HC Deb 02 April 2003 vol 402 cc716-7W
Mr. Bercow

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on progress with achieving transparency in respect of the European working groups for which his Department is responsible. [105735]

Ruth Kelly

The Government has long been committed to greater openness in the ED Institutions. This was a key theme of the UK Presidencies in 1992 and 1998. Making it easier to gain access to non-sensitive documents is crucial to this. The Government welcomed Regulation 1049/2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents. As a result, more documents are released to the public, while genuinely sensitive documents are given the protection they need.

Much of the Council's work takes place in preparatory bodies, including working groups. Published reports on the work under consideration by the Economic Policy Committee, and its various working groups are available on the committee's website: http://europa.eu.int/comm/ economy_finance/epc_en.htm. The items currently under consideration by the Economic and Financial Committee are those to be discussed in the coming months by the ECOFIN Council, when they are subject to normal parliamentary scrutiny.

Other bodies such as the High Level Tax Group, the Financial Services Committee and the Budget Committee report to the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) and the Economic and Financial Committee and their outputs go through the ECOFIN Council.

Accountability and transparency of council business to Parliament are ensured by the scrutiny process, to which the Government is also firmly committed.

We strongly supported the measures agreed at the Seville European Council to make the Council more open when in legislating mode. We remain committed to increasing transparency. For the first time at ECOFIN, there was a televised session for the final stages of reaching political agreement on a legislative procedure—the Prospectus Directive in November 2002. The Future of Europe Convention is also looking at ways to make the EU more open.

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