Scottish Parliament
European Committee
Official Report

Meeting 6, 1999

previous page contents page 19 October 1999

 
Col 211
Scrutiny

The Convener: Did everybody receive the comments from the Health and Community Care Committee?

Stephen Imrie (Committee Clerk): The comments were sent to me in an e-mail.

The Convener: So they have not been circulated?

Stephen Imrie: No. I was going to read them out. There is only one comment.

The Convener: Obviously, you should read out some of it.

The first document is consideration of the report from the Health and Community Care Committee on the "Proposal for a Directive of—"

Stephen Imrie: That is a separate document. We need to go through that committee's comments first.

The Convener: Sorry. Let us return to the scrutiny recommendation note of sift date 6 October, document 295 (EC Ref No 10499/99, COM(99)372 final). The recommendation is:

"Await explanatory memorandum and consider at next committee meeting."

Agreed?

Members indicated agreement.

The Convener: Next, the recommendation on document 298 (EC Ref No 10461/99, COM(99)377 final CNB 99/0164) is for no further action.

Bruce Crawford: I agree that there should be no further action, but the dates that are involved are worrying. The deposit date in the UK Parliament was 18 August and we are being asked to reply by 22 October. I know that we have nothing further to say, but there has been a heck of a long lead-in time for this document to arrive here. If the same process were to be used in future, there would be difficulties if a matter arose on which we had something to say.

Stephen Imrie: I think that that is probably the case. As I have said on a number of occasions, the summer timetable and summer recess have caused us some problems. I will speak to my colleagues in the Cabinet Office to see whether we can speed things up in future.

The Convener: For document 310 (EC Ref No 10408/99, COM(99)364 final), we are advised to take no further action. That is agreed.

For document 317 (EC Ref No 10541/99, COM(99) 352 final 99/0152 (COD)), we are advised to consider the matter at the next meeting. 

Col 212 That is agreed.

For document 331 (EC Ref No 10644/99, COM(99)427 final), we are advised to take no further action.

Bruce Crawford: What does the "Notes and Decision Rationale" section in the sift/scrutiny recommendation note mean with regard to this document? I know what the text says, but I am not sure what it actually means.

The Convener: Where is that?

Bruce Crawford: The text says:

"A reading of the EM does not appear to highlight"

the point about the Data Protection Act 1998. Does that mean that the point is not relevant?

Stephen Imrie: What I meant is that the convener and I have read through document 331 to follow up the query that was raised on 28 September about whether data protection was included in the scope of the directive. It does not appear to be and that was clarified in discussions with the Executive.

The Convener: For document 335 (EC Ref No 10553/99), we are advised to take no further action. That is agreed.

For document 337 (EC Ref No 10672/99), we are advised to consider the matter at the next meeting and a briefing paper will be produced on the link between the European investment fund and the European Investment Bank.

Dr Winnie Ewing: A very good funding mechanism seems to have disappeared. The European Investment Bank granted money to banks in the UK—although Scottish banks were not in the scheme until people complained—which meant that banks had more leeway when granting overdraft facilities and could take greater than normal risks in the commercial world. However, although the scheme benefited business start-ups and so on, it has stopped. Can the briefing paper contain information about whether the scheme is still with us; and, if it is not, whether that is because the banks cannot be bothered to keep it going?

The Convener: We will consider that matter in the briefing paper.

For document 340 (EC Ref No 10704/99, SEC(99)66 final), we are advised to consider the matter at the next meeting. That is agreed.

Stephen Imrie: A few committee members have asked that document 340 be tabled on the agenda for discussion. As a result, we will not be taking it as a scrutiny function.

The Convener: OK.

For document 341 (EC Ref No 10705/99, 

Col 213 COM(99)367 final), we are advised to consider the matter at the next meeting. That is agreed.

For document 346 (EC Ref No 10736/99, COM(99)388 final), we are advised to consider the matter at the next meeting. That is agreed.

