European Scrutiny Committee Meeting Summary: 12 June 2013

13 June 2013

European Scrutiny Committee Meeting Summary: 12 June 2013

Regulation of tobacco and related products

The Committee has been holding the Draft Directive on the Regulation of tobacco and related products under scrutiny since January, awaiting further information from the Government.  It appears that the Irish Presidency may seek agreement to a general approach later in the month, and the Committee has received two letters from Anna Soubry, the Minister for Public Health.  The Government broadly supports the draft Directive but has been conducting a more detailed analysis of aspects of the proposals, including those related to non-tobacco Nicotine-Containing Products (NCPs) – for example e-cigarettes.  This is now available; the Committee reports it in detail, and raises some further questions. We are keeping the draft Directive under scrutiny.

Free movement of workers within the European Union

This draft Directive seeks to ensure the better application and enforcement of the rights associated with the free movement of workers within the EU.  The Government does not consider that the obstacles to free movement described by the Commission are a particular issue for the UK, given that the Equality Act 2010 includes nationality in its definition of discrimination on grounds of race; and does not expect the draft Directive to impose any significant additional burdens on the UK. Nonetheless, the Minister questions whether the measure is consistent with the principle of subsidiarity.  Opening up labour markets and encouraging labour mobility at a time of high levels of unemployment in some Member States is an evidently politically important issue; we therefore recommend this Draft Directive for debate in European Committee.  However, as for subsidiarity, the Government’s arguments in its Explanatory Memorandum are incomplete, and there is not enough evidence for us to recommend a Reasoned Opinion.  This is a problem which we have encountered with several other documents this week; and we will be taking this up with the Government.

Trade and child labour

This Commission staff working document reports on the worst forms of child labour and trade, taking account of international experience and the views of international organisations.  The principal focus is on children employed in hazardous work conditions –  work that, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.  Much remains to be done, despite some improvements since a similar report was published in 2010.  The Minister welcomes the report as a valid contribution to the debate; we recommend that it should be debated in European Committee. 

Clinical trials

This Draft Regulation has been held under scrutiny since September 2012.  Negotiations are ongoing. One area of concern for the Government is the requirement for each Member State to set up a national indemnification mechanism, which would operate on a not-for-profit basis, in order to help non-commercial sponsors - such as academics involved in medical research - to obtain the necessary insurance for medical trials. The Commission suggests that premiums in the commercial insurance market have become unaffordable and operate as a deterrent.  The Government, having been originally cautious about the idea, now tells us that it is not opposed, in principle, to such a scheme and will consider it if there is evidence of a genuine problem in obtaining insurance for national trials.  It will be consulting further on this point and will provide us with an update in due course.  The Draft Regulation remains under scrutiny.

Free movement and public documents

This Draft Regulation follows on from a 2010 Green Paper which sought views on possible ways to facilitate the free movement of official documents – like birth certificates – between Member States.  It would mean that certain categories of these documents must be automatically accepted as authentic in another Member State, without any "legalisation" requirement.  It would also simplify the formalities relating to the use of public documents in other Member States by requiring the acceptance of certified copies and (unless there are reasonable doubts as to their accuracy) non-certified translations.  The Minister welcomes the removal of unnecessary bureaucratic procedures and recognises the potential benefits for EU citizens and businesses of introducing multilingual standard forms for the most frequently used documents.  However, he expresses some concerns about the legal base and the need for legislative action.  We are retaining the draft Regulation under scrutiny, and ask for further information.

Reports to be debated on the floor of the House next week

On Tuesday 18 June there will be three debates held on the floor of the House on EU documents: on Economic and Monetary Union and the Financial Transaction Tax, reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and European elections.  For further information on these debates, see the ‘European business’ section of the House’s order paper.

Other documents reported

We are also reporting on documents relating to:

  • Department for Business, Innovation and Skills: Business failure and insolvency
  • Culture, Media and Sport: Electronic Communications Services
  • Energy and Climate Change: Energy Technologies and innovation
  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office: EU relations with Fiji; EU support for the rule of law in Iraq
  • HM Treasury: Taxation: fraud and evasion; 2013 European Semester; Financial services: recovery and resolution; Financial services: bank accounts
  • Office for National Statistics: Statistics

The Committee’s report will be published next week.

Image: iStockphoto

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