COMMONS

Meeting Summary: 29 January 2014

30 January 2014

The European Scrutiny Committee met on Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The Committee held its final oral evidence session this week – with the Secretary of State for Justice - for its inquiry into the application of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights in the UK. For further details, which also includes the written evidence which has been submitted to the inquiry, and the transcripts of previous sessions see the inquiry webpage:

This week the Committee considered the following documents

Tobacco Products Directive:

These proposals to strengthen EU rules on the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco and related products have been under scrutiny since January 2013.  The original Draft Directive was cleared from scrutiny following a debate in European Committee in December, but the Government accepted that the changes made to the proposals in the course of trilogue negotiations were sufficiently substantial to require a further Explanatory Memorandum, which re-imposes the scrutiny reserve.  The Committee, therefore, is now considering the compromise text agreed (subject to formal approval) by the Council and European Parliament last December.  The most significant change concerns the regulatory model for e-cigarettes, in which most e-cigarettes would be regulated as consumer products, not as medicines, as the UK Government had wished, but with additional safeguards to discourage their promotion and use by children, monitor their ingredients, emissions, nicotine dosage and product components, and limit their nicotine content, as well as restrictions on advertising and activities similar to those applicable to tobacco products.  We welcome the publication and deposit of the compromise text so that it is open to scrutiny, and note that while the appropriate regulatory model for e-cigarettes continues to be contested, the Government believes that the overall public health benefits of strengthened EU tobacco controls outweigh its remaining concerns.  We clear the proposal from scrutiny.

Clinical trials

This Draft Regulation would repeal the Clinical Trials Directive, in force since 2004, and replace it with what the Commission argues is a less burdensome set of rules covering the authorisation and conduct of clinical trials.  We have held it under scrutiny since September 2012 and most recently have been following developments in trilogue negotiations.  We note that the outcome of these negotiations, in the Government’s view, is likely to be acceptable to UK stakeholders and we welcome the strengthening of provisions on the transparency of clinical trials and clinical trial data which go a long way to achieving the objectives set out in the recent Report of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee.  Accordingly we clear the document from scrutiny.

EU enlargement strategy

This Commission Communication provides an annual overview of progress on EU enlargement.  It and the accompanying Country Progress Reports were retained under scrutiny last November and further information requested.  We clear the Communication but note one very significant outstanding issue: whether or not Albania should be granted accession candidate status, a question which will be discussed at EU level later this year.  We ask the Minister at that time to provide us with an unqualified statement of the Government’s position before the event, so that we can scrutinise it.

Clean Air Programme

This package of a Commission Communication and two Draft Directives respectively: set out a Clean Air Programme for Europe; propose a new EU measure to reduce national emissions of certain atmospheric pollutants; and introduce limits on the emission of certain atmospheric pollutants from medium combustion plants.  We report, but clear, the Communication, but retain the two Draft Directives under scrutiny, asking the Government for its assessment of the potential impact on the UK (including costs and benefits) and progress reports on negotiations.

Other documents reported

We are also reporting on documents relating to:

  • Business, Innovation and Skills: Establishing a Quality Framework for Traineeships; Space policy;
  • Cabinet Office: Statute for a European Foundation;
  • FCO: EU-Tunisia; European network of independent non-proliferation think tanks; EU and the Gulf of Guinea;
  • Food Standards Agency: EU regulation of novel foods;
  • HM Treasury: Financial services: payment services;
  • Home Office: Reforming Europol; Repeal of an EU funding instrument to enhance protection against terrorist and other security-related incidents;
  • International Development: Financing EU external action;
    Justice: EU Charter of Fundamental Rights; Procedural safeguards for suspects and accused persons; European Small Claims Procedure.

The Committee’s Thirty-third Report will be published next week.

The Committee’s Thirty-first Report will be published shortly, covering: Free movement of EU citizens; European Investigation Order; Commission’s response to EPPO Reasoned Opinion; Customs; Restrictive measures against Iran; Animal cloning; Public intervention and the internal electricity market; Cultivation of genetically modified maize; Methods for stunning poultry; EU-Syria relations; Outer Space Activities; Macro-financial assistance; Financial management; EU Solidarity Fund; Functioning of the Schengen area; Regulation of new psychoactive substances; European Investment Bank; EU humanitarian assistance; Management audit; Rail research and innovation.

The Thirty-second Report on the Procedural Rights Package was published separately on Wednesday 29 January.

Image: iStockphoto

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