HC Deb 14 April 2003 vol 403 c643W
Mr. Bercow

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on progress with achieving transparency in respect of the European working groups for which his Department is responsible. [105744]

Malcolm Wicks

The Government have long been committed to greater openness in the EU 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 welcome 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. The interests of the Department for Work and Pensions are represented in the Social Questions Working Party of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council.

Accountability and transparency of Council business to Parliament are ensured by the scrutiny process, to which the Government are 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. The Future of Europe Convention is also looking at ways to make the EU more open.

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