||consultative draft in the public
domain? For correspondence purposes it would help me to know. I was especially impressed
by this document and wanted to give it to Dumfries and Galloway Enterprise as a template
for something that it might do in future.
Convener: I am advised that the document has been sent to interested organisations.
David Mundell: To deal with correspondence that we
get on documents such as this, it would be very helpful to know to what extent the
document is in the public domain and what we can therefore do with it or say about it.
The Convener: I suggest
that we get the committee clerk to speak to members who have
raised issues in this discussion to ensure that we have clearly
identified their points of view, which we will then try to include
in a letter or report to be sent to the Rural Affairs Committee
for its consideration. I also suggest that that report be sent
to the Minister for Rural Affairs, just for his information.
The Convener: I am aware that we are quickly
running out of time. We had originally considered an October date for the proposed
seminar, but I now think that that is completely unrealistic. I suggest that we put that
back, and that we ask members whether they have any views on the document that has been
circulated. Any comments or suggestions on how members think the seminar should be
structured should be sent to Stephen. We will then try to revise the report, based on the
comments received, and bring the revised version to a future meeting.
That is agreed.
Ms MacDonald: I think that we should give Stephen
as much notice as possible. I have absolutely nothing against Bruce Millanhe is a
former MP for Govanbut, to indicate that we are willing to look outwith this
Scottish Parliament, we could perhaps hear from someone such as Peter
Sutherlandsomeone who is working at the pointy end of Europe and can perhaps pass on
his experience from his perspective. The Irish have been quite good at it, and the Spanish
as well, Winnie.
The Convener: I am
certainly quite prepared to listen to those who have not been
Members of Parliament for Govan, Margo, but if you make your
suggestion to Stephen we will take it into consideration.
The Convener: Stephen, is there anything that
||you would like to say on the
forward programmes of the European institutions?
Imrie: Only to advise the committee that this was our first attempt at trying to
collect some early intelligence on provisional agendas for future Council meetings and
Commission work programmes in order to give a flavour, at this stage, of the kind of
things that will be discussed.
I would be the first to recognise that the document is far
from complete and is of only broad use to the committee. I would certainly be happy to
have any feedback from members on the kind of thing that they are looking for. It is an
attempt to summarise publicly available information to give an idea of what is coming up
in the future.
Ben Wallace: May I askWinnie may be able to
answer thishow many times a committee of the European Parliament meets on a
particular subject? If we are told that the agenda in December is going to be emissions,
for examplehow many times would it meet on that?
Dr Winnie Ewing: Most committees meet at least once
a month, usually for three days. Most are publicthere are only two exceptions to
that, one of which is the budgetary control committee. A committee would not yet know its
agenda for December, although it would know the agenda for September, and depending how it
got on with its work that would settle October and so on. Usually, when a rapporteur is
appointed, the first discussion is open and without any pieces of paper. The next time the
committee meets there is a piece of paper and by then a date is set for amendments and
there is another discussion. That is what happens in most cases, although sometimes there
is urgent legislation that is short-circuited, when everybody knows that business will be
dealt with more quickly. That is all disclosed in the copy agenda, which I will certainly
ensure I get whether or not the committee does, because that is where the key lies.
There is another key as well, which is each committee's
proposal to the budget committeeif we can get that. It sets out what each committee
is really dealing with in terms of its finance. That is where you learn the number of
budget lines and where you see under which headings we could winkle in something good for
I chaired a committee once. It had a wide
remitculture, education, sport, tourism and informationand many budget lines.
When we submitted the committee's demand to the budget committee in November, all the
headings and what each budget line covered were explained. That is where we can see
whether there is something we could apply for for the Highlands or Dumfries, for example.
That is another type of document that we will not be sent, but it gives the answer to a
||the questions about where we go
as a committee to try to ensure Scotland gets everything that is goingbecause I
assure you, the Irish get everything that is going.
Oldfather: I support what Winnie is saying; the earlier we get in on this the better.
It is going to be quite complicated and I wonder whether there is some system that we
could work out in co-operation with others, perhaps the Scottish Executive or with
Westminster, to track issues. I know that individual regions with offices in Europe try to
do that themselves. It is quite a big job and it may well be that we could work in
co-operation with the Scottish Executive or Scotland House to put in place some sort of
tracking so that we can identify when things are coming up and how to influence them.
Clearly the earlier we get in on decisions, the better.
Taking Winnie's point about the rapporteur system, perhaps
trying to meet rapporteurs involved in issues relating to Scotland would be useful.
Looking over some of the agendas in the briefing paper, it seems to me that there are a
number of issues that we would want to be involved in. Just a cursory glance reveals
issues such as the knowledge economy, e-commerce and economic and monetary union.
Given Scotland's peripheral position in Europe,
e-commerce, for example, is going to be vital to us and the earlier we can get in on some
of these things the better. I do not think that we should underestimate the scale of the
task. The first step might be to see whether we can work in co-operation with Scotland
House or the Scottish Executive to have in place some kind of tracking system, or whether
other proposals on how to track these issues can be presented to us.
