This week the Committee considered the following documents:
Commission Work Programme
The Committee reports this week on the Commission Work Programme 2014. With European elections scheduled for May 2014, this Programme is clearly of a different nature than previous years. That said, it provides an interesting indication both of which proposals will be prioritised in the early part of 2014 and also areas of work which might be taken forward once a new European Parliament has been elected, and a new Commission appointed, towards the end of next year. The Committee Report summarises the Work Programme and the Government’s views on it, and concludes that – like last year – it should be debated on the floor of the House, ideally before the Christmas recess. We hope that many other Members, particularly Members of Departmental Select Committees, will take part in that debate.
Europe for Citizens Programme 2014-20
This draft Regulation would establish a Programme with a budget of €229 million for the period 201420, focussing on two main strands, ‘Remembrance and European Citizenship’ and ‘Democratic engagement and civic participation’. The Committee has held this document under scrutiny pending confirmation of the final budget and certain legal queries. The Minister has now written to inform us that the Government has secured a reduction in the budget for the Programme to €185 million. Notwithstanding the reduction, we have concerns about the absolute level of expenditure involved, and recommend a debate in European Committee.
Fisheries: total allowance catches for 2014
This Draft Regulation sets out the EU Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for particular fish stocks in 2014. This is an annual process and has habitually presented scrutiny difficulties, as agreement is needed before the start of the calendar year in question, and the requirement to take into account scientific evidence means that official texts have often been available too late to be considered properly beforehand. Some information is now available: the Government observes that the Commission has generally been more precautionary than the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) in its treatment of stocks for which the data are limited, and states that one of the UK’s priorities will be to seek an approach which takes account of all relevant available data. The Government also notes that the Commission proposes a 20% reduction in effort (days-at-sea) for most of the cod fisheries covered by the Cod Recovery Plan, and says the UK will resist this. No information is, however, yet available on a number of stocks which are of great importance to the UK which are managed jointly with Norway. In these circumstances the Committee agrees the granting of a scrutiny waiver on the condition that the Government arranges a general debate on fisheries which will enable Members to have a chance to raise points with the Government before any decision is taken. The proposals remain under scrutiny.
EU Passenger Name Record (PNR)
Agreement with Canada These Council Decisions authorise the signature and conclusion by the EU of an Agreement for the transfer of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data to Canada. They have been held under scrutiny since September. The UK has already opted into PNR Agreements with Australia and the USA, and the latter Agreement was the subject of a debate. We note that the Agreement with Canada includes a shorter data retention period (five years) and that the limitations imposed on the processing of sensitive data are in line with UK data protection standards. We therefore agree to clear this proposal from scrutiny.
Vehicle type approval: sound levels of motor vehicles
The aim of this Draft Regulation is to lower permissible noise levels for motor vehicles. The Committee first considered it in January 2012 and has kept it under scrutiny ever since, commenting that the proposal had important implications for vehicle manufacturers, consumers and those affected by vehicle noise. In May this year the Committee heard that the position the UK Government was taking was that it broadly supported the Commission’s limit values for all vehicles and supported its timescale for light duty vehicles, but was seeking a longer timescale for heavy duty vehicles. The Minister now reports that a proposed compromise text represents a satisfactory outcome, and that significant dispensations to minimise burdens on small UK manufacturers have been achieved. Accordingly, we have decided to clear the document.
Other documents reported
We are also reporting on documents relating to:
- Business, Innovation and Skills: Accession of the Yemen to the WTO; Regulating collecting societies; Damages in competition law;
- Cabinet Office: Electronic procurement and invoicing in public procurement;
- Communities and Local Government: Roma integration;
- Culture, Media and Sport: "Europe for Citizens" Programme 2014-20;
- Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: European Earth Observation Programme ("Copernicus"); Barcelona Convention; Cultivation of genetically modified maize;
- Foreign and Commonwealth Office: EU Cooperation with Egypt in the field of Governance;
- HM Treasury: VAT;
- Home Office: EU Readmission Agreement with Azerbaijan; Croatia’s accession to the EU/Switzerland Agreement on the free movement of persons; and
- Justice: Brussels I Regulation and the Unified Patent Court; Rights and Citizenship Programme 2014-20; Access to documents.
The Committee’s report will be published on the Committee's publications webpages. The Committee’s Twenty-third Report has now be published, covering: Establishing a European Research Area; Opening up education; Accession of the Yemen to the WTO; EU Consumer Programme; Euratom Research and Training Programme; EU-Kosovo cooperation; EU Budgets; customs and taxation; Repeal of EU funding instrument to enhance protection against terrorist and other security-related incidents;EU accession to the ECHR; alternative fuels; ports; Financial services: benchmarks (Reasoned Opinion); Aviation and the EU Emissions Trading System; Safety of Nuclear Installations; EU support to governance in the DRC; European External Action Service.
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