European Scrutiny Committee Meeting Summary: 17 July 2013

18 July 2013

European Scrutiny Committee Meeting summary: 17 July 2013

As well as conducting its usual scrutiny of documents, the Committee held an oral evidence session this week with the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health, Anna Soubry, on the scrutiny override of the Tobacco Products Directive.  This document remains under scrutiny, and the Committee has already indicated that it is likely to recommend it for debate in due course.  The evidence session is available for viewing on Parliament TV and the transcript will be available on the Committee’s website next week.

The Committee is also beginning the scrutiny process of what has become known as the 2014 block opt-out (of EU police and criminal justice measures adopted before the Lisbon Treaty came into force in December 2009) following the debate in the House on 15 July.  Further announcements will be made in September. 

If you would like further background information on any of the documents listed below before the Committee’s Report is issued, the Government’s Explanatory Memoranda are public documents and can be found via the Cabinet Office website.

Draft budget 2014
This week we recommend the Commission’s proposals for the 2014 EU Budget for debate in European Committee.  The Draft Budget is the first stage in the annual process of establishing the EU’s budget for the following year and provides the basis for negotiations between the two arms of the Budgetary Authority (the Council and the European Parliament).  This draft Budget is particularly significant as it is the first covered by the 2014-20 Multiannual Financial Framework.  Unfortunately, because of the protracted MFF negotiations, the Draft Budget is being presented later than normal, and it is expected that the ECOFIN Council will complete its first reading by the end of July.  We ask that the debate takes place before the European Parliament’s first reading.

Action Plan for the Steel Industry
This Commission Communication sets out a targeted Action Plan for a competitive and sustainable steel industry in Europe, and forms part of the follow-up to its 2012 Communication on Industrial Policy.  The Government welcomes the Action Plan, which covers the regulatory framework, potential measures to boost demand, the international dimension, climate and energy-related issues, innovation and the social dimension.  The Commission sets out a range of actions which it proposes to take and suggests parallel actions which could be taken by Member States and other stakeholders.  The proposals addressed to Member States are not binding; the Committee clears the Communication but reports it because of the importance of the steel industry.

Financial services: bank accounts
The Commission has proposed this Draft Directive with the intention of ensuring that bank fees are transparent and comparable, that consumers can switch bank accounts, and that all EU citizens have access to a basic payment account. We have held it under scrutiny since 12 June, waiting for further analysis from the Government to justify its assertion that the proposal was not consistent with the principle of subsidiarity.  This has now been received; we conclude that the Commission has in fact sufficiently demonstrated a justification for EU action that is unlikely to be impeached by the Court of Justice.  While we do not therefore propose a Reasoned Opinion, the proposal remains under scrutiny, and we will return to it as the negotiations progress.

Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy
The Committee has reported several times on these ongoing negotiations, and sets out this week the details of the outcome of the Agriculture Council on 24 and 25 June, where a political deal on the reforms was agreed in principle.  The main negotiated outcomes are annexed to the report chapter; the Minister describes them as being, overall, an acceptable outcome, even though it was not the genuine reform which the UK had hoped for.
Application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality
This Commission Report has been kept under scrutiny since September 2012, and has proved a useful vehicle for an exchange of correspondence between the Committee and the Minister for Europe about the Government’s approach to subsidiarity.  We report this week on the latest developments in that correspondence, and clear the document.

Other documents reported

We are also reporting on documents relating to:

  • Cabinet Office: Award of concession contracts; public procurement
  • Energy and Climate Change: Protection against ionising radiation; safety of nuclear installations
  • Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: Management of expenditure on agri-food health measures; Food and Agriculture Organisation
  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office: EU enlargement: Serbia and Kosovo; EU-Ukraine; CSDP Mission in Niger; EU-Indonesia Partnership and Cooperation agreement
  • Home Office: Entry and residence of third country nationals
  • HM Revenue and Customs: Customs: tobacco smuggling and other illicit trade
  • HM Treasury: General Budget
  • Office for National Statistics: Statistics
  • Transport: Moveable assets; intelligent transport systems; road safety : eCall
  • Work and Pensions: Cooperation between public employment services

The Committee’s report will be published next week.

The Committee’s Ninth Report has now been published, covering the General Budget 2013;  Safety of the agri-food chain; European Union Special Representatives (EUSRs); Taxation; The return of cultural objects unlawfully removed from a Member State; Breaches of the Cotonou Agreement by: Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; and Zimbabwe; Annual Report on Immigration and Asylum 2012; Financial Management: European Anti-Fraud Office; Financial services: central securities depositaries and securities settlement; Accession by Austria and Malta to the Hague Services Convention; Single European Sky; and EU Citizenship Report 2013.

It is available via the Committee's publications page on this website.

The Committee also published separate reports (the Tenth and Eleventh reports of this session) on further amendments to EU restrictive measures against the Syrian regime and Reforming Europol in order to make them available for debates on the floor of the House. 

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