For document 347 (EC Ref No 8615/99, COM(99)292 final 99/0125 (CNS)), we are advised to take no further action. That is agreed.

For document 348 (EC Ref No 9807/99, COM(99)322 final), we are advised to take no further action. That is agreed.

For document 349 (EC Ref No 10251/99, SEC(99)1213), we are advised to consider the matter at the next meeting. That is agreed.

For document 350 (EC Ref No 10742/99 COM(99)348 final), we are advised to consider the matter at the next meeting. That is agreed.

Dr Ewing: Document 350 could be important to our citizenry. I do not know whether other committee members are aware of the case in the Highlands of the lady whose child has been abducted by her husband, who has done it before. A Scottish court enforced a French court's judgment, even though we warned the court that the man had abducted the child before. The child is now missing in the depths of Europe and Interpol is on the case. As such judgments among member states can cause problems in our constituencies, perhaps we can exercise care when the matter comes up.

The Convener: OK.

For document 351 (EC Ref No 10902/99, COM(99)178 final), we are advised to take no further action. That is agreed.

For document 352 (EC Ref No 10906/99, COM(99)407 final), we are advised to take no further action, but we should refer the matter to the Health and Community Care Committee. That is agreed.

For document 353 (EC Ref No 8023/99, ENFOPOL 36), we are advised to take no further action. That is agreed.

Dr Ewing: This came out of a report when I was chairman of the committee, following Heysel. The recommendation of the committee of the Parliament at that time was that there would be a constant review of the situation. I would have thought that this was relevant in a football-crazy country such as Scotland.

Stephen Imrie: Document 353 is the Austrian delegation's submission. It is not the complete report.

Dr Ewing: I would not mind seeing it.

Stephen Imrie: I will collect the complete report 

Col 214 and give it to members for their interest.

Allan Wilson: Is there any similar report on football hooliganism within member states?

The Convener: For document 354 (EC Ref No 10950/99, JAI 67 AG27), the recommendation is no further action. That is agreed.

For document 355 (EC Ref No 10543/99, EVAL 47 ELARG 88), the recommendation is no further action. That is agreed.

For document 356 (EC Ref No 10938/99, COPEN 35), the recommendation is no further action. That is agreed

For document 357 (EC Ref No 11177/99), the recommendation is no further action. That is agreed.

For document 358 (EC Ref No 10708/99, COM(99)414 final) the recommendation is no further action, but to copy it to the Transport and the Environment Committee for their interest.

For document 359 (EC Ref No 10866/99 COM(99)213 final), the recommendation is no further action. That is agreed.

Dr Ewing: I do not know about other members, but I receive a lot of letters from vets about this matter. They are upset about restrictions on their ability to prescribe. Perhaps it was when I was a member of the European Parliament that I got those letters, but it was a big issue for vets.

Maureen Macmillan: Veterinary medicines are more expensive in this country than in other parts of Europe.

The Convener: This is a specific document relating to veterinary medicinal products and analytical, pharmatoxicological and clinical standards.

Dr Ewing: It is a codification.

The Convener: Yes.

For document 360 (EC Ref No 10900/99, PESC 278 COASI 16), we are advised to take no further action. That is agreed.

For document 361 (EC Ref No 10907/99, COM(99)408 final), we are advised to take no further action. That is agreed.

For document 362 (EC Ref No 10948/99 COM(99)303 final), we are advised to take no further action, but to send it to the Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Committee for their interest. That is agreed.

For document 363 (EC Ref No 10956/99 COM(99)373 final), we are advised to take no further action. That is agreed.

For document 364 (EC Ref No 10971/99, 

Col 215 COM(99)365 final), we are advised to take no further action. That is agreed.

For document 365 (EC Ref No 11050/99, COM(99)412 final), we are advised to take no further action. That is agreed.

For document 366 (EC Ref No 11076/99, COM(99)351 final), we are advised to take no further action. That is agreed.

For document 367 (EC Ref No 10999/99, SEC(99)1280 final), we are advised to take no further action. That is agreed.

