I wish to inform the House that, further to the Foreign Secretary’s oral statement launching the review of the balance of competences on 12 July 2012 and the written ministerial statements on the progress of the review on 23 October 2012 and 14 May 2013, I have today published the calls for evidence for the agriculture and fisheries reports. The agriculture and fisheries reports will be completed by summer 2014.
The agriculture report will consider the European Union common agricultural policy, plant health, plant reproductive materials and international trade in agricultural commodities.
The fisheries report will focus on the European Union common fisheries policy, and competence for the management of fisheries and aquaculture. Competence issues relating to the wider marine environment, beyond fisheries management, are considered under the environment and climate change report.
The call for evidence period will last 12 weeks. DEFRA will draw together the evidence and analysis into first drafts which will subsequently go through processes of scrutiny before publication in summer 2014.
DEFRA will take a rigorous approach to the collection and analysis of evidence. The calls for evidence set out the scope of the reports and include 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 provisions of the Data Protection Act) will be published alongside the final report in summer 2014 and will be available on the Government website: www.gov.uk.
DEFRA will consult 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 review. As the review is to be objective and evidence-based, encouraging a wide range of interested parties to contribute will ensure a high yield of valuable information.
The resulting reports are intended to be comprehensive, thorough and detailed analyses of the functioning of EU competence in the areas of agriculture and fisheries and what this means for the UK national interest. They will aid our understanding of the nature of our EU membership and they 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.
I am arranging for the calls for evidence to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses. They will also be accessible through the balance of competences review pages on the Government’s website at: www.gov.uk/review-of-the-balance-of-competences.