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Balance of Competences (Review)

Volume 569: debated on Monday 21 October 2013

I wish to inform both Houses that following my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs’ oral statement launching the review of the balance of competences in July 2012 and written statements on the progress of the review in October 2012, and May 2013, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is publishing the following calls for evidence today.

The single market: free movement of services review is being led by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). The review will consider the balance of competences with respect to the freedom to provide services across the European Union, and will cover public and defence procurement; company law; and issues relating to the mutual recognition of professional qualifications (MRPQ). The review will also consider the services that are covered by specific sectoral EU legislation (e.g. telecommunications, broadcasting, audiovisual), as well as those dealt with by the services directive (e.g. IT, construction, food and drink, hospitality and retail).

The competition and consumer policy review will cover UK competition and consumer policy including state aids. The competition policy elements of the review will consider the rules governing competition between suppliers, while the consumer policy areas will examine the protections given to consumers when purchasing a product or a service. Rules on state aid—which are a subset of competition rules to prevent market distortions as a result of Government support—will also be covered.

The cohesion review will focus on aspects of EU activity that support economic development. It will consider the EU’s regional policy, for which the main financial instruments are the European regional development fund and the cohesion fund, as well as the European social fund. It will look at how the EU funds infrastructure projects through trans-European networks and the connecting Europe facility and finally it will examine competence in the area of industry policy under article 173 of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union.

The call for evidence period will run from 21 October 2013 until 13 January 2014 and officials will draw together the evidence and policy analysis into draft reports, which will subsequently go through a process of scrutiny before publication in summer 2014.

BIS will take a rigorous approach to the collection and analysis of evidence. Each call for evidence sets out the scope of the report and includes a series of broad questions on which contributors are asked to focus. Interested parties are invited to provide evidence with regard to political, economic, social and technological factors. The evidence received (subject to the provision of the Data Protection Act) will be published alongside the final reports in summer 2014 and will be available on the Government website: https://www.gov.uk/review-of-the-balance-of-competences#semester-3.

The Departments will pursue an active engagement process, consulting widely across Parliament and its Committees, businesses, the devolved Administrations and civil society in order to obtain evidence to contribute to our analysis of the issues. Our EU partners and the EU institutions will also be invited to contribute evidence to the reviews. As the reviews are to be objective and evidence-based, we are encouraging a wide range of interested parties and individuals to contribute.

The results of the reports will be a comprehensive, thorough and detailed analysis. It will aid our understanding of the nature of our EU membership and it will provide a constructive and serious contribution to the wider European debate about modernising, reforming and improving the EU. The reports will not produce specific policy recommendations.

The call for evidence documents are being placed in the Libraries of both Houses. They are also published and available on the Government website: https://www.gov.uk/review-of-the-balance-of-competences.