European Scrutiny Committee Meeting Summary: 11 December 2013

13 December 2013

European Scrutiny Committee Meeting Summary:  11 December 2013

This week the Committee considered the following documents:

European defence industry, European External Action Service and the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy
The Committee considers this week a linked set of documents which have been under scrutiny for some time, relating to a Communication on the European defence industry and Reports by the High Representative (Baroness Ashton) on the European External Action Service and the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy.  The Committee has made its position clear in previous Reports: that the EEAS review and the related defence sector Communication should be debated prior to the 17 December General Affairs Council and the subsequent "Defence" European Council, and that the outcome of that Council should be debated, based on the High Representative’s proposals on CSDP and with the benefit of the Council Conclusions. We express concern at the Government’s refusal to schedule a debate on the EEAS within the timescale recommended in our Report of 20 November.  On the European defence industry Communication, despite the short timescale, we now recommend that a debate be urgently scheduled in European Committee before the December European Council.  The High Representative’s CSDP Report is recommended for debate on the floor of the House immediately after the Christmas recess.

Regulation of tobacco and related products
The Committee returns to the Draft Directive this week, as expected. The document will be debated in European Committee next Monday, and in advance of that debate the Committee reports an updating letter (please use the subsequent Department of Health link) from the Minister.

We note that negotiations are only likely to be concluded if the Council and European Parliament are able to reach a compromise on Article 18, on the regulation of non-tobacco Nicotine-Containing Products (NCPs), such as e-cigarettes, and on the scope for more stringent domestic tobacco control measures under Article 24, and comment that the Minister does not state in terms whether the UK would be willing to abandon the recommendation made by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to regulate non-tobacco Nicotine-Containing Products as medicines; nor does she set out the minimum safeguards the Government would seek to ensure appropriate and proportionate regulation of these products.  We trust that she will be in a position to do so in the forthcoming debate.

We also make clear that we expect Parliament to be informed of any substantial amendments to the Commission’s original proposal which emerge from the trilogue negotiations by means of a Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum accompanied by a new depositable text, with sufficient time for Parliament to consider and if necessary, debate it before it is formally agreed by the Council.    

European Semester: Annual Growth Survey, draft Joint Employment Report and Alert Mechanism Report
This Commission Communication on the Annual Growth Survey, the draft Joint Employment Report and the Alert Mechanism Report begin the 2014 cycle of the European Semester. A series of overarching and country specific documents from the Commission will follow, and the process culminates in examination of the overall and country-specific situations by the European Council.  The Annual Growth Survey sets out the Commission’s priorities for action at national and EU level over the next 12 months to support economic growth and employment.  It is accompanied by two reports, the draft Joint Employment Report and the Commission Staff Working Document An overview of progress in implementing the Country Specific Recommendations by Member States. It is also accompanied by a Commission Report on single market aspects of jobs and growth, which we will consider next week.  We also consider the related Commission Alert Mechanism Report on macroeconomic imbalances.  We recommend that all these documents be debated together in European Committee before the relevant functional Councils consider them in preparation for the March 2014 European Council.

Other documents reported
We are also reporting on documents relating to:

  • Business, Innovation and Skills: Financial reporting and auditing; 
  • Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: The Aarhus Convention; 
  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office: EU-Syria relations; the EU’s Comprehensive Approach to external conflicts and crises;
  • HM Treasury: EU General Budgets; 
  • Home Office: Croatia’s accession to the EU/Switzerland Agreement on the free movement of persons; Firearms and the internal security of the EU; 
  • International Development: Policy Coherence for Development; 
  • Transport: Emission reductions from passenger cars.

The Committee’s Report will be available on the Committee's publications web pages in the week of 16 December. The Committee’s Twenty-sixth Report has now been published, covering: Financial management: audit; Regulation of tobacco and related products; Banking Union: Single Resolution Mechanism; Reducing plastic carrier bag use; EU Development Policy and Financing post-2015; Business, Innovation and Skills: Posting of workers; European Social Fund; Sharing of benefits from genetic sources; EU Operations centre and the Horn of Africa; EU-Georgia; EU-Syria and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons; Comitology; Clinical trials; Customs; Remuneration and pension adjustments for EU staff in 2013; Stability and Growth Pact: excessive deficit procedure; Regulation of new psychoactive substances; Financing post-2015 development (jointly with DECC and Defra); European Voluntary Humanitarian Aid Corps; Alternative fuels; Moveable assets; Renewable energy: use of biofuels in transport.

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