European Scrutiny Committee Meeting Summary: 05 June 2013

10 June 2013

European Scrutiny Committee Meeting Summary: 05 June 2013

Financial Transaction Tax and the Multiannual Financial Framework

The Committee has already recommended for debate on the floor of the House the draft Council Decision to authorise the introduction of a Financial Transaction Tax, through the enhanced co-operation procedure, by Austria, Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.  It asked Treasury Ministers to respond before the debate with further information about the Government’s views on the proposal legal base of the proposal, subsidiarity concerns, compliance with EU law and extra-territoriality and – perhaps most significantly – whether there has been a full impact assessment of what the proposal means for non-participating Member States, particularly in the context of the single market.  The Committee reports the Government’s response and now looks forward to the debate being scheduled as soon as possible.  We also report further developments in the negotiations on the 2013 General Budget and the 2014-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework.

Youth Employment Initiative

This Commission Communication and two amending proposals will be debated in European Committee B on Monday 10 June.  They propose changes to the EU Structural and Cohesion Funds to establish this Initiative, which would have a budget of €6 billion between 2014 and 2020.  We asked the Government to explain to us its views on whether the Initiative would add value to existing efforts to tackle youth unemployment.  The Minister has now responded and we publish his reply; we ask him to explain in the debate which regions of the UK might be eligible for support.

Negotiations on EU Aid

The Committee tracks key documents as they go through negotiations in Brussels, keeping them under scrutiny if it has particular concerns.  This week we report slow progress in the negotiations on the different EU aid instruments for the period 2014-2020.  They are currently the subject of trilogue negotiations between the Presidency, the European Parliament and the Commission.  We have been told by the Minister that Member States oppose the European Parliament’s endeavours to secure a new power of joint control, alongside the Council, of individual programmes.  A compromise is proving elusive; we have asked for a further report on progress before the summer recess. 

Roadworthiness of Vehicles

It seems that much more progress has been made on two draft Regulations and a draft Directive on the Roadworthiness of Vehicles.  We expressed concerns about the initial version of this proposal last year, going so far as to propose that the House consider a Reasoned Opinion on the grounds of subsidiarity, but we have been told that a satisfactory compromise may be in reach at the Transport Council later this month.  We clear one of the documents and grant a scrutiny waiver on the other two if an acceptable deal can be secured.

Reform of the EU’s Staff Regulations

The Minister for Europe has given the Committee a state-of-play on the negotiations on these Regulations, which remain under scrutiny. They have profound financial implications: £43.1 billion will be spent on implementing them over the next five years. We ask the Minister a series of further questions and ask to be kept informed as discussions continue – particularly if there is a rush to achieve a deal before the end of the Irish Presidency.

Advocates-General at the Court of Justice of the EU

In January 2013 the President of the Court of the Justice of the EU sent a request to the Council Presidency for the appointment of three extra Advocates-General to the ECJ to ease the workload of the existing eight.  The Committee is holding this under scrutiny.  The measure will also need to be debated on the floor of the House as it requires the prior approval of both Houses of Parliament following debates before the Government can vote in favour, under section 10(1)(c) of the European Union Act 2011.  The Government has expressed concerns about whether the costs will be met from the ECJ’s existing budget – a question which has not yet been resolved.  The Committee asks the Minister during the debate to explain further his understanding that the ECJ can pay for the reform, assess in greater detail the probability of the cost not being paid by the ECJ and to comment on the appointment procedure and on the calibre of the three new appointees.

Information on environmental performance and Green infrastructure

The Commission has produced a Communication setting out how it hopes to improve the availability of clear, reliable and comparable information on the environmental performance of products and organisations.  This will be voluntary and is subject to a three-year testing phase for different compliance and verification systems across a number of different products and sectors. The Government supports the Commission’s objectives but notes some concerns by businesses, which it hopes will be addressed during the preparatory work.  Another Commission Communication contains a high-level strategy about the development of green infrastructure. Both documents are cleared.

The balance of competences review

The Committee discussed the calls for evidence issued in the second ‘semester’ of the Government’s balance of competences review.  We will, as for the first semester, be replying to the Government with relevant extracts from our reports.

Other documents reported

We are also reporting on documents relating to:

  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office: EU-Syria relations; Restrictive measures against the regime in Myanmar/Burma; Restrictive measures and Libya; EU-Kosovo co-operation; Composition of the European Parliament, and the Third Chemical Weapons Review
  •  Department for Transport: Road transport: dimensions and weights; and Marine equipment
  • HM Treasury: Financial services: recovery and resolution; and Value added taxation
  • Department for Business, Innovation and Skills: Radio Equipment and Telecommunications Terminal Equipment
  • Department for International Development: European Voluntary Humanitarian Aid Corps
  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: Common organisation of fishery markets; and Water policy: priority substances, 
  • Department for Work and Pensions: Ratification of the Convention on Safety in the use of Chemicals at Work 
  • Cabinet Office: Dates for European elections 2014.

The Committee’s report will be published next week.

Image: iStockphoto

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