§ Sir Peter Emery
To ask the Lord President of the Council when he will publish the Government's response to the report by the Select Committee on Procedure on the scrutiny of European legislation.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
The Government's response to the report by the Select Committee on Procedure on the scrutiny of European legislation has today been laid before Parliament. The recommendations in the report covered a wide range of issues and the Government have accepted the majority of the Procedure Committee's recommendations. In particular:
The Government have agreed in principle the central recommendation on the establishment of Special Standing Committees on European Community documents. These would be appointed for a whole Session. When the number of Committees has been decided, consideration will be given to the inclusion of Members who express particular interest or expertise in the subject areas covered by the relevant Committee. The Committees would also have the power to hear statements from Ministers and question them before debating the document under consideration. The Government have also accepted that there should be a significant shift of scrutiny debates away from the Floor of the House and into these new Committees.10W
On the timing of scrutiny debates, the Government have reaffirmed their intention to bring proposals rapidly before the Select Committee on European Legislation and arrange prompt debates where the Committee so recommends. The Government have accepted the recommendation that the six-monthly debates on the "Developments in the Community" White Papers should be made more forward-looking. The Government recognise the benefits to be gained from building up informal links with Members of the European Parliament and have asked the House of Commons Services Committee to consider some practical measures to achieve this.
The Government believe that these changes and the other elements of their response will help to bring the scrutiny procedures up to date and allow Parliament to play its full and proper part in the consideration of Community legislation.
The House will be given an early opportunity to express its views on the report and the Government response. Following this debate, the Government will bring forward detailed proposals, including any necessary amendments to Standing Orders with a view to operating the new arrangements from the start of next Session.