European Scrutiny Committee

No. 06
(Session 2003-04)




SUBSIDIARITY PROBLEM

THREAT TO UK'S HALLMARKING SYSTEM

The European Scrutiny Committee today publishes a Report ( HC 42-vi) on the European Commission's Annual Work Programme for 2004.  The evidence session held with Commission witnesses reflects the Committee's determination to scrutinise Commission proposals at as early a stage as possible.  Two main issues are identified in the Report.

Subsidiarity and prevention of violence at work

The Commission plans to consult on possible European Community legislation on prevention of violence at work.  While the Committee wishes there to be effective action against violence at work, it sees no reason for action at European Community level, and finds it difficult to envisage any action which would be consistent with subsidiarity.  It believes the Commission should therefore not be imposing the burden of responding to consultation, especially on small businesses.  It calls on the Commission to consider the subsidiarity question at an earlier stage in its planning, and not to consult at all on prevention of violence at work unless it can explain what Community action would be consistent with subsidiarity.

Hallmarking

A Commission proposal on precious metals which would threaten the UK's hallmarking system was recently revived by the Italian Presidency of the EU.  The proposal was put forward by the Commission in 1993 and has made no progress since 1998, but the Commission has not withdrawn it, so any of the EU's six-monthly Presidencies can seek to revive it.  In this case the Presidency's attempt failed, but the Committee objects to long-dormant proposals being taken up years later at the whim of the current Presidency, and to those affected having the prospect of such legislation hanging over them indefinitely.  It calls on the Commission to withdraw the Directive concerned, and for rules providing that the Commission's proposals lapse if no progress is made on them within a specified time.

Involvement of national parliaments

The Committee also calls for prior and continuing consultation with national parliaments on the Commission's Annual Work Programme.

26 January 2004

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Note for Editors

The main purpose of the European Scrutiny Committee is to report to the House on the legal and political importance of each EU document and to determine which EU documents are debated.  Such debates take place either in a European Standing Committee or on the Floor of the House.  The Committee normally reports weekly on a range of documents when the House is sitting.  The Committee also monitors business in the Council of Ministers, especially the activities of UK Ministers in the Council, and produces occasional reports on wider EU developments. 

 The subsidiarity principle (as agreed at Maastricht) is that action should be taken at Community level only if such action cannot be achieved by the Member States and can be better achieved by the Community.

The Committee has 16 Members, as follows:

Jimmy Hood MP (Chairman) - Labour - Clydesdale
Richard Bacon MP - Conservative - South Norfolk
Colin Breed MP - Lib Dem - Cornwall South East
William Cash MP - Conservative - Stone
Michael Connarty MP - Labour - Falkirk East
Tony Cunningham MP - Labour - Workington
Wayne David MP - Labour - Caerphilly
Terry Davis MP - Labour - Birmingham Hodge Hill
Jim Dobbin MP - Labour/Co-op - Heywood & Middleton
David Heathcoat-Amory MP - Conservative - Wells
Mark Hendrick MP - Labour - Preston
Jim Marshall MP - Labour - Leicester South
Angus Robertson MP - SNP - Moray
John Robertson MP - Labour - Glasgow Anniesland
Anthony Steen MP - Conservative - Totnes
Bill Tynan MP - Labour - Hamilton South

The text of all Committee publications, including Press Notices and Reports, can be found on the Committee's website:                                                                          http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/european_scrutiny.cfm

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