European and Global Issues Secretariat (EGIS)

The European & Global Issues Secretariat (EGIS) is a small unit in the Cabinet Office. The primary role of the Secretariat is to coordinate the collective agreement of the government's international economic and European policy (including G20/G8/G7, international trade and development issues), and to provide advice on these matters to the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and the Cabinet Office Minister for Government Policy.

EGIS is responsible for the central coordination of the United Kingdom’s procedures for Parliament’s scrutiny of proposals for European Union legislation and other policy initiatives. This process has been in place since 1973.

Responsibilities

In carrying out this role EGIS:

  • works with Parliamentary Scrutiny Committees and government departments to ensure that the scrutiny processes remain relevant and that government commitments to Parliament are respected
  • assesses European Union proposals and other documents for submission to Parliament to determine if they fall within the Terms of References of the Parliamentary Scrutiny Committees in each House, and arranges deposit of the documents in Parliament
  • commissions Explanatory Memoranda (EMs) on each document submitted for parliamentary scrutiny from the appropriate government department - EMs explain what the proposals are about and the government’s policy position on them.
  • monitors compliance with government commitments under the scrutiny arrangements
  • provides guidance to departments on issues arising from the scrutiny process
  • maintains the European Memoranda website

About Explanatory Memoranda

An Explanatory Memorandum (EM) is the government’s written evidence to Parliament summarising a proposal for EU legislation or another important EU document. It also sets out the aims of the proposal and the government’s attitude towards it.

All EMs are considered by the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee and the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Union. These committees examine the government’s written evidence and report to each House on the importance of each document and EM.

An EM is produced for each document deposited in Parliament, including:

  • proposals for legislation by the Council of Ministers, eg proposals for Council Regulations, Directives or Decisions
  • Commission documents published for submission to the Council eg Communications, Reports and Green Papers
  • documents from other institutions to the Council, eg from the European Court of Auditors or the European Court of Justice

If the official text of a document is unlikely to be available in time for scrutiny before a decision needs to be reached in the Council, the government submits an ‘unnumbered Explanatory Memorandum’ (so called because it does not relate to a numbered document). This describes what is likely to be in the document and stands in its place. A proposal can be cleared on the basis of an unnumbered EM, and the EM may even be debated in place of the document.

The European Memoranda site holds copies of EMs and related ministerial letters to the Scrutiny Committees submitted to Parliament from April 2012. For earlier EMs, contact the Cabinet Office European and Global Issues Secretariat where copies are held electronically dating back to 2003.

Contact details

Les.Saunders@cabinet-office.gsi.gov.uk