For document 368 (EC Ref No 11157/99, COPEN 39), we are advised to take no further action.

Bruce Crawford: On 368, when we say no further action, does it mean that we will not do anything until we receive it, and then we will think about it, or does it mean that we will not do any more about it?

The Convener: That is it finished.

Bruce Crawford: I remember some controversy about aid being provided for internal EU residents within different countries and the problems with that. Was that matter not discussed at the Justice and Home Affairs Committee? Should we not let it see that?

Dr Ewing: The Justice and Home Affairs Committee should see that.

Allan Wilson: We would have to give it document 356 as well.

Bruce Crawford: Yes. I intended to come back to that. We should give both those documents to the Justice and Home Affairs Committee to let it see them.

The Convener: The recommendation is to amend document 356 to include reference for its interest to the Justice and Home Affairs Committee. That is agreed.

For document 368, the recommendation is also that it should be passed to the Justice and Home Affairs Committee. That is agreed.

For document 369 (EC Ref No 11097/99, COM(99)430 final), we are advised to take no further action. That is agreed.

For document 370 (EC Ref No 11012/99, COM(99)426 final), we are advised to take no further action. That is agreed.

For document 371 (EC Ref No 11013/99, COM(99)428 final), we are advised to take no further action. That is agreed.

For document 372 (EC Ref No 11117/99, COM(99)447 final), we are advised to take no further action, but refer it to the Enterprise and 

Col 216 Lifelong Learning Committee for its interest. That is agreed.

For document 373 (EC Ref No 11102/99, COM(99)446 final), we are advised to take no further action, but to send a copy to the Transport and the Environment Committee for its interest. That is agreed.

Documents 292 (EC Ref No 10439/99, COM(99)382 final) and onwards are documents that we have already considered and are now coming back to. We referred the common fisheries document to the Rural Affairs Committee for scrutiny.

15:45

Stephen Imrie: That document has been circulated to the Rural Affairs Committee. Unfortunately, I understand that it has not been able to hold a formal meeting prior to our committee meeting, in order for us to inform the Executive and Westminster. However, the convener and the clerk of the Rural Affairs Committee invited members of that committee to send any comments to me before this meeting. I have not received any comments. If I had, I would have incorporated them into this committee's report on the document.

Dr Ewing: My concern, as I have said already, is that the document talks about the justification for centralising the Fisheries Advisory Committee, but it does not say why it is advisable to centralise it. It worries me that it is to be centralised, unless our fishing associations are involved.

The document also talks about Europe-wide associations, which, as I have already said, fills me with cynicism because if there is a formula you can bet that certain countries are right in there. We are sometimes a bit slow in ensuring that we fit the formula. Is a European association one that our Scottish Fishermen's Federation has some involvement in? It probably does, but it worries me a bit. I asked one of the members of the Rural Affairs Committee to pass on that concern to the SFF and to seek clarification: perhaps it has been done by now.

Tavish Scott: I share the concerns of Dr Ewing. I asked my local fishermen's association about this matter. Its concern was that the way in which the committee is constructed is not set in tablets of stone. As far as I understand it, the committee effectively has not done anything since 1971.

Dr Ewing: It does not work.

Tavish Scott: Any step forward would be a step forward. The point that Dr Ewing makes is correct, in that when we go—and I hope that we do—to a regional structure of fisheries management, the committee structure should be able to adapt to 

Col 217 that change. The two points are that we do not want matters to be set in tablets of stone, and that the structure should be able to adapt when changes happen, as they will in 2002.

The Convener: I am struggling with the timetabling of the meetings of the Fisheries Council on 26 October and of the Westminster European Scrutiny Committee tomorrow. The Rural Affairs Committee has not had the chance to look at the document, so what do we do, Stephen?