The Convener: We need to consider how we influence
a number of things, at Westminster and in Europe. Some of it will evolve. Maureen
mentioned MEPs. We certainly want to meet them and set up a liaison mechanism. It might be
useful to get Dermot Scott, who is the European Parliament's representative in Edinburgh,
to give us a presentation and to discuss with him and others from various institutions how
we might use some of their facilities. There are a number of different ways we will look
Ms Oldfather: I understand that the European
Parliament's independent inquiry into the European Commission is due to report in
September. I think we would want to see that report at an early stage.
Bruce Crawford: It is inevitable that we will stray
into matters of influence and early warning systems. As you said, Hugh, we will discuss
that at a later date. When we discuss it, we should consider how we can influence
the possibility of getting middle-ranking civil servants into Europe to influence the
people who draft legislation.
The Convener: Briefing documents on a number of
subjects have been issued to the committee. Are there any other topics on which members
would like briefing documents? They need not be related to our agenda.
Ben Wallace: A document on relations with
Westminster would be useful.
The Convener: That might not be a bad idea, as we
will come back to the subject in a later discussion.
David Mundell: I would like to see a note of the
European Scrutiny Committee's membership.
Cathy Jamieson: In the briefing papers that we have
before us today there is information about the trans-European network, transport policy
and the proposals that are likely to come up. I would like to be kept up to date with
developments as they arise. It would be also helpful to have information about the
Scottish MEPs and the committees they sit on.
Dr Winnie Ewing: I know that it is early days, Mr
Henry, but do you have an idea of when we will start specialising and dividing up the
subjects? There will be an enormous amount of legislation to scrutinise.
The Convener: We can consider that.
Ms Oldfather: When Jim Millard was here I raised a
point about Community initiatives, which might come into our discussion on structural
funds. Because Scotland does not have the same opportunities for cross-border projects as
it does for transnational ones it is important that, on the INTERREG initiative, we
maintain a strong lobby for trans-national projects.
The Convener: Do you want a briefing paper on the
Ms Oldfather: Yes.
Dennis Canavan: After this morning's very good
presentation, I think that we should have a more detailed briefing on the British
Government's submission on objective 2 status. We will need to move quickly on that matter
if we are to have any input as the submission will be made next month, I believe.
The Convener: I appreciate your sentiments and I
agree that we need to be able to exert some influence, but we are trying to consider
briefings that the Scottish Parliament can provide. You are asking for information from
the British Government, which is a different matter. I agree
||that we need the information
that you mention. One way to get it would be to talk to Jack McConnell; the other way
would be to talk to the Secretary of State for Scotland. I do not know whether our
committee staff would be able to produce that kind of information as a Scottish Parliament
Dennis Canavan: We have to be very
well briefed if we are going to put hard, relevant questions and points of view to Jack
McConnell and John Reid when they appear before us. After all, they are not coming here
simply for a chat.
The Convener: That is right, but you asked for a
briefing on the UK's decisions about the matter and, at this stage, we do not know what
those decisions will be.
Dennis Canavan: We could have a briefing about the
thinking that is going on behind the scenes on the criteria on which such decisions will
be made. Perhaps we could also have a list of points to raise when the ministers come
before us, which I hope will be soon.
The Convener: We have already agreed that we will
ask the minister to come to the next meeting. I think that we can agree to a Scottish
Parliament briefing on some of the key issues and questions for Scotland and we can ask
the staff to elicit some information about the UK Government's current thinking on the
matter. However, I hesitate to consider their chances of successI think that you
have had more experience of trying to obtain such information than many of us, Dennis.
We will produce a briefing note outlining the key points
of the structural funds debate and we will also get as much available information as we
can from the UK Government, but I will not promise to deliver what the staff cannot
Ms MacDonald: I am sorry to take up more time, but
I want to emphasise Dennis's comments. We have a time difficulty; if we do not manage to
intervene before the decisions on the map are made, we have to take what is handed down to
The Convener: We have already agreed to invite Jack
McConnell to our next meeting. At this stage in the agenda, we are talking about general
background briefing notes that are not necessarily for discussion. You have already
received some briefing notes that have not appeared on the agenda, which were to inform
you and to help you to appreciate some of the wider issues. We have already agreed our
tactics concerning structural funds. If we can produce a briefing note that gives a
Scottish Parliament perspective on some of the main issues, we will do that. However, the
briefing note as envisaged in the agenda is not the only way to obtain information that we
need and that matter will hopefully be dealt with when the
||minister comes before us. We
will ask whether we can be supplied with the key questions and information that Dennis
spoke about, so that we can have a more focused debate with the minister.
Dennis Canavan: I am not just thinking of Jack McConnell
but, more important, of John Reid, if the UK Government puts forward the proposals to the
The Convener: At the moment I think it is
appropriate for us to ask the Scottish Parliament's Minister for Finance to come before
us. We spoke about a meeting on 31 August, which is only two weeks away and I would
certainly be keen to see Jack McConnell within the next fortnight, if we can do that.
Dennis Canavan: And what about John Reid?
