EU and the Palestinian Authority; EU-Iraq relations; Composition of the European Parliament; restrictive measures against Iran; Member States’ application of EU law in 2011; restrictions against the Lukashenko regime in Belarus
  • Department for International Development: Financing EU external action
  • Justice: EU Charter of Fundamental Rights
  • Transport: Intelligent transport systems

The Committee’s report will be published next week.

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