Meeting Summary: 30 April 2014

01 May 2014

The European Scrutiny Committee met on Wednesday 30 April

The Committee took oral evidence from the Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Home Secretary, on the European Investigation Order. This, and the oral evidence session on 9 April with George Eustice MP, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on Animal Cloning: the use of Article 352 TFEU, the transcript of which is now available, both address examples of poor scrutiny practices by Government Departments. 

The Committee also considered the following documents:

Detention and supervision of EU citizens

We refer for debate a Commission Report on Member States’ implementation of three Framework Directives on probation, prisoner transfer and the European Supervision Order (ESO), intended to ensure that, through mutual recognition, judicial decisions on detention and supervision are applied. The Commission highlights that unsatisfactory levels of implementation—with more than half of Member States failing to implement one of the three—mean that these Directives are not producing the anticipated benefits, namely a decrease in prison overcrowding and costs.  It notes that two of the Directives have yet to be used at all. These Directives, the Commission says, form an interdependent package with the European Arrest Warrant. The Minister, we report, says these links are "overstated" and that the UK Government intends not to opt back into the Probation Framework Directive, which it has not implemented, following the UK’s block opt-out.  We ask the Minister to explain the Government’s decision to opt into only three of these four measures, given that the reasons they cite as insurmountable in relation to the Probation Directive could equally apply to the others, and that there are operational links between them. The implementation date for the ESO was 1 December 2012 so we further press the Government to explain why it has not yet taken steps to implement it. We also draw this matter to the attention of the Justice Committee.

An EU development and cooperation results framework

We also recommend for debate a Commission Staff Working Document, Paving the way for an EU Development and Cooperation Results Framework, which we first scrutinised in February. The Minister had set out the framework’s purpose as "an accountability tool to communicate results to stakeholders" and "a management tool to provide performance data to inform management decisions, ensuring resources are allocated efficiently"; it is a preliminary approach to an overall EU development and cooperation results framework. As we have noted on several occasions, the Commission has been tardy in putting in place a comprehensive results framework which has made scrutiny of the effectiveness with which the EU has spent taxpayers’ money on development and cooperation all but impossible. Although the Minister reports that the Commission is committed to implementing a results framework and that discussions on this document are moving in a positive direction, we see no real evidence of the drive from the Commission that will be necessary for the framework to be brought into place.  We therefore recommend that these issues be debated prior to the May Foreign Affairs Council.

Road safety: eCall

The Committee also returns to a draft Regulation on eCall; an in-vehicle system designed to send emergency calls using an EU-wide number. The draft Regulation would mandate the fitment of eCall devices to specific new types of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles, create type approval requirements and set out the requirements for privacy and data protection for users as well as the date it would be introduced.  The Government has previously expressed concerns about the obligatory aspects of the system, although it recognised the road safety benefits; we asked to hear about the Government’s progress in mitigating concerns over data protection and privacy and retained the document under scrutiny.  The Minister now writes to say that a report by the consultants Atkins has found that the UK would not reach a cost/benefit break-even point within the 20 year appraisal even using the best estimates of reduced casualties, but that there is little support within the EU for the UK’s position and no possibility of blocking the legislation. On a more positive note, the Minister reports some success in achieving compromises in areas of concern. We are not, however, convinced that the text which has now completed its first reading in the European Parliament, has improved sufficiently to warrant us clearing it from scrutiny. We now recommend it for debate so that Members can question the Minister about the likely outcome of negotiations.

Other documents reported

We are also reporting on documents relating to:

  • Business, Innovation and Skills: Insolvency Proceedings; Accession of Afghanistan to the WTO;
  • Culture, Media and Sport: Conditional access services;
  • Energy and Climate Change: Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol;
  • Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: European Citizen’s Initiative: water and sanitation; Organic food production;
  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office: EU restrictive measures again Iran; EU Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process; Elements of an EU Maritime Joint Security Strategy; Free movement and public documents;  the EU and Georgia: the EU and Moldova; the EU and Ukraine: restrictive measures;
  • HM Treasury: Financial Benchmarks; Taxation; Home Office: EU Return Policy;
  • Justice: 2014 EU Justice Scoreboard; Data protection and EU-US data exchange;
  • Transport: Road transport: dimensions and weights; Maritime safety; Work and Pensions: Integrating labour markets.

The Committee’s Forty-seventh Report, covering these documents, will be published next week. The Committee’s Forty-sixth Report has now been published, covering Relocation of the European Police College (CEPOL); Strategic guidelines for EU Justice and Home Affairs to 2020; European Semester 2014; Space policy; Fisheries: total allowable catches for 2014; Fruit and vegetables producer organisations; Responsible sourcing of minerals originating in conflict-affected and high risk areas; EU-Azerbaijan cooperation; Association Agreement with Georgia; Association Agreement with Moldova; the Cotonou Agreement and Madagascar; CSDP Mission in Niger; the EU and the Horn of Africa; EU-Singapore relations; EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo; Customs; European Union Solidarity Fund; and Seafarers.

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