Stephen Imrie: It was agreed between the clerks, with the approval of the Rural Affairs Committee convener, that the Rural Affairs Committee would not be able to meet before this meeting, but that the committee would give us whatever comments its members had. We would then be able to proceed, having referred the document to the Rural Affairs Committee and received its comments.

The Convener: So what comments do we want to include, because presumably we will be providing a view on behalf of the Parliament?

Tavish Scott: I would like to agree with what Dr Ewing said. We do not want the European Committee to be set in tablets of stone. It must be able to adapt in future to changes in the way in which fisheries management is structured. That is the important comment that must be made

Dr Ewing: As Scotland has the second fleet in Europe we must ensure that it has some form of representation on the advisory committee, no matter who else does not.

Tavish Scott: Absolutely.

The Convener: We will draft a letter in my name, and on behalf of the committee, to the Executive and to Westminster, which makes those points.

Dr Ewing: Thank you.

The Convener: The next document for consideration is document 301 (EC Ref No 10485/99, COM(99)329 final 99/0158), which concerns the directive on food additives other than colours and sweeteners.

Stephen Imrie: Document 301 was referred to the Health and Community Care Committee, if you recall. That committee held a special meeting last Thursday. Ben Wallace, who is on both committees, attended the Health and Community Care Committee meeting to put forward some of the views of the European Committee. I understand that two officials from the food safety unit of the Scottish Executive attended that meeting to address some of the concerns of committee members.

The clerk has sent me a short note on the meeting which she has asked me to draw to your 

Col 218 attention. If you will indulge me, I will read out the main paragraph:

"The Health and Community Care Committee voiced concern that if additive E 650 is added to the coating of chewing gum used as a nicotine substitute, more than the safe dosage may be ingested given that a higher than normal number of pieces may be chewed during a day. They asked that, if this is the case, it is taken into account in any evaluation and that the Scientific Committee for Food monitor the position."

That was the main point that they wished to bring to our attention and we are asked to incorporate it with the views of this committee. At a previous meeting we had recommended no further action; we were going to send a letter from our convener to the Executive and to the Westminster committee.

Bruce Crawford: What is this E number, and what is the chemical?

Stephen Imrie: The E number is E 650. I studied chemistry for a previous degree, so if I can find the reference I will put myself on the spot.

The Convener: That is why you have ended up on the European Committee.

Stephen Imrie: This is straightforward. I will not tell you the chemical formulation, but the chemical name is zinc acetate.

The Convener: Can we agree to forward a response which says that we received comments from the Health and Community Care Committee, making it quite clear that those are their deliberations?

Cathy Jamieson: I appreciate that this is not something that is of interest to everyone, but there are a number of people who are very concerned about additives, particularly in relation to allergies. While we might make light of this particular example, we should perhaps comment that the key issue here is about people's choice, which relates to adequate labelling.

Stephen Imrie: In the discussions between the clerks, one of the strong messages from our committee was that the health committee's focus should be on this document. A number of serious concerns on food additives were raised, which the Health and Community Care Committee has taken on board for examination at a later date.

Cathy Jamieson: That gives me a great sense of relief. Thank you.

The Convener: Our response will be specifically in relation to this document.

Allan Wilson: Is the health committee the lead committee on food additives? As Cathy correctly points out, all food additives and suchlike are authorised by Europe.

Stephen Imrie: I do not think that I could 

Col 219 comment on that. Food safety is within the remit of the health committee, but I think that it would probably work as it has before. The European Committee is the lead committee but it may want to make referrals to other committees on particular subjects.

The Convener: If there were anything legislative that we had to go through in detail, the Parliamentary Bureau would presumably make a recommendation to the Parliament about which should be the lead committee. At present we are being asked to comment on a particular document. The general points that have been raised will be looked at by the health committee, if necessary. I think, however, that it will help if we say in our response that those comments were from the health committee.

Bruce Crawford: My apologies, I must leave.

The Convener: Now that Bruce is leaving, shall we move on to the discussion on objective 2 and funding? [Laughter.]

The clerk has drawn to my attention that the Justice and Home Affairs Committee has referred a document back to us.

Stephen Imrie: Document 302 (EC Ref No 3710-01r1) has been referred back to us by the Justice and Home Affairs Committee, which noted the document but did not have anything substantial that it wished to bring to our attention.

I advise the committee, although it has not been clarified exactly how this will work, that there is discussion within the parliamentary services about taking on another person in the legal office to assist the committee in its understanding of the contents of these documents. That will help with the scrutiny process and will provide members with more briefing. We are conscious that you require support in understanding the detail of the documents beyond what the clerks are able to provide. We are considering human resource allocation with a view to increasing the number of people who are available to help you in your deliberations.

16:00

David Mundell: As we found out last week, there are many avid readers of our Official Report. The point was raised that it would be most helpful for them if EC references could appear in the Official Report—I notice that Stephen has put that into the minute—so that people could easily trace the document that we have been discussing.

Stephen Imrie: I have spoken to our official report colleagues about the matter. Rather than trying to do that as we are going through a document, I have agreed that I shall go back to the Official Report and insert the EC reference so that 

Col 220 readers outside the Parliament can know what specific European document the committee was talking about.

Consultation Process

The Convener: Item 3 is an update on the consultation process.

Stephen Imrie: I advise members that, over the past couple of weeks, we have sent out a fairly substantial mailshot to more than 200 organisations throughout Scotland. Thankfully, that was not my responsibility but that of my colleague David Simpson, who has given sterling service. We are still welcoming new contacts to which we can send the terms of reference, and we have received some comments back. The deadline is 4 November. We will prepare a summary document for the committee, on whom we sent that mailshot to, who has replied, and what kind of issues have been raised during that process.

The Convener: Thanks very much, Stephen.

Convener's Report

The Convener: Scotland week was a success. Several members made their way to Brussels under their own steam, and we were impressed not only by the effect that Scotland week had, but by the general level of interest in it that was shown within the Commission and the European Parliament, and by other regions. It would be fair to say that it has done Scotland and its Parliament a power of good, as far as our profile in Europe is concerned.

David Mundell: I was very impressed by the week and the activities that were going on, as well as by the level of interest that was shown. It might be useful for us to ask the Executive for the feedback that it has received on the week.

The Convener: Good idea.

David Mundell: The feedback from everybody whom we have met has been positive. It will come as no surprise to anybody here that people in Europe, and within Brussels, are very interested in this Parliament. It was a bit more surprising to me that they were interested in this committee and its activities, and that they were able to quote back bits of our Official Report to us. That level of interest was positive, and we want to build on it. The Executive is to be congratulated on the initiative of Scotland week, as well as on the Scotland House initiative, which was also very impressive.

The Convener: I agree to write to the Executive, on behalf of the committee, to congratulate it on the initiative and to ask for a report of the week's 

Col 221 activities and the conclusions that were reached.

Dr Winnie Ewing: I am sorry to have to mention something not so pleasant, but Mr McConnell has apologised to me for forgetting to put me on the list. By the time he said that he wanted me to go, at the very last minute, I had already accepted an invitation to be the guest of honour at a fund-raising dinner in London. I felt a wee bit sad that I was not in Brussels. After 24 years as a member of the European Parliament—and I am the only member of this committee who was a member of the European Parliament—I do not know how I came to be overlooked. I would have been quite happy to pay my own way, but I was just not included. I would like that to be noted in the minutes.

The Convener: I met the deputy chairman of the SPD group in the Bavarian Parliament. This is one of a number of expressions of interest that we have received from regional parliaments and assemblies throughout Europe. David is absolutely right: there is a huge amount of interest in what is happening in Scotland. Herr Maget brought the best wishes not just of the SPD group, but of the Bavarian Parliament as a whole, and indicated that the Parliament would at some point like to meet formally the committee and representatives of this Parliament to discuss areas of common interest. The Bavarians would be more than happy to meet us here, but any member of this committee who happens to be in Bavaria is also welcome to contact the Bavarian Parliament. What Herr Maget said about the history of Bavaria and its relationship with the German state raised issues of relevance to our future relationship with other parts of the United Kingdom.

Winnie, you met the Basque representative.

Dr Ewing: Yes.

The Convener: What was his response?

Dr Ewing: I met the minister responsible for foreign affairs. The Basque country is a remarkable part of the Spanish state, because it has more powers than Catalonia. In terms of its powers, the Basque country compares more closely with Scotland than Catalonia does. However, because of the erstwhile violence in the Basque lands, which seems to have come to an end following the magnificent agreement that has been signed by all parties—I hope that it works—nobody wanted to make that comparison.

The Basque country is a marvellous place to visit. It has an amazing co-operative movement, which has to be seen to be believed. The Basques are very hard-working, energetic people, with their own mysterious language—no one knows how it got there and where it came from, but it is what they like to speak. It was very interesting to hear about their plans. Like the Bavarians, they hope 

Col 222 that some members will want to visit their Parliament. I have done so many times.

Cathy Jamieson: Winnie has alluded to the co-operative movement in the Basque country. I was disappointed that I was unable to attend the meeting, because I have a special interest in co-operation. I want to make a general point about the short notice that we receive about such meetings. I appreciate that that is sometimes outwith the control of the clerks, but it is difficult to break commitments that we have already made in order to meet people at short notice. I would appreciate it if we could do something about that.

The Convener: Much of this is outwith our control, as some delegations make their own arrangements. For example, I had two days' notice of the meeting with the representative from Bavaria. That is unfortunate.

Before I come on to the East of Scotland Consortium conference, I should mention that we have received another expression of interest. The foreign affairs adviser to the Dutch Prime Minister will be at parliamentary headquarters on 27 October, between 11 am and 12.30. He is interested in meeting available MSPs. Could you check your diaries? Stephen will circulate this information to other members of the committee. I do not know whether the adviser wants to talk only about the European dimension, or whether he is interested in other subject areas. However, I suspect that we will receive more such requests.

On the same day, from half-past 1 to half-past 3, a representative of the Spanish Government—the junior minister for regional government—and the President of the Valencian regional government would like to meet some MSPs. That will be on Wednesday 27 October. Again, we will circulate that information to committee members.

On 9 November, representatives from the regional government of Saxony-Anhalt will be available to address the committee on regional development and on how they deal with European affairs. We are certainly broadening our horizons.

Finally, the East of Scotland European Consortium conference will take place on 26 November. I have received an invitation to participate, but the consortium has also invited up to four other members of the committee to do so. We are looking for available and interested committee members to take part. Does the committee want to leave the matter until the next meeting?

Sylvia has volunteered straight away. Will other committee members consider the remaining three places? Perhaps Stephen could drop members a note with additional information as a separate item for next week.

Col 223
Briefing

The Convener: Are there any other requests for briefing? If not, the next meeting will be on 26 October. Stephen, is there sufficient business for a meeting on 26 October? There is no point in dragging members into a meeting just for the sake of it when we could wait until the meeting on 9 November.

Stephen Imrie: There will be the committee's regular scrutiny function of papers received since we last carried out a sift. We wanted to put the sixth economic report on regional development on the agenda for discussion on 26 October. The meeting after that on 9 November will be partly taken up with the delegation from Saxony-Anhalt. To be fair, we would want to allocate a fairly substantial proportion of the meeting to visitors from that far away. I leave it to members to decide whether there is sufficient business for 26 October.

Col 224 The Convener: I suspect that we should wait until 9 November.

Tavish Scott: With great respect to our visitors, we will not be giving them three hours of the committee's time.

The Convener: Are we agreed to have the next meeting on 9 November? That is agreed. We will notify the members who have left early so that they do not turn up on 26 October. Thanks for your attendance.

Meeting closed at 16:11.


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Scottish Parliament 1999
Prepared 19 October 1999