Tuesday 9 June 2015
Justice and Home Affairs Pre-Council Statement
The Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council is due to be held on 15 and 16 June in Luxembourg. My hon. Friend, Lord Faulks QC, Minister for Civil Justice and I will attend on behalf of the United Kingdom. As the provisional agenda stands, the following items will be discussed.
Justice day on 15 June will begin with the Latvian presidency seeking a general approach on the proposed data protection regulation. The file is subject to qualified majority voting.
This will be followed by the presidency seeking a general approach on the draft regulation on promoting the free movement of citizens and businesses by simplifying the acceptance of certain public documents in the EU. The aim of the proposal is to reduce the problems associated with language barriers when people present documents such as birth and marriage certificates in different member states.
The Latvian presidency is aiming for a consensus on the first 16 articles of the draft European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) regulation, covering certain aspects of its internal workings. The UK did not opt in to this proposal.
During lunch there will be a discussion on the judicial dimension of the new digital single market strategy. Under AOB, the presidency will provide information on other current legislative proposals and on the EU-US justice and home affairs ministerial meeting, which was held in Riga on 2 and 3 June.
Finally, the Luxembourg delegation will present the programme for its forthcoming presidency—July-December 2015.
The interior session on 16 June will begin in mixed committee with Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland—non-EU Schengen states. The Council will debate the Commission’s communication “A European Agenda on Migration”, and receive an update on the outcome of the special meeting of the European Council on 23 April, which agreed a series of immediate actions to respond to the situation in the Mediterranean.
During the main interior meeting member states will be asked to agree Council conclusions establishing the EU internal security strategy (ISS) for the next five years. This is in line with the commitment in the new strategic guidelines agreed at the European Council in June 2014 to review the ISS (2010-2014.) The renewed ISS will set strategic objectives for EU co-operation on internal security matters.
Ministers will then discuss progress in delivering European counter-terrorism priorities since the 12 February statement of the member states of the European Council. These priorities are divided into three objectives: ensuring the security of citizens, preventing radicalisation and safeguarding values, and co-operating with international partners. National security remains a member state competence.
Under AOB, the presidency will provide information on current legislative proposals and on the EU-US Justice and Home Affairs ministerial meeting—held in Riga from 2 to 3 June 2015.
The Austrian delegation will then provide information on the Salzburg forum ministerial conference, held in St Pölten (Austria) from 4 to 5 May and on the international ministerial conference on “Tackling Jihadism Together”, held in Vienna on 20 March.
Finally, the incoming Luxembourg presidency will present its programme and Slovenia will present on the justice and home affairs ministerial conference of the Brdo process and south-east European co-operation process held in Budva (Montenegro) from 16 to 17 April 2015.
EU Transport Council
I will attend the final Transport Council under the Latvian presidency (the presidency), taking place in Luxembourg, on Thursday 11 June.
The presidency is aiming for a general approach on a proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down technical requirements for inland waterway vessels and repealing directive 2006/87/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council. The proposed directive seeks to replace the detailed technical annex of directive 2006/87/EC with simpler standards to be developed by a new international body (to be known as CESNI). The UK intends to support the proposed directive as it streamlines existing processes; we have safeguarded crucial existing derogations for the UK inland waterway sector; and secured explicit links to the output of CESNI, which the UK considers to be the appropriate body to develop technical standards for inland waterway vessels.
There will be two progress reports, the first on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending regulation (EC) No 261/2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of the cancellation or long delay of flights and regulation (EC) No 2027/97 on air carrier liability in respect of the carriage of passengers and their baggage by air (air passenger rights). The presidency has held a number of working level meetings over the last few months to try to resolve four main issues: the trigger points for when delay compensation is due; compensation for connecting flights; extraordinary circumstances; and cabin baggage. Limited progress has been made during the working groups, with most member states still having significant concerns about at least one of these issues. On trigger points, the UK has supported fixed compensation amounts for delays of at least five, nine or 12 hours depending upon the length of the flight in question. Our analysis shows that such a regime would strike the right balance between adequately compensating passengers for time lost, while ensuring that burdens on industry are proportionate. The UK also considers that to include compensation for missed connections would place a significant burden on the operators of short-haul feeder flights, damaging connectivity.
On the issue of extraordinary circumstances in which compensation is not due to the passenger, we have supported the inclusion of a binding and non-exhaustive list in the text of the regulation. This would increase clarity while retaining flexibility regarding what can be considered as extraordinary. We also oppose limiting the use of extraordinary circumstances to the current flight and the previous flight to help to minimise burdens on industry. On the number and type of cabin baggage items allowed, I am of the view that this issue should not be regulated and should be a commercial decision for the carrier.
Although this dossier is currently down for a progress report, there may be a wide ranging debate at Council, including a discussion on Gibraltar airport. Regulation (EC) No. 261/2004 was adopted prior to the 2006 Cordoba agreement and therefore contains a clause suspending its application to Gibraltar airport, as was normal practice at that time. The Commission’s proposal does not contain an amendment to remove the Gibraltar airport suspension clause from the original regulation. The UK will continue to press for the extension of the regulation to Gibraltar airport in line with the EU treaties. I will work with the Minister for Europe on this and other aviation dossiers to ensure that any language on Gibraltar is acceptable.
The second progress report concerns the proposal for a directive of European Parliament and of the Council amending directive 2012/34 establishing a single European railway area, as regards the opening of the market for domestic passenger transport services by rail and the governance of the railway infrastructure and a proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending regulation (EC) No 1370/2007 concerning the opening of the market for domestic passenger transport services by rail (“market pillar” of the 4th railway package). Negotiations of the market pillar by the Council began under the Italian presidency in June 2014 and have progressed further under the Latvian presidency. The presidency has produced a set of draft amendments to the package. These have improved the text in a number of areas which could otherwise have resulted in additional burdens in the UK, for example the amendments no longer increase regulation of the transport planning process and have reduced the proposed new restrictions on outsourcing and co-operation by different businesses in the railway industry. The key outstanding sticking point is the question of when a public authority should be able to decide not to hold a competition for a rail contract and instead make a direct award to their chosen train operator. I plan to support the progress made by the presidency in reducing the regulatory burden the package would impose, while noting that there is still scope for further improvement. I intend to underline the success of liberalisation and competition in revitalising the UK railway market over the past 20 years and to argue that competition is vital for a competitive and sustainable railway sector. In particular I propose to state the use of direct awards should be restricted in order to promote competition. Any exemptions to competitive tendering of rail contracts therefore need to be based on objective criteria, where it can be demonstrated that a direct award is justified.
Under any other business, the Commission will provide information on its review of the road safety strategy 2015-2020 and will provide an update on the Christophersen-Bodewig-Secchi report on TEN-T and CEF ahead of the TEN-T days taking place in Riga from 22-23 June. The Commission will also provide an update on the shift to rail proposal. The presidency will report on the outcome of the 3rd ASEM Transport Ministers’ meeting held in Riga on 29-30 April at which the UK was represented at official level. Luxembourg, the incoming presidency of the EU will present its work programme.
Business, Innovation and Skills
The 18th annual review of the Government Chemist has been received. The review will be placed in the Libraries of the House plus those of the devolved administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland. The review will also be laid before the Scottish Parliament.
The Government Chemist is the referee analyst named in Acts of Parliament. The Government Chemist’s team carry out analysis in high-profile cases, for example, the measurement of horsemeat in products suspected to have been mislabelled.
The Government Chemist’s work often has a critical health dimension as it used to decide whether food additives or contaminants are within permitted levels.
The Government Chemist employs a range of classical and modern techniques, including DNA analysis, as part of his activities in producing certificates of analysis. The Government Chemist also gives advice to Government Departments, Trading Standards Departments and Public Analysts.