Westminster is not sitting at the moment. If he is sitting around doing nothing, perhaps
we could get him more quickly.
The Convener: As you know, there are issues of
protocol. We cannot demand the secretary of state to come before us; we can ask whether he
is available. We have a different relationship with the Minister for Finance. Before we
meet the secretary of state, we have to ensure that the Scottish Executive has signed up
to our agenda. There is no point bringing John Reid into a debate between the committee
and the Minister for Finance when we have not formulated a point of view. We have already
said that we will write to John Reid about some of our general concerns. At the next
meeting, we need to talk to the minister and clarify our own views; then we can ask for a
meeting with the Secretary of State if that would be helpful. We need to get the sequence
of events sorted out.
Ben Wallace: It is important for John Reid to meet
us, because the European dimension is decided at Westminsterat Cabinet
leveland John Reid is the man at Westminster. Although Jack McConnell can put his
imprint on the Scottish Executive, the redrawing of the map will be done at Westminster
and John Reid is the man there.
The Convener: The problem is that if we do not
agree with the Scottish Executive, we could find that the members of the Scottish
Executive pay no heed to what we say because we spoke to John Reid before we spoke to
them. We need to sign the Scottish Executive up to our priorities and then meet John Reid
togetherI hope with the committee and the Scottish Executive in tandem. From the
Scottish Parliament's point of view, we need to get our act together and our views
clarified. We have said that we will send John Reid a holding letter that expresses our
concern. The appropriate way forward is to give the minister his place and then to seek a
meetingif appropriatewith the Secretary of State.
Dennis Canavan: With respect, Mr Henry, it
||would be most appropriate for us
to meet the secretary of state because the UK Government will make the submission to the
European Commission. I would suggest that this committee instructs the clerk to try to
arrange meetings with Jack McConnell and with John Reid. It may very well be that we want
to have the meeting with Jack McConnell before that with John Reid, but we are running out
of time. If we are to have any influence whatsoever in the drawing up of the objective 2
map we must move very quickly indeed. We were told this morning that the proposal by the
UK Government will probably be finalised next month. Next month begins in 13 days.
The Convener: I have no problem with asking for a meeting
with John Reid. It is up to him to say whether he is available to meet us. He may want to
meet representatives of the committee or he may agree to meet the whole committee. I do
not know what his timetable is, but I am more than happy to ask that this committee has a
meeting of some form with John Reid. That was always in my thoughts or I would not have
suggested that we write to him. Before we do that, however, we need to have Jack McConnell
before this committee.
You are absolutely right to say that there must be contact
between the Secretary of State for Scotland and this committee in some shape or form.
Dr Sylvia Jackson: I propose that we try to meet
Jack McConnell on 24 August as there are such pressures on time.
The Convener: We can check our diaries. We should
agree to meet on 31 August and, if possible, as a committee to meet Mr McConnell a week
earlier than that. I do not want to start making arrangements that will mean that half of
this committee cannot attend, because it is so important that as many members as possible
are present. If it is humanly possible, Sylvia, we will try to meet Mr McConnell next
week. Failing that, do we agree to meet on 31 August? We must still agree on that and
after that it will be appropriate to contact the minister.
Dr Jackson: Whether we meet on 24 August or 31
August, are we now moving to afternoon slots?
The Convener: No. On those dates we can still meet
in the morning. There is a separate issue about timing that I want to come to. Would
members prefer to have our next meeting in the morning or the afternoon?
It seems that members would prefer the afternoon.
We are agreed that we will seek a meeting with John Reid
and that we invite Jack McConnell to the next meeting of this committee, which will be on
either 24 or 31 August.
||At the end of this meeting,
would members give the clerk an indication of whether they will be available on 24 August,
as I would not want to go into a meeting such as that with only half the committee.
A couple of members raised the general issue of whether
meetings will be held in the morning or the afternoon. Some have raised the issue of the
day on which we meet. Sir David Steel has asked for a meeting with all the Scottish
Parliament's committee conveners to discuss areas of common interest and to try to resolve
demarcation issues, and so on. Ahead of that meeting a timetable has been produced that
suggests times for particular committee meetings. One of our difficulties is that if we
decide unilaterally to meet in the morning, and the clerks have put out a timetable that
suggests that our meetings will be in the afternoon, that will have a knock-on effect on
other meetings. I do not know whether we can, at this stage, get some of those other
meetings shifted. I think the meeting with Sir David is next week and I will raise that.
Do members have a general preference for morning or
afternoon meetings? There is an even split, so we will clearly not satisfy everyone.
Similarly, we will not be able satisfy everyone regarding the day of the week on which we
meet. I will try to establish with the other conveners whether there is any flexibility.
Each committee determining its own meeting times would create anarchy, because we are
often dependent on the same staff and facilities. The decision may be out of our hands,
but I will do what I can.
Is there anythingother than the issues that we have
identified through this meetingwhich members would like to be considered at the next
As there is not, I thank members for their attendance at
what has been a good and fruitful discussion.
Meeting closed at 13:01.