HC Deb 08 September 2003 vol 410 cc122-3W
Mr. Bercow

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will list(a) the names, titles and grades of the officials who sit on the EU Socrates committee, (b) the number of times, and the dates, on which it has met since January 2002, (c) the agenda items it has considered since January 2002, (d) the decisions it has made since January 2002 and (e) the means used to communicate the decisions to the House. [110282]

Alan Johnson

Meetings of the Socrates committee are attended by delegates drawn from the 30 participating states of the 15 European Union countries, the European Economic Area countries of Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, the 10 acceding countries, Romania and Bulgaria. Usually two officials of the Department for Education and Skills attend the committee.

The Socrates committee met five times on 17–18 January 2002,14 June 2002,7–8 November 2002, 16–17 January 2003 and 12–13 June 2003. In addition, there was an informal meeting of the committee in May 2002 to discuss evaluation of the Socrates programme.

The role of the Socrates committee is to oversee the powers delegated to the European Commission by the Council of Ministers to implement the Socrates programme. The committee's business is largely concerned with the technical details of the programme operation, such as project selection for programme support, publicity, information and budget allocation. In common with other Comitology committees its decisions are not routinely deposited for scrutiny under established scrutiny procedures, unless they are politically significant.

Together with member states, the Commission has been conducting a review to bring existing legislation on the conduct of Comitology committees into line with Council Decision 1999/468/EC, to "simplify the requirements for the exercise of implementing powers conferred on the Commission". The working group on the Friends of Comitology is meeting later this month to discuss proposals for interim reform.

As an obligation to this decision, the Commission undertook to publish an annual report on the working of the committee. The second report was deposited in the Libraries of both Houses oh 10 January 2003 ref 5060/03, COM(03)733.

As part of the review process, the UK Government have encouraged the Commission to produce and maintain an electronic database of every Comitology committee, its agendas and recent actions, to be accessible